State of the World's Minorities 2006 - Democratic Republic of Congo
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||22 December 2005|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2006 - Democratic Republic of Congo, 22 December 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48abdd6a19.html [accessed 23 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Congolese Tutsi are concentrated in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) provinces of North and South Kivu, and were initially incorporated into the Belgian Congo when part of the historical Rwandan kingdom was divided by the drawing of colonial borders. Questions of land use and ownership, and citizenship underlie many of the conflicts among ethnic communities in eastern DRC – complicated by laws that are poorly written or inconsistently applied.
Disputes between groups of Rwandan (Hutu, Tutsi and Banyamulenge) origin and Congolese of other ethnic groups worsened after the war between Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda spilled across the border into DRC (then Zaire) in 1994. The Hutu-led Rwandan government carried out a genocide of Tutsi civilians in 1994 and then was defeated by the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which drove soldiers of the former army and members of a genocidal militia, the Interahamwe, into exile in the DRC and other neighbouring countries. The army of the RPF-led government invaded the DRC in 1996 and in 1998 to attack these former soldiers and militia, saying they posed a continuing threat to Rwandan security. The second invasion sparked a war that caused the loss of an estimated 3.8 million people, the great majority in eastern DRC.
Rwanda withdrew its troops in 2002 and the Congolese government promised to disarm the armed Hutu groups, but failed to do so. In 2004 Rwanda intervened or threatened to intervene in the Congo three times, each time aggravating disputes between Congolese with Rwandan origins and Congolese of other ethnic groups.
In May and June 2004 troops loyal to RCD-Goma, led by Congolese Tutsi and Banyamulenge officers, mutinied against their Forces Armées de la République Democratique du Congo (FARDC) commanders and on 1 June 2004 briefly took control of the important South Kivu town of Bukavu. Some RCD-Goma soldiers committed widespread abuses against the civilian population before leaving the town and the province in the face of opposition by other FARDC troops and pressure from the international community. With this military withdrawal from South Kivu, RCD-Goma lost political and administrative control over the province and became increasingly determined to retain its hold over North Kivu, the last bastion of its power. FARDC troops also committed abuses during the fighting, including summary executions of Banyamulenge civilians. Fearing reprisals and feeling vulnerable after the departure of their RCD-Goma protectors, thousands of Banyamulenge fled to Burundi or Rwanda.
On 13 August 2004 more than 160 refugees, most of them Banyamulenge, were massacred at Gatumba in Burundi by Burundian Hutu rebels, possibly with the assistance or support of others. On 24 September 2004 crowds in the town of Uvira stoned the refugees as they tried to return to DRC and attacked the MONUC (UN Mission in the Congo) troops protecting them.
On 14 May 2005 a new Constitution, with text agreed by former warring factions, was adopted by the National Assembly. The Constitution limited the powers of the president, who will serve a maximum of two five-year terms, and allows a greater degree of federalism. It also recognizes as citizens all ethnic groups at independence in 1960. This article is a recognition of the citizenship of ethnic Tutsis. Elections were due to be held before the end of June 2005 under the terms of a peace deal, but MPs have backed a six-month delay. Voter registration problems, clashes in the east and government in-fighting prompted the postponement.
War crimes and crimes against humanity, including persecution, murder, forcible population transfer, torture, rape and extermination, have been committed against the Twa in the eastern DRC. These crimes have taken place since the start of the second war in 1998 and continue up to the present. Twa are believed to be the first inhabitants of the equatorial forests of central Africa and now live in a number of African states. In the DRC the Twa also call themselves Bambuti, particularly in Ituri.
For forest-dwelling communities, hunting game remains a dominant occupation, and also plays a leading role in the construction of Twa identity and cultural life. Throughout the region, the Twa experience extreme marginalization in society. Typically living in villages furthest from the roads (sometimes as much as half a day's walk from the nearest road), they have virtually no access to basic services and utilities and are denied development assistance. At the same time, they have found themselves pushed out of their forests in the name of conservation in the Kahuzi-Biega and Virunga national parks, effectively alienated from their livelihood as well as their cultural and spiritual heritage. Discrimination by other ethnic groups is ingrained.
The Twa in Ituri and the Kivus have never taken up arms during the armed conflicts in the eastern DRC, but they have nonetheless been targeted by armed groups. Both the location of their villages in the forest, and their knowledge of forest paths and hunting skills, have made them vulnerable to being coerced by different armed groups operating in the forest into acting as trail-finders and to hunt game, and have then found themselves subject to revenge attacks by opposing armed groups.
Institutionalized disregard for the rights of the Twa, and the lack of seriousness with which complaints of abuse are treated, have meant that all armed groups in the eastern DRC have been able to prey on Twa villages with impunity, looting and raping at will. Where the Twa have been forcibly displaced from their villages, they have frequently had to live for prolonged periods unprotected in the forest, exposed to wild animals, disease and starvation.
Between October 2002 and January 2003, before they joined the power-sharing interim government in June 2004, rebel groups MLC and RCD-N jointly carried out a premeditated, systematic campaign of attack against the civilian population of Ituri, which they named 'Effacer le tableau' ('Erasing the Board'). The objective of the campaign was to gain control of the territory, including the strategic surrounding forests, and to plunder its resources, using the terror created by grave human rights abuses as a weapon of war. Encompassing the civilian population in general, the fact that the campaign specifically targeted the Twa for mass killing and the severe deprivation of other fundamental rights, by reason of their supposed supernatural powers and knowledge of the forest, indicates the commission of the crimes against humanity of persecution and extermination.
A report by the Minority Rights Group International (MRG), entitled Erasing the Board, documents the findings of an international research mission into crimes under international law committed against the Twa by the MRC and RCD-N, RCD-Goma, ex-Forces armées rwandaises (FAR) and Interahamwe in the eastern DRC.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague has jurisdiction over crimes committed in the DRC since 1 July 2002, following the ratification of the Rome Statute of the Court by the DRC on 11 April 2002. On 19 April 2004 the president of the DRC referred the situation of crimes committed in the DRC to the ICC's Prosecutor. The Prosecutor has subsequently announced that he is preparing indictments against certain militia leaders operating in Ituri.