Nyankunde Panic 09/11/08

At 12 noon the 8th November a group of Rebels attacked the Congolese national army at Marabo 4km from Nyankunde. The fighting took place all round the UN compound but the Moroccan troops there took no part other than firing a large canon 3 times. Unfortunately this discharge caused panic at Nyankunde and all but 9 staff and 2 patients fled across the valley to the catholic station of Badyia.

According to the Moroccan commander the majority of the rebels were young boys and girls covered in charms and with simple (AK40) weapons. Two rebels were killed and 2 soldiers wounded.

The national troops were reinforced in the afternoon with a well disciplined brigade from Bunia and some well armed troops from Kinshasa. They are now persuing the rebels to their new base in the caves around Mt Hoyo (having been displaced from the gold mines at Bavi) No one knows why they should have picked Marabo twice for an attack. However on both occasions it was said openly that their target was the army not civilians. Also the rebels were told not to loot, and we are told that those who did some looting on the 18th October are being disciplined.

The nursing students are upset and many don’t feel safe at Nyankunde. However we are sure they are not in any immediate danger and after lengthy discussions at Nyankunde we have not yet taken a decision to move the school elsewhere.

The major problem at Nyankunde is a lack of money. Although on Saturday morning the hospital was full people, they don’t have any money to pay bills. The hospital staff therefore only received 25% of their salaries making meals difficult to find and schooling for their children almost impossible. We owe a lot to those members of staff who have stayed when others fled because the hospital would be reduced to a shell (by one group or another) if left unattended.

In Christ, Philip Wood

Update from Philip Wood Philip Wood Medical Director of CME 26/10/08

Dr Mike was here visiting and he said that on Sunday morning the hospital already had 12 patients and one lady had come Saturday night to deliver. And so they were up and running again. We saw Dr Remi on Thursday and he said that at least 10 children were admitted on Wednesday and still another maternity patient. All good news. Philip spent time on Monday with Dr Mike at the UN asking if they would assume responsibility for the safety of Nyankunde Hospital but they said they do not have enough personnel. It may be that they will do occasional patrols – it is only 4 km from their base. As this last week progressed the staff and students of the Nursing School realized that going to Beni had more disadvantages than initially thought and the quite possibly they could resume in Nyankunde, maybe even tomorrow.

Letter to Jacob Mogeni 18/10/08

Dear Jacob,

On behalf of the staff and patients of the Nyankunde hospital I wish to thank you most sincerely for all your help in organising the MONUC convoy that went in to Nyankunde late afternoon on Wednesday the 15th October to rescue individuals trapped by a rebel attack.

Some 300 staff, their families and patients left for Marabo at that time and no one was wounded or molested.

We do thank you.

Please find enclosed a copy of a report made from eyewitnesses.

Some 21 men have now volunteered to stay at Nyankunde to keep this important reference hospital open. These men are asking if a small contingent of MONUC soldiers could be returned to Nyankunde to protect them in the unlikely event of further attacks. Previously these troops were stationed in the “Greenhouse” area. It would be possible to place them within the chain link fence that surrounds the hospital.

I have spoken to the commander at Marabo and he expressed willingness to accede to this request but I understand he needs the authorisation of the Directrice. I hope that you would be able to support this request.

Again we thank you sincerely and hope that our cooperation can continue.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Philip Wood

Executive Director

Update 17/10/08: Nyankunde attack (15th October 2008)

Monday night 13th October 08: rumours of a possible attack started circulating at Nyankunde and nursing students were agitated.

Tuesday 14th The population and medical staff were reassured by a meeting held by M Gaston the Chief of the Collectivite des Andisomas with hospital leaders.

Wednesday 15thPeople at the medical centre were woken by gunfire at 5 am and the students wqere told to move to the hospital. At 6.30 gunfire seemed to be moving towards the commercial centre, then there was silence. There is a suggestion that the rebels captured some arms from the FARDC at this point. Katsko – a Japanese lab technician went down to the surgical ward with a small suitcase of personal belongings and 2 laptop computers. At 8am some of the insurgents came back and started looting. It has been estimated that the insurgents were of 2 types – some 25 disciplined uniformed men and a similar number of “drunk youths”. These are only estimates. Katsko described the uniformed men as well armed with heavy weapons but another nurse felt they were only lightly armed with automatic weapons. The young drunks took Katsko’s case, bags from students and asked everyone for money. The hospital laboratory, the maternity (and operating room) were entered windows broken and doors forced, as well as several private houses. They took 2 solar panels of Dr Mike, 5 motorbikes of the medical Zone, 2 motorbikes of personnel, the cautery machine, carpentry tools and machines, phones and money from everyone as well as small personal items from people’s homes.

