REPORT ON THE HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN MINEMBWE PREPARED BY EBEN-EZER UNIVERSITY OF MINEMBWE (UEMI)20 May 2019, 10:39 am
Minembwe Rural Commune, is situated in Fizi Territory, South Kivu Province, and it is situated about 370km from south west of Bukavu town. It is inhabited by various tribes including Babembe, Bafuliru, Banyamulenge, Banyindu and others. The main activities are agriculture, livestock and artisanal mining.
The population of Minembwe and surrounding area, including the highlands of Mwenga and Uvira, are about 200,000 people. However, this number might be less due to constant displacement of people fleeing armed conflicts in the area. There are about 200 primary and secondary schools, 3 high education institutions, 2 hospitals, and over 50 health centers, 1 community radio and telecommunication networks. The region has limited access by roads, access is only possible during the dry season (Minembwe center and Itombwe). Bijombo area has no road access. There is an airstrip in Minembwe, which is the only viable, but expensive means of transportation. Most people walk for about 30km to reach the road in Lusuku, which is the link to Bukavu via Fizi and Uvira.
Conflict and its consequences
Currently, over 20,000 people are displaced with no shelter nor food. Half of those are concentrated in Minembwe center. People have lost lives. Their villages have been burnt to ashes along with their food stores, which were run from their houses; livestock has been destroyed, and others have been looted. Note: There is no complete evaluation of casualties as it is still unsafe to reach some areas.
This time of year is the beginning of agricultural harvest for maize and beans, which are the main staple food to all local communities. Any crops that are not destroyed by fire, were left in fields, which will be destroyed without care. Remaining villages around Minembwe center, schools and churches are hosting fleeing families with tired old people, children and women. The concentrations of displaced people are in 3 main locations: In Minembwe center and surrounding villages; Kigazura, Mikenge and Kasilo in Itombwe, and Kalumio in Kamombo. In all these locations, people hosted and welcomed displaced families from all different tribes. They are all seeking refuge together and are being helped by local communities indiscriminately.
This is happening months after another conflict that broke out in Bijombo location sending more than 6,000 people seeking refuge in other safe locations. Many reached Minembwe in August-October 2018. The Center for Research and Community Development at UEMI and LaOlam Ministry organized emergency programs to help only 350 families through agricultural activities and training in theology of work and peace. Some of the villages that had hosted displaced families from Bijombo were this time also attacked and/or burnt down. These include: Kalingi, Bidegu, Kamombo, Rwitsankuku, Kitasha, among others. Many families are being displaced and losing everything twice in less than 8 months. Many hundreds of pupils and students were taken in schools to allow them to study with no charge in October 2018. Eben-Ezer University and its primary ans secondary schools have more than 100 students from those displaced families, frm different tribes of last year. Today, those in schools are 2 months away from completing their school year, and their families have again been displaced. Resilience of local population is worning out!
Due to the limited access to Minembwe and surrounding area, there are no humanitarian organizations intervening. Local communities, churches, and local NGOs have taken the responsibility of sharing everything they have for the last 10 months, basically ever since August 2018 to the present. The influx of displaced families has contributed to food scarcity in Minembwe, where 25kg of smooth maize flour now costs moved from $16 to $25, whereas the price for 1kg of beans went up from $ 0.43$ to $ 1.30 in less than 5 months. Food shortage in this period has become a pressing issue. Even if the armed conflict is stopped, the war on hunger must be conquered as well. Also health issues must be addressed. Minembwe has a hospital and clinics, but with very limited equipment and medicines to cater for thousands of people concentrated in the Minembwe area. Given the poor living conditions of the displaced people, there is now the danger of dysentery. Eben-Ezer University is about to complete its water project in Minembwe, which would help people to get clean water in Kiziba villages and the central market.
