Armed violence between militias and soldiers of the Democratic Republic was reported this week by a United Methodist district superintendent.
The Rev. Joseph Mulongo, superintendent of the Mulongo District, posted on Facebook that violence erupted in Kanunka, a mining village about 75 kilometers (about 47 miles) from his district.
Rev. Mulongo said that three militiamen were killed in the clash with Congolese soldiers. The militia, known in DR Congo as "elements," has been urged to stop its incursions. There was no word as of Jan. 19 whether the militia had stopped their advances.
The outbreak in Kanunka was the latest in a series of battles that begin last June between rebelling members of the Bashimbi ethnic group and the majority Bantu residents. The Bashimbi, also known as Pgymy (considered a pejorative term), have risen up against their second-class status in Congolese society. The most severe incursion came Dec. 20 when the Bashimbi attacked Manono, a regional center on the Lukushi River. Some 47 people were reported to have died in that attack. Another attack occurred Jan. 6 in the village of Piana Mwanga, southeast of Manono.
Meanwhile, the superintendent of the Tanganyika District, the Rev. Banza Mukalay Kusula of Manono, died Jan. 19 in a hospital in Lumbumbashi, Rev. Mulongo said. Lumbumbashi is a major city south of where fighting has occurred.
Rev. Kusula had been ill, but it is believed that the stress from the Dec. 20 attack on Manono hastened his death, Rev. Mulongo said in a Facebook post. Gaston Ntambo, a missionary commissioned by the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, flew Rev. Kusula to a Lumbumbashi hospital, where he died within an hour of arriving. Mr. Ntambo is the pilot for Wings of the Morning, a United Methodist aviation ministry based in the North Katanga Annual Conference that provides transportation for church-related and humanitarian purposes.