I want the Democratic Republic of Congo government, the UN, the international news media and the International Community to know about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Minembwe, a region in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the past 10-11 months or so, Mai Mai militias in Eastern Congo have launched unprecedented, systemic attacks against the Banyamulenge tribe in the Plateaus of Itombwe. They have killed more than 200 people, raped women, burnt down more than 300 villages, drove tens of thousands of people into desperation and starvation, and stole thousands of cows. Survivors of this violence - estimated at over 70,000 people. Thousands of displaced are cramped up in a small town of Minembwe, surrounded by militia groups. They have nowhere to go. Food is becoming scarce. Infectious diseases are spreading.
The people who are affected are my people. They are my uncles. My cousins. Our aunties. My grandmothers. My former neighbors and childhood friends. The UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs recently updated its estimates: 60% of the estimated 350K population of the high plateaus of Itombwe have been displaced, many of their houses having been burnt, they have nowhere to go. Thousands of households lost their houses and will need to rebuild. They’re sleeping out in the open, unsure of where the next meal is going to come from. Having gone through similar situations over a decade ago, the Banyamulenge diaspora in the US knows well what it feels like. The feeling of loss, isolation, despair, and hopelessness.
On February 19, 2020, Hundreds of women in Minembwe took it to the streets (See attached video) to protest the removal of the only one police chief who has assured their security while some governments force rape women, stoles goods, and terrorize civilians without consequences.
Women of Minembwe are requesting he be reinstated in this region. He worked tirelessly to protect these women against sexual violence in the conflict zone. This official did not hesitate to hold accountable those who terrorized civilians and rape women in this area. He allowed peaceful trading of goods so that they can still carry out reasonable business activities despite persistent rebels’ attacks around them.
Women of Minembwe are afraid that his removal means more rapes, more hunger, and more deaths. To them, this official was their last line of defense. If he does not get reinstated, they are prepared for a massacre and even genocide of the Banyamulenge people in Minembwe.
As the leader of the Banyamulenge Diaspora in the US, I am calling upon the Congolese government to listen to the will of its people and reinstate him today. I ask Dr. Denis Mukwege to step in and help the victims of rape who have gone for months without any medical care. I ask the international community to provide humanitarian aid to the displaced people that is so desperately needed. And to the Media, let the world know, so they would not say that they were never told.