An inter-ethnic conflict, opposing militia groups mainly Pygmies and Bantu, has been impacting the Tanganyika Province for several years. The conflict
took a new turn in June 2017, when ethnic minority militias formed an alliance with the Mai Mai Yakutumba armed group that led attacks in the Provinces of Tanganyika, South Kivu and Maniema. Children are the first victims of this violence.
Freddy, newfound hope
Freddy, a 12 year-old boy, is the oldest in a modest family of two children. His parents move around trading fries, and catch the shuttles between the city of Mbuji Mayi, and Tabacongo, atrading center situated 15 kilometers from Kalemie, capital of the Tanganyika Province
In April 2017, Freddy’s father went to Mbuji Mayi to sell his merchandise at a reasonable price, having learned the sudden rise in food prices following the Kamuina Nsapu phenomenon. He leaves his wife and two children in the village near Tabacongo. A few days after his departure, the village was attacked by pygmy militiamen. Nothing was spared: the inhabitants were attacked, houses destroyed and schools burned!
That day, Freddy was alone. His mother and little brother went out to get cassava, their staple food.
“I was alone at home when the pygmies arrived to set the place on fire. The house started to burn. Out of fear of reprisals, I did not leave the hut because they were surely going to kill me if I tried to do so.”
Freddy sees his life stop, his death planned. A part of his body, his right shoulder blade, begins to have serious burns. No one is coming to save him, so the young child cries out for help, the moment that the Bantou militia launch their counter-offensive to push the pygmies back from Tabacongo. A woman hears these cries and enters the house to extract Freddy and to put him out of danger. She entrusts him to a group of displaced persons on their way to Kalemie.
The moment they arrive, the displaced settled in the grounds of a primary school. Without medical care, Freddy’s wounds to the scapula worsened. Fortunately, a Community Relay from RECOPE (French acronym – Community Network for Child Protection) identified Freddy as an unaccompanied child. Quickly, Freddy was entrusted to the APEDE (French acronym – Association of Persons in Distress) and was taken care of at the General Hospital of Kalemie. Three months later, Freddy joined the foster family of Mother Christine who treats him in the same regard as her biological children. He was enrolled in a dial center to pursue his primary studies.
“Everything changed for me when I started to receive health care, to be fed, to receive everything that I needed and to go to school.”
Freddy still does not know what happened to his parents and his little brother.
The activities of UNICEF and its partners
UNICEF has been established in Tanganyika and South Kivu provinces for many years and has a network of local partners. Together with its partners, it provides support to newly displaced and returned persons by means of the Rapid Response to Population Movements (RRMP) programme.
In addition, UNICEF organizes measles immunization for children, care for malnourished children, the fight against cholera, the distribution of school and recreational kits, training of teachers in peace education, and psycho-social care for children and protection of children affected by violence, injured and/or unaccompanied. However, its humanitarian response is largely inadequate due to limited humanitarian access and lack of funds.
Translated from French by Darren Ou Yong
Latest posts by Basile Lange (see all)
- Tanganyika : after being displaced, Freddy returns to school - 16 March 2018
- Displaced by conflict, Pascaline gives birth in the bush - 9 March 2018
- Françoise, a wife and a mother devastated by the conflict - 7 March 2018
- Julie, a survivor of malnutrition - 4 October 2017
- Children Demanding the Polio Vaccine - 16 August 2016