The cause of conflict
Different actors give differtn reasons for the outbreak of the current conflicts:
- A common explanation focuses on tribal issues. For many years, conflicts in the Great Lakes Region have been thought of as tribal or ethnic. This explanation provides an easy way for those who aim to exploit and polarize the situation politically. Local populations from different tribes have lived together for centuries and do have shared survival interests. Even if there have been domestic conflicts, traditionally there have always been ways to solve them. Unfortunately, the region has had so many uncontrolled local and regional extremists, bandits, armed groups and rebels who do not necessarly represent the interests of their ethnic or tribal groups. Whoever commits crime does so on the back of their communities. Today, affected families from all tribes are seeking shelter together and helping each other regardless of their tribal affiliation. Innocent people are victims of politics. Tribes of Bantu origin accuse Banyamulenge of being foreigners, having no rights to land and administrative entity, regardless of having been in the region, which is now the current Congo for centuries. Extremists contest the erection of Minembwe to Rural Commune, even when it is inhabitated by all tribes. On the other hand, Banyamulenge tribe accuses their neighboring tribes of hatred and envy against their prosperity. The coalition of armed groups from different tribes against one tribe is a dangerous sign of division and discrimination based on tribal/ethnic differences. However, they all belong to the same country. Their tribal and cultural diversities are power and wealth for their own respective development.
- Another explanation focuses on exploitation of incidents and a prolonged state of injustice. Eastern Congo has been a theatre of many atrocities committed by armed groups (killings of innocent people and many other human rights violations). In rural locations, it becomes even worse, as there, voices of the weak die in silence. The context of hopelessness, despair and revolt of many are expressed, unfortunately, through violent actions, which end up hurting everyone’s neighbor. Lack of state authority, in these rural places, is a serious challenge. Whenever there are incidents involving people from different tribes, they are exploited beyond the individual to community levels.
- Another issue that needs to be addressed has to do with poverty and the lack of community development programs. Young people from different tribes who turned into gangs, criminals and militia are equally born free and hopeful to build their lives and their country. Lack of socio-economic and political cadres to help them grow as good citizens, make them enemies of themselves and of their own communities. These challenges are put on the doorsteps of government and the international community, who miss opportunities to initiate sustainable programs to curb unemployment among youths, provide formal and vocational training, as well as possibilities for educational advancement and programs in entrepreneurship. Lack of road is a major handicap to rural peace and development. When youths have nothing to do, they are recruited into armed groups not as a coice but only as a means of survival. But as a result they lose their future.
- Furthermore, the current conflict is triggered by the killing of a local chief by an armed group whose members are from the Banyamulenge tribe, who had accused the local chief of killing their member. Similar incidents have provoked other similar tribal fighting in the past, where militia from other tribes killed members of the Banyamulenge community. Due to the lack of government authority in these rural areas to maintain order and administer justice the whole region is affected. Today, hundreds of villages are burned down, people have lost their lives, livestock and other goods have been destroyed or looted, and more than 20,000 people are now displaced with no shelter or food.
Although the fighting has stopped due to the intervention of the government and the national army with support of MONUSCO, there are urgent calls to help the victims of the conflict. Every support is highly appreciated:
- Food and clothing are urgently needed to help thousands of displaced people, particularly women and children.
- Temporary and permanent shelter in areas of refuge for those that are able to regain their villages to rebuild their lives again.
- Education for sustainable peace and development.
- Government and its partners to invest in durable infrastructures for rural development, namely road and electricity to allow young people access to other alternatives to enable them to establish sustainable socio-economic conditions for themselves and their communities.
- Support for peace initiatives to rebuild hope and mutual trust among tribes.
Fleeing families and smoke of burning villages.
For UEMI, www.ueemi.org
Tel +243 812400999
Situation in Photos.
Refugees seeking shelter at 2 different schools (UGEAFI and Eben-Ezer University of Minembwe) and other places.
La journée du 8/11/2018 un partenariat a été signé entre la CNR (Commission Nationale pour les Réfugiés) et l’UEMI (Université Eben-Ezer de Minembwe) à Uvira, dans le cadre d’enseignement supérieur pour les jeunes réfugiés se trouvant hors ou dans les camps des réfugiés dans la province du Sud-Kivu qui veulent poursuivre les études universitaires à Minembwe.
L’UEMI a fournis une bourse de 1.000 $ (Milles dollars américains) par an par étudiant, qui couvrira les frais académiques, les logements, la nourriture et les soins médicaux à l’Hôpital de Référence de Minembwe avant que la clinique universitaire soin en étant opérationnel.
