Minembwe: Proof of Manipulation, Documents Politicians Don’t Want People to Access
The official inauguration of an existing municipal entity in Minembwe has recently driven some Congolese politicians and ordinary people crazy. This short paper discusses the Minembwe region. The article discusses how the Minembwe municipality was created, manipulated by being taken out of the list at the South Kivu level, and its official installation on September 28, 2020. The author attaches the documents politicians do not want people to access at the end of the paper. The next topic the article talks about is the propaganda in social and news media, which pressured President Tshisekedi to cancel the inauguration of Minembwe as a municipality. The paper discusses the hate speech by former presidential candidate Martin Fayulu who claimed that Banyamulenge members are not Congolese, and there is no land for them in Congo. Finally, the paper looks into the interpellation of Azarias Ruberwa in the National Assembly on October 19, 2020.
The Commune Minembwe Controversy
Where is Minembwe?
Minembwe is located in the Fizi territory, South Kivu province, eastern DRC. Minembwe is made up of several villages. The region where Minembwe is located is widely referred to as the Hauts-plateaux of Itombwe or the highlands of Fizi, Uvira, and Mwenga territories. But Minembwe itself is in Fizi. There is no census to determine how many people from each community live in Minembwe and the surrounding areas. However, it is only assumed that the Banyamulenge community makes the majority. Minembwe is also inhabited by other ethnic groups, such as Babembe, Banyindu, Bafuliru, Bashi, to name a few.
On September 28, 2020, a vast central government delegation from Kinshasa was present in Minembwe when Minembwe was officially installed into a rural municipality (commune) by Lwabandji Lwasi Ngabo, the provincial minister of interior affairs of South Kivu. Among the delegation was Aimé Ngoy Mukena, minister of defense; Azarias Ruberwa Manywa, state minister of decentralization and institutional reforms; General Célestin Mbala, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and Theo Ngwabidje Kasi, governor of South Kivu. Officials reported that the delegation had an official mission of stabilizing the eastern part of the country. Gad Mukiza Nzabinesha (a member of the Banyamulenge community) and Esumbico Sadiki (a member of the Babembe community) officially became the mayor and deputy of Minembwe, respectively.
How was the Commune Minembwe Created?
According to Congolese government documents, Minembwe was created among dozens of urban and rural municipalities by the central government’s decrees in 2013 when Matata Ponyo was the prime minister. It was during the administration of President Joseph Kabila Kabange. Document No. 13/029 of June 13, 2013, is the ministerial decree that created Minembwe and other agglomerations (see Appendix 1). Prime Minister Matata Ponyo and Minister of Interior Affairs, Security, Decentralization, and Chieftaincy Affairs Richard Muyej Mangez signed the decree.
Manipulations at the Provincial Level
Before the central government signed the above decree that created Minembwe as a rural municipality, the provincial government of South Kivu produced an official document signed by the president of the provincial assembly Emile Baleke Kadudu, on July 10, 2009. But what and how things happened? President Kadudu’s official letter No. 150 BUR/ASPRO-SK/01/2008 with the object, the cartography of agglomerations to be erected in cities and communes in the province of South Kivu (see Appendix 2) presents a series of documents signed by provincial deputies who acknowledged the creation of such towns and communes. The provincial assembly’s recommendation letter No. 09/200 Pleniere/ASPRO/SK of July 10, 2009, presents the actual newly-created agglomerations mentioned in the president of the assembly’s document (see Appendix 3). The commune of Minembwe came out missing. The President of the assembly, Mr. Kadudu, and Rapporteur, Mr. Gilbert Ngongo Lusana, signed the provincial assembly’s letter.
