Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The fourth Commemoration of the Gatumba Massacres of Congolese Tutsis Refugees in Burundi

Date: 16th August 2008 at 13:00 London time
Venue: Human Rights Action Centre, Amnesty International UK, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA.

Contextual Background
It is now four years since some 160 innocent Congolese refugees - from the Banyamulenge community –who had sought refuge at Gatumba, on Burundian territory, were cruelly slaughtered, some burned alive by a band of warlords operating in the African Great Lakes Region. Every year, survivors, community members and other people aggrieved or saddened by the event gather to honour these precious lives lost out of hatred. They also take the occasion to remind the international community that the various calls for justice have remained unfruitful.

It is generally reported that since the beginning of the armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than 5 million people died as direct or indirect victims of the armed conflict. All these human lives are equally valuable and cry for justice. What sets apart the Gatumba massacres from other numerous - and equally horrendous crimes committed in the country - is the fact that victims were targeted and massacred on the sole ground of their identity: they were guilty of being Tutsis. In the light of dynamics in the region in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, identity politics in Rwanda, Burundi and D.R. Congo have translated into national and transnational armed movements promoting ethnic hatred. Early reports of the Gatumba massacres displayed this dimension in the commission of the crime.1

This also explains the complexity of the situation of the victims: Congolese citizens under UN protection in Burundi reportedly killed by armed groups of Burundian, Rwandan and Congolese citizenship, who launched the attack from Congolese territory. This explains why no real steps have been taken by national, regional and international bodies to fully investigate and prosecute those responsible for this horrendous crime. Nearly four years after the commission of the crimes; a retrospective, critical look at the purported positive dynamics in the region (including so-called Democratic elections in Congo in 2006) does not generate any hope to members of the Banyamulenge community in general, and Gatumba survivors and victims in particular as far as justice and security are concerned. Conversely, due to the prevailing impunity, hatred campaigns directed against the community and its members are still openly conducted, including by some Congolese state officials, exposing them at the mercy of extremist groups freely operate in the region.

These killings are also illustrative of problems posed by proliferation of small arms easily accessible to any wannabe warlords in various corners of the globe. They suggest a strengthened resolve to campaign for their control and management; and for accountability for those involved in illegal arms traffic.

Ubuntu is a non-profit International Organisation, aimed at seeking peace and bridging divides in D.R Congo and the Great Lakes region at large. By getting involved in the commemoration of the Gatumba Massacre, the organization aims at raising awareness within national but mostly international fora on challenges pertaining to delivery of justice to victims of the Gatumba massacre. The organization offers an insight into regional geopolitics; more specifically an analysis of the ongoing Congolese crisis and the importance of post-conflict mechanisms; such as the proliferation of arms and the need for adequate post-conflict policies for the healing process.

The event will be relevant to: General public, academic and independent researchers, International Non-Governmental Organisations, United Nations’ representatives, Foreign affairs committee-DRC desk, Human right activists, the Great Lake Region civil society, University students, Community organisations, Inter-cultural and Religious Organisations.

On Behalf of UBUNTU
Alex Mvuka Ntung.
Programme and Partnership Manager
Felix Ndahinda
Press and Communication Officer

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