Italian Ambassador Killed In DR Congo Attack

A DR Congo flag.

 

Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo was among three people killed on Monday when a UN convoy came under attack in the troubled east, DRC sources and the Italian government said.

Luca Attanasio died of his wounds after a World Food Programme (WFP) convoy came under gunfire near Goma while he was on a field trip, a senior diplomatic source said in Kinshasa.

The Italian government confirmed Attanasio’s death and said an Italian policeman, Vittorio Iacovacci, as well as a driver it did not identify, had also died.

President Sergio Mattarella lashed what he called a “cowardly attack.”

“The Italian republic is in mourning for these servants of the state who lost their lives,” he said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio expressed his “great dismay and immense sorrow”, breaking off from a meeting in Brussels with EU counterparts to make an early return to Rome.

“The circumstances of this brutal attack are not yet known and no effort will be spared to shed light on what happened,” Di Maio said.

Attanasio, 43, had been representing Italy in Kinshasa since 2017, first as head of mission, and then as ambassador from October 2019.

The envoy suffered “gunshot wounds to the abdomen” and was taken to a hospital in Goma in critical condition, the diplomat in Kinshasa said.

The DRC’s army said its troops were searching the area for the assailants.

– Troubled region –
A vast country the size of continental western Europe, the DRC is grappling with numerous conflicts, especially in its remote, mineral-rich east.

Scores of militias roam the four eastern provinces, many of them a legacy of wars in the 1990s that sucked in countries around central-southern Africa and claimed millions of lives.

The Rome-based WFP said that Attanasio was on a fact-finding mission with the UN’s food agency.

“The delegation was travelling from Goma to visit a WFP school feeding programme in Rutshuru when the incident took place,” it said in a statement.

“The attack… occurred on a road that had previously been cleared for travel without security escorts,” it said.

Monday’s attack occurred north of Goma, in Nyiaragongo Territory.

Armed groups in the area include a Rwandan Hutu militia called the FDLR, as well as the M23, also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army.

The region includes the UNESCO-listed Virunga National Park, a vast wildlife reserve that is home to a quarter of the world’s population of critically endangered mountain gorillas.

More than 200 of the park’s rangers have been killed in attacks stretching back more than a decade.

The UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, said last week that more than 2,000 civilians were killed in North and South Kivu and Ituri province last year.

– ‘Uncommon courage’ –
Attanasio joined the Italian diplomatic service in 2003 and served previously in Switzerland, Morocco and Nigeria.

He was hailed as “a man gifted with uncommon courage, humanity and professionalism” by Emanuela Del Re, who was deputy foreign minister from 2018 until last month.

Del Re said she worked with Attanasio on the emergency repatriation of a “very sick” nun from DR Congo.

“I remember his infectious smile, his class, his great knowledge of African affairs,” she said. “Ciao (good-bye) my dear esteemed Luca.”

Attanasio is the second European ambassador to have been killed while serving in the DRC.

In January 1993, French ambassador Philippe Bernard was killed during riots in Kinshasa sparked by troops opposing dictator Mobutu Sese Seke.

Ebola Toll Hits Four In DR Congo As People ‘Resist’ Health Measures

FILE: (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

 

Four people have died from Ebola during a new outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where people are resisting measures to contain the disease, officials said Sunday.

Since the epidemic’s resurgence this month, “we have already registered six Ebola cases. We have lost four infected people,” Doctor Eugene Syalita, the provincial health minister in North Kivu province in the DRC’s northeast, told AFP.

Syalita said one person died Friday and another on Saturday, while the two others died at the beginning of the month.

Two patients are receiving care at an Ebola treatment centre in Katwa, he added.

Syalita complained that the region’s residents were not taking the new outbreak seriously enough.

“Some families categorically refuse to have their homes disinfected or to hold dignified and safe funerals,” the doctor said.

READ ALSO: Djokovic Beats Medvedev To Win Ninth Australian Open

“People have not yet understood that Ebola has reappeared. Everything is not yet clear for them.”

