(Reuters) – The last thing 11-year-old Mave Grace saw before falling unconscious was men with machetes cutting open her pregnant motherâ€™s belly and killing the unborn child.
Mave Grace, 11, who had part of her arm chopped off by militiamen when they attacked the village of Tchee, stands in an Internally Displaced Camp in Bunia, Ituri province, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, April 12, 2018. According to witnesses, militiamen killed her pregnant mother, her three brothers and injured her sister, Racahele-Ngabausi. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
When Grace woke she was surrounded by dead bodies. Her left hand was cut off just above the wrist.
â€œAround us we saw corpses everywhere,â€� Mave Grace says. Wearing a green patterned dress, she squints into the sun as she holds up her handless arm, the scabs of the stump still not fully healed.
Mave Graceâ€™s home village of Tchee lies in the eastern Ituri region, where ethnic strife between Hema herders and Lendu farmers has cost untold lives and forced tens of thousands to flee since it started earlier this year.
Mave Grace, 11, who had part of her arm chopped off by militiamen when they attacked the village of Tchee, walks with her sister Racahele-Ngabausi, aged two, in an Internally Displaced Camp in Bunia, Ituri province, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, April 12, 2018. According to witnesses, militiamen killed her pregnant mother, her three brothers and injured her sister, Racahele-Ngabausi. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Information from Ituri is hard to come by since the region is very remote and volatile, but the violence there is driven in part by a breakdown of government authority which has sparked conflict in other parts of the country as well.
President Joseph Kabilaâ€™s refusal to leave power at the end of his mandate in 2016 has undermined the legitimacy of the state in the eyes of many Congolese, with deadly consequences.
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The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR expects 200,000 refugees to reach Uganda from Ituri this year, stretching limited humanitarian resources there.
Other survivors like Grace and her family have been forced into camps inside Congo.
Mave Graceâ€™s camp, on a hillside on the edge of the town of Bunia, is a sea of makeshift blue and white tarpaulin tents, inside which its temporary residents huddle from regular rainy season downpours, and the cold. Many spend their days praying together for a way out.
Their bodies and faces show what they ran from. Mave Graceâ€™s two-year-old sister Rachele-Ngabausi bears a diagonal scar that runs from the bottom of her left cheek, past the inside of her left eye and up to her forehead.
Her father, Nyine Richard, is full of despair.
â€œEven if I go back to my village, I do not know how to live anymore. I have lost all hope.â€�
Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky