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Congo, Uganda partner to battle insurgents

Churches continue their ministry despite regional dangers


A police officer at the scene of an explosion in Kampala, Uganda, in November. Associated Press/Photo by Hajarah Nalwadda, file

Congo, Uganda partner to battle insurgents

In late April, missionaries with Mission Aviation Fellowship huddled together on the ground as fighting between the military and insurgents intensified in their village in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. That was days before the government announced martial law in two provinces along Congo’s shared border with Uganda, hoping to bring the violence and insurgent groups under control.

“Our people were down on the floor with mortars going off before they could actually get out,” said John Cadd, a Mission Aviation Fellowship missionary who has served in the region for 13 years.

But the unrest has persisted. In a joint operation with Congo announced last week, neighboring Uganda deployed at least 1,700 troops and dozens of armored vehicles into eastern Congo. Ugandan defense minister Maj. Gen. Kayanja Muhanga said the two nations will review the mission, which targets four different camps belonging to the insurgent Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), in two months. The joint operations between Congo and Uganda have stoked concerns about civilian safety, given the two nations’ uneasy history.

The majority of the attacks in the region are blamed on the ADF, a group of Ugandan Islamists active in eastern Congo that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State. Uganda accused the group of staging a triple bombing in its capital city of Kampala in November. At least seven people died, including the attackers.

In Congo, the ADF and other armed groups have killed more than 6,000 people and kidnapped more than 7,000 since 2017.

Despite the violence, Cadd said the local churches in Congo are thriving as Mission Aviation Fellowship flies pastors and church members to unreached people. Others have sought ways to support the thousands of displaced people who have turned to the Ituri provincial capital of Bunia for shelter.

“We feel we’re meeting a real need for the gospel there,” Cadd said.

WORLD radar

  • KENYA: Some Kenyan doctors and medical workers with access to the country’s Health Ministry vaccination registry have created a cartel network to smuggle and sell Johnson & Johnson shots intended for free distribution, according to a weekly newspaper’s investigation. Daily Nation reported the smugglers register every stolen vial as administered and illegally issue vaccination certificates, raising doubts about the accuracy of the country’s vaccination figures.

  • GERMANY: Olaf Scholz assumed office this week as Germany’s ninth post–World War II chancellor. He succeeds Angela Merkel, who served for 16 years. She received the nation’s highest military farewell ceremony for a civilian last week. Scholz will now lead an untried three-way coalition hoping to bring new energy to Germany after Merkel’s long tenure.

  • MOZAMBIQUE: An Islamic State–affiliated rebel group active in the northern Cabo Delgado province has abducted and enslaved more than 600 women and girls since 2018, according to Human Rights Watch. The Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah extremist group has released some of the captives after receiving ransom payments. Others were sold to foreign fighters for $600 to $1,800. Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah’s insurgency has displaced about 800,000 people since 2017.

  • NIGERIA: Jihadist extremists fleeing northeastern Nigeria are setting up camp about three hours from the capital city of Abuja. A report in The Guardian revealed some 8,000 police officers are unable to provide safety for the 4 million residents of the state, already plagued by bandit attacks. Civilians now report militants have forbidden education in some villages and seized some of their daughters to marry.

  • MYANMAR: Witnesses say government troops bound and burned alive 11 civilians, some of them teenagers, in a northwestern village in Myanmar, also known as Burma. The violence was likely in retaliation for an attack on a military convoy. Residents said such incidents have become regular. The country has experienced pro-democracy protests and armed resistance since the military led a coup in February. On Monday, a Myanmar court convicted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi of inciting dissent and violating coronavirus restrictions. Civilians staged a silent strike across the country on Friday to protest the junta.

  • COLOMBIA: A Colombian mother-daughter duo has received the award for the best cookbook in the world at the Gourmand Awards in Paris. Zoraida Agamez and her daughter Heidy Pinto wrote the cookbook Envueltos to record traditional Colombian leaf-wrapped meals. They published it during the pandemic. “In troubled times, in sad moments, in the middle of a pandemic, cooking will always be part of the solution,” they said in a celebratory post.

Africa brief

I’d like to share one regular battle of my life in Nigeria: electricity. I began work on Monday this week with no power. The blackout lasted until 9 p.m., an unusually long time compared with the shorter, few-hour outages that are the norm.

A statement from the electric distribution company later revealed the cause was a strike over pending remittances such as bonuses, pension, and rent. The loud hum of generators filled the compounds of several homes (including mine). Many other people have set up solar panels on their roofs for alternative power.

Such moments make me grateful for the little blessings—my reliable laptop battery, the mobile WiFi devices I can charge with my laptop, and the generator I can run for several hours each day.


Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.

@onize_ohiks

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STEVE SOCAL

Thank you for bringing perspective and a voice from Africa for World readers! Objective and authentic international stories in World are so valuable.