The Rusizi plain in South-Kivu Province is well known for being a stronghold of community’s militias. The backup of these militias lies within the political arena within the Democratic Republic of Congo capital or within the neighboring countries. To some extent, the persistence of the armed groups has a link with community mutual acceptance as well as getting fueled by ethnic ideologies from bordering countries.
For a lengthy of time, Mutarule has been characterized by massacres, killing, kidnaping but also cattle looting. Most of the time, these actions are community or tribal oriented. It’s either Bafulero against Banyamulenge/Barundi or vice versa. The confrontation between communities has gone further to the level that individuals were beheaded by militias for expressing the anger or revenge against other communities. The culminating point was the massacre of 38 individuals Bafuliro last year. There were mums, children and old people among those innocent civilians who got slaughtered. All these messes might have largely been linked to the contestation of Barundi Chieftaincy to the extent that Mwami Ndabagoye Floribert also died in likely planned assassination. These targeted assassinations are yet ongoing and it frightens the future of the region.
Following these events, the United Nations decided to deploy its mission in DRC within the neighborhood of the Mutarule village. The presence of MONUSCO would have mitigated the tensions between communities. However, since the last year massacre, a joint-documented report between different actors hasn’t yet been delivered. The government had pointed a finger to Burundian rebels working in the region between Burundi and DRC. Surprisingly, while the massacre of 38 people and these kidnaping—targeted killing haven’t yet been clarified, informed observers went choked to watch weaponry and ammunitions seized from the neighborhood of Mutarule village. The searching and seizure of several guns have been followed by the arrest of civilians living in that village. Most of these arrested people belong to the Banyamulenge and Barundi communities as these guns were found in their neighborhood. The idea behind is that these arrested might have directly or indirectly been involved in the hiding of these guns. For the sake of clarification, it’s important to mention that none of these guns were found within a hand of those arrested. All these guns were discovered within meters of their houses, roughly hundred.
The reader would remind that few months ago, there has been information that went spread of possible infiltration of armed men linked to the Burundi crisis. In the same vein, some Banyamulenge were cited as linked to these manoeuvers of Burundians infiltrating through the Rusizi plain. Approximately, 6 persons were arrested from the South-Kivu region for being ‘involved’ within these manoeuvers. However, strong facts haven’t yet been presented to convince that these arrested people have truly thrown their hands into Burundi crisis. Subsequently, the question of infiltration as well as that of Mutarule weaponry—ammunitions remains a conundrum due to how it is highly complex but also the way it is being handled. To better understand this, the blogger makes a reminder of few facts:
First of all, it’s widely known that the region (Rusizi plain) is among a fortress of local armed groups such as Mayimayi with their all denominations. Besides local militias, there has been for a while a group of FNL-Palipehutu that works closely with local Mayimayi. Moreover, the death of Bede Rusagara sounded as a sign of ending a suspected collaboration between Mayimayi and M23 rebels. The former M23 rebels couldn’t find the ordinary support from the communities that were expected to do so. Hence, the region encompasses a mixture of armed groups that are likely hard to capture.
Secondly, reccurent reellios as well as flaws within the national army might have pushed communities to organize themselves into what can be called a “local self-defense”. It is in this regards that most of inhabitants of the region from Fizi to Kamanyola hold possibly their own guns. Some do use them to harm while others use them for defending themselves. Few weeks ago, a number of guns, around 60 with their ammunitions went back into the bush while their owners were probably demanding to join the National Police forces. The incident took place in the region around the Mutarule village, within some miles. It’s even possible that conflicts related to the chieftaincy within a same clan can lead people to own arms for the sake of getting protected. That’s the whole picture of guns in the Rusizi plain and the reader wouldn’t confuse it to the US where at least guns holding are likely regulated within an environment of rule of law.
The cordon and search that took place last week in Mutarule might have disregarded few professional principles. It went oriented to one village while guns can be found all around. Secondly, the searching of these guns had targeted a village where live two communities while the socio-political context seems to oppose them to others living in a neighborhood. Consequently, cordoning and searching guns from one village sounds as victimizing some communities while seemingly covering others. The gun searching was a praiseworthy initiative if it went conducted all over the region to get rid of these guns within the hands of civilians. Nonetheless, it may sound that other people detaining guns have been notified that at any time a cordon and search can be conducted elsewhere.
