Militia attacks in DR Congo’s volatile east disrupted the start of school final exams Monday with hundreds of students fleeing violence and some girls raped by the attackers, officials said.
The school-leaving exams had already been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and began on Monday.
In Sud-Kivu province, about 700 students and their teachers fled after fighting near an exam centre in Haut Uele, near the border with South Sudan, Nyange Saluba, an official with a civil society group said.
Saluba said the attack was staged by the Banyamulenge militia — a group of Congolese Tutsis that has been waging war for several months.
“We have chased them away,” Captain Dieudonne Kasereka, the local army spokesman told AFP, adding that the attackers wanted to “sabotage the exams.”
Several hundred kilometres (miles) further north, a group of armed men staged an overnight attack on a centre housing 32 students at Isiro, the main city of the Haut-Uele province.
The 16 boys and 16 girls “had been gathered here to sit for the exam,” local priest Georges Semende told AFP.
“These bandits raped the girls,” he said.
The local governor’s spokesman, Felicien Nangana, confirmed one rape.
“Despite this trauma, they agreed to take the exam,” the priest said, adding that the authorities had launched an investigation.
On Thursday, armed men attacked an examination centre, killing two primary students and wounding two others.
The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the school calendar in the country, where over half of the over 80 million population is aged under 20.