The Italian Ambassador to the DRC, Luca Attanasio has been murdered while on a fact finding mission on behalf of the UN World Food Programme. His Congolese driver and another Italian were also killed. Their unescorted convoy of seven people in two cars was attacked 15 km north of Goma.

There are questions being raised about the lack of an escort. The convoy was originally kidnapped and all passengers were taken into Virunga National Park, a dense forest notorious for hiding rebels. During a rescue effort by a patrol of park rangers, the ambassador, driver and bodyguard were shot.

Early reports indicate that the FDLR may be responsible, seeking to profit from a paid ransom. This is a Rwandan Hutu group known to be in the area that has caused trouble in Congo since the Rwandan genocide.

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

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-56151600#:~:text=Italy’s%20ambassador%20to%20the%20Democratic,near%20Goma%2C%20a%20statement%20said.

The following photos were received directly from Kijiji Cha Amani.org.

https://www.kijijichaamani.org/rumour/XmHCtf/the-convoy-of-pam-carrying-the-italian-ambassador-has-been

The Kivu Security Tracker (KST) has published a report on the new mapping of armed groups in eastern DRC. In total, they have identified 122 different armed groups, and they have published a description of each of them. The KST is a joint project of the Congo Research Group and Human Rights Watch.

https://kivusecurity.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/reports/39/2021%20KST%20report%20EN.pdf

In recent years, Drs. Philip and Nancy Wood have been alternating between time in Toronto and time in Bunia. You can likely guess which season of the year they plan to be out of Canada, but this year their departure from Toronto was delayed due to COVID-19.

These absolute saints have dedicated their entire lives to helping Africans through their advanced medical training, Philip from Cambridge University and Nancy from University of Toronto. They have fled from civil war in Liberia and sheltered people from tribal slaughter in the unrest during the Nyankunde Massacre. The Toronto Star completed an article on them in 2012 and they are still going strong. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2012/08/20/congo_a_40year_mission_for_toronto_doctor_couple.html

Philip and Nancy created the following video on their recent return to Bunia. Brenda and I stayed with the Woods in 2008 and 2011, while helping them with projects at the hospital. (We first met in Beni in 2006.) This 3.5 minute video is a remarkable refresher of many familiar sites. The lab has new microscopes. My biggest takeaway from the video is the increase in cars in Bunia, even requiring a traffic cop! Downtown Bunia looks to be much more bustling, and the roads are paved! It was always notable how Uganda had cars while Congo had scooters or small motorcycles, but that has now changed.

The following photos were taken in 2008 for a comparison to the video. The first photo is the main street of Bunia looking from the CME lab near the MONUSCO HQ and looking towards the market area. The area still had UN soldiers on guard duty behind barbed wire. Barbed wire and soldiers were everywhere. Today, I understand the barbed wire to be gone yet there are still > 16,000 UN soldiers in Congo. It appears to still be an ongoing employment subsidy project of the UN to finance developing world soldiers.

Saasita has selflessly supported fellow Congolese for many years. She makes our support for the Kalondo health clinic and multiple projects possible here and here and here and here and here and here , promoted healthy hygiene practices in the face of Ebola and COVID-19 and has been involved with many other projects we haven’t posted about. The world needs more Saasitas.

Saasita was recently faced with a serious medical issue that required immediate surgery. We were privileged to provide her with the needed funding so she could access the medical treatment she needed.

Thankfully, she is making a strong recovery. She messaged: Hello dad, I don’t know how to thank you anymore, you saved my life. Today I am in good health, since the day we made the intervention the problem has disappeared. I am strong now despite the convalescence .

Road construction between eastern Congo and various access points in Uganda is set to commence next week. The economic importance of these roads will be significant for both countries.

According to the bilateral agreement with DRC, Uganda will contribute 20% of the total cost of the project estimated at USD $334.5 million, as a measure to boost trade between the two countries.

The roads being built include; Budiba Bridge across River Semuliki with Rwebisengo-Budiba-Bunia Access Road (78Km), Mpondwe/Kasindi-Beni Road (77km), Nebbi-Goli-Bunia Road (197km), Goma-Rutshuru-Bunagana Road (100km) and Bukavu-Goma-Butembo-Beni-Bunia Corridor (758km).

