Micro violent Conflict viewed from a Native with an “Urban Biases”: Would I have Prevented an Attack to my Neighborhood?

The neighborhood of my village has been under heavy gunfire since before yesterday. It is situated in Minembwe-Itombwe High Plateau; and clashes fall likely in the new move of probable forthcoming great lakes confrontation. Great lakes countries are likely trying to create rear bases for future military plans. At local level, the death of Kawaza Nyakwana on 4th May 2019 has sparked wider violence (click here my article) that seemingly oppose armed men affiliated to their respective communities. However, based on information from the ground, one can suspect a plan to get rid of opponents once and for all. The involvement of foreign armed groups makes an informed observer to worry that the region will far fall in wider violence.

Consequent to clashes around my village, approximately ten civilians are believed to have died since before yesterday. Circumstances of death are likely diverse and access to information is too hard in a region lacking mobile telephone connection but also without electricity. Dozens of hundreds are moving all around without any support; and have nowhere to go because of these clashes. All started when Willy Ebuta, a son to Ebuta (the well-known father who have served as a nurse in the region but also an evangelist in CELPA church) was killed by yet unknown assailant. He lived in a village called Kukwe (kuri Kuku as we used to call) with his father-in-law, Auma. The latter is too well known for his stance against the use of violence and inter-community confrontation as a channel to tackle local grievances. They all belong to Babembe community.

The village of Kidasi. A view from West towards Gashasha and Kidegu

Following the incident that killed Kawaza Nyakwana and its subsequent confrontation, armed groups from Kipombo had been solicitating Auma to let them attack villages around Kukwe, Kidasi (my village), Gashasha and Bikuba. Corroborated sources have confirmed that more than three times, Auma had reported such pressures from armed men though he guaranteed to not allow anyone to do so. He strongly stood his position based on experience of 90s. The plight of 1996 onward has affected all communities. All have suffered during rebel campaigns that turned to be an opportunity to settle accounts. Would the incident of killing Willy intend to fragilize the social cohesion among communities by punishing moderates?

View of the burnt down village (Photo Nkunda)

  

On the other hand, Willy belongs to a family that has siblings of two mums because his father has at some point lost his wife. For belonging to a family whose members are children of two mothers, there have been confrontation among siblings over inheritance; and specifically cows that they would have shared altogether. This is a story that would have been fixed by legal framework though in this context, judiciary schemes are an abstract idea. It used to depend on local and traditional wisdom to handle such disputes. As traditional wisdom is overpowered by a reliance onto guns, these types of settling accounts are likely numerous. In the same neighborhood, we have experienced a case of this weird killing as one hates his sibling for having progressed in his career (click to Read this story here to understand how we became mad guy).

For being a Mubembe, we are certain that the killer must come from the foe community; that is, a member of Banyamulenge community! There have been some indication leading to suspect a member of Banyamulenge community who was in Mikenke when Ebuta was shot dead around 8 PM. Mikenke is a locality situated around 15-20 Kms from Will’s village. For something linked to cattle that have been pillaged in the region, local sources have pointed out that a certain cattle herder might warned on a possible revenge. He could use anyone to commit the crime. It is quite hard to determine how the victim would have been involved in cows racketering while he did not probably partake in armed group. These are three footprints emerging to explain Willy’s death. However, one cannot rule out any other scenario that could lead to the death of Willy in this security void context.

No one would expect that investigation around Will’s death would succeed. Military soldiers who arrived at the spot of the incident did likely nothing to stop this retaliation and their investigation could take years to find the culprit. In retaliation, gunmen have decided last night to “revenge” Willy by attacking cattle herders in this neighborhood. Sebineza and Ngagiro were shot dead around 8PM again. Two of their colleagues managed to escape under this firing of bullets. Sebineza is a native of Kabara (50 miles northward); while Ndagiro is a native of Rurambo (100 miles away of Kukwe). Their only fault is to belong to a ‘suspect community’. There sparked mobilization on both sides and clashes involving heavy guns. The damages are countless, and the fate of this region is unpredictable.

Anything can happen at any time as this modus operandi will always be exploited for those willing to pull strings. This evening, Gahwera villages were attacked by militias whose purpose would be of getting rid of their opponents and possibly linked to Minembwe commune. Local sources have pointed again to the presence of foreign armed men. Hard to independently verify but guns used can indicate towards this possibility. Could I have prevented this scenario? That was my depressing question when following distantly these incidents around my village.

In March 2019, I visited my village and its neighborhood. During the research fieldwork, I was so impressed to hear and touch this social cohesion that was built since 90s. Testimonies from both sides, Banyamulenge―Bafuliro/Babembe, could guarantee an observer that the neighborhood of my village could stand as local model of community cohesion. As matter of fact, their 96-98 experience has built a strong trust among communities to the extent they have managed to avoid such kind of incident. A loud example is that one linked to the arrest of village chief from Lulenge by Gumino group, namely Gatundu. An intervention of opinion leaders from Kidasi, Gashasha, Bikuba and Kidegu had spared this region to barely fall into heavy clashes. Gatundu was released following these intervention; though clashes erupted for a short while. 

My impression was that these local initiatives needed a support. For being biased, I thought my intervention could be oriented in exchanging ideas with primary and secondary teachers. We have had a fruitful exchange and looked forward to work together towards support orphans-girls’ education. We would work together to have these schools constructed. Later, I have been told I would have met Mutamba[1]. Why? Regardless of Mutamba’s literacy level, his influence relies on manipulating young guys to express themselves by “shooting bullets in the air”. This view of local context was guided my recent “urban bias”[2]. I am not yet sure if meeting Mutamba (whom I called later on phone) could have prevented these localities to fall into intractable fighting; however, I argue that in such volatile context coupled with collective victimization, guns has a power than anything else.      

 

NTANYOMA R. Delphin

PhD Researcher in Conflict Economics

The Institute of Social Studies/

Erasmus University Rotterdam

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Delphino12

Blog: www.easterncongotribune.com    

[1] This is a given name of the guy whom I was indicated he could, by shooting in the air or target someone for his own interests, pull the neighborhood into intractable clashes.

[2] Kalyvas (2006) argues that “urban bias is a major methodological obstacle to the rigorous study of civil wars and political violence. Indeed, most accounts of civil-war violence are produced by urban intellectuals who rely on a set of explicitly or implicitly “urban” information and assumptions, even though most civil conflicts are rural wars, fought primarily in rural areas by predominantly peasant armies”.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09636410490914022?casa_token=ASa2KbNnV3AAAAAA:-1bb7MEl3428KIXdl8d5MB4I3qVNau7zsd-iXfEfvc2USwt9wl_u_FkPLJboosXkZfDFfaBoB2s  

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