Uganda and the US have ended a six-year hunt for the fugitive warlord Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The LRA, now believed to be down to less than 120 armed men, has splintered into small units operating in the remotest regions of eastern CAR, north-eastern Congo, and Darfur. Experts say that completely abandoning the mission will create security vacuums for already extremely vulnerable communities, particularly in the Central African Republic and north-eastern DRC. A young Comboni Missionary has just escape from death, at the hands of the rebels of LRA. Below his testimony.
I am Father Pascal Milunga. I am writing from Bambilo, Rd. Congo. Last year I escaped drowning in a river at Ango. This year I have had another narrow escape from death, at the hands of the LRA (Lord’s Revolution Army). I had just completed the training of catechists at Angola. At the beginning I was with Father Vittorio but latterly I stayed on alone. I had taken the route to return to Bondo. 15 km from Api in the forest I fell into a LRA rebels’ trap. One stepped out in front of me, very well armed, and another two closed up behind me.
The one in front was a MBororo (cattleman) and the other two were very black, I think Ugandans. These latter spoke a very strange language. Only the MBororo could speak in Lingala, my language. They told me to push my motorbike and go with them back into the forest. I had a real struggle because my Haijin 150 is quite heavy. In the forest, we met another two heavily armed men. They led me even further into the forest, while the other three returned to the road to kidnap other people. When we arrived in the heart of the forest, I noticed two motorbikes and some bicycles on the ground but there was no-one around. I thought immediately that their owners had been killed already. And then I began to pray from the bottom of my heart, asking forgiveness from the Lord for my sins and entrusting my life into his hands.
They ordered me to lie on the ground and they began to search me right down to my underwear, depriving me of my jacket, trousers and footwear. They kept asking me where I was hiding the dollars. When they didn’t find any, one of them gave me a rifle butt kick in the back and told me to get dressed again. After that one of them led me further by another small path; I thought he was going to execute me but, when we arrived further on, I saw a group of people who had been kidnapped before me. The man told me to sit down with the others. Amongst these people were two youths who wanted to escape into the forest but I advised them to give up that idea because they would be killed. At that stage I let the group know that I was a priest. After me, they took other prisoners, both on motorbike and on foot. When they had finished stripping them of their belongings, they summoned me.
They had noticed my items of liturgical clothing in my case and they told me pick these up as well as my religious books. I asked them to give me back my computer; at that the MBororo gave me another rifle butt kick in the back, then ordered me to pack my belongings onto the motorbike and leave. At the same time he gave me back the ignition key, my driving licence and the motorbike’s registration documents. Fortunately I had recorded the data from the computer onto a memory stick which they had failed to spot. They were liberating me because I was a priest. I then took my courage in my hands to try to make them understand that it wasn’t necessary to continue to keep the others captive as they had already taken everything they wanted from them.
At that they looked at each other, one of them became angry with me but the other calmed him down and finally they freed everyone who had a motorbike or bicycle. The others remained with them, perhaps to carry their baggage. Once I was back on the road, as a result of so much emotion, I couldn’t even control the motorbike for fear of falling. Every time the vegetation resembled the spot where I had been taken captive, a terrible fear came over me. Once I arrived in Bili, 55 km from Bambilo, I went to inform the military and police authorities about what had happened. I spent the night at the Parish, well looked after by the priest Abbé Marcel who got me fuel and a jacket for my journey towards Bambilo. I thank God for everything that happened and especially for granting me my life.