Saturday, July 4, 2009

To the People of Mulenge, and to our readers

This article is intended to awaken the conscience of Banyamulenge people, educate our readers who are non Banyamulenge people, and bring into perspective the nature of struggles that a people denied of their rights, excluded from belonging to their nation, and victimised for its cultural heritage.
We, Banyamulenge, strongly identify with our country, region and culture and feel our roots in the democratic republic of Congo despite being constantly reminded of the special injustice that we must endure. Banyamulenge are not of a separate nationality other than Congolese.

The extremists and dishonest politicians do define identity in terms of politics rather than culture. Yes, we have the same language and a similar cultural heritage with other Tutsis in the region, mainly in Rwanda and Burundi. And we are proud of our Rwandan and Burundian historical heritage. That is simply a fact of history. This is not only limited to Tutsis. It is the same realities with hundreds of tribes in many parts of African continent after the 1885 Berlin conference where Africa was divided, artificially demarcated according to interests of European powers.
Curiously, all African political leaders have agreed to leave this question alone and rule as if borders have always naturally been so. Why should Banyamulenge have to suffer for the Berlin's decision? It is also important to keep in mind that there was never such a country as the current Congo with its territorial integral prior to 1885 Berlin conference. This is a matter of historical fact. What came to be known as the current Congo in 1906, became so finding the Banyamulenge people within this territory. Banyamulenge people were also colonized in Congo as congolese the same way as every other tribe. The only difference is that they were not given the same political consideration and advantages as other tribes due to Belgium's bias on the Tutsis in Rwanda, and partly to their lack of interest in political affairs as they were pastoralists and suspecious of colonialists. Banyamulenge were also non-converted christians at the time which made them less valuable in the eyes of colonial theology.
Whereas the other tribes were considered much more accepting, docile and easily manipulable. Colonialism brought Christianity to what is now in the Democratic Republic of Congo as it is the case in other parts of Africa.


The historical discrimination against Banyamulenge in Congo is definitely connected with the introduction of christianity in DRC and the creation of a new political administration by the colonialist from local to higher level of political offices in Congo. As Banyamulenge were not the favorites of the colonizers, they became victims of even future discrimination of post-colonialism. Recent political trends might render the survival of Banyamulenge people in Congo obsolete, if it had not been for their role in RPF movement. You had:
1) an angry mob of bitter armed groups of extremists and genocidaires Hutus who had just crossed into Congo after their despicable acts of genocide;
2)an extremist governor of South-Kivu Chilibanya … who hated Banyamulenge with his colleagues of anti-tutsi in the Congolese parliament who just passed a parliamentary decree to expel congolese Tutsis, particularly Banyamulenge from Congo to Rwanda;
3)an armed groups of Burundian Hutus who had been preparing to venge against Tutsis for the death of their Hutu President Ndadaye Melchior, who was recently assassinated by the Burundian supposedly Tutsis dominated army. All those anti-Tutsi extremists were hatefully dreaming to revenge by massacring Banyamulenge as a way of getting back to other Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi.
Every unbiased report will tell you that between 1993-1996 Banyamulenge were on run, consistently being attacked in the street, their homes, public transportation etc. A number of big scale conspiracy attacks had been aborted, and a master plan by Hutu extremists to carry on the genocide against congolese Tutsis had already been finalized. It was just a matter of time before the bomb exploded. May be that is why the congolese parliament had passed the famous expelling decree either because they did not want to see an other genocide in their country, or as occasion to halt the mass killings of Tutsis in Congo.
The later seems to be more congruent with the congolese sentiment towards Banyamulenge.
It is therefore under these political circumstances and background that Banyamulenge had been living since 1993.

Banyamulenge politicians have typically been wary of congolese Hutus'influence on Congo's policy makers, and their role in feeding the anti-Banyamulenge sentiments nationalwide. The extremist and tribalist kivu politicians have always been exploiting this to no end. Since Congo independence in 1960, until 1996, the Banyamulenge people successfully positioned themselves to face up with all the Kivu and disguised hutu extremists political attacks until they not only indefinitely won the slugging question of nationality, but they also positioned themselves up to the highest political office of Vice-presidency of the republic, and their candidacy to the office of the presidency.

This is a matter of political history of the DRC that will never be changed nor denied! Congolese are good at denying any piece of historical fact that they do not like, but they forget that they cannot and will never change history as much as they may hate it.

Even if Banyamulenge people have actively tried for decades to be part of the congolese nation, we can categorically say that absolutely nothing has been achieved. If you disagree, consider this:
* Discrimination and anti-Banyamulenge policies, and actions in Congo continue against the wishes of Banyamulenge people;
* Banyamulenge children may not easily and peacefully go in all congolese schools without being harrassed and discriminated against;
* Banyamulenge political candidates are not welcome in Congolese political system except those who work against the interest of their people and become good candidates for “divide and rule” policy;
* The Minembwe territorial entity continues to be denied from being officially recognized as a district even if it is the only political entity for Banyamulenge people.
* Denying identity cards for Banyamulenge who missed the first round is now legal and celebrated as 'Rwandais' contrary to other congolese who also missed the first round. * Preaching hate messages in churches and public stages is becoming once again current currency, and regular harassment will be once again foisted upon us and likely to continue in the very near future. WAY FORWARDAll these atrocities continue in spite of the fact that we now have “our”people in places of power. Indeed, the former occupant of the vice presidency of the DRC, V.P. Azarias Ruberwa is the main opposition leader. We have 3 generals who are among the prominent generals now in Congo. We have one Senator, Hon. Moise Nyarugabo, and one provincial Minister although largely known to be an acolyte of PPRD (Kabila's political wing).
The idea that having few Banyamulenge individuals in the political system of DRC will affect the way Congolese people treat Banyamulenge has proven to be baseless. As Banyamulenge people continues to be denied the right to be part of the congolese nation, restoring our personal liberties, rights and freedom must be our priority number one if we are to live like other people. I must stress that we are not looking for another bloody battles that took place in these decades, but rather, we must seek to promote peace and forge alliances with our neighbours even if we know they do not love us.
We must press for reconciliation even if we know we were possibly hurt the most.
We must go extra miles and prove that we have always wanted to live peacefully with our neighbors.
We must rebuild the broken relationships with our neighbors without looking at their deeds. As for our political actions, We are tired of constantly fighting for acceptance.
We must commit to develop our territory of Minembwe, and make sure we govern it ourselves accordingly and not expect any help from the Congolese government which we know will never come. Our struggle has got to be different today.
We know we can't change people's hearts and make them to love us.
They are victims of hatred, and the spirit of genocide abounds in many souls in minds of extremists in that region.
Our struggle is to be peaceful, but liberating.
Let us produce and consume what we need without having to rely on strangers.
Let us bring back the culture of helping each other.
Let us learn to live humbly and simple, least we will be consumed with the culture of greed that cause many people to betray their brothers and sisters.
Mulenge is and will always be ours.
We can develo it without the help of a nation that hate us and do not want us to be part of it.
We must acknowledge the reality and act as if we are our own nation.
We survived multiple atrocities, and we will survive isolation by relying on our own.
Because we are on our own! If the Congolese government decides to use military force to stop our effort, so be it.
We have always stood and face it.

MZAK Journal Minembwe

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