The primary and vital reason why I am very committed to Peace lays in the bloodshed that I witnessed in my childhood.
From 1959 to 1967, I saw many people, among whom my beloved ones , being executed and murdered by the mutineers of the town of Kisangani and rebels led by Pierre Mulele in 1964. Insurrection’s military and political leaders such as Laurent Kabila, Gaston Soumialot, Nicolas Olenga , Christtophe Gbenye, and commanded troops engaged in the civil war in 1964, which devastated my beloved country the Democratic Republic of Congo right after independence in 1960.
During this period, many myths, obscure beliefs and frightening news were spread about the Congo. This experience was extremely traumatizing. All these destructive ideas led to the massive witch hunting that was launched against the whites (Belgians, Greeks and Portuguese). Watching them running for their lives before being caught and executed was a devastating experience. All these tragic events occurred before and after the Independence Day, on the 30th of June 1960.
I was living in ELILA, located on the shores of a river that bears the same name. It is in fact a small village located between the cities of Kisangani and Kindu in the Northeastern Region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There, I heard about the execution of 20 Italian “mercenaries”. They were on their way to the Katanga province where they were supposed to assist the secessionist government of Moise Tshombe. Soldiers of the National Congolese Army (ANC) killed these”mercenaries”. Some inhabitants of Kindu were ordered to tear the corpses of the Italians in pieces. During the same period, horrible news was circulated about the killings of 20 catholic priests by the troops of the loyal central government army (ANC). This happened in the town of Kongolo, in Katanga province.
The most decimating event, however, was the assassination of Mr Patrice- Emery Lumumba, the first elected prime minister of the Republic Democratic of the Congo, on the 17t of January 1961, in Elisabethville (Lubumbashi). Subsequently, Antoine Gizenga who led some politicians and soldiers loyal to Lumumba proclaimed himself prime minister over the Eastern region of the Congo in Kisangani.
In 1964, I witnessed the invasion of the province of Maniema by the so-called Mulelist rebels commanded by Gston Soumialot. After occupying all the main cities, they undertook the mass killings of the national army’s soldiers. Political and administrative authorities, intellectual as well as white businessmen were wiped out. Some of my own dear relatives were shot dead in front of me. As a child , I was poignantly shocked. At that time I was 13 years old and was residing in Kailo, at a catholic mission’s boarding school managed by Dutch priests from the congregation of the “Chanoines of Latran”. They asked me to look after their property when they were abducted by rebels who intended to use the priests and other whites as human shields against the attacks of the Belgian and American troops. The latter came to rescue foreign hostages in Kindu and Kisangani.
Dutch priests abandoned five Rwandan nuns from the congregation of the Butare province in Rwanda, known as the “Benebikira”. In those days, I was living with a student from the Murhesa catholic great seminar, the abbess Jean Tchomba. Due to the fact that Mulelist rebels and some unlawful civilians threatened to rape the nuns, we had no alternative but to run in the equatorial forest. We spent more than 2 months in the forest, drinking dirty water and eating sand, sharing the same fruits with animals, when our food stock was finished.
During the year 1964, Moise Tshombe, the former president of the secessionist republic of Katanga, became the national prime minister. He was sworn-in in the capital city Kinshasa, then Leopldville. The new prime minister hired mercenaries commanded by Jean Schrame and Bod Denard. Tshombe’s government assigned them the mission of flushing out all Mulelist rebels in the Eastern region of the Republic Democratic of the Congo (Kindu,Kisangani…) The mercenaries recruited many youngsters from Katanga province as soldiers, then known as the ” Kasimba”. They succeeded in restoring peace. The armed confrontation between the Mulelist rebels and mercenaries troops resulted in a bloodbath. Many Mulelist rebels were killed. I have witnessed also some rebels who were forced to dig graves in which they were buried alive. Others were thrown alive in the Congo and Elila rivers.
General Joseph Desire Mobutu also fought the rebels in the city of Bukavu and around the Kamanyola bridge, on the Ruziziz river in the South Kivu province in 1964.
