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DRC: Testimonies from the violent conflict in Kasai

31 Oct 2017

Since August 2016, the Greater Kasai region in the center of the Democratic Republic of Congo evolved from a peaceful area in a troubled country to one of the most serious humanitarian crises in the world today. While there has been an overall reduction in the number of reported violent incidents over the last months, there are many unmet medical and humanitarian needs among a population largely forgotten by the world, particularly in the rural areas where dozens of mass graves have been found, scores of villages have been destroyed and the health system has been badly hit during the violence.

Mashanga, displaced woman, 58 years old

Mashanga has brought her 11-month-old grandson, Mulumba, to the outpatient therapeutic feeding centre supported by MSF at Mukendi health centre in Tshikapa.

“We are from Senge village, near Muyeyi town. The village was dedicated mainly to mining. An attack happened there last May. It was at night and a lot of armed men entered the town first and then our house. They cut off the heads of this child’s mother and father. I can’t breastfeed him as I am the grandmother. He was just a few months old. The child was found alive afterwards. We hid in the bush for three weeks. It was very difficult. We had to cross fields to arrive here. The only time we experienced this kind of violence was before independence. Now I’m living in the church with 10 other people who are from towns like Kamako or Kamonia. It isn’t easy living there and I have nothing to do during the day. I’m alone with the child. We have other relatives scattered in other places. Before the conflict, the situation was calm. We communicated with people who spoke other languages. There were marriages between people from different communities. It isn’t possible now to go back to our hometown. All of the houses have been destroyed." 

Kabeya Mamba Michele, male victim of violence, 30 years old

Kayeba is receiving inpatient treatment at Ditekemena health centre in Tshikapa. He is accompanied by his wife and daughter.

“We left the village of Senge after an attack by militiamen and the army. We were in the forest nearby. After two months living there, the police told us that we could go back to the village, but in the night some soldiers came and shot at us. I came here by walking through the forest for three or four days. We have been exposed to all kinds of problems: mosquitoes and not knowing what to eat… Some children died. I used to search for diamonds. In Senge, we also had farmers and other people doing different kinds of jobs. It isn’t possible for my family to go back there, so we looked for a room in Tshikapa. I know many people – women, men and children – who have been murdered. I can’t even count how many. They were buried in mass graves of 30 or 40 people together, just in front of the houses. My own house was burnt down. I wish we could return to peace. I have never seen anything like this in Kasai before. Before the conflict, people got along together. There are lots of needs and there are still people in hiding. If aid workers don’t come here, it will be a death sentence for us.” 

Kanku, displaced woman, 21 years old

Kanku currently lives in Mayi Munene town with her two children: Dani and Ale, aged five and two. She has brought two-year-old Ale to the outpatient therapeutic feeding centre supported by MSF.

“We are from Kamako [close to the border with Angola]. After the violence started up, we decided to stay in the woods. At one point I was separated from my husband. Each of us was carrying one child, but my husband was shot down. I stayed for a month in the bush near Kamako before moving to the town of Kamonia for a month. I then spent three months living in a church in Tshikapa. The worst thing I've experienced was the danger posed by the armed militiamen. During my journey, I saw a lot of people die. I saw corpses, probably more than 100 of them. Sometimes I felt very emotional, at other times I trembled with fear. It is very difficult today to survive with children and without food. We have barely received any aid. I don’t think it is possible to return to Kamako. I have lost everything I owned there.”