As in past outbreaks, the population of the region refuses to believe in the existence of the Ebola disease and rejects measures aimed at checking the virus’ spread, such as avoiding touching sick people or not washing the dead who are infected.

The tenth epidemic, which was declared on August 1 2018, was only eradicated on June 25 last year because of unrest caused by armed groups and the population’s resistance to anti-Ebola measures.

With more than 2,200 deaths recorded, it is considered the most serious in the history of Ebola in the DRC since its appearance in 1976.

The Ebola virus is transmitted to people through infected animals. Human transmission is through bodily fluids with the main symptoms being fevers, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea.

Ebola has also resurfaced in Guinea, where it has already killed five people.

 

Millions Of Children At Risk In DR Congo Violence – UN

A DR Congo flag.

 

Several million children are at risk in DR Congo regions that have been destabilised by armed groups, the UN’s children’s agency said on Friday.

“The lives and futures of more than three million displaced children are at risk in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) while the world is looking the other way,” UNICEF said in a statement.

According to UN figures, 5.2 million people in the DRC have been forced from their homes because of conflict — “more than in any country except Syria,” UNICEF said.

Of these, half have been displaced in the past 12 months, it said.

“Displaced families live in crowded settlements that lack safe water, health care and other basic services, it said.

“Others are accommodated by impoverished local communities. In the most violence-afflicted provinces of Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu and Tanganyika, more than eight million people are acutely food insecure.”

Children are at risk from sexual abuse and recruitment as child soldiers by armed groups, UNICEF said. Documented violations of this kind rose 16 per cent in the first six months of 2020 compared to the previous year.

A vast country the size of continental western Europe, the DRC is grappling with numerous conflicts, especially in its remote east.

Scores of militias roam the four eastern provinces, many of them a legacy of wars in the 1990s that sucked in countries around central-southern Africa and claimed millions of lives.

The most notorious of these groups, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), has been blamed for hundreds of deaths since the DRC’s army opened an offensive against it in October 2019.

The UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, said on Tuesday that more than 2,000 civilians were killed in North and South Kivu and Ituri last year.

UNICEF appealed for a greater effort to meet aid targets to prevent disease and malnourishment among children in the DRC.

It has so far received only 11 per cent of the $384.4 million it is seeking for humanitarian operations in the DRC in 2021.

31 Dead In DR Congo Plague Outbreak

Map of Congo

 

Thirty-one people have died in an outbreak of plague that erupted in northeastern DR Congo three months ago, health officials and experts said on Friday.

“We have more than 520 cases… of which more than 31 have been fatal,” Patrick Karamura, health minister in Ituri province, where plague is endemic, told AFP.

The cases are the bubonic form of the disease, except for five cases of pneumonic plague and two of septicaemic plague, he said.

Anne Laudisoit, an epidemiologist with a New York-based NGO called Ecohealth Alliance, said the cases had surfaced between November 15 and December 13 in Biringi, in Ituri’s Aru Territory.

READ ALSO: Ugandan Soldiers Jailed For Assaulting Journalists

The average age of patients was 13, but this varied between three months and 73 years, she said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alert in July of a plague outbreak in Rethy, also in Ituri.

The plague has persisted in the province since it was first confirmed there in 1926.

A long-feared disease with biblical connotations, but treatable today with antibiotics, the plague is caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis.

Laudisoit, who is in the area with a team of researchers, said an early sign of the latest outbreak came with the mass death of rats.

Germ-carrying fleas which live in the rats’ fur then look for other hosts in proximity, which are humans. The bacterium is then transmitted through flea bites.

The east of the Democratic Republic of Congo also struggles with episodic outbreaks of Ebola.

Healthcare has been badly hit by militia groups that teem in the region.

DR Congo Starts Ebola Vaccination After New Outbreak

FILES) In this file photo taken on June 13, 2017 A health worker walks at an Ebola quarantine unit on June 13, 2017 in Muma, after a case of Ebola was confirmed in the village. 
JOHN WESSELS / AFP

 

Health workers in eastern DR Congo have begun an Ebola vaccination drive after four cases, two of them fatal, surfaced just three months after the country’s last outbreak of the disease, the UN said.

