An eerie quiet permeates the village. Even the crickets clinging to the long grass seem reluctant to make any noise. Unlike most vibrant and lively african villages, these houses lie abandoned, no goats bleating, no chickens squawking. The silence is unnerving.
The village of Oicha has been largely deserted, as thousands have fled their homes and fields following the brutal massacres which have taken the lives of over 250 people in the last month. The victims have been mostly civilians, with large numbers of women and children among the dead.
We stand outside an empty house, an empty chair outside in the yard, and charred firewood abandoned in the stove. A woman clutching her baby approaches and explains that her husband was killed in the recent attacks. “Just there” she points to a spot in the yard. She hugs the child closer to her chest and begins to walk away. She is too scared to return home.
Many families have left their villages and sought shelter in the town of Beni, a few kilometres down the road. This has created more and more pressure on the families who struggle to provide for the additional family members they have to host. I visited the emergency response programme four days ago and met with some of the families who have benefitted. An elderly lady of 78 showed me the mattress she had received as well as the pots and pans that helped cook the food provided for her and her family.
This morning another attack took the lives of 37 civilians. Brutal atrocities are taking place in the area of Beni and it is not just the villages that are silent. More needs to be done to raise awareness of the situation to bring urgent aid to those who are being displaced. Let us not be the ones who remain silent.