KINSHASA, 16 April 2010 – Hundreds of final year secondary school students have been unable to sit all their national exams due to fighting between a faction of the Mayi-Mayi militia and the army in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) territory of Fizi, South Kivu Province, say officials.
“Fighting broke out at dawn on 13 April as we were preparing for the second day of examinations… No final year student or [education] inspector could go to the exam centres as most Fizi town residents were forced to flee gun battles after Mayi-Mayi militiamen attacked the town,” Pierre Lulonga, the head of the secondary and primary school education branch in Fizi, said.
Seven people died in the fighting between the army and the Union du Peuple Congolais pour la Revolution Mayi-Mayi faction, a witness told IRIN. The faction is also known as Mayi-Mayi Yakutumba, after the name of its leader.
At least 487 students were affected, having only sat the first day of the exams scheduled for 12-16 April, Lulonga said.
Fighting in the town only lasted a day, but a new date for the exams is yet to be set as most students fled with their families. “Many students are still hiding in the bush with their families but once most of the residents of Fizi town return to their homes, we will set a new date so that the affected students can catch up with the rest of the secondary school students in the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government is encouraging residents to return home, saying there is no threat of new attacks. “We are using communal radio stations to tell residents the situation is now calm and that the army has re-established security so that they can return,” Kati Kasindi, Fizi deputy administrator, told IRIN.
Residents, however, are reluctant to leave the bush as fighting is still going on in villages around Fizi town, Kasindi said.
“Many residents fear the Mayi-Mayi militia may attack the town again… but we believe that they [the residents] are going to change their minds as they are hearing from those who have already returned,” he added.
ICRC staff seized
The Mayi-Mayi faction is holding eight International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) staff captive – seven Congolese and a Swiss national. The aid workers were returning from a trip to assess the needs of displaced people in Fizi on 9 April when they were seized, according to the ICRC.
“We demand that the group holding our personnel release them as quickly as possible,” said Frantz Rauchestein, the head of the ICRC delegation in DRC.
The Mayi-Mayi militia commander, Andrien Id Amin, told UN Radio in the DRC, Radio Okapi, on 14 April that he was waiting to get in touch with UN peacekeepers with a view to setting up a humanitarian corridor that will enable his militiamen to set free the ICRC personnel.
The Mayi-Mayi rebels are fighting the army in protest at what they see as the government’s failure to implement an April 2009 agreement on the dissolution and reintegration of 18 rebel militia groups, said their leader, Yakutumba. The government has also failed to register the Mayi-Mayi rebels as a political party, he added.
However, according to the agreement follow-up committee rapporteur, Jean-Bosko Bahala, the registration delay is because the Interior Ministry has yet to get the necessary registration documents from the militia.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]