As I mentioned earlier, one of the Shona women grew up in Kiwanja, which was the site of intense fighting and brutal killings a few weeks ago. Her older brother, older sister, and two younger brothers all were living in Kiwanja at the time of the fighting. She had no idea what had happened to any of her siblings or whether they were safe. She has now received news of her older sister. At the time of the fighting, her older sister fled. She walked for a week, with two children in tow, to reach the town of Butembo. THat is 245 kilometers. The youngest child is 6 years old. They carried whatever possessions they could on their heads. We are very happy to hear that they have arrived safely.
But nothing has been heard of the three brothers. Many young men were killed in Kiwanja during the fighting. The CNDP claims that many of the young men killed were mai mai soldiers(another rebel group working with the government). It is hard to say what happened, but mai mai are "grass roots" rebels who do not often have access to uniforms and might well be in civilian clothing. This puts all young men at high risk. And as areas like kiwanja are taken first by one side and then by the other, the entire population is at risk of being accused of being an "enemy collaborator" at one time or another. After all, what options does an unarmed population have? How do you choose whether to "collaborate" or not when gun-weilding soldiers take over your town? What choice do you have?
And so the population runs. And we continue to wait for more news.