Ten years ago I was living in B., near Shabunda, South Kivu, where I am from.
In 1997, the first war led by Kabila broke out in the area. We could see Rwandan refugees fleeing; the Rwandan Tutsi military were looking for them and massacring them. They would kill men and women - they would put them in a single file and the soldiers would shoot at them. I saw it with my own eyes, especially towards Ulindi river where thousands and thousands of people fell.
During the massacre of the Rwandan Hutu refugees, we all had a hard time. One day, the military shot at a refugee near my house, and asked a young Congolese to take the cadaver and get rid of it - as the young man protested, the military took him by the feet and dropped him in a big latrine pit. He died, because the latrine was almost already full.
Unfortunately after this war, another started in 1998. Soon after, a group of Congolese Mai Mai militias arrived from the north, saying that they were coming to protect us against the RCD (Rassemblement Congolais pour le Democratie); they were more than a hundred men, and amongst them, there were Rwandan Hutus and ex-FAR soldiers. The ex-FAR searched all the houses, looking for Tutsi refugees. When they found them, they would kill them in public after having tortured them. They told us that any Congolese suspected of assisting a Tutsi would be submitted to the same punishment.We ourselves, we had nothing to say - we were at their mercy.
Then the Mai Mai started to forcibly recruit people from the area. Sometimes, they would make us go with them to the forest, there we would either have to work their fields, dig coltan, or they would use us as porters.
They would come and get you at any time, even in the middle of the night. There was no time for hesitating once they arrived, because if you loitered just a bit, the roof of your house would be on fire before you were out and you would just burn inside. I saw three women die like that, reduced to ashes inside their houses.
One day, the Mai Mai took my brother's wife. He protested, but the Mai Mai crudely replied: "if we find a bicycle, we just ride it and you have nothing to say". After whipping him, they left with his wife. Two days later they came back - "here is your bicycle", they told him, giving him his wife back.
The Mai would come and get you at any time, even in the middle of the night. There was no time for hesitating once they arrived, because if you loitered just a bit, the roof of your house would be on fire before you were out and you would just burn inside. I saw three women die like that, reduced to ashes inside their houses. |