“The authorities today… launched an anti-Ebola vaccination campaign in Butembo just a week after the virus re-emerged,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a tweet.

“Workers at Matanda hospital, where the first positive case of Ebola was treated, were the first to be vaccinated,” it said.

The health ministry announced on February 7 that four women in Biene, in the troubled region of North Kivu, had fallen ill with the notorious haemorrhagic fever. Two have since died.

The WHO’s office in the Democratic Republic of Congo said four people in Biene had been vaccinated and 334 other contacts would also receive the jab.

On November 18, DR Congo declared that the country’s 11th documented epidemic of Ebola was over.

The outbreak, in the northwestern province of Equateur, claimed 55 lives.

On Sunday, the West African state of Guinea said it had confirmed seven cases of Ebola — the first resurgence of the disease in the region since a 2013-2016 epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people.

-AFP

DR Congo Announces ‘Resurgence’ Of Ebola

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 07, 2018 A health worker waits to handle a new unconfirmed Ebola patient at a newly build MSF (Doctors Without Borders) supported Ebola treatment centre (ETC) on November 7, 2018 in Bunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo
John WESSELS / AFP

 

DR Congo on Sunday announced a “resurgence” of Ebola in its troubled east after a woman died of the disease, just three months after authorities declared the end of the country’s previous outbreak.

“We have another episode of the Ebola virus” in the Biena health zone of North Kivu province, Health Minister Eteni Longondo told state television RTNC.

“It was a farmer, the wife of a survivor ofEbola, who showed typical signs of the disease on February 1,” he added.

She died on February 3, after which a sample of her blood tested positive for Ebola, the health ministry said.

The Democratic Republic of Congo declared on November 18 the end of its eleventh Ebola outbreak, which claimed 55 lives out of 130 cases over nearly six months in the northwestern province of Equateur.

The last person declared recovered from Ebola in Equateur was on October 16.

The widespread use of Ebola vaccinations, which were administered to more than 40,000 people, helped curb the disease.

The return of Ebola in the country’s northeast — a region plagued by violence between armed groups — comes as the vast African country is also fighting its own Covid-19 outbreak.

A previous Ebola outbreak in the DRC’s east, which ran from August 1, 2018, to June 25 2020, was the country’s worst-ever, with 2,277 deaths.

It was also the second-highest toll in the 44-year history of the disease, surpassed only by a three-country outbreak in West Africa from 2013-16 that killed 11,300 people.

Ebola haemorrhagic fever was first identified in 1976 after scientists probed a string of unexplained deaths in what is now northern DRC.

The symptoms are severe: high fever and muscle pain followed by vomiting and diarrhoea, skin eruptions, kidney and liver failure, internal and external bleeding.

The average fatality rate from Ebola is around 50 percent but this can rise to 90 percent for some epidemics, according to the World Health Organization.

The virus that causes Ebola is believed to reside in bats.

DR Congo has also recorded 23,599 coronavirus cases and 681 deaths in a population of around 80 million people.

-AFP

DR Congo PM Sylvestre Ilunkamba Resigns

File Photo of former DR Congo President

 

DR Congo’s prime minister,, resigned on Friday, the presidency said, a move enabling President Felix Tshisekedi to appoint his own premier supported by a new parliamentary majority. 

Presidency spokesman Giscard Kusema told AFP that Illunga “said he had drawn the consequences of the developing political situation.”

Ilunga was constitutionally required to resign after being censured by the National Assembly on Wednesday.

He is a close ally to former president Joseph Kabila whose supporters have been locked in a tussle for power with Tshisekedi since he took office two years ago.

Kusema said it was “too soon” to say when Tshisekedi would appoint the next prime minister.

The presidency confirmed Ilunga’s departure on Twitter.

Ilunga, 73, had been appointed by Tshisekedi in May 2019 under a power-sharing deal that he and Kabila struck when handing over the presidency — the first peaceful transition in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s history.

