DRC 1995: ethnic cleansing rears its head

© Remco Bohle Click on image for larger version. In 1995, I was working with the Office for International Migrations. We were repatriating the Tutsis from Masisi, who were saying that they were going home because their 'brothers' had retaken the country - even the priests abandoned the churches.
Those who, through their propaganda, had urged the Hutu population to commit genocide were still walking around in the camps, manipulating the refugees through their control of the information channels and perpetuating extremism among the population. The militarisation of the region continued, with the camps being turned into strategic bases for nightly incursions into Rwanda and possible further attacks on the neighbouring country. In the same year, ethnic tensions in the Masisi area, North Kivu, broke out again4 between the local Hunde and the Banyarwanda, heightened this time by extremist Hutu elements of the Rwandan refugee population. The fighting which began in June 1995 reached peaks of violence in November. In addition, as a consequence of the Rwandan ethnic conflict spilling over into Zaire, Tutsis became direct targets from all sides. Between July 1994 and the end of 1995, 38,000 Tutsis had been forced to flee to Rwanda5. ETHNIC CLASHES RESUME IN MASISI AREA Nurse aid "When the Rwandan refugees arrived, in 1994-95, they linked up with the Hutu people already living in Zaire. These refugees had arms and armies, and they united their forces with the Hutus to take back all the villages held by the Hunde. The refugees were selling arms, even to the Hunde. "The first attack on my village took place on year after the beginning of the clashes, in July 1996, and caused many deaths. It lasted the whole day, from 5 am until 4.30 pm; Mobutu' special army - the "Division Spéciale Présidentielle" - together with the Mai Mai defended the village, but eight young men I knew from the village died, and there were around thirty wounded - at that time, I was working at the health centre and I was in charge of doing the dressing of bullet wounds. Nine women had miscarriages as a consequence of the fear they experienced during the shooting. Nine women had miscarriages as a consequence of the fear they experienced during the shooting.
Driver "In 1995, I was working with the Office for International Migrations (OIM). We were repatriating the Tutsis from Masisi, who were saying that they were going home because their 'brothers' had retaken the country - even the priests abandoned the churches. Many of them were following their sons who had already left the country back in 1990 to join Kagame's army. "International agencies like OIM had to repatriate the Tutsis, because they feared harassment by the Mai Mai and the Hutus. The danger was especially to go through Sake, 30kms away from Goma, where there were many Mai Mai, and through Mugunga camp, in Goma, where there were still many Hutu soldiers among the refugees. "One night, around seven Tutsi families arrived from Kisangani to go back to Rwanda. I still remember the ladies - they were gorgeous women. They spent the night in an orphanage in Goma - they were massacred by Hutu militaries coming from Mugunga camp. The army came to pick up the bodies, and they were buried in a mass grave. Nurse "Towards the beginning of 1995, the Interahamwe and the former Rwandan Hutu military, the "ex-FAR", started to target the Tutsis living in North Kivu; they would kill them, burn their houses, loot their cattle... Once, they locked up a group of Tutsis who had sought shelter in a monastery - fortunately the monks alerted the Mai Mai, and they came to defend the Tutsis. © Remco Bohle Click on image for larger version.
"Many Tutsis thus fled to Rwanda; the Hunde would transport them in trucks covered with tarpaulin - they said they were transporting coffee, because if the Hutus living in Mugunga refugee camp would find them, they would kill the driver and all the refugees. Later in 1996, the war between the Hutu Interahamwe and the Hunde Mai Mai resumed all over North Kivu. The Mai Mai would attack the villages and kill the people, and they would come back with pieces of dead bodies, like the heads of the victims, or human flesh that they were eating - I saw them. They also abducted people. "During these clashes, Mobutu created special units to put an end to the war - "Opération Kimya" (calm) and "Opération Mbata" (slap). During this period, one day, these troops caught all poorly-dressed young people in Sake, 30kms west of Goma, stating that they were Mai Mai - at two o'clock that morning, they killed them all and threw their bodies in the river. Nutritionist "I am from South Kivu, but I spent five and a half years working in North Kivu in the early 90's. In 1996, many displaced Hutu people were arriving in the area, fleeing from the violence; in the area where I was working, there were more than six thousand of them, staying in the schools and the churches. Many of them wanted to stay, because they had been walking for many days, but they didn't really feel secure. People were saying that the Mai Mai were approaching, so most of the Hutus carried on further east. "Myself, I also had to flee at a certain time. The people from my ethnic group - the "Shi" - started to be assimilated to the Tutsis, and the Mai Mai began to target us. In a neighbouring market, three Shi merchants had been killed for being accused of dealing with the Tutsis. At that time, I was very scared for my wife, who has a Tutsi morphology. I sent her to Goma, and for two months we were separated.