On the night of August 13th to 14th, 2004, a horrific event unfolded at the Gatumba refugee camp in Burundi. At least 150 Congolese Tutsi refugees hailing from South Kivu, predominantly comprised of women, children, and the elderly, were ruthlessly massacred, with another hundred left wounded. The attack was attributed to Burundian Hutu rebels of the National Liberation Forces (FNL). Throughout Sunday, August 13th, and Monday, August 14th, 2023, members of the Banyamulenge community held solemn commemorative ceremonies in Bukavu.
Within the grand auditorium of the Ruzizi 1st Seminary in Nguba, poignant photographs of the victims are displayed. Survivors recount the harrowing events of August 13th and 14th, 2004. Among them is Kibonangoma Dieu-Merci Osée, who was a child at the time:
“The memories are etched in my mind as if they happened yesterday. Our brothers, sisters, parents, and grandparents were brutally slaughtered. These wounds still linger in our hearts. We cannot remain silent because those responsible for this heinous act have not faced justice. We name individuals such as Mr. Agathon Rwasa, who was the leader of the FNL, and his spokesperson, Pastor Habimana, both of whom are still alive.”
The ascent of Félix Tshisekedi to power in 2018 rekindled hopes among the Banyamulenge that this issue might progress within the realm of international justice. As the years have passed, their confidence remains steadfast. Byishimwa Alexis serves as the Vice President of the Banyamulenge Youth in South Kivu, and he elucidates:
“As President Félix Tshisekedi consistently advocates for the rule of law, we hold strong convictions that his term will not conclude without a response on this matter. We are convinced that if the DRC exerts pressure on the UN, the latter will, in turn, push Burundi for accountability. The perpetrators seem to be playing the waiting game, hoping we will forget. Yet, we will never forget these atrocities”.
During these commemorative events, the Banyamulenge community seized the opportunity to denounce the messages of tribal hatred they assert to have fallen victim to, propagated by certain Congolese political leaders during this pivotal electoral year.