Alone and distressed: the agonising pain of Congolese-Banyamulenge whose relatives were killed during Gatumba massacres

By Elias Hakizimana.

Congolese  who lived in Gatumba area of South-Kivu near Burundi known as Banyamulenge or Tutsi Congolese are still suffering pain and injustice after their relatives were killed in 2004 after being discriminated among others.

The massacres followed insecurity caused by the attacks that involved discrimination of  Banyamulenge who were killed separately and brutally where 166 people were burned and died in two to three hours according to Dr Aggée Shyaka Mugabe, the representative of families who lost their relatives during the massacres.

The name Banyamulenge derives from the hill Mulenge which is situated near Uvira in Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) ’s South Kivu Province.

Banyamulenge, sometimes called “Tutsi Congolese”, is a term historically referring to the ethnic Tutsi concentrated on the High Plateau of South Kivu, in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, close to the Burundi-Congo-Rwanda border, according to Wikipedia – an online reference work.

The killings happened in Buvira town near Tanganyika lake where all the refugees were received by Loni. They were selected from other races with whom they were flying together including Ababembe, Abapfubira, Abashi and some of Abavira.

The leaders of the armed group that claimed responsibility for the brutal killings have not been brought to justice.

Almost all of the victims were Banyamulenge – Congolese Tutsi from the province of South Kivu, in Eastern DR Congo. They had fled armed conflict in Congo and were living in a refugee camp in the Burundian town of Gatumba, close to the Congolese border.

United Nations peacekeeper writes notes at a mass grave in Gatumba, August 16, 2004. /Reuters

The attackers targeted them based on their ethnicity, shooting them or burning them to death, and sparing refugees from other ethnic groups and Burundians living in another part of the camp.

“We are requesting the United Nations to be at the forefront to offer justice to the survivors of these killings. We also request the Interntional Criminal Court (ICC-Rahay) to follow on perpetrators and take action in terms of justice,” Mugabe said.

Jonathan Bigirumwami, Isooko National Coordinator said they are asking for justice for the survivors of these massacres and that they will not cease demanding it.

Bigirumwami was speaking on August 13, 2018 in Kigali during the 14th commemoration of the massacres against these victims.

He said that such killings are not described as Genocide to date, but  it is a brutal killing perpetrated against an ethic group of people and with an intention to exterminate it.

“This atrocity is known worldwide, perpetrators are there and declared they did, but we lacked justice, the victims are Africans, they are citizens like others worldwide but it is sad that they are not given justice and the country they were killed from is not taking action, so, today we wish that these victims are given justice,” Bigirumwami said.

Rwandans are currently remembering these victims and there is a wish that the rest of countries join Rwandans to request for justice for the families who lost their relatives during these massacres.


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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,( is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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