Democratic Republic of the Congo: The treatment of the Banyamulenge living in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, as well as in Kinshasa (2014-August 2015) [COD105270.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Overview

During a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Florida, who has researched ethnic conflicts in Central Africa, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), stated that while the Banyamulenge community, in the narrow sense of the term, is located in South Kivu, the term “Banyamulenge” is also used broadly to designate the Tutsi or other people of Rwandan origin in the DRC (Professor 12 Aug. 2015). A report on the Banyamulenge and their situation with respect to the conflicts impacting eastern DRC, published by the Rift Valley Institute [1], states that the term “Banyamulenge” may be used [Rift Valley Institute English version] “indiscriminately and often pejoratively for all Tutsi in the eastern DRC” (Rift Valley Institute 2013, 13).

According to the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a non-profit journalism organization dedicated to highlighting underreported global affairs through conventional journalism (Pulitzer Center n.d.), the Banyamulenge are only a small percentage of the population in South Kivu (Pulitzer Centre 1 Apr. 2014). The report by the Rift Valley Institute also stresses that the Banyamulenge are a “small community,” and they number between 50,000 and 400,000 (2013, 9, 14). In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a researcher in history and politics at the Department of Cultural Anthropology and History of the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium stated that the population he refers to as “true” Banyamulenge, that is, those who came in the first wave of Rwandan Tutsi who sought refuge in the presentday DRC in the 19th century, consisted of only about 30,000 people (Researcher, history and politics 12 Aug. 2015).

For further information concerning the Banyamulenge, including their history and their situation with respect to the DRC conflicts, the report from the Rift Valley Institute, Banyamulenge: Insurgency and Exclusion in the Mountains of South Kivu, is attached to this Response.

2. Treatment of the Banyamulenge Living in the Provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, and in Kinshasa

According to the report by the Rift Valley Institute, the Banyamulenge are considered by [Rift Valley Institute English version] “many Congolese as recent immigrants with no rightful claim to Congolese citizenship” (2013, 14). In correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, a researcher in African studies who has written about the situation of Rwandan populations in the DRC, stated that, in his opinion, the [translation] “anti-Tutsi” ideology is still present in the DRC (Researcher, African studies 11 Aug. 2015). Similarly, the Professor Emeritus explained that some Congolese call for the [translation] “return home” of all Rwandan groups (12 Aug. 2015).

Furthermore, sources report that some Banyamulenge have key positions in the security forces (Researcher, history and politics 12 Aug. 2015; Rift Valley Institute 2013, 9, 10).

2.1 South Kivu

The Professor Emeritus and the researcher in history and politics both stated that there are tensions between the Banyamulenge and neighbouring communities in South Kivu (Professor 12 Aug. 2015; Researcher, history and politics 12 Aug. 2015). According to the Rift Valley Institute report, underlying the [Rift Valley Institute English version] “ethnic tensions” between the Banyamulenge and their neighbouring communities in South Kivu “is competition for local power, as well as disputes over land use and the seasonal movements of cattle herds” (2013, 13). Human Rights Watch explains that the Barundi, an ethnic group who are allies of the Banyamulenge, and the Bafuliro have disputed control of the customary chiefdom in the Ruzizi plain for [Human Rights Watch English version] “several decades” (Human Rights Watch 3 July 2014). Human Rights Watch also states that these groups mutually accuse one another of killing or abducting members of their respective communities, especially since April 2012, when the conflict [Human Rights Watch English version] “intensified” (ibid.).

Sources note that in June 2014, there was ethnic violence between members of the Banyamulenge and Bafuliro communities in the city of Mutarule, in South Kivu (US 25 June 2015, 6; UN 5 June 2015, para. 61; Human Rights Watch 3 July 2014). According to Human Rights Watch, [Human Rights Watch English version] “[t]he massacre occurred amid rising tensions between the Bafuliro and the Barundi and Banyamulenge ethnic groups” (ibid.). The same source reports that, according to victims and witnesses,

[Human Rights Watch English version]

a group of armed assailants, some of whom wore military uniforms and spoke Kirundi and Kinyamulenge – the languages of the Barundi and Banyamulenge – attacked an outdoor church service in the Bafuliro section of Mutarule (ibid.).

