April 9 2003
Unsafe situation around SOS Children's Village Bukavu
09/04/2003 - On 6 April, fighting started in the town of Bukavu between the local militia and members of the Mayi-Mayi rebel group. Bullet holes are visible in some of the buildings of the SOS Children's Village complex, but no children or co-workers have been hurt. The SOS Children's Village has been partly "peacefully" occupied.
The conflict between the local militia and the Mayi-Mayi rebels - who control the region - broke out in Bukavu and the hills surrounding the town on 6 April and raged through the whole of Monday night. Children and co-workers from the SOS Children's Village, who spent Sunday outside of the village, were not able to return until Monday. On Monday, people were told not to leave their homes, nobody went to work. Since Tuesday, the town centre has been relatively calm, in the Karhale hills around Bukavu, however, there is still a massive military presence, guarding against a new attack by the rebel units. Shots continue to ring out.
The soldiers have set up camp in SOS Children's Village Bukavu and have occupied the primary school, kindergarten and medical centre. This has not led to any problems, though. Apart from a few bullet holes in the village director's house, the medical centre and a family house, the infrastructure is intact. The offices, which in any case have things stored in front of them by the soldiers, cannot be used at the moment. Apart from the village director and the SOS Children's Village mothers and aunts, no other co-workers are able to come to work. All the youngsters, who would normally live in the SOS Youth Facility in Bukavu, are, as a matter of precaution, being accommodated by their former SOS Children's Village families.
The Democratic Republic of Congo belongs to that list of sorry countries, where years of civil war between very different rival groups with the intervention of neighbour states has plunged the civilian population into unimaginable misery. The bare facts of a human tragedy of historical dimensions: since 1998, the civil war has claimed 2,5 million lives and forced hundreds of thousands to become refugees. With the signing of a peace agreement last year, it was possible to stabilize at least parts of the country, but civil war rages still today in the north and east.
About 15 years ago, SOS Children's Villages began its commitment to children in need in what was then Zaire. The first SOS Children's Village was built in Bukavu in 1988 and further social facilities followed. The unrest and violent clashes that flare up again and again have since the mid 1990s also interfered with the lives of children and co-workers from SOS Children's Villages, leading repeatedly to part occupation of SOS Children's Villages facilities and attacks. In 1997, an SOS Emergency Relief Programme was initiated in Uvira in the East of the country, consisting of an emergency village for 200 children, a kindergarten, a school, a youth facility and a clinic. Because of the dangerous situation it has not yet been possible to commence with the construction of a permanent village, which had been planned for 2001.