On the road to genocide

"On the road to genocide" Continued...

Issue: "The Bush mandate," Nov. 16, 2002

The next day militias broke through the barred doors of the intensive-care ward and killed Hema patients, decapitating some in bed. They marched Kakani, along with nine members of his family, to a makeshift prison set up in a house in the hospital compound. Along the way he recognized one of the assailants-a young Ngiti man he said he had "fed and nursed to health" in the same hospital ward.

Kakani and his family spent three days locked in the house along with over 100 other Hemas. Their captors refused to give them food and water. According to Mr. Clemmer, who visited the area several weeks later, "At night soldiers would enter and mock the crowd who were pleading for water. They were given empty cups to drink their own urine." Many, including Kakani, were beaten.

Late at night as heat wore off and the soldiers departed, those held in the house gathered for prayer. Two pastors were among the group, according to Mr. Clemmer, and led them with psalms, singing, and recountings from Daniel of the lion's den and the fiery furnace. The Ngiti gunmen released Kakani and his family after they discovered his wife had a distant Ngiti relative. The rest of the prisoners slowly perished.

The siege at Nyankunde lasted seven days. On the second day the attackers held missionary wives and their children at gunpoint while they emptied their homes and demanded money. Following tough and intense negotiations, the mission organizations were permitted to evacuate their staff and some African personnel. Mission Aviation Fellowship, which maintains a hangar at the hospital compound, used its two planes along with an Africa Inland Mission plane from Nairobi to assist in the evacuation.

Other hospital workers and patients fled into the jungle, eventually making their way through a rainforest to a sister hospital in Oicha over 100 miles away. They lived off rainwater and sugarcane during a trek that took nearly two weeks. Longtime Nyankunde missionary Maryen Baisley-at 76 years old-refused evacuation and chose instead to go by land with the Congolese for their march from Nyankunde. She accompanied the displaced-whose numbers at one point swelled to 1,700. She now is staying with colleagues in Entebbe.

Only 650 of the displaced group arrived in Oicha. Hundreds broke from the group to stay with relatives in other villages; hundreds also are believed to have perished. The UN estimates that more than 500,000 of the area's 4.5 million people were driven from their homes. In addition to Nyankunde, 14 health centers have been destroyed and the water distribution system in Bunia has been sabotaged.

The number of displaced at Oicha has fluctuated-with some dying after their arrival-but remains around 1,000. Mission groups who worked at Nyankunde are helping the homeless with food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. Those groups work under a French umbrella group established in 1964 called CME, Centre Medical Evangelique or Evangelical Medical Center, a combined effort of seven mission societies and seven Congolese denominations. The overseas groups include Africa Inland Mission, Mission Aviation Fellowship, WEC International, Conservative Baptist (Japan), Interchurch Medical Assistance, and CMML (Christian Missions in Many Lands).

Some members of Nyankunde's hospital staff are finding work at the Oicha hospital. "Those that can have fled the country completely," said Miss Ford, who is now in the United States.

Nyankunde workers who remained in the province say the attacks by militias are continuing, even though Nyankunde and the surrounding area are totally deserted. Hospital buildings remain but all equipment and supplies have been destroyed. After 75 years of mission work there, the mission organizations don't have concrete plans to resume the medical mission but don't want to abandon the field. "These are our brothers and sisters in Christ," said AIM international director Lanny Arensen. "This crisis is far greater than the Congolese church can bear alone."


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