The Congolese army arrested Bonfils Rutebuka Rutendja, a Munyamulenge community member in Minembwe, DR Congo, and held him in prison along with his wife and 11 month-old child for close to two weeks. His wife and child have now been released but he has not. Authorities accused him of participation in a genocide resistance movement known as Twirwaneho.
When Rutendja and his family were arrested, women from the community surrounded the airport in Minembwe in an effort to prevent authorities from removing them to Kinshasa. Sources on the ground say such removals have happened to many other Banyamulenge resistors in the past. The women refused to leave until the young man was released. Some women also surrounded the prison where they were held.
The women accuse the Congolese army and the United Nations peacekeeping mission of having failed to protect the Banyamulenge minority community and of failing to protect the young Banyamulenge who are trying to protect their people. Genocide Watch has warned for several years that the minority tribe is in danger of extermination.
Over the past four years, 95% of Banyamulenge villages have been burned to the ground, 90% of the livestock (on which the people depend for their livelihood) has been stolen, sexual violence has been used widely as a tool of destruction, and Banyamulenge people of all ages have been massacred, according to Mahoro Peace Association, the U.S. organization representing the Banyamulenge diaspora.
Acting Assistant Secretary Peterson reiterates U.S. support for human rights, democracy, and anti-corruption efforts in DRC during a recent Kinshasa visit | U.S. Embassy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
According to Mahoro Peace Association, the perpetrators of the current violence include the Mai-Mai, Red Tabara, Forebu, and FNL militia groups – all supported by the local Congolese army.
The protestors at the airport in Minembwe chanted, “We are tired of being abandoned by the Congolese army and the United Nations and left to die!” and “We have never seen the army arresting the Mai Mai and others who have been raping and killing Banyamulenge women!”
Some of the women who protested were beaten and had to be hospitalized.
Over three hundred Banyamulenge live in Maine.