By Paul Ndiho
A large number of armed groups continue to exact violence on the Banyamulenge people, who are already in the dire humanitarian situation in South Kivu, the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic Congo. Since May, hundreds have been killed, and tens of thousands displaced from their homes. For nearly two decades, the Democratic Republic of Congo has been the scene of deadly ethnic violence. The United Nations says it has claimed millions of lives.
A recent spate of inter-ethnic fighting in eastern Congo is raising new fears of death and displacement in the region. The Banyamulenge people, an ethnic minority with Rwandan ancestry, say they’re being targeted by armed groups from the Mai Mai community.
Jean-Paul Ruhosha is among several activists who are sounding the alarm abroad.
“A Massacre is going on in Congo – The Mai Mai are killing the Banyamulenge people. They’ve killed more than 250 people, they have been taking their cows, and the Congolese Government is watching all this.”
Critics say the government has done little to quell the violence, which has left thousands of people displaced in areas like Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu provinces.
It’s a challenge for President Félix Tshisekedi, who came into power promising to solve the country’s problems.
Earlier this month, a top U.N. official urged the Security Council to help bring stability to the country.
“While continuing to support the Congolese authorities, to neutralize the unacceptable threat posed by armed groups, for the civilian population, we need to come together to strengthen state functions and its capacity to govern the country following the rule of law.”
Ruhosha and other activists want the international community to actively intervene, and stop, what he calls, the systematic killings of the Banyamulenge people.
“This has been going on since May. It’s a long term conflict, and they’ve been saying that the Banyamulenge are not Congolese people, and they started this massacre since May year.”
Another activist, Gedeon Bihonzi, says the Banyamulenge are DR Congo’s most oppressed minority. He wants protection from the U.S. government.
“We need that genocide to be stopped by either by the Government of Congo or the international community. Even here in the U.S, where I am. The Government of the U.S should stand up because over two hundred people have been killed, hundreds of thousands displaced, and nobody is doing anything.” People need food, need shelter, and need to be supported in all ways.”
Bihonzi warns Congo is on a dangerous path to genocide.
“The Government is systematically killing its people. Government forces deployed in the area, and when these Mai Mai rebels come in, they start to kill in discriminatory in the presence of the government soldiers.”
Some critics say part conflict is driven by politics in neighboring countries, as foreign armed rebels try to establish a base in southern Kivu. Ruhosha says politicians are capitalizing on the political insecurity. The Congolese government categorically denies these allegations.
President Félix Tshisekedi has promised to end the violence and has called for national reconciliation. But his critics say that’s not good enough. Meanwhile, violence in Eastern Congo rages on, and there appears to be no end in sight.