New outbreaks of fighting in eastern DR Congo has left at least 100 dead and caused more than 3,500 to flee over the Ugandan border and there are fears for the safety of the Christian community including the country's Anglican Archbishop.
Eyewitnesses claim that severed heads spiked on sticks were being paraded around the provincial town of Bunia. The entire population of Boga, where Archbishop Patrice Njojo and his family are based, is reported to have fled. There was one unconfirmed sighting of the Archbishop but concerns remain over his well-being.
The assassination of President Laurent Kabila has added to the uncertainty. "Bunia is full of displaced people, some in the streets, others with family," a Church source reported. Heavy fighting around Nyankunde caused staff and students of the Pan African Institute for Community Health, where Dr Patricia Nickson of CMS is Director, to flee. Much of the civil unrest in the region is due to fighting between local ethnic groups. But whereas combatants in these conflicts once used machetes, now they have guns supplied by some of the six neighbouring countries currently involved in the conflict.
"This war is a tragedy for the people of Congo," Canon Tim Dakin, General Secretary of CMS commented. "A local war has seriously escalated. It has deepened poverty, restricted freedom of movement and wiped out the possibility of education for a generation of children. Worse still it has blotted out people's sense of hope."
DR Congo has been in turmoil since 1996 when Rwandan-backed rebels launched their war against the ailing President Mobutu Sese Seko. It led to President Kabila's installation in 1997. Life for the ordinary people began to improve. According to CMS sources, the government had begun to pay teachers and nurses, but the country has returned into chaos.
CMS has announced immediate grant, £3,500 for refugee relief in Boga and £4,000 for emergency relief in Bunia, but more is needed.