By Georges Budagu Makoko | Photos by Vedaste Ngabo
In violence that began on the morning of October 13, and ended three days later, thousands of Banyamulenge civilians were attacked by members of different factions of Mai Mai militia groups in Bibogobogo, Eastern Kivu, DR Congo. The result was that 17 villages were burned to the ground, dozens of people were kidnapped or murdered, thousands were displaced, and livestock – the foundation of livelihoods – was looted. Witnesses heard the perpetrators speaking a variety of different local languages, including Kirundi, Kifurero, Kibembe, and Lingala, and singing “We have come to exterminate you.”
Three days prior to the attacks, the Banyamulenge were warned to flee by friends from the Babembe tribe who had seen large numbers of attackers heading toward the Banyamulenge villages. Instead of fleeing, the Banyamulenge leaders pleaded with officials to secure the area and prevent the attacks that ensued. But neither law enforcement, nor the military, nor U.N. peacekeepers showed themselves able – or willing – to protect the victims.
The two women in the video are thanking the Mahoro Peace Association for the support they provided when they feared they and their children would die of hunger.The Mahoro Peace Association represents the Banyamulenge diaspora in the U.S.
Muhebwe was the first village to be attacked; two people were killed there. The next day, the Mai Mai burned approximately 17 villages in the area, each with about 300 houses. As an area, Bibogobogo had been left largely undisturbed over the last murderous four years until the attacks of October 14-16. As these attacks escalated, thousands of displaced people ran for their lives to the nearest cities, which included Baraka, Rusenda, and Rweba.
But the thousands of people who ran to Baraka were greeted with hostility by neighboring tribes. Some were stoned and spat upon – including by young children, who were egged on by their parents. Others were seriously wounded. Some people ran into the bush and forests to hide. Witnesses reported that more than 6,000 people, including children, women, and men now lie directly in harm’s way, and face extermination at the hands of their adversaries. The survivors are crowded into small areas without food or medical supplies, and now face the dangers of violence, hunger, and disease.
The Banyamulenge diaspora is reeling from this latest spate of violence. “It is horrifying that our people are experiencing genocide and forced displacement. The Congolese President appears never to have planned to end the genocide, and for four years during this recent phase of a genocidal effort that has been ongoing for years, the government has failed to protect our people,” said Adele Kibasumba, president of the Mahoro Peace Association in the U.S., which represents the Banyamulenge diaspora. She said that she met with President Félix Tshisekei of DR Congo in September in New York, and at that time he promised to do everything he could to stop the killings. She said she was shocked that, less than a month after their meeting, these new attacks had happened. Kibasumba implored the international community to stop the genocide against the Banyamulenge in the DR Congo. Several Banyamulenge living in Maine who are originally from the Bibogobogo area said they are traumatized by the images they are getting through social media, primarily WhatsApp.
On behalf of the Banyamulenge diaspora, Kibasumba called on the Maine delegation and the foreign policy wing of the U.S. government to act swiftly and finally end the genocide against the Banyamulenge.