On the 24th of November 1965, the General Mobutu replaced the first elected president Joseph Kasavubu through a military coup and ruled the country for 32 years of dictatorship.
From 1965 to 1967, relative Peace prevailed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo under the leadership of Mobutu.
When I finished my primary school in Kailo, I was 15 years old, my parents decided to send me to Punia (city between Kindu and Kisangani) where I had to attend the secondary school only for one year at St Pius Institute. This city was situated only 20 kilometers far from Yumbi (situated between Kisangani and Punia), the military base of Colonel Jean Schrame, the mercenary commander! I saw many times Jean Schrame as he came regularly to visit the catholic missionaries of the “Chanoines de Latran”.
In April 1967, the mercenary troops of Bod Denard and the Congolese general Monga from the Katanga province who were stationed in Kisangani decided to launch an attack against the city of Elisabethville (Lubumbashi) for the second secession under Tshombe. They dreamt to reach Elisabethville by road via Punia-Kailo-Kindu-Kongolo. During their journey, General Mobutu a troop’s headed by colonnel Tshatshi confronted them. Subsequently, Jean Schramme received order from Kinshasa to prevent Bod Denard’s contigent from reaching Elisabethville, in the Katanga province. Consequently, all whites living in Kisangani and surrounding areas were taken hostage and used as human shields by Bod Denar’s mercenaries in his journey to reach Katanga province.
The situation was more than dramatic and tragic! Bod Denard ignited immense terror in the region. As a result, to save their lives, white people, missionaries, nuns and students at the catholic St Pius Institute where I was studying as young catholic seminar student in Punia we gathered together and were forced to move the city of Bukavu via Kasese-Utu-Walikale. General Mobutu deemed it advisable to seek the assistance of the mercenaries from South Africa in order to stop the convoy at the city of Utu. As human shields to Bod Denard we returned to Punia, but he carry on the side of Kindu where he lost the battle in Kindu; and many of his mercenaries were killed. Until July 1967, we lived in peace in the region.
But towards the end of July 1967, Colonel Jean Schrame decided to launch his own two simultaneous attacks in one single day, against the cities of Kisangani, Kindu and Bukavu. He was backed by some young “Kansimba” soldiers from general Monga ranks. However, Jean Schramme’s military adventure failed also. Once again, many whites (about 200) living in Kisangani, Kindu, Punia, Kalima, Kailo… were gathered in Punia for evacuation. Jean Schrame decided to launch a second attack against only the city of Bukavu, 600 km from Punia, via Walikale.
As they were fleeing, the catholic priests of “Chanoines de Latran” who were Dutch in majority, decided again to take me and my cousin along. We were left at the city of Kasese-Kibeleketa. Many white people fled from this city because Jean Schrame wanted to capture and force them into the ranks of his mercenaries. To protect his soldiers from the attacks of the national air force, hostages were once again used as shields by Jean Schrame. Rebels or mercenaries convoy traveled only during the night using the roads in the rain forest. Each and every young hostage was given a weapon and forced to engage in the combats. Fortunately, I was the “protégé” of the late father Corneille Gerrits who advised me and my cousin to run away and stay in the city of Kasese in order to avoid being captured and enrolled in the rebel army of Jean Schrame. We lost all hope of one day reaching our parents at the city of Kailo, 300 kilometers away from the city of Banyamba (Kasese), because renegade mercenaries of Bob Denard and Jean Schrame destroyed all bridges, particularly the one of the Ulindi river (200 meters long) as they were fleeing.
For almost 3 months, we lived in Kasese’s suburb of Banyamba. Meanwhile, Jean Schrame reached the city of Bukavu .He occupied it for 4 months. Western civilians were allowed to cross the border and reach the Rwandan city of Cyangugu. From there, they were able to arrive in the Rwandan capital city, Kigali, where they boarded the planes and left for Europe.