Bens In Congo first reported on this project between DRC and Uganda in November 2019. https://bensincongo.com/2019/11/17/important-road-agreement-signed/ In October 2020, a similar deal in principle was struck to also advance road construction linking South Sudan with DRC and Uganda. There aren’t many roads labeled as “good” in these 2015 maps! (Click to enlarge)

The following video was recorded in 2011 as we travelled south from Bunia to Butembo. As part of a massive deal to obtain Congo resources, China agreed to pave selected roads in the country. The video demonstrates a beautiful Chinese road as you approach Beni from the north (obviously a “good” road per the map). Beni to Butembo is one of the most scenic roads in the world but it has to be travelled at < 25 km per hour (at the most!).

This link is an excellent resource for detail on DRC roads. From this link, you can easily access excellent information for various infrastructure in DRC and other developing nations. https://dlca.logcluster.org/display/public/DLCA/2.3+Democratic+Republic+of+Congo+Road+Network

Dorcas Mbambu has always been good with reporting the use of funds that have been provided to her.

In early 2020, we had provided fresh funds for the sewing project, just in time for COVID-19. Funds were needed to refurbish some equipment but also to hire a dedicated worker who could market and manage the output. COVID-19 limited these plans as originally envisioned, but it led to new opportunities. 250 face masks were produced and sold for USD $1.00 each. In addition, 100 vests and 156 uniforms were sold. These numbers are well below full capacity, but they provided additional profits and employment with wages for three people. From the profits, chickens and cages were purchased as well as food for the children.

Butembo has seen Ebola, unimaginable violence, and now COVID-19. Once some normalcy returns, our hope the sewing project will provide sewing life skills, employment, profits from the sale of goods produced, and purpose.

The orphanage continues to meet a huge need. Dorcas explained that the recently arrived babies shown above were picked up beside the corpses of their parents. Violence in the region continues to rage. 150 have been killed since December 11, 2020. 67,000 have recently fled their homes. The vast majority of tragic news is continually underreported in our media.

The updates provided by Dorcas summarizes spending but also the funding received by the various supporters from around the world. If you are in any of these countries, please consider a donation that can be directed to Congo. A little certainly goes a long way! Here is a list:

CMS Ireland – https://www.cmsireland.org/

Semiliki Trust (UK) – https://www.semiliki-trust.org.uk/

Congo Aid (Australia) – https://www.congoaid.org/

Congo Church Association (UK) – https://www.congochurchassn.org.uk/

On December 28, 2020, ADF rebels filmed themselves attacking the small village of Loselose, east of Beni, near Bulongo just past the Semuliki River. Loselose is an agricultural village producing cocoa, papaya and other crops.

I’m told that the Congo army (FARDC) recaptured the village an hour later. The video is just under 5 minutes. It verifies the unprofessional nature of ADF as they seem content to fire bullets rather indiscriminately.

This video and incident was verified by Kijiji Cha Amani. https://www.kijijichaamani.org/rumour/p87sG2/during-the-loselose-attack-the-adfmtm-terrorists-hoisted-the-flag

YouTube and Google would not permit the uploading of this video. I had no problems using Rumble, which I will use going forward.

Rebels have terrorized the defenseless people of Kalondo for some time. We just learned that at the Kalondo medical clinic marauding rebels had stolen the battery which supported the solar energy system. This small system provided basic but needed lighting.

James was able to co-ordinate with Saasita to replace the battery. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that China controls the battery market in east Africa! Saasita promptly delivered the battery so the clinic could enjoy some limited power.

As a thank-you, the locals provided Saasita with bananas. Hopefully she had some help getting them back to Butembo!

James Kataliko has been able to visit Shasha, near Goma, to review Project Kesho Njema. This project is based on the provision of 11 goats (9 female) in late January 2020 to the Kihunde speaking community on Lake Kivu. Recipients of the goats are expected to return a baby (kid) goat to the elders who will then repeat the process by delivering the goat to a new recipient. The elders keep a breeding or stud goat and ensure compliance with the recipients.

