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Back You are here: Home Leaders Biographies Story Of Gatumba Refugee Camp 2004

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Story Of Gatumba Refugee Camp 2004

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1. A Brief Overview on Banyamulenge Tragic History

Banyamulenge are Congolese people; they mainly live in high peak plateaus located in Uvira, Fizi and Mwenga Zones; in Bukavu and Uvira cities, all in South Kivu Province in Democratic Republic of Congo, but they also live in other provinces of country. We have to remind that Banyamulenge live in DRC from 17th century.

For a better understanding of Gatumba massacres, a brief overview on a tragic political history that Banyamulenge people have gone through since a long time is of a paramount importance. 

Since the colonial era, Banyamulenge have been undergoing discrimination and exclusion whereby they have been treated by the colonial rulers as immigrants from Rwanda who could not exercise any civic right in Congo. Such exclusion has resulted in a ministerial notice (circular) issued by Minister of internal affairs of Belgium at the colonial period Louis Franck on November 8, 1920, requiring the Banyamulenge kingdom (chefferie de Kayira) to be annexed to Bafulero one. On November 5, 1933, a decision ordering the merger of the above mentioned Kingdom has been taken; since then, Banyamulenge started to be unjustly discriminated and excluded in their own country by other ethnics, such as Bambembe, Bafulero and Bavira supported by the Government.

The situation worsened during Mulele rebellion in 1964, over thousand Banyamulenge have been systematically killed in different villages: Nagiheri, Lulenge, Gatongo, Baraka, Kirumba and Ngandja. Furthermore, in 1982 until 1987, Banyamulenge have been refused the right to run for parliamentarian elections on grounds, some of them have been arrested, others have been killed. During all this period, the Government of Ex-Zaire did nothing to halt this bad treatment to which Banyamulenge people were subjected even Banyamulenge were fighting against armed groups in the side of the government.

The climax in this sequence of events was the period between 1995- 1996 before AFDL war broke out. During this period, Banyamulenge and all other Tutsi origin people have been brutally tortured, jailed, looted and even killed by Government soldiers, local authorities as well as civilians from other Congolese ethnic groups. All those violence were supported by the government. In September 1996, the government of DRC represented by the vice-governor of southern Kivu Province in the name of LWABANJI LWASSI NGABO took the decision publicly asking Banyamulenge to leave from Congo within six days, otherwise to be killed by fire.

In that time Killings took place in Ngandja-Milimba, Kisengeti, Fizi, Baraka Bibokoboko, Mboko, Lweba, Kamanyola, Sange-Mutarure, Bwegera, Shabunda, in Bukavu, Uvira, Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Kisangani, Kindu and Kalemie cities claimed the lives of more than four thousand people among others women and children. Meanwhile, the political power continued through government medias, to ask people to kill Banyamulenge who were considered as snake. All those events are evidence that the Genocide against Banyamulenge was planned and implemented as the days go on.

In 1998, when the 2nd war broke out between RCD and the Government, late president Laurent Désiré Kabila appeared in Medias with a machete calling upon the extermination of all Tutsi wherever they were in Congo. The foreign affairs Minister Elodia Dombasi declared that Banyamulenge were vermin that must be eliminated. Those speeches have been largely implemented throughout the country by political authorities, as well as military officers in different areas of the country through the media, asking to eliminate waste.

Massacres orchestrated by both civilians and military against Tutsi took place in different areas. The death tall stood as follows: Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Kisangani, Kaleme, Vyura-Moba more than thousands. Moreover, 120 Tutsi soldiers who were undergoing a military course in Kamina have been blown out in a house full of explosives (bombs). In addition, targeted attacks against Banyamulenge in different villages have been significantly increased henceforth, notably in Road Uvira-Bukavu and Uvira-Fizi.

In 2004, the government of DRC in conjunction with the Local authorities in Southern Kivu, not only political authorities but also military one killed Banyamulenge in Uvira and Bukavu cities. Consequently, the survivors Were received as refugees in Rwanda and Burundi. Banyamulenge who had sought refuge in Burundi (Gatumba) have been savagely slaughtered, killed, incinerated by Congolese soldiers in conjunction with FNL-PALIPEHUTU and Interahamwe, while they were under protection of the international community. The Government in Kinshasa has remained silent and no investigation has been carried out so far to bring perpetrators to book.

2. Root causes which led Banyamulenge to flee from Uvira (DRC) to Gatumba Camp (Burundi)

After the transitional Government was put in place in July 2003, they was a hope of peace. Unfortunately, private and public media in DRC backed by Civil Society unleashed a hatred campaign against Tutsi and all Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese, including Banyamulenge.

In May 2004, they was no longer a hope of Peace, when fighting at Bukavu in Southern Kivu that was prepared by extremists politicians made the government of Congo, especially military authorities under the authority of BUDJA MABE of the 10th military region to kill Banyamulenge, among others women and children, students and all people who looked like Tusti, but solders of the National army from Banyamulenge ethnic. The killings took place at Bukavu, Shabunda and Walungu.