Back to the Mutarule cordon and search, the intent of holding these guns remains also a puzzle. To what extent can individual civilians own such weaponry like mortar, machineguns and so forth with their ammunitions. Have these old men arrested been trained to manipulated them and for what purpose? Can they be used to protect cattle, villages, chieftaincy…? So then what went wrong while MONUSCO is deployed in a few meters; roughly the same distance as where these guns were found? A non-informed reader would probably condemn Monusco for not preventing the accumulation of guns in Mutarule. But that is not possibly the case. The blogger thought three scenarios from which the reader draws his own assertion:
Once, the region is highly tense due the Burundian crisis. It might be that a plan went conceived to find a scapegoat of the breaches through which Burundian rebels do use for crossing the border. The scenario would have found people who can comfortably conceal into saviors of Barundi and Banyamulenge in front of the Mayimayi threat; while working for the Burundi secret services. Therefore, it wouldn’t be easy to realize how the manipulator had played this game. In this situation, even MONUSCO wouldn’t be able to figure out what was going on. It might even have taken time to pull together these guns by people who got familiarized themselves with villagers. The scenario has a large probability of being closer to the reality as some sources pointed that the searching of guns fell unlikely into the Congolese interest as far as Burundian Security forces might have participated into the operation.
A second scenario might be that of Burundian rebels either from FNL or any other dissident group who found a shelter within the Mutarule village by benefiting from the inter-community confrontation. In this case, hiding guns might have benefited by their familiarization with local villagers. In this case, these rebels wouldn’t be linked to the suspected infiltration from Rwanda to Burundi via Rusizi plain as it being reported by international Medias. The reason is that it takes time for rebels or militias to acquaint with villagers so as to bring in their weaponry. However, as the crisis evolves in Burundi, these militiamen can get an “occasion” to be connected with other forces fighting in Burundi’s capital.
The least scenario as per the blogger consideration is that these weapons belonged to Mutarule villagers. It’s the improbable one because these guns are out of reach from local communities, either in terms of management of guns costs. Furthermore, informed people to the area of Mutarule have been stating that, despite the fact that a suspicious movement would recently be detected by MONUSCO forces; the village was roughly occupied by few young guys. The argument would contradict some videos circulating on social Medias to saying some arrested people by Burundian police have confirmed that they were around 50 in Mutarule. The unreliable video looks as manipulated to the extent that some statements were approximately mixed up. These arrested people stated on a video that they were recruited for the sake of being cattle herders on the account of Banyamulenge.
Despite suspicion on when and how they got arrested, it remains difficult to give them the benefit of doubt to the yet authenticated video. Fomenting such events in Mutarule, let it be one of the scenarios in this post or any other possibility, can be linked to a political manipulation originating all around as the existence of guns in Mutarule would probably fuel community tension. That is why the blogger thinks that there must be someone playing behind the scene for his own interest as far as many powerful guys can still benefit from this confrontation. Surprisingly, if it was in the interest of stabilizing the Rusizi plain, it would have been conducted in a way that targeted all guns in the region.
Therefore, it is important to draw lessons from the Mutarule weaponry. Firstly, the National Army force needs to improve it capabilities of protecting unconditionally all residents in the region. Despite some mistakes, a plan of demobilizing militias as well as withdrawing all guns from the hands of civilians would alleviate community tensions. The existence of these weapons won’t a proof of what was going on the Rusizi plain. Rather, it must recall the necessity of rendering justice to many victims in the region. At least, the truth has to be known in order to reassure those victims that in the future this won’t happen again. There is a need of working on all these grievances among communities for getting sustainably resolved responses. Lastly, DRC, the International Community must do whatever it can to solve the Burundian crisis. The spillover effect of this crisis will inevitably worsen the fragile context in Eastern DRC.
Ntanyoma R. Delphin
Secrétaire Exécutif & Coordonnateur
Appui au Développement Intégré &
à la Gouvernance
Compte Twitter @delphino12