There are now 3 baby goats with 3 more on the way.

Kesho Njema translates as Tomorrow is Better.

Here is the original post on the project: https://bensincongo.com/2020/01/28/a-new-project-kesho-njema/

The inspiration for this project was based on an earlier project with chickens “Kuku yangu, tenga yayi” “My chicken, give me eggs!” https://bensincongo.com/2016/02/28/my-chicken-give-me-eggs/

I apologize for the lack of posts.  It’s been quite busy since the advent of COVID-19, but a lot has been happening in eastern DRC too.

COVID-19
The DRC has been hit by COVID-19 like everywhere else in the world, but with a population of ~ 85 million, a death tally of 260 people has been quite moderate by world standards. Canada’s death toll stands at 9,145 and the U.S. is 188,000. The trend for active cases in Congo looks promising. Nonetheless, fear and precaution taking has restricted Congolese travel and business activities.  

Sewing Project Updated
With some fresh funding, the sewing project associated with the school for orphans has been kickstarted again. Enough funds were provided for restocking inventory, hiring Kakule Mutsunde as full time manager for a year and having an excess of USD $420 provided to the school as rent.  COVID-19, like Ebola and extreme violence in the region, has restricted the ability to sell and distribute clothing.  They were well positioned to produce COVID-19 masks originally for the kids. With Kakule Mutsunde’s involvement they have been able to produce and sell masks for profit. The goals continues to be training students and to generate profits that can support the school.

Butembo Market
Consider what selling your goods in the Butembo market would be like in the best of circumstances. They have now dealt with extreme violence, Ebola and COVID-19, yet they continue to operate.  While business has been slower under COVID-19, the business continues to operate at a profit.  They have been able to increase their inventory on hand while supporting the orphan Dieula from their profits.

Butembo (Dorcas) Orphanage
Dorcas continues to manage the orphanage under challenging decisions and new orphans continue to stream in. In a just world she would be honoured as Mother Teresa was honoured. They continue to need support.

Please consider a donation!

Cutie

Support for Orphans in Butembo

Your support will go directly to the Mama Dorcas orphanage for food and medicines. Please edit for your donation of any amount.

$20.00

Kalondo
This town has suffered in the extreme.  Saasita keeps in touch. Mai Mai militiamen took over the town and the people all fled into the jungle to escape.  The last I heard was that in June the Congo security forces were trying to recapture the town. The town’s people continue to need your prayers.

Kesho Njema Project
James Kataliko reports that the goat project is progressing very well.  One goat died, but they were able to sell the meat.  With the proceeds they bought a small goat and give it to the owner.

James helping out some more
James Kataliko also reported that with funds provided to him he helped pay the maternity costs for a woman without means.  The little girl’s name is Destiny.  James was also able to provide some funds to the unpaid teachers of the Butembo Primary Scout School who are at home due to COVID-19.

Microfinance
Pascal decided to grow his taxi business between Butembo and Goma by buying a larger vehicle just as Ebola was hitting and then he had to deal with COVID-19.  His resilience has been tested but has been proven as he has responsibly been able to maintain his monthly loan payments.

James Kataliko has long been faithful with supporting our efforts to help in eastern Congo and honest with his dealings so he was a prime candidate for microfinance support when he brought forward his need.  He was paying rent but considering acquiring his own home.  We were able to structure a loan deal that made his monthly loan payment lower than his rent.  This deal was possible because James had proved his personal integrity.

James has a new home!

Saasita – Hygiene Awareness
Saasita continues to support community awareness projects.  She created a hand washing program and set out to educate people on COVID-19.

Reality statutes
This monument should receive awards but have a warning to children for its gruesomeness. Decapitation by machete, blood and guts spilling out, it is all here after being erected in Mangina, near Beni.  The initiator of this work of art, the honorable provincial deputy Kasereka Siwako Alain said that it was created is in order to challenge the international community on what is happening in the region.

Mangina Monument

“We erected this monument to challenge the international community in relation to the massacres in Beni,” said this elected representative of the territory of Beni.

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