L’UEMi bénéficiera de la CNR un cadre de collaboration et de complémentarité dans les différents domaines dont : la sécurité des étudiants refugiés sur le lieu quand c’est nécessaire, l’octroi de cartes pour refugiés leur permettant de séjourner et de travailler si nécessaire dans le pays,…
Les critères de sélection des futurs étudiants bousiers ont été les suivants :
- Avoir un diplôme d’état ou son équivalent (original ou copie certifiée conforme à l’original) ;
- Avoir un statut de réfugié muni d’une carte d’identification ;
- Avoir une autorisation de la CNR permettant de vivre en dehors du camp de réfugiés ou de la résidence habituelle.
Au cours de ce partenariat l’université Eben-Ezer de Minembwe a été représentée par Dieudonné MUSHISHI, le Vice-recteur UEMI/Minembwe et La Commission Nationale pour le Réfugiés par J’aurai MUPEPE NGALONGO, Chef d’antenne ai CNR/Uvira.
Le Recteur de l’Université donne une formation sur la Théologie du Travail toute une semaine du 8 au 13 Octobre 2018 à deux universités de la Géorgie à Tbilisi, International Black Sea University et University of Georgia. Cette formation est dispense en collaboration avec Bakke Graduate University des USA.
Short report of Eben-Ezer University community engagement: local initiatives in peacebuilding in Minembwe and plaine of Ruzizi July-September 20183 October 2018, 2:36 pm
Since inter-tribal conflicts that destroyed so many villages in Bijombo, Eben-Ezer University has joined local initiatives in search of peace. Its leadership has been involved in organizing meetings and visits to different localities. In July 20-22, 2018, it worked with local churches of Mutarule1 and 2 for a 3-day church meeting whereby, community and church leaders, youth and adults all accepted to work together for their own peaceful cohabitation. About 940 people attended. This work continues and plans to expand to other localities in the Plain of Ruzizi and beyond.
On July 27-30/2018, Eben-Ezer jointly worked with the association of widows and orphans (AVOC) in Minembwe a conference for peace, whereby support for orphans ‘education is raised and humanitarian aid (clothes and food) were collected in support of displaced people of Bijombo. All evening meetings were held at the conference hall of Eben-Ezer University and during the day, meetings were held outside due to big number of people attended over 2000.
Annual conference of Eben-Ezer family on peace and spiritual edification was organized at Kiziba Methodist church whereby different local churches participated from 14 to 16 September 2018. It was also 21st commemoration of the tragic plane crash in Minembwe which killed all passengers who were coming to attend peace conference in Minembwe.
On 18 September, the leaders and staff of Eben-Ezer University joined other local leaders and population of Minembwe to welcome the Governor of South-Kivu and his delegation including the Speaker of Provincial Assembly, the Provincial Army Commander, the Provincial Police Commander, Provincial Ministers of Planning and Finance among other; and the Deputy Special Representative of Secretary General of UN (MONUSCO) and his delegation including a French diplomat based in Goma. Their visit had multiple purpose: inauguration of lights in the local market, to learn from local population about its resilience and efforts of peace and security in the area. During the meeting with civil society, many problems were presented including, multiplication of attacks from Maimai and other armed groups in the region, security and humanitarian situation of Bijombo; lack of road; local administration; transport facility of medical items and water equipment transportation; creation of jobs for youth and women’s rights.
From 18 to 19 September 2018, a meeting was organized at Eben-Ezer University by local administration of Minembwe, local chiefs and leaders of different ONGs. More than 100 delegates of men, women and youth represented Minembwe, Lulenge, Itombwe, Kamombo, Milimba locations. Two main points were discussed for 2 days: What should be the role of each community and leader to bring and maintain peace in their region and how can people of Bijombo be assisted? A joint declaration was signed and people of Minembwe resolved to work for their own peace, security and development in all ways possible. The decided not to wait for others to decide for them, but to come and support them.
The university welcome American families of 7 people who came to stay and support various educative activities at university and Complexe Scolaire d’Application (primary and secondary schools). University is organizing various trainings for local people including midwifery course which will be held at the university conference hall from October 5 to 11 in conjunction with General Hospital of Minembwe and local dispensaries. More than 50 participants are expected to attend. Trainers are from USA and Canada. MONUSCO has been very supportive in transpiration and security services. We also thank our government for its support in visas’ issuance for our guests.