This violence led to the death of at least 30 people (ibid.; US 25 June 2015, 6), some of whom were burned alive or shot, according to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014, published by the US Department of State (ibid.). Human Rights Watch states that most of the victims were Bafuliro (3 July 2014).

Sources state that the Congolese army did not intervene to prevent the violence (US 25 June 2015, 6; Human Rights Watch 3 July 2014). Human Rights Watch also criticizes members of the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), who were based a few kilometers away, for not intervening (ibid.). Sources note, however, that the authorities initiated a commission of inquiry into the violence and two members of the armed forces were arrested (ibid.; US 25 June 2015, 6) for their presumed complicity in “the attack” (ibid.).

Human Rights Watch states that

[Human Rights Watch English version]

[t]ensions between the Bafuliro and Barundi and Banyamulenge remain high in the aftermath of the massacre. An anonymous flyer written in Swahili and distributed on June 16 in Uvira, the main town south of Mutarule, suggested that the Bafuliro would be taking the law into their own hands. It said: for any person found transporting Banyamulenge, “whether by bicycle, motorcycle, or in his car, it’s finished; he and his client will be burned together” (3 July 2014).

2.2 North Kivu

According to the researcher in history and politics, the Banyamulenge community, in its strict definition, is not present in North Kivu (Researcher, history and politics 12 Aug. 2015). However, the same source points out that armed groups made up of Banyamulenge are active in North Kivu (ibid.). Corroborating information or information on the situation of the Banyamulenge in North Kivu could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2.3 Kinshasa

Information on the situation of the Banyamulenge in Kinshasa was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to the Professor Emeritus, without a census, it is very difficult to know how many Banyamulenge are in Kinshasa (Professor 12 Aug. 2015). According to the researcher in history and politics, the number of Tutsi and people of Rwandan origin in Kinshasa is low since many fled during the clashes of 1990 (12 Aug. 2015). The researcher in African studies stated that [translation] “the situation is still relatively tense for the Banyamulenge in Kinshasa” (11 Aug. 2015).

The researcher in history and politics stated, however, that there are many Banyamulenge who work as officers in the security forces in Kinshasa (Researcher, history and politics 12 Aug. 2015). He added that some Tutsi and members of other Rwandan communities hold [translation] “influential” executive, industrial and professorial positions in Kinshasa (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Note

[1] The Rift Valley Institute is an NGO registered in the United Kingdom that conducts research on Central and Eastern African countries in the areas of security, cultural conservation and social development (Rift Valley Institute n.d.).

References

Human Rights Watch. 3 July 2014. “RD Congo : L’armée et l’ONU n’ont pas agi pour arrêter un massacre.” [Accessed 13 Aug. 2015]

Professor Emeritus of political sciences, University of Florida. 12 August 2015. Telephone interview.

Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. 1 April 2014. Stuart Reid. “Eastern Congo: the Plight of the Banyamulenge”. [Accessed 13 Aug. 2015]

_____. N.d. “About Us.” [Accessed 14 Aug. 2015]

Researcher, African studies. 11 August 2015. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate.

Researcher, history and politics, Department of Cultural Anthropology and History, Royal Museum of Central Africa. 12 August 2015. Telephone interview.

Rift Valley Institute. 2013. Jason Stearns et al. Les Banyamulenge: insurrection et exclusion dans les montagnes du Sud-Kivu. [Accessed 13 Aug. 2015]

_____. N.d. “Aims of the Institute.” [Accessed 14 Aug. 2015]

United Nations (UN). 5 June 2015. General Assembly, Security Council. Children and Armed Conflict: Report of the Secretary-General. (A/69/926–S/2015/409) [Accessed 13 Aug. 2015]

United States (US). 25 June 2015. Department of State. “Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014. [Accessed 13 Aug. 2015]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Director, Conflict Research Group; Professor Emeritus of political sciences, Université catholique de Louvain.

Internet sites, including: AllAfrica; Amnesty International; BBC; ecoi.net; Factiva; France – Cour nationale du droit d’asile; Freedom House; International Crisis Group; IRIN; The Jamestown Foundation; Minorities at Risk; Le Phare; Le Potentiel; UN – Refworld; United Kingdom – Home Office.

Attachment

Rift Valley Institute. 2013. Les Banyamulenge: insurrection et exclusion dans les montagnes du Sud-Kivu. [Accessed 13 Aug. 2015]