LUOFU, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO — Relations between the Nande and Hutu communities in the South Lubero area of DRC’s North Kivu province have always been tense, with clashes between the two flaring up every now and then.
However, the two communities used to get along well, living in peace side by side, and feeling bonds of solidarity with each other to till land and raise animals.
Unfortunately, the relations took an unexpected turn around 1994, when the Rwandan Hutu rebel group Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) began using areas in eastern DRC as its strongholds. Armed to the teeth, the FDLRs started committing atrocities such as rape, robbery and killings against civilians. Sad to say, these FDLRs spoke the same language as the Hutu, which served as a catalyst for them to mix and mingle together, and conflicts over land ensued.
In response, another armed group, known as Mai-Mai Mazembe, was created. The two armed groups (the FDLRs and Mai-Mai Mazembe) began to fight each other. Clashes have claimed lives of individuals on both sides. Some community members went missing. Others were raped. Homes were burned to the ground.
It is disheartening to see the situation degenerate into full-scale violence, which started escalating in 2015.
What a pity it is that a community should be linked to an armed group, just by the sheer fact that they speak the same language! There is no doubt, in my view, that troubles have befallen both communities due to lack of effective communication. If all those in South Lubero had been well-informed, they would have learned that they have one common enemy — armed groups.
What is happening is a clear indication that I have a great role to play as a reporter. If you were to ask me to define that role, I’d say it is to appropriately inform my community and my government.
I cherish the hope that local populations, especially youths, will one day stand up together to support efforts toward peaceful coexistence between communities, to keep chaos at bay.
We are tired of seeing the blood of our children and parents run down like water. We are tired of being branded as barbarians who hack and kill one another with machetes. We want to restore peace so that we can move forward.
As a reporter, I bear a responsibility to make the voice of all in my Congolese community heard, and to draw global attention to the suffering, because all our lives are sacred.
Sylvestre Ndahayo, GPJ, translated the blog from French.