Tribal tattooing helps woman flee militia rampage in Kasai province, which has driven close to 20,000 people to seek refuge in neighbouring Angola.
The smoke form the burning village hung in the air as the militiamen fanned out through the fields in search of residents to butcher.
As her family scattered in different directions, Elena Kita was grabbed from behind by a strong pair of hands. The man who snatched her took out a machete and she begged for her life.
“It was then that something quite surprising happened,” recalls Elena. “He whispered to me to listen to him. He recognized me through certain traditional markings on my body and that I was from the Chokwe tribe, which was his tribe too.”
The man beat her feet with the handle of his machete, telling her to run into the forest in a certain direction that would ensure she avoided the militia.
“After letting me escape, I ran in the direction he suggested. I couldn’t believe he had let me go!”
She eventually found some of her family members deeper in the forest, and is now among thousands of men, women and children who have fled surging violence in their native Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC, to seek safety in neighbouring Angola.