Where is the manipulation? Elected provincial deputies from the Fizi territory formed a commission. Their assignment was to study the creation of new cities, urban and rural municipalities. A document produced and signed by three deputies on June 5, 2009, shows the number of towns and communes created in Fizi (see Appendix 4). Minembwe appears to be among the eight municipal entities on the document. Others include Fizi center, Aboke I, Mtambala, M’kela, Achimia, Lulemba, and Akembe (Kagembe). Deputies Ngoma Haliya (part of the last name has fainted on the document), Muhasanya Lubunga, and Masoka Bwami signed the paper. The boundaries given for the commune of Minembwe are Minembwe center, Abengo (Kabingo), Aenge (Kakenge), and Awela (Kawela). A human voice on WhatsApp that introduces itself as Ngoma Haliyamutu Jean Marie (Unverified Voice, n.d.) states that Minembwe was not selected because it did not meet the criteria. However, an unbiased observer can ask themselves why it was listed on the official document turned in to the provincial assembly for consideration. An unverified source indicates that unknown individuals have attempted to hide appendixes 2, 3, and 4, which are seen as evidence of a possible manipulation at the South Kivu provincial level.
The Actual Installation of Minembwe as a Municipality
South Kivu Minister of Interior Affairs Lwasi Ngabo was recently approached by news media and asked to explain what took place in Minembwe since he inaugurated Minembwe’s mayor’s municipality and his deputy. On October 2, 2020, in front of various news media, Minister Lwasi Ngabo clarified that the commune of Minembwe is only 10 square kilometers (Kivu Times, 2020). Concerning the contestation on the Minembwe municipality’s size, Zebedee Gasore Sebaganwa, a Congolese official in Kinshasa’s central government, told Top Congo FM that his house is about three kilometers from the municipality boundaries (Top Congo FM, 2020). Minister Lwasi Ngabo’s statement was a response to numerous individuals, including local and national politicians, and social media and news platforms that exacerbated the new municipality’s size to further adding fuel to the current political upheaval in the region. Individuals who contested the Minembwe municipality’s creation indicated that the entity’s boundaries reached other territories, including Uvira and Mwenga. Minister Lwasi Ngabo asked everyone to avoid useless controversy. He also mentioned that the minister of defense and state minister of decentralization and institutional reforms were not present during the inauguration ceremony. He affirmed that he proceeded with the installation of the municipality in front of Governor Kasi. He continued explaining that the governor was the only official present during the ceremony. Minister Lwasi Ngabo also clarified that there were multiple events taking place in Minembwe.
State minister of decentralization and institutional reforms Azarias Ruberwa recently held a news conference to answer journalists’ questions about the matter. On October 14, 2020, Minister Ruberwa spoke to news media in Kinshasa (Bosolo na Politik Officielle, 2020). One of the critical points Ruberwa revealed to journalists is that he was not part of the peace delegation to different parts of the country led by Minister of Defence Aimé Ngoy Mukena. Instead, Minister Mukena made a special request and asked to be accompanied by Ruberwa. Mukena wanted Ruberwa to accompany him to Minembwe, not in other areas he was supposed to visit. Ruberwa agreed with what Lwasi Ngabo announced on October 2, 2020, that he was (Lwasi Ngabo) the official who inaugurated the Minembwe municipality, not Ruberwa.
However, during the second session of the National Assembly on the Ruberwa’s interpellation on October 27, 2020, it was revealed that Minister Lwasi Ngabo had changed what he declared to news media on October 2, 2020. He said Minister Ruberwa made his governor, Mr. Kasi, and he installs the commune of Minembwe. It is unknown what coercive methods Minister Ruberwa used to force the first citizen of South Kivu and his minister to perform what they did not want. Members of the Banyamulenge community still remember Lwasi Ngabo’s declaration towards them on October 8, 1996, where he, as the vice-governor, gave them one week to leave the Zairian territory or face serious consequences including death (Mapping Report, 2010).