Kabila’s decision to step down after 18 years in office opened the way to elections in December 2018 that were controversially won by Tshisekedi, the son of a veteran opposition leader.

But on the same polling day, a strong pro-Kabila majority emerged in the National Assembly, preventing Tshisekedi from having a grip on all the political levers of power.

– Brawls in parliament –

He was forced into a coalition — a leviathan of a government with 65 ministers, two-thirds of whom were from the pro-Kabila Common Front for the Congo (FCC).

Tensions swiftly grew and erupted into the open last year, when Tshisekedi declared his reform agenda was being blocked.

On December 6, he announced the end to the coalition and said he planned to seek a new government supported by the National Assembly, a move that sparked brawls in parliament.

On Wednesday, a motion of censure against Ilunga and his government was approved by 367 out of 377 MPs present in the 500-seat legislature.

Tshisekedi’s proposed “Sacred Union of the Nation” now wields support from 391 lawmakers, according to an envoy, Senator Modeste Bahati, who was appointed to try to forge a majority.

A vast country the size of continental western Europe, the DRC has a notorious reputation for corruption, poor governance and inequality, despite its mineral riches.

Tshisekedi campaigned on promises to change this and improve the country’s poor record on human rights, but he has been to a large degree overshadowed by the figure of Kabila.

Still only 49 years old despite his long years in office, the ex-president retains extensive clout through allies in politics, the military and business.

He took the helm of the country in 2001, succeeding his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, who was assassinated by a bodyguard.

–  AFP

At Least Six DR Congo Park Rangers Killed In Attack

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa

 

At least six rangers in DR Congo’s Virunga national park, famous for its mountain gorillas, were killed Sunday in an attack officials blamed on a militia group.

The UNESCO World Heritage site is caught up in persistent unrest in the eastern North Kivu province, where a plethora of armed groups are battling for control of rich mineral deposits.

“Mai-Mai (militia) carried out an ambush at Nyamitwitwi. The provisional toll is six park rangers killed along with two Mai-Mai,” local government delegate Alphonse Kambale told AFP.

Provincial lawmaker Elie Nzaghani confirmed the tally from Nyamitwitwi in Rutshuru province.

“We confirm that a group of armed men attacked our positions in the region of Nyamitwitwi, a central sector of the park in the territory of Rutshuru” in North Kivu province, the park’s spokesman Olivier Mukisya told AFP by email.

Mukisya said six rangers were killed and another was seriously injured in the attack around 9:30 am.

Virunga park, created in 1925, covers some 7,800 square kilometres (3,000 square miles) and is home to about a quarter of the world’s population of critically endangered mountain gorillas.

Nearly 700 armed rangers work in Virunga where sources say at least 200 have paid with their lives in attacks going back more than a decade.

Various rival armed groups have repeatedly clashed over land and resources and stoked tensions in North Kivu, which like the rest of eastern DR Congo has been riven by decades of conflict.

Mai-Mai militia groups have been accused of killing hundreds of civilians over the years.

Mai-Mai (the word comes from the Swahili for water) sprinkle themselves with water before going into combat in the belief it affords them protection.

AFP

China Cancels $28 Million Of DR Congo Debt To Help COVID-19 Fight

A DR Congo flag.

 

China has cancelled a part of the debt owed by DR Congo to help the sub-Saharan giant fight the coronavirus epidemic, the Congolese presidency said on Thursday.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the gesture to put 180 million yuan ($28 million, 23 million euros) back into government coffers during a visit to the country this week.

Wang also offered a further $15 million to support wider development efforts.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Morocco Approves AstraZeneca/Oxford Vaccine

China is a major investor in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and researchers from Johns Hopkins University in the US have estimated that Chinese entities have extended more than $2.4 billion in loans over the past two decades.

“The cancellation of the debt should enable the DRC to fight effectively against the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Congolese presidency said in a press release.

Since the first coronavirus cases were detected on March 10, DR Congo has officially registered 18,738 cases and 610 deaths.

