All hostages are free
No heroes are found in this story
Giovanni Salvaggio - Alessandro Callari
Lubero (Democratic Republic of Congo)
All Bunyatenge hostages are free
During the past days all the people abducted by NDC Cheka rebels in Muhanga and Bunyatenge villages the night of 16th Sept have returned to their homes.
They are all alive, even though distressed and exhausted.
On the 19th Sept, 46 people – among which 23 mothers and many children – had managed to escape in the area of Masekeseke, during a shooting between Lafontaine's Mayi Mayi group and the Cheka Ntabo Ntaberi rebel group who had previously taken the hostages (read “Lafontaine's Mayi Mayi have freed 46 people”).
After the attack launched by Lafontaine's forces, Cheka rebels split in smaller groups and run into the bush acknowledging a real defeat due to their lack of ammunitions. In that moment the remaining hostages managed to escape and to find shelter in the villages nearby.
In the total absence of the Government, of MONUSCO forces and NGOs (*), the cooperation and help offered by local people in Masekeseke village has been crucial. They provided first aid and gave shelter to the women and children who had escaped.
(*) on the 25th Sept, 9 days after the abduction of civilians, just CICR and Save the Children have visited Muhanga and Bunyatenge to check the general situtation.
The reason of the attack
According to several sources in the area, the reason behind the attack launched by Lafontaine's forces to the Cheka rebels is a matter of territory control. NDC Cheka had traspassed the area controlled by Lafontaine while in pursuit of an FDLR group operating in the south area of Lubero. Cheka rebels have looted different locations during their passage causing increasing tension in the area. In the past weeks, small groups of militia men loyal to Lafontaine had engaged Cheka rebels on different occasions trying to push them back. These skirmishes did not stop NDC Cheka who went on pursuing the FDLR group, destabilizing the whole area of Muanga and Bunyatenge.
This led to the final fighting occurred on 16th Sept in Bunyatenge. (read “Fighting in Bunyatenge”)
The role of Lafontaine's Mayi Mayi in Bunyatenge fightings.
Mayi Mayi loyal to Lafontaine have been seen as local heroes in the events occured last week in the area of Bunyatenge, but they are those who started the fighting that caused the death of a 3yo boy in Bunyatenge. The attack they launched to Cheka rebels represented the occasion for hostages abducted to escape and regain their freedom and since civilians are not ususally protected by central government or by the national army, then militia groups such as Lafontaine's Mayi Mayi are often seen as protectors.
However, it must be kept in mind that the main reason for the Mayi Mayi intervention in the Cheka's traspessing their area is the control of the territory with its related economic interestes.
A good example is the gold mine in Musia, close to Bingi village, with its 12.000 miners, which is controlled by Sikuli Lafontaine.
For Lafontaine is crucial to mantain control of the area in order to protect his first source of income: taxes on the gold mining in Musia.
New coalition of Rebel groups against NDC Cheka
According to Radio Kivu1, different rebel groups have joined forces to fight NDC Cheka. This new coalition should include: Mayi Mayi Lafontaine – Mayi Mayi VINO - FDLR FOKA – FDLR RUDI.
It seems that this new joint forces are led by Jean-Marie Habimana with the main goal of defeating Ntabo Ntaberi rebels and pushing them back to their area.
NDC Cheka have cause so much violence and terror during their passage that hundrends of civilians are now displaced: 300 IDPs are now in Kirumba looking for shelter.