By Mark Michael
Islamist ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) rebels attacked the mostly Anglican town of Boga in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the early morning hours of August 23. According to a report by the Anglican Bishop of Boga, William Bahemuka, the raid lasted for about three hours, and more than 200 youth, children and women were abducted.
The Anglican Mission Hospital there was also looted, and a doctor and lab technician were captured by the rebels. A small unit of government troops based in the city ineffectively resisted the raiders. Numerous shops were looted and cows were stolen, but no casualties were reported.
Bahemuka said in an interview with Anglican Ink, “I travelled immediately to Boga to investigate the situation, advocate for our people, and extend to them the care of the church. The situation is terrible. People are terrified. Families are traumatized and grieving over their abducted loved ones. The ADF has never been active in Boga, so people are confused and don’t know how to understand the current situation.”
The rebel group has intensified its pattern of attacks in the DRC and in western Mozambique, benefiting from weak government leadership that has also been struggling to contain an ebola outbreak in the region. The nation has seen decades of intermittent civil war, with some rebel groups being indirectly supported by the neighboring Ugandan, Rwandan, and Burundian governments.
One of several rebel groups operating in eastern Congo, the ADF was founded in the 1990s in western Uganda to defend the rights of local members of the neo-fundamentalist Tablighi Jamaat sect. Though largely devoted to banditry, it espouses an Islamist ideology, and claimed that a similar attack last April was the work of “The Central African Province of the Islamic State.” New York University’s Congo Research Group and the Bridgeway Foundation report that the ADF has received funds from Waleed Ahmed Zein, a major financier of the Islamic State.
Boga, a town near the Ugandan border, was the birthplace of Anglicanism in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Apolo Kivebulaya, a Ugandan missionary, brought the Christian faith to the native peoples of this region, on the edge of the Ituri Forest, in 1896. The diocesan cathedral there is the successor to the nation’s first Anglican church.
The Kinshasa-based government deployed additional troops to the Boga region last week, and they attacked the rebels in the jungle. Some of the locals taken captive by the ADF escaped, and were found and are being cared for in hospitals. Others remain lost in the jungle.
“I appeal to people of good will everywhere to lobby their home governments to put pressure on the DR Congo government to stabilize the security situation in eastern Congo,” wrote Bahemuka. “We also appeal for a massive outpouring of sustained prayer from Christians everywhere. The situation is so desperate that we need God’s supernatural intervention. May God have mercy on us.”