AFP

ADF Militia Kills 21 Civilians In Eastern DR Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa

 

At least 21 civilians in eastern DR Congo have been massacred by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia blamed for hundreds of killings in the past year, UN sources and local officials said on Tuesday.

A source with the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, giving a provisional toll, said 21 people had been “savagely” killed in the Rwenzori area, while Donat Kibwana, administrator of the territory of Beni, said “22 persons… 10 of them women” had died.

“Ten other people have been injured, and others are unaccounted for,” Kibwana said. “The army intervened after the crime was committed.”

READ ALSO: UK PM Postpones India Trip Due To COVID-19 Crisis

The slaughter took place in the village of Mwenda, located about nine kilometres (five miles) from Rwenzori’s main town of Mutwanga.

The account of events and the toll were confirmed by a local NGO official, Paluku Batoleni, who said his office had been “wrecked” by the assailants.

It is the second mass killing in a week in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled east.

Twenty-five civilians were killed on New Year’s Eve at the village of Tingwe, Kibwana told AFP on January 1.

The ADF has been blamed for the deaths of around 800 civilians over the past year in the provinces of North Kivu and southern Ituri, which border Uganda.

Originating in the 1990s as a Ugandan Muslim rebel group, it is one of dozens of militias that plague the eastern provinces of the vast country.

Many of them are legacies of the regional war that was fought in the vast region a general ago, leaving behind lawlessness, ethnic rivalries and disputes over natural resources.

In Rwenzori, a mountainous region that hosts the world-famous Virunga National Part, at least 62 people have been killed since mid-December.

“The population has nowhere to hide,” Mwenda’s village leader, Muvunga Kimwele, told AFP.

At Least 25 Killed In East DR Congo, ADF Militia Blamed

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa

 

At least 25 civilians have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled east, local officials said Friday, blaming the attack on the notorious ADF militia.

The army was chasing ADF fighters on Thursday when they found the bodies of 25 civilians, who had been “taken by surprise in their fields on New Year’s Eve,” Donat Kibuana, the administrator of Beni territory in North Kivu province, told AFP.

The massacre took place in the village of Tingwe, about eight kilometres (five miles) from the town of Eringeti.

The head of the civil society organisation in Tingwe, Bravo Mohindo Vukulu, said at least 30 had died.

“People had gone to their fields to prepare for New Year’s Eve, the ADF picked them up one by one,” he said.

“We had alerted our forces that the ADF had passed through from the east to the northeast of Eringeti. They did not react quickly,” he added.

READ ALSO: 20 Dead In Algerian Road Accident

The ADF, which originated in the 1990s as a Ugandan Muslim rebel group, is one of dozens of militias that plague the eastern provinces of the vast country.

It is blamed for the deaths of around 800 civilians over the past year in North Kivu province, which borders Uganda.

The group makes money notably through wood trafficking and DR Congo officials suspect some military are complicit in the violent raids.

The ADF has never claimed responsibility for attacks. But since April 2019, several of its assaults have been claimed by the so-called Islamic State’s Central Africa Province, without providing proof.

The United Nations said in July the group’s attacks could constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.

AFP

Six Killed, 24 Abducted In DR Congo Attack

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa

 

Six people were killed and 24 others abducted in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled east, local officials said Saturday after an attack blamed on the notorious ADF militia.

The violence happened in Beni, North Kivu province, territorial administrator Donat Kibwana said.

Twenty four civilians, including a reporter with a community radio station, were abducted in the course of the overnight attack, local sources said.

The Allied Democratic Forces, ADF, is blamed for slaughtering around 800 civilians over the past year in the province which borders Uganda.

The United Nations said in July the group’s attacks could constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The ADF, which originated in the 1990s as a Ugandan Muslim rebel group, is one of more than 100 militias that plague the eastern provinces of the vast country.

The group makes money notably through wood trafficking and DR Congo officials suspect some military are complicit in its violent raids.

The ADF has never claimed responsibility for attacks. But since April 2019, several of its assaults have been claimed by the so-called Islamic State’s Central Africa Province, without providing proof.

AFP