Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Interahamwe attack school near Nyangezi

Weza University in Nyangezi, an hour's drive south of Bukavu, was attacked by Interahamwe soldiers last night.

A Catholic school staffed by Belgian priests, Weza has a long history of teaching excellence in the primary and secondary levels; students come from as far away as Kinshasa to attend. Additionally, a medical school was established there last year.

The rebels attacked around midnight and closed off the priest’s compound. The head priest, who arrived from Belgium only this year, was able to ferry a call for help to the Governor, who in turn called the Congolese National Army stationed in barracks above Nyangezi. The troops arrived quickly, and after some shooting the Interahamwe escaped back into the hills. No one was reported injured.

Pushed back into the mountains by the KIMIA II offensive and cut off from their regular supply routes, the Interahamwe are becoming increasingly desperate. Last week they kidnapped a priest in Walungu territory, demanding $5000 ransom for his return; he was released several days later unharmed.

This time the Interahamwe hit pay dirt. October being the beginning of school year in Congo, Weza University had just collected boarding fees from the students and received a sizable sum from the Congolese government, which subsidizes the school in part. The bandits stole 5 computers, cell phones, and upwards of $12,000, leaving the school without operating funds.

The teaching staff and 1300 students have relocated to the safety of Bukavu, where several army garrisons are located. The school is closed until further notice. The school had just reopened last year after having been shut down since 1999 when it was attacked by Interahamwe and the priests recalled to Belgium.

With love and gratitude,

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