Rutshuru, Lubero and Beni in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo are considered to be the country’s ‘breadbasket’, thanks to the rich agricultural sector. But harvesting the riches of the land comes at great risk. Since the end of 2017, armed groups, both from the Congo and from abroad, have inflicted a system of kidnapping with high ransoms – some payable with land.
The land is becoming bloody for the people in this part of the Nile region.
“The land is becoming bloody for the people in this part of the Nile region. People do not know how to protect themselves,” says expert and UN Habitat consultant, Jossy Materu. “There are no mechanisms for nutritional security because of these kidnappers.”
When one enters the fields at harvesting time, that person may be kidnapped by thugs hiding in the crops. The kidnappers demand ransoms ranging between USD 1,500 to 25,000. If the ransom money is not paid, they execute the hostage.
“The harvesting of goods happens either through deals between people and armed groups or by sharing the food with armed people in the fields,” said Sabine Karume, the coordinator of an agricultural group in Rutshuru, in a presentation in January 2019.
From October to December 2018, nine women were kidnapped on a road leading to the fields in Gisigari, in the territory of Rutshuru. The kidnappings took place along the Rutshuru River, considered to be one of the sources of the Nile on the Congolese side, Karume said.
The kidnappers demand ransoms ranging between USD 1,500 to 25,000.
Numerous families are under financial pressure to free their relatives.
Negotiations with the kidnappers resulted in the transfer of the entire harvest as payment for the ransom. This, of course, means that the farmers lose the produce of their labour, which lasts many seasons.
This phenomenon endangers not only food security each season but also deprives the local people from building a future free from this vicious cycle.