Burundi’s military forces behind ethnic violence in Minembwe localities in South Kivu

There is ongoing ethnic based fighting in Minembwe localities between Mai- Mai coalitions (CMC) and Banyamulenge Community instigated by the presence and interference of Burundian Armed forces.  The fighting in Minembwe has stayed under the international radar, but could broaden and stoke ethnic tensions in the Area. Over the last couple of weeks, heavy armed conflict has been engulfing the Minembwe localities in South Kivu, the homeland of Banyamulenge people, as well as areas bordering Burundi along Rusizi River in the territory of Uvira and FIZI. The Banyamulenge groups are currently embroiled in fighting with the Mai-Mai groups under the umbrella of (CMC)  led by Lieutenant  General Tem  and Burundian forces, causing death, forced displacement, and physical and economic insecurity.

The high plateaus of Itombwe, Minembwe and Ruzizi areas are considered as strategic regional places for security where there is a strong presence of armed groups, including local ethnic militias groups.

The political crisis in Burundi has triggered attacks on many villages in the Ruzizi plain, with looting and the arbitrary arrests of members of local Banyamulenge cattle herding communities. Herders are accused of supporting Burundi-armed opposition groups in the DRC, and having possible links with Rwanda.

In previous years, the absence of any state authority, to ensure the security of defenseless civilians, the high plateaus have often been a closed military area defended by the Banyamulenge themselves, without the control of either the Congolese government or other armed groups.

For over a long period of time,  the Mai Mai militia groups under General Amuri William Yakutumba, mainly from Babembe ethnic groups, from Mupekanya (a coalition of local ethnic groups), and the FDLR have had a long-standing aim to kill and destroy those perceived to be ‘unwanted’ or of Tutsi ethnic group. The Mai Mai in the South- Kivu have carried out, and continue to carry out, large-scale attacks on civilians, in which rape is used as a weapon of war, systematically torturing children and women in particular.   The great lakes eye has learn’t of Burundi’s government support to Mai-Mai militia groups and CNRD fighters (the splinter group of the FDLR) in terms of providing ammunition and fighters to fight the Red Tabara group accused of getting support from Banyamulenge community in Minembwe localities.    As a result of violence, most of the area’s population has reportedly been displaced.

It is widely observed that Burundi’s security issues are rooted in politics, but again it is very clear this time around that President Pierre Nkurunziza is trying hard to stoke ethnic animosities in Burundi, Rwanda and DRC as a last-ditch strategy to retain power at whatever cost.   Recently we have seen barbaric attacks by members of Burundi’s National Police and Imbonerakure militia against targeting Congolese students in Burundi.

Last week, the ruling party’s youth militia vandalized and destroyed the office of opposition party CNL in Musigati, Bubanza province.

This followed other barbaric acts conducted by the Government of Burundi beating and torture in public at people perceived to be supporters of the opposition and attacking blatantly the catholic church after the church ruled out to join the electoral commission, CENI which is made up almost exclusively of Burundi ruling party’s militants  and party’s supporters. The Burundi Catholic Church refused to join such biased commission and the Catholic Church and hence becoming the victim. The virulence and the hatred used by Burundi’s Government officials and CNDD-FDD senior cadres in attacking the Catholic Church is despicable.

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