Thanks to God’s grace and protection, we decided to travel by road from Kasese to Kindu via Punia and Kailo. Our journey was extremely perilous because Jean Schrame’s mercenaries had planted a lot of land mines as they were fleeing. Finally, we reached the city of Kailo were my parents resided. It is worth noting that my parents previously lived in the city of Elila, 36 kilometers from Kailo. Rebels burned down their house in Elila in 1966, and wanted to kill my father one night, but he escaped leaving his coat in the hands of rebels. Much to my surprise, I found my mother wearing funeral garments. She had been informed that Jean Schrame’s soldiers had executed me. Unfortunately, I could spend only a week with my family because I had to leave for Kindu to register for high school in September 1968.
Around 1968, news of armed confrontation in the Congo stemmed from Fizi. In this area, situated in the mountains along the Tanganika Lake, Laurent Kabila’s rebels created havoc. They regrouped in the “Hewa Bora” mountains. From their stronghold, they prompted incursions against the civilians in the vicinities of Fizi. During one of these invasions in Kalemie, Kabila’s henchmen abducted my nephew’s wife. Until today she has never been found. Under the leadership of Mobutut Sese Seko, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which became the Republic of Zaire in 1972, experienced a certain degree of so-called Peace. Nevertheless, the country plunged into yet another cycle of violence from 1979, as a result of the aggression by so called “Katangese Gendarmes” operating from Angola. They targeted the cities of Dilolo, Kolwezi and Kapanga in 1977 and 1979. Ultimately, the vital mining city of Kolwezi was occupied for a while. But the Katangese gendarmes were defeated by the French army called in rescue by Mobut. During the same period, Laurent Desire Kabila’s troops attacked the city of Moba twice in the Eastern area of the Katanga province. Kabila’s men operated from Tanzania. However, the Zairian army recovered the city off Moba.
My stay in the city of Okinawa in Japan, from 1988 to 1989, for the reason of intensively studying the Japanese Language at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and my visit at the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Museum, helped me to confirm my Passion and Vision for Peace.
About two decades latter, I witnessed the devastating and generalized looting that took place in the capital city Kinshasa in 1991. Mobutu’s soldiers concocted these devastating events. Many civilians and innumerable soldiers lost their lives. After the first looting and due to the tentative of my kidnappings by the unknown, I have decided to send my family to South Africa protecting them from multiple dangers and threats; hoping that the social and political convulsions shaking the former Zaire would end. During the second looting in 1992, I witnessed once again the death of many civilians and soldiers.
One particular event deserves to be detailed. I was living in the suburb of the Selembao, Cite Verte, in the capital city of Kinshasa. One of my neighbors was Mr Lutundula, a so-called prominent figure in the then opposition under the leadership of Mr Etienne Tshisekedi, national president of Union for the Democracy Progress and Social Party (UDPS). Lutundula became a key figure in the transitional parliament. One night a bomb was thrown in his villa around 2 pm. The explosion shook all the houses in the neighborhood. All the glasses of my villa, at the Cite Verte 121, 10th Avenue, were broken. Thank God I am still alive.
Finally, I decided to seek refuge in South Africa in 1994, in connection with many unknown dangers and threats from different opponents, due to the political instability and my relationships with different opposition parties to the Mobutu Sese Seko ruling party, the Popular Movement of Revolution (MPR).
President Mobutu Sese Seko was removed from power by Laurent Desire Kabila and his Rwandan and Ugandan allies after a long attack from the Eastern town of Uvira, in the province of Kivu to the capital city Kinshasa. He flew to exile in Morroco via Togo where he was firstly welcomed by the late president Eyadema .And he died from prostate cancer. Laurent Desire Kabila spent only 5 years in power and was assassinated in his palace in January 2001, in Kinshasa and his son Joseph was chosen as his successor.
From 1998, the Democratic Republic of Congo has faced many internal conflicts between the government and different groups of rebels, once more many innocent civilians were killed and still being killed day and night in Africa no matter the different peace agreements signed in the continent.
Having a Dream, a Passion and a Vision for Peace in Africa, we can say together with our role models Rev. Dr Maritn Luther King, Jr and Founding and Senior Pastors of Christian Family Church International, Reverend Theo & Beverly Wolmarans, WE HAVE A DREAM that one day AFRICA will live in PEACE.
JESUS CHRIST is the only Hope and Solution for a lasting Peace in AFRICA, as the Prince of Peace.