OCP has suffered another tragic loss and it is with great sadness that I write to you regarding an incident that happened Saturday, February 17th two hundred kilometers from Epulu on the Beni-Komanda road in which an OCP pickup truck was ambushed as it entered the town of Erengeti just north of Beni. Six people lost their lives, with four additional people seriously wounded. Of those individuals injured, we have since confirmed that sadly, OCP educator in Epulu, Mr. Kalinda Mubengwa died from his injuries at the hospital. Fortunately, Maman Carine, OCP Educator in Mambasa, was not seriously injured and has now returned to her home.
At the moment our understanding is that the vehicle, carrying ICCN and OCP staff and local people representing Epulu, was returning from the funeral in Beni of the wife of Marcel Enckoto, our Director of Education who passed away last July, when it was ambushed by an as yet unidentified armed group. The army responded quickly and drove off the attackers. M’Monga, OCP Education Coordinator, was leading the group representing ICCN/OCP at the funeral, and thankfully he was unhurt. I will provide more details once M’Monga and the driver are back in Epulu and I can communicate with M’Monga. ICCN sent a pickup truck with rangers to secure the return of the survivors and to collect the bodies. OCP will pay for the funeral of Kalinda and set up a fund to take care of his wife and children.
Eastern DRC is home to multiple armed groups that compete for control of the region’s vast mineral resources. The attack was most likely carried out by members of the Allied Democratic Forces, a rebel group with origins in neighboring Uganda that is accused of killing hundreds of people over the past three years. More than 1,000 people have been killed in violence in the region since October 2014, and more than 180,000 people have been displaced.
With Congo embroiled in a broader political crisis, the government is less capable of keeping the attacks in Beni from spiraling out of control. This rising wave of violence is affecting all residents of the area around Beni and our ability to move about the region safely to purchase necessary food stocks and materials for our programs around the Reserve.
There will be a site security briefing in Epulu to review procedures on vehicle movements. We are making plans to procure necessary supplies and do our banking in another commerce center to avoid traveling on the Beni-Komanda road until the government and the UN can provide safe passage for all vehicles to and from Beni.
We are deeply sorry all the families of those who lost their lives, but also for all our Reserve staff and colleagues who lived and worked closely with those that died in the attack.