Since then, threat increased in Uvira and Banyamulenge who lived that city have been bound to seek refuge temporary in Burundi in the camp of Gatumba in June 2004.

3. Situation of the Camp at Gatumba

The camp of Gatumba was situated in western of Bujumbura city, about 3.4 km from the DRC’s border. The Uvira city is located at 6 km from the camp, while the Bujumbura city is situated at 20 km from the Eastern of the Camp. The latter is near the Road UVIRA-BUJUMBURA.

The camp had got two parts, the first one was occupied by Banyamulenge families and some families of Bambembe. The second part of the camp was 40m from the first one and occupied by Bafulero and Burundian refugees. That is the evidence of discrimination in accommodation of refugees.

We should remind also that in general, the camp was not protected in any way. People from Uvira to Bujumbura should pass near the camp and that should facilitate the implementation of the killer’s plan. Furthermore, the camp was located near the one of Burundian police (gendarmerie) within 300m, while the camp of Burundian Army was at 500m. The camp of refugees at Gatumba was mainly composed by Banyamulenge.

4. Planning and Implementation of massacres (genocide)

On August 13, 2004 during the night, the killers deliberately targeted Banyamulenge in the Camp (Gatumba) and they were coming from the border between the two countries: Kaholoholo (between Kiliba and Uvira) and Gatumba-Burundi.

The massacres were perpetrated from 10 PM until 12 PM in the camp of Bnayamulenge only. Pasteur HABIMANA FNL-PALPEHUTU’s spokesman of AGATHON RWASA recognised the responsibility of this movement in the massacres of Banyamulenge refugees.

According to the testimony and other evidence, the massacres were perpetuated by FNL-PALIPEHUTU, FDLR composed by Interahamwe that committed genocide in Rwanda, and Mai-Mai under authority of Col. NAKABAKA, BALEKE, EKOFO, jointly with DRC’s soldiers chaired by General BUDJA MABE and Col. MUTUPEKE. The killers used traditional arms, small-bore bombs and others. They also used petrol for fire against victim. Within two hours, 166 persons were killed, mainly composed of women, men and children. About 116 were injured in this event.

One may underline that the massacres were planed, because among different Congolese ethnics that were in the camp only Banyamulenge (Congolese Tutsi) were targeted. According to the survivors, the camps that were occupied by other Congolese ethnics and Burundian refugees ware not targeted. One may also emphasize that according to the International Law, Burundian government had the responsibility to protect the refugees in its territory, but nothing was done to intervene when the killers were perpetrating their plan, even though the Burundian soldiers were near the camp as said above.

5. The international community’s report

The report S/2004/821 of October 5, 2004 of the United Nations peace keeping mission in DRC together with the United Nations representative in Burundi with the united nations in charge of Human rights concluded that the massacres of Banyamulenge in the camp of Gatumba were planed and only the Congolese Tutsi were targeted. The report of Human rights declared also that the massacres of Banyamulenge in the camp of Gatumba were planned, consequently only Banyamulenge ethnic were targeted. This has been also confirmed by Burundian refugees who have been asked by killers not to go out from their own camp, so as not to be victim of the massacres.

The report mentioned above request the United Nations Security Council to undertake the inquiry so as to identify the authors of this event that we qualify as Genocide. The report request also that the authors should be sentenced by the courts either in their own countries or International Courts. The some report request Burundian government to undertake an independent judicial inquiry so as to identify the authors of the genocide against Banyamulenge that was committed in the camp of Gatumba. The report requests a joint inquiry with the government of Congo and Burundi. Unfortunately, the inquiry was not made and being published as provided.

6. The memorial gathering in commemoration of the genocide of Banyamulenge that happened in Gatumba-Burundi

The violation of Banyamulenges’ rights and massacres that were committed against them until the one of Gatumba lead to the decision that in order to give human value to the victim, a commemoration should take place every year. Every year, the Banyamulenge community through the world commemorate the massacres of their brothers and sisters who have been killed in the camp of refugees at Gatumba-Burundi. Different workshops have been organized on the genocide against Tutsi in the Great Lakes region in general, particularly the genocide against Congolese Tusti known as Banyamulenge.

From those different workshops, it has been established that the genocide ideology was developed and still being developed by different armed groups operating in the Great Lakes region and they are still trying to implement it.

Banyamulenge themselves, particular individuals, undertook the operations of assisting the survivors in different ways. The advocacy was made so as to secure the injured persons in the countries that are able to do so.

As far as the judicial domain is concerned, the advocacy was made and it has been asked to identify and to sit in judgment the authors of the massacres in their own countries but also within international justice system, notably by The International Criminal Court (ICC). Unfortunately, nothing was done in this context, but we are still and we shall still request the try of those who have been involved in the tragedy of Gatumba. We shall also still commemorate the innocent people who died in the above event, fighting for living survivors of and for protecting human rights.

Source: Gatumba Survivors Foundation

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