From Bangadi, eastern Congo:
Rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army sent torture victims — including a man whose back was sliced with a machete — to warn the people of this Congolese town they would be next. The town’s three policemen fled and there was no response from the military and U.N. peacekeepers to the increasingly panicked pleas for help. That’s when residents realized they were on their own.
“We were sending warnings and begging for help practically every day for two weeks. And nothing happened,” said community leader Nicolas Akoyo Efudha. “We finally understood that we were abandoned — in danger and without protection.”
So Akoyo called a town meeting and told everyone to bring whatever weapons they had: pre-World War II rifles, homemade shotguns, lances, swords, machetes, hunting knives, bows with sheaths of poisoned arrows. The women came armed with kitchen knives and log-sized wooden pestles used to pound yams into flour.
Since then, the residents of Bangadi have successfully driven off two attacks by the Ugandan rebels, who have killed at least 900 people in this remote northeastern corner of Congo over the past seven weeks. News of Bangadi’s success — and the lack of military protection — have spurred hundreds of villages to form self-defense groups, according to Avril Benoit, a spokeswoman for MSF.