Social and News Media Propaganda
The inauguration of Minembwe as a municipal entity instigated severe anger among millions of Congolese citizens. Numerous social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, were used by politicians to advance their political agendas. News outlets also became the source of such plans. Many observers have indicated that the motive behind the propaganda was to plan for the 2023 election. The propaganda in social and news media was based on the fact that the official installation of the Minembwe municipality means the balkanization of the country. In other words, individuals who opposed the municipal entity argued that Banyamulenge were not Congolese but Rwanda refugees whose objective is to create a state of their own within Congo. Some local politicians from South Kivu, such as Justin Bitakwira, claimed that Minembwe would become like Lesotho. It should be noted that the visit of United States Ambassador Mike Hammer alongside a United Nations representative aroused extremism sentiments towards Banyamulenge among other Congolese communities.
President Tshisekedi Dismissed Commune Minembwe Inauguration
Due to high pressure from national and provincial politicians and social media, during his regional summit on the Kivu conflict in Goma on October 8, 2020, President Felix Tshisekedi addressed the Congolese nation. He announced his decision to cancel the process of inaugurating Minembwe into a new administrative municipality. Many expressed that the President decided to dismiss the procedure to calm the controversy disseminated through social and news media. The President also announced that he would send a commission of experts to Minembwe to investigate the municipality’s boundaries. He specifically said the experts would come from other parts of the country, not to include both Kivus and Ituri.
Hate Speech and Declarations Against Banyamulenge
Using social and news media, many Congolese people worldwide, including political personalities, revealed their true sentiments towards the Banyamulenge community. Martin Fayulu Madidi is a former presidential candidate who lost the election to President Tshisekedi. He has repeatedly disclosed his hatred towards members of the Banyamulenge community. He is the self-proclaimed elected president of DRC. He is known as the coordinator of the Lamuka oppositional coalition. The term “lamuka” means “wake up” in Lingala. Other leading politicians of the partnership include Moise Katumbi, Adolphe Muzito, and Jean-Pierre Bemba. On October 9, 2020, Mr. Fayulu, the president of the political party, Engagement for the Citizenship and Development (ECIDé), held a press conference in Kinshasa. According to Kitsita (2020), Fayulu declared, “There is no tribe called Banyamulenge here in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is no land reserved for those people.” Fayulu added that if members of the Banyamulenge wanted to become Congolese, they should obey the country’s laws. Unfortunately, several other Congolese people share the same views with Fayulu. Fayulu’s claims are not different from those of Célestin Anzuluni Bembe, who, in the early 1990s, during the sovereign national conference, played a vital role in stigmatizing Banyamulenge as Rwandan refugees.
On January 19, 2020, President Tshisekedi addressed the Congolese diaspora in the United Kingdom that Banyamulenge were Congolese citizens. He said, “Banyamulenge are Congolese. They have been in DRC for generations. It is like you here who have acquired citizenship. It is abnormal not to consider you as such. I have spoken with them; I have asked them to show if they are Congolese through actions.”
Ruberwa’s Interpellation to the National Assembly
On October 19, 2020, State Minister Ruberwa appeared in the country’s National Assembly to explain how Minembwe was officially installed as a rural municipality. The author of the interpellation is Muhindo Nzangi Butondo, a national deputy from North Kivu and member of the Lamuka coalition led by Fayulu. An independent observer can guess the source of Muhindo’s motivation. The interpellation process began on October 2, 2020 (Yakitenge, 2020). Deputy Muhindo read his interpellation document in front of national deputies and accused Minister Ruberwa of his role in inaugurating the municipality. Ruberwa was also blamed for the presence of political, military, and diplomatic delegations in Minembwe. Then Minister Ruberwa explained what took place in Minembwe, especially what led to his visit. He said Minembwe was installed by South Kivu Minister of Interior Affairs Lwasi Ngabo, responsible for performing such a ceremony. As he had already done in front of news media, Minister Ruberwa explained that Minister Mukena requested his presence in Minembwe during his peace delegation. He also clarified that the visit of the United States ambassador in Minembwe, about 48 hours after his visit, had nothing to do with the installation of Minembwe into a rural municipality.
