Twenty-four Italian couples have been stranded in Kinshasa since arriving on November 5th, after authorities suspended exit permits for the Congolese children they had arranged to adopt.
The DR Congo has suffered years of conflict in the eastern part of the country, which on Monday spread to the capital as armed groups attacked Kinshasa. Fifty-two of the attackers, thought to be loyal to a pastor who lost the 2006 elections, were killed in the fighting.
Writing to Italian news agency ANSA, one of the Italians said he and the other prospective parents were “in danger”.
“The rebels have occupied state television in Kinshasa and taken hostages. There is shooting at the airport, which is closed. We fear for our safety and that of our children,” said Enrico, whose surname was not given.
But Congolese Defence Minister Alexandre Luba Ntambo played down the attacks, saying many people in Kinshasa “didn’t even notice anything was happening”. The situation is now “totally under control”, he said.
Despite the minister’s comments, security has been strengthened at the Italian embassy in the city.
The adoption row erupted after authorities imposed a year-long visa ban in September, over fears that children would be re-adopted after leaving the DR Congo, Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno reported.
But the Italians appear committed to staying in the conflict-wracked country until they are granted permission to leave with their adopted children.
“Your delegation has said that we cannot return to Italy with our children. How can I explain to my seven-year-old daughter, that has experienced war, hunger and abandonment?” one of the women said in a letter to Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, quoted in Corriere della Sera.
The prime minister of the DR Congo has reportedly agreed to re-examine the adoption case, the newspaper said.