One elderly lady died – we presume of shock, but no one else was hurt.

Although the cell phone network is not good at Nyankunde SMS messages were sent by a number of personnel to let the outside know what was happening.

At 14h all the personnel of Nyankunde gathered in the 3 doctors residences close to the hospital entrance. At 17h30 a convoy of MONUC arrived at Nyankunde and escorted some 300 people and patients on foot 4km to the Marabo MONUC camp where they spent the night.

Thursday the 16th, 8am 2 lorries a pick up and Land Cruiser were sent to Marabo to take out some 218 people attached to the Nyankunde Hospital who wanted to go to Bunia. We estimate some 185 were taken. However some people had spent the night at Nyankunde and said it was quite calm in the morning. So 2 vehicles went down the Nyankunde road but met the chief and FARDC at the first bridge. At that point gunfire was clearly audible. The vehicles turned back. However FARDC was able to go in subsequently and word came back to Marabo that people could return.

At 16h30 a group went in and found all calm – papers had been ransacked from files and strewn everywhere. The group spent the night in the private wards of the hospital.

Friday the 17th 2 lorries and 2 pickups were sent to bring the remaining displaced people to Bunia. Two small vehicles went in to Nyankunde. There were few people and few FARDC visible. A meeting was held with some 15 personnel from the hospital, with the Chief (Andisoma) and the Rector of USB. It was noted that 21 men had volunteered to stay and keep this important reference hospital open. Their wives and children were to remain in Bunia. Their urgent request was that a group of MONUC soldiers be again stationed at Nyankunde, possibly within the chain link fence that surrounds the hospital. There is no guarantee that there will not be another attack so it was felt that nursing college students should not return to Nyankunde at this time.

A number of people displaced to Marabo now decided to go back to Nyankunde so the lorries only evacuated some 40 people to Bunia.

14h A Crisis Committee meeting held in Bunia suggested that, following a proposal from Beni that the IEM college be temporarily relocated in the new operating room at Beni (Sose).

Many nursing students (and Mlle Katsko) now in Bunia have NOTHING other than the clothes they stand up in.

Friday, October-17-08
Dr Philip Wood MA MB FRCS
Directeur Executif CME (Nyankunde)

Update - 16/10/08

Dear Family and Dear Friends,

It is with very heavy hearts that we write to say that rebels (the cattle thieves of last Friday we believe) arrived in Nyankunde this morning, fought off the Congolese soldiers who were guarding the peace and retreated under attack) and during the day returned and began looting some private houses and the hospital and the nursing school, obliging the nursing students to carry the loot up into the hills. We understand that the students then returned to the group and we have not heard of any loss of life. It seems that 10 rebels were injured and 2 Congolese soldiers.

Philip spent the entire afternoon at the UN headquarters in Bunia begging for help. It was very disappointing to learn that the UN battalion in Marabo, 4km from Nyankunde, not only did not know what was going on, but didn't even know where Nyankunde was located. Finally they were persuaded to send a convoy to evacuate the 700 people (some or all?) who were sheltering in two private homes. We heard about 7pm that Katsuko and Dr Mikes wife and children were safe in Marabo. Dr Mike, Medical Director of Nyankunde Hospital, has been attending a seminar in Beni and so followed all this by telephone only.

The plan for tomorrow is that three CME vehicles (including Philip in ours) will go in convoy to Marabo to offer pastoral support to the displaced people and bring a few back to Bunia. Possibly by prayer the UN could be persuaded to bring all those who want to come, to Bunia.

Here in the city life goes on very much as normal. Chris Phillips who traveled with us is staying here in Bunia with us.

We would value your prayers for wisdom to know what to do and say tomorrow, who to move, who to leave, and the right priorities for the days ahead. A high level delegation of government officials arrived in Bunia on Monday and Tuesday to deal with these dissidents but obviously not soon enough. We have just passed the 6 year mark on Sept 5th from the attack in 2002 which so devastated Nyankunde. Once again the community and the hospital have encountered a serious attack.

Yours in the Lords service, Nancy & Philip

Urgent - 15/10/08 (Archive from home page)

Please pray since we have just heard that Nyankunde was occupied by rebel forces from 5am this morning. This came from Masumbuko. No news about whether this was peaceful or not. We understand that MAF evacuated Bunia over the weekend but I have not had confirmation of this or of the situation in Bunia.
Many thanks,

Message from MAF

Please see the following links: New rebels attack DR Congo town and DR Congo president's call to arms for details of what happened. Thank you for your prayers; we will have to wait to see what happens next. We will review our own regular flights that go to Bunia every Mon, Wed and Fri.