Next to the Lomami River, between the Tshuapa and the Lualaba Rivers, there is a mass grave.
This is the third and last of three posts dealing with recent barbarity up the Lomami.
This history was revealed at the Obenge village meeting last week . The occasion was the civil society leaders John brought in the dugout 300 km from the town of Opala, their first visit in more than a decade. The village was called together by the dawn rhythms of the village drum, Bongungu.
More than six years earlier, Molangi beat the same Bongungu again and again , all day, five days in a row, calling to the terrified villagers of Obenge who had fled to distant forest camps.
This was the story that Molangi told with Salumu Kalume by his side, an Obenge villager who had fled into the forest :
During the year 2001, the RCD-Goma (one of the rebel armies) based at Opala had among its ranks a certain “Commander Dracula” who made three successive raids on the village of Obenge, ostensibly because he suspected it to be an outpost of resistance against the RCD-Goma.
Some people in Obenge knew Commander Dracula when he was a teacher at the Catholic primary school of Ubundu (!)
The Obenge villagers all managed to flee into the forest when Dracula raided the first two times, but his third trip, 7 August 2001, he came by night. He entered the village accompanied by about 35 military. A part of the village was able to flee, another part was trapped.
That same night, Commander Dracula and his military tied up 10 victims, twisted bands over their eyes and forced them to the edge of the village. They were killed with blows of a wooden pole to their neck. The bodies were left at the scene. The body of an eleventh victim, a teenage girl, was presumably thrown in the Lomami. Her clothes were found on the bank.
The next day, after looting the village, Commander Dracula and his team returned to Opala . They announced the massacre to the Territorial Administrator (powerless figurehead during war).
The Administrator sent Molangi to investigate. The small non-motorized dugout arrived in Obenge Friday 24 August 2001 (more than two weeks after the massacre). The two people who accompanied Molangi dropped him off and fled, traumatized by the scene.
The village was empty. He found 10 corpses in an advanced state of decomposition and the clothes of an 11th person on the banks of the river.
During five days, alone in the village, he beat the drum knowing that people had fled into the forest.After hearing the calls of the Bongungu again and again, a few took courage. One by one people returned.
Molangi, Kalume and three others dug a common grave and buried the corpses, little more than skeletons. They were identified by their remaining clothes. Kalume made a list of the people killed, that list is below.
Now, every year on the 7th of August the residents of Obenge have a solemn ceremony at the site of the mass grave in memory of the people who were massacred.
The victims of the massacre: