Kidnapping in Butembo
Edouard Valumbira ph Emiliano Tidona
Butembo (Democratic Republic of Congo)
People of Butembo live in constant fear due to the frequent abductions of civilians
In September 2014 five cases of mass kidnapping occurred. So far there have been around two hundred victims and counting. Thousands of US dollars have been paid for ransoms. Hardly a day goes without reports of new robberies or kidnappings.
Colonel Dimundu (police) and Colonel Ndiyoka (intelligence service) have been accused of intentionally overlooking this practice to enrich themselves.
Kidnapping of civilians is a quite unique phenomenon as it is practiced in the DRCongo in general and in the North Kivu area in particular. In fact, from the beginning of this year it became a new form of extortion practiced by those criminals who were previously used to attack banks, stores and private houses.
After attacking civilians with brutal violence, robbers usually steal any type of goods such as money, mobile phones and cars; then they abduct people.
Victims are taken to secret locations and exposed to long and deep physical and psychological violence. They are tortured until they promise to pay a large ransom to be released. Most of the victims are business men, merchants and their own children.
The president of the Butembo merchants union estimated that, in the last year, its members already paid altogether over 1.3 million USD to grant freedom to themselves and their families and to save their own lives.
Polycarp Ndivito (President of FEC-Butembo) exposed the corruption of local State authorities who often intervene in less relevant cases just to blackmail people involved requesting the payment of so-called taxes or fines.
Despite people's increasing lack of trust in any service to guarantee public order, a joint force made by the national police, the official national army and some intelligence officers managed to arrest a new group of criminals between the 6th and the 8th of Oct 2014. Among them were three FARDC soldiers and six civilians from the cities of Butembo and Beni. Others are from the northern area, around 50 km north of Butembo. Those arrested have admitted being part of a larger network of armed bandits who work in close cooperation with local authorities.
Pending the capture of all the people related to this criminal network, Colonel Blaise Dimundu Kyassi, of the National Congolese Police, has assured his commitment to cooperate with all the specialists who can help to stop this constant lack of security and the loss of money for the local civil society.