Ituri (Dem. Rep. of Congo) – Teachers and learners were forced to flee or stay at home in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after nearly 30 schools were destroyed last month during intense combats between the Congolese army and rebels, reports from the capital Kinshasa and Ituri Province, the epicenter of the armed conflict, said.
Marie Salomé Boroto, provincial director for the education ministry in Ituri Province, told ‘’7 sur 7’’ news site that the destruction of 27 schools in Djugu was a danger for the education of children in this town.
It is not the first time that schools have been destroyed in this war-torn Central African nation. In 2012, UNICEF reported that over 600 schools were destroyed, in the North Kivu province by armed conflict, resulting in at least 240 000 students to miss weeks of schooling.
This new wave of school destruction in Djugu is adding to the number of schools already destroyed by war in many parts of the country, including in the Kasai province, where two UN experts were kidnapped and savagely assassinated in March 2017 by people allegedly working for the previous regime.
Located some 65 km north-east of the provincial capital Bunia, Djugu has been the epicentre of the armed conflict for some time, forcing 300 000 villagers, including women and children, to flee and seek refuge in Bunia. At least 150 people have already been killed, according to official figures.
“Djugu is on fire. We saw dead bodies, we were lucky to escape. Schools have been destroyed and learners have fled. I’m now living in Bunia with my children. Many people are sick and hungry and we don’t know when we are going to return home. It’s sad,” a woman who declined to be identified told Daily Afrika by telephone from Bunia.
The DRC, a vast and wealthy-mineral resources country of 80 million people, has known no real peace and stability since the assassination of former president Laurent-Desiré Kabila in 2001. More than 150 armed groups are thought to be operating in the east and north-east, according to the UN.
Controversially elected on 30 December last year, President Felix Tshisekedi is proving to be powerless to stop the armed conflict. Many observers are already predicting that ‘’nothing good’’ will come out of his presidency unless he steps out of the shadow of former President Joseph Kabila, with whom he is thought to have struck a political deal to access to power.
“Many have assumed that he wants to assert his independence from the Kabila camp and that the best strategy now is to support him in doing so. But this is a man who came to power as a result of a political deal that denied the real winner the presidency, and the Congolese population its vote,” wrote Stephanie Wolters, Senior Research Fellow, at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in “Félix Tshisekedi Walks a Political Tightrope’’, a blog published in March 2019.
“It is too early to assess the direction he will take in the next five years, and whether he can and wants to take the risks necessary to fundamentally start to change the nature of governance and politics in the DRC.”