DRC violence: A holiday became a day of terror

On that day, Christmas Eve, a large number of villagers had gathered to share a celebratory meal at the chapel of the CK20, an evangelical movement very popular in this part of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Between 60 and 70 people had made the journey, not knowing what awaited them. M.B. hadn't been able to leave his work in the field. He witnessed what happened. "I was about a kilometre from the village when, in the middle of the day, I suddenly heard screams coming from the church. Straight away I left my tools to go and see what was happening. "The nightmare had begun. "I advanced along the road leading to the centre of the village, hidden by the long grass. I was powerless to intervene in the murder of my own father. Two armed men smashed his skull apart with a club just a few metres away from me, killing him almost instantly. "I was completely paralysed with horror and stayed hidden in the bushes. The men left and I moved through the undergrowth towards the village. A large number of armed men, perhaps 60 of them, had surrounded the little church. All the villagers were inside. I did not know who the men were. "Although most of the men were surrounding the church, many others were taking the villagers out of the building one by one. They were quickly taken into the long grass and systematically executed, mostly by having their skulls smashed, but sometimes with an axe or a knife. "This went on for what seemed like hours. Nobody was spared. Children, babies, pregnant women, old people, all of them were killed. More than 60 people. "There was nothing I could do." M.B. was unable to talk further. We learnt later that he had stayed hidden for the whole time. It was not until after the armed group had left that he discovered his wife's body. She was killed despite being pregnant. Afterwards he found the lifeless body of his only son. Two other survivors joined him later. The first, a seven-year-old, managed to flee the moment his hut was attacked. His father was killed in front of him. The second survivor was an elderly man who lived a bit further away from the village. M.B. set about burying his wife, his son, and his father. In the five days that followed he dug a communal grave and buried 50 people including more than 20 young children. Every night, he and the other two survivors stayed hidden in the bushes. It was not until December 29 that a visitor from Doruma came to Batande to see his uncle. The uncle had also been killed. He helped M.B to bury the remaining cadavers, then they all went to Doruma. The seven-year-old child was taken into the care of a foster family. He spent several days next to the bodies of his parents and on the day of the interview, was still traumatised by the events that he witnessed. A local group, AJDI (Association des Jeunes pour le Développement Intégral) helps children who have seen similar traumatic events and is helping him. MSF is supporting this group. M.B. can no longer sleep at night. He feels bad and does not know if he will ever be able to return to Batande. Today at Doruma hospital, a four-year-old girl was admitted to hospital. Armed men had tried to kill her by wringing her neck, but she survived. Another girl, aged seven, survived despite several stab wounds to her body. Some other children survived, left for dead by these armed men who are terrorising the region, and whom many think are affiliated to the Lord's Resistance Army.