The primary and secondary schools are opened from September 5 and registered more than 80 orphans, displaced children from different tribes with no means to pay their school fees. This is a challenge for the leadership of the school and a message requesting support is out for all those who can help in school fees and materials. We also come short of classrooms. Both primary and secondary schools use universities premises in the morning, but once the university opens, some of classes are taken in the morning which will be a real challenge for us. We urgently needed extra 4 classrooms in order to have all students in classes with no problem for this academic year 2018-2019.
Cooperatives in agriculture are being reinforced in legumes and honey projects. Members of different tribes from Kahwela to Rugezi are working together to produce honey and make it a commercial activity. University staff and the Centre of Research and Community Development are currently giving training and supplying seeds and materials for construction of hives. After training certificates are given to those who fully completed the course. Finally, the university is in the process of providing clean water in taps to villages of Kiziba, the market to the university campus. All these are part of peacebuilding and sustainable development programs that accompany formal education.
Eben-Ezer University would like to thank all its local and international partners who have tirelessly been behind every work that is being done.
Acte d’engagement de la réunion des leaders communautaires tenue du 18 au 19 septembre 2018 dans la salle de l’Université Eben-Ezer de Minembwe a Minembwe3 October 2018, 2:28 pm
Dans cette réunion étaient présents le Chef de Poste d’Encadrement de Minembwe, de Milimba, de Kamombo, le chef de secteur d’Itombwe avec son chef de poste et les notables, les pasteurs et représentants de différentes communautés Babembe, Banyamulenge, Banyindu et Bafuliro et Banyindu. Etaient aussi présents les représentants des services de sécurité dont : l’Agence National de Renseignement (ANR), la Police Nationale (PNC) et la FARDC ; et les représentants des organisations et institutions locales dont l’UEMI, UGEAFI, ADED, EMI, SOUS-PROVED, CENI et la MONUSCO.
Après la réunion et discussions de 2 jours sur les questions pertinentes de la paix et la sécurité de 2 jours, Ils se sont convenus ceux qui suivent :
- Chaque communauté présente s’engage à faire le dialogue avec ses jeunes porteurs d’armes (Maimai, Gumino et autres) ;
- Chaque communauté s’engage à combatte toute forme de discrimination ;
- Chaque communauté s’engage à contribuer pour la paix durable dans la région ;
- Chaque communauté s’engage dans la recherche d’une solution aux conflits pour une paix durable de la région de Bijombo ;
- Chaque communauté s’engage à protéger la communauté voisine pour l’intérêt de la paix et la sécurité de tous ;
- Les chefs de postes s’engagent à multiplier des réunions conjointes pour la cherche de paix et de développement durable dans leurs entités respectives ;
- Toutes les communautés présentes ont demandé au gouvernement et a la MONUSCO de les soutenir dans leurs initiatives de consolider la paix durable dans la région ;
- Toutes les communautés présentes ont demandé à l’Etat, à la MONUSCO, aux ONGs et toutes personnes ayant cette volonté, de venir en aide aux déplacés de Bijombo.
Un calendrier des activités et descentes pour prêcher la paix dans les différentes entités et des rencontres avec les jeunes porteurs d’armes (Maimai, Gumino et autres) a été fixé du 25 septembre au 22 octobre 2018 pour les descentes sur terrain Kamombo, Lulenge, Itombwe, Karbara et Bijombo.
Fait à Kiziba, le 19 Septembre 2018
Ont signé l’Acte d’Engagement pour les participants à la réunion
- Chef de Poste de Minembwe : Monsieur Mukiza Gadi
- Chef de Poste de Kamombo: Monsieur Katete Kungakabe
- Chef de Poste de Milimba : Monsieur Makifiri N. Didas
- Chef de Poste d’Itombwe : Monsieur Rwesa Osée
- Recteur de l'Université Eben-Ezer : Dr Rukundwa S. Lazare
- Représentant de l’ONG UGEAFI : Rutambwe Siméon
- Modérateur : Chef Bikino Mitabu