Saturday, November 18, 2006

Bref Socio-political and Historical Background of Banyamulenge

A synopsis of Socio-political and Historical Background of Banyamulenge

The Banyamulenge are one of the Congolese ethnic group of Tutsi living in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They are concentrated in the province of South Kivu close to the Burundi-Congo-Rwanda border. The delicacy and sensitive political position of the Banyamulenge contributed to the start of the First Congo war in 1996, the second Congo in 1998 and continues to a point of contention since 2003, when the Second Congo War officially ended.
According to some historians, the majority of people known as the Banyamulenge migrated gradually from Rwanda, Burundi, and western Tanzania over the course of the last few hundred years. Although it is safe to say that when the country to be known as Congo was formed when a many Banyamulenge were already inhabitant of what became Congo. The historical account states that most came at the end of the 19th century, during the political tensions that accompanied Rwandan Mwami Rwabugiri.
In 1996 the Zairian parliament issued a decree according to which all the Banyamulenge were to be deported to Rwanda, leaving behind all their properties. At the same period eastern Zaire, now Congo was flooded by the Hutus most of them being interahamwe genociders from Rwanda. Determined to resist and fight the Mobutu's injustice, Banyamulenge took arms and sought support from Rwanda in order to overthrow Mobutu. Aware of the danger caused by the extremists Hutus killers at the borders, the Rwandan government took adventage of Mobutu's stupidity and gladly lended the Banyamulenge fighters all the military support they desparetely needed to overthrow Mobutu and resolve the issue of their citizenship once for all.
In response to this perceived threat the Banyamulenge together their allies formed what came to be known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces for Liberation of Congo (AFDL) and led by Laurent Kabila, backed by Rwanda and Uganda, to overthrow the government of Mobutu Sese Seko (Yajabanga) in Zaire. Being natural fighters, Banyamulenge fighters joined by the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) and overthrew the corrupted regime of Mobutu. It is important to state that had no been the Banyamulenge war, Mobutu was going to rule Congo possibly until his death. That is one of the most outstanding accomplishment and contributionn that the Banyamulenge people made in the Congo's political history although they are often not credited for it due to jealous, and hatred from their fellow countrymen. As though the first attempt by Mr. Anzuluni Bembe's abuse of his parliamentarian power to see to it that Banyamulenge are victimised, soon a group of babembe and bafulero known as "Mai-Mai" threatned to invade Banyamulenge as soon as Mr. Kabila turned against his former supporters (Rwanda and Uganda) calling them "foreign occupiers". Once again, to defend themselves against Mai-Mai groups fighting seeking to expel the Banyamulenge again under a false pretext that they (banyamulenge)have connection with Rwanda, as though Kabila had none. The two Mai-Mai groups most active against the Banyamulenge are the Babembe and Barega militias. Nonetheless, these militias were shortly defeated by the powerful Banyamulenge fighters.
Furthermore, time came when some Banyamulenge fought against the RPA force. It was in early 2002, when an extensive fight broke on the Hauts Plateaux ofSouth Kivu what is now the Minembwe district. This was mainly due to Commandant Patrick Masunzu, a Munyamulenge commender in the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD-Goma) rebel movement after rebeling against RCD movement. Masunzu accused RCD of not taking care of its soldiers, but working for the interest of Rwanda instead. Since RCD was backed by Rwanda, and since Masunzu himself had been in the RPA, he was then viewed and treated as an ennemi by both the RCD and RPA forces. Both forces decided to capture Masunzu and held him accountable for "desobeying military orders". Determined to fight for what he believed to be a juste cause, Masunzu resisted and gathered Banyamulenge support in an uprising against the RCD-Goma leadership, and implicitly RPA. Consequently a war broke up between Banyamulenge against each other and against RPA. This was a tragic though unnecessary war between brothers. Ever since, there has been a crack in the interrelationship of Banyamulenge and the lack of trust between the Banyamulenge forces and the Rwandan Patrotic Army.
From the year 2000, the Banyamulenge were hemmed into the Hauts Plateaux by Congolese Mai-Mai, the Burundian FDD, and the Rwandan Hutu Armee de liberation du Rwanda (ALiR, interahamwe run movement), and were unable to carry out basic economic activities without the security provided through the RCD-Goma. Numerous families fled to the relative safety of the Burundian capital of Bujumbura. Nevertheless, until recently Banyamulenge made up much of the RCD military wing, the Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC), and controled the towns of Fizi, Uvira and Minembwe.
Unfortunately surrounded by the ennemies, Banyamulenge continued to be targed for genocide purposes by all extremists including interahamwe, FNL and Mai-Mai militia. In August 2004, 167 Banyamulenge refugees were massacred at a refugee camp in Gatumba, Burundi by a coalition of forces, including DRC forces under Gen. Mbuza Mabe, Burundian Hutu extremists known as FNL who shortly claimed the killing of banyamulenge refugees.
Unfortunately, not only nothing was done about the Gatumba genocide, even some Banyamulenge forces and politicians did nothing to make sure justice was served with regard to Gatumba genocide. Only the attempt of the Vice President Azarias Ruberwa, a Munyamulenge, who suspended his participation in the transitional government for one week in protest, before being persuaded to return to Kinshasa by South African pressure. He was then heavily critized by his own people for not leaving the government that was openly accused for its involvement of the Gatumba Massacre.
Since the end of the 3rd war, marked by the begining of the transitional government, Banyamulenge had a big share of the power in the Congolese politics, having a vice President, one senate and three members of parliament not to mention military officials. However, it remain to be seen whether their political and military power will survive after the transitional government. However, one can be sure that from now on, Banyamulenge power will never be undermined and their history is now stronger and eloquant more than ever in the history of not only the DRC but also the great lakes region.


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