DRC: the Banyamulenge fear an ethnic cleansing, they seized the EAC

DRC: the Banyamulenge fear an ethnic cleansing, they seized the EAC

Notables and leaders of the Banyamulenge community in Minembwe (South Kivu province, eastern DRC) sent a letter to Burundian President Évariste Ndayishimiye, in his capacity as the current chairperson of the EAC (East African Community). They warn of an “ethnic cleansing” plan targeting members of the Banyamulenge community. President Ndayishimiye has not yet reacted. INFO SOS Médias Burundi

In their letter, a copy of which has been reserved for all the presidents of EAC member countries except South Sudan, the notables denounce a plan for “ethnic cleansing” of their community.

They cite military operations by FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo) supported by Burundian troops and a Mai-Mai group.

December 29, 15 and 7, 2022, as well as October 9 of this year are the dates cited by Banyamulenge notables as examples of the systematic execution of a plan described as “ethnic combing”.

During these dates, members of this community were killed.

“[…], the ethnic cleansing is planned by the FARDC supported by Burundian troops in Minembwe”, accuse the notables.

They list names of victims and blame a Congolese army officer to be very active in the assassinations.

The Burundian president who is the current EAC chairperson has not yet reacted. But the Banyamulenge community asks him to “be careful” when the troops coming from his country “lend a hand to an ethnic cleansing plan instead of acting within the framework of the regional force of the EAC to protect the population and its property without distinction of race, ethnicity or tribe”.

The letter was signed by thirteen customary chiefs of the rural district of Minembwe. A copy was reserved for Uhuru Kenyatta, the former president of Kenya and facilitator in the Congolese crisis in particular.
Even if the Banyamulenge accuse the FARDC of preparing “ethnic cleansing”, the deputy chief of staff of the Congolese army in charge of operations indicated on Wednesday, January 4, 2022 that “[…] the defense and the national integrity, the protection of populations and their property must be the basis of our mission as FARDC”. General Chiko Tshitambwe Jérôme was traveling to Minembwe in Fizi territory. He went there in particular as part of the supervision of joint operations between Burundian and Congolese armies against Twirwaneho, an armed group made up of young Banyamulenge.

“Burundian soldiers came to support us in order to put all local and foreign armed groups out of harm’s way”, he added.

The Banyamulenge is a Congolese community made up of pastoralists. They are considered by several other tribes as Rwandan nationals because they speak a language close to Kinyarwanda.

They say they were persecuted for several years. With the resurgence of the M23, an armed group made up of Congolese Tutsis since the end of 2021, Rwandophone communities living in the DRC are accused in the same way as Rwanda of “supporting the rebels”. The UN has denounced alarming hate speech targeting these communities as well as incitement to public violence against them. It called on Congolese authorities to “put an end to this rhetoric”. But Rwandan President Paul Kagame believes that “the international community pays lip service to peace”.

At least 1,700 Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese, mostly from North Kivu province, have taken refuge in Rwanda in recent weeks. They say they are fleeing the persecutions of which they are victims, being assimilated to “enemies of Congo and foreigners”.

President Kagame recently claimed that his country is hosting more than 70,000 Congolese refugees, members of Rwandophone communities regretting that “[…] yet the international community claims that these people do not exist….The plan seems for them that they stay in Rwanda indefinitely which only serves to whitewash the lie that they are normally Rwandans who deserve to be deported”. For Mr. Kagame, “this is an international problem that requires an international solution”.

President Félix Tshisekedi called on the Congolese to refrain from acts of hatred against Rwandans considering that “it is the Rwandan regime with Paul Kagame at its head which is the enemy of the Democratic Republic of Congo”.

For the president of the vast country of central Africa whose part has just spent three decades in insecurity caused by local and foreign armed groups and whose senior army officers and central government officials are accused of “collaborating with the rebels”, “Rwandans need our help because they are muzzled. They need our help to free themselves. They need our solidarity to free us and free Africa from this kind of backward leaders who bring back approaches of the 60s and 70s”.

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