After Ruberwa explained himself, the National Assembly president, Jeannine Mabunda, allowed deputies to ask questions. The majority of deputies did not hesitate to reveal their positions towards the presence of the Banyamulenge community in the country, although this was not the reason for the interpellation. President Mabunda had to intervene and clarified several times the reason for the interpellation. For example, upon being given a chance to speak, Deputy Henriette Wamu Ataminia questioned the Congolese citizenship of the Banyamulenge community by referring to its members as Rwandan refugees who migrated into the country in 1961. Deputy Ataminia is the only female elected as a national deputy from President Tshisekedi’s party, the Democratic Union and Social Progress (UDPS), in Kinshasa (Hobiang, 2019). Deputy Eve Bazaiba Masudi accused Banyamulenge of claiming Congolese land after being given citizenship. Deputy Bazaiba is from the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) and has held key positions in the political party, including the general secretary (Radio Okapi, 2015).
On the other hand, a few and courageous deputies did not want to be dominated by their fellow deputies’ hatred and emotions. They stood up and rebuked sentiments towards discriminating against the Banyamulenge community. For instance, Deputy Genevière Inagosi Kasongo, former gender minister and a member of the Common Front for Congo (FCC), challenged her fellow deputies to go beyond their emotions and hatred to address the issue better. She supported President Tshisekedi’s proposal of sending a commission of experts to Minembwe. Deputy Lusenge Bonane Jerome, the elected national deputy from Lubero, rebuked the tribalism and inquired about finding out who was behind any illegal activities in creating the municipality of Minembwe. Deputy Juvenal Munubo of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) gave his testimony because he was part of the peace delegation in Minembwe. Deputy Munubo assured his colleagues and insisted on them not to be concerned about what took place in Minembwe. He added that there was no such thing as balkanization. He instead asked them to take the claim to the provincial level (South Kivu) because that is where the issue should be handled in the first place.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Being an aggregation of small, poor villages, Minembwe has recently soared and caught so many people’s attention, including internationally renown news media. Minembwe’s official installation into an administrative municipality on September 28, 2020, resulted in controversy. Minembwe was legally created. However, as the appendixes indicate, politicians at the South Kivu provincial level manipulated its creation. The entity was created when Minister Ruberwa was not part of the Kinshasa administration, but he was blamed for and accused of being the author. The Minembwe municipality was inaugurated by South Kivu Minister of Interior Affairs, Decentralization, Security, and Customary Affairs Lwabandji Lwasi Ngabo. However, Minister Ruberwa still took the blame to the point of explaining the matter in the National Assembly. The allegations against Ruberwa were because he was present in Minembwe during the ceremony. He explained the reason for his presence. Minister of Defense Aimé Ngoy Mukena requested to accompany him during his peace delation in the region. Some politicians, including Martin Fayulu, spread hatred towards Banyamulenge on social media. Fayulu even held a news conference and declared that the Banyamulenge community members were not Congolese nor possessed land in Congo. President Tshisekedi was pressured to dismiss the process of the installation of Minembwe into a rural municipality. The President decided to send a commission to Minembwe to investigate the issue.
Hatred and jealousy towards Banyamulenge are at the center of opposing the creation of Minembwe into an administrative entity. Hate speech from national deputies during the interpellation session of Ruberwa on October 19, 2020, revealed the source of unverified and biased allegations. An analysis has been put forward that the continuous discrimination against the Banyamulenge community members results from their patriotism towards the Zairian government in the early 1960s. They helped the Mobutu administration end the Mulele rebellion in the eastern part of the country. The Mulele rebellion included fighters from Babembe, Bafuliru, and Banyindu — the three tribes always active in fighting and forcing Banyamulenge out of the country.
No community or tribe will be able to deprive another of the rights to live in the Democratic Republic of Congo. All ethnic groups experience the negative consequences of waging war. Harsh and hatred-driven claims from politicians only contribute to ruining the lives of ordinary citizens. The Congolese government should take the initiative to reconcile its disputed people. Instead of helping one side harm another, the Congolese military should strive to bring long-lasting peace among different communities. Minembwe will always be part of the Congolese territory.
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Criminal Justice: Homeland Security
Helms School of Government
Virginia, United States