• fidelesebahizi

The Significance of Col Makanika’s Heroism in the Great Lakes Region

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

Colonel Makanika left all he had in the Congolese army (position, salary, etc.) to go protect his community that is being persecuted.

Colonel Michel Rukunda Makanika

After losing hope and not knowing where to go because of war, being killed, dismantled, and looted for Banyamulenge, Colonel Michel Rukunda also known as Makanika, from the Banyamulenge tribe, was very concerned about these inhumane acts. Then he decided to leave his position in the Congolese army as well as his family for the sake of defending his innocent tribe that was about to perish. We will use the name Makanika throughout this article.

“We will fight for our rights to the last drop of our blood,” Col. Makanika.

Some of the Things he Left Behind to go Help his People

It's not easy to use mere words to explain the importance of Col Makanika to leave everything behind for the sake of defending his tribal people. However, to avoid the ignorance of what this mighty hero has done, we attempted to explain it to the best of our knowledge though words are not enough.

He Gave Himself as a Sacrifice

One important thing that Col Makanika sacrificed when he decided to leave the Congolese army was his own life. This was not the first time he had sacrificed his life. He had served the Congolese army for many years and had fought numerous wars. He's not the only one from his tribe who had joined the army, but many of his colleagues are still in the army and others had passed away. This article is mainly based on Col Makanika's defection.

Several news articles and talks have been broadcast on Col Makanika's defection. According to some comments from different people, they did not hesitate to indicate that only God should be praised in Makanika’s defection. God uses people and those who prove themselves to be braver than others should deserve praise. I don't see anything wrong with it. In the history of Christianity, I have never heard of anyone who was not praised for doing what others could not do just because they were humans. God has His own place that He does not share with people. God is God and heroes are heroes.

Col Makanika has given himself as a sacrifice once again for his people. He did not go play in those mountains, as some might have sounded saying that he went to make Mai Mai militia scared and make President Tshisekedi understand that Banyamulenge needed help. Col Makanika understands the power of a bullet, that it does not choose whom to kill. He understands the seriousness of the war he had put himself in. He was not sent by people to show himself off in order to convince others the problem his tribe is going through.

He Abandoned his Family

Not because he is an irresponsible father and husband, Col Makanika did not hesitate to risk the wellness of his family for the sake of defending his people. To say that he put his people first would not be a lie. It was confirmed that he did not even say goodbye to his wife and children.

He Abandoned His Position In The Army as Well as his Salary

Col Makanika was the second commanding officer at the Bawa military base in Walikale, in the province of North Kivu. Although he had the rank of colonel, the position he had is normally held by a general. There are many instances at different Congolese military bases where generals hold the second commanding position. This means that his position was equivalent to the rank of general even though he was colonel. Those who understand how promotion works in the Congolese army confirm that there was a high possibility for Col Makanika to promote to the rank of general had he not leave the army.

Who would not compare leaving an army with such a position to a great heroism? Who would despise such a thing? He had a nice job, he had the honor, but he decided to leave these and other many things we don't know for the sake of defending his people that was about to be exterminated. This could be compared to how Moses of the Bible refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, but chose to be mistreated along with his people (Hebrews 11:24-25).

Besides leaving his honor, Col Makanika left his salary. This man's salary was the same salary a second commanding officer at the military region level receives. It was a decent income.

To conclude, Col Makanika's defection means that the Banyamulenge people have found a savior who is at the same time their own son. Within the Congolese army there are troops from the Banyamulenge tribe, but at this time of the year 2020, Col Makanika was found to be the only one at his level who has decided to leave everything behind and go face a mistreatment along with his people. It should be noted that he has joined others at the defensive front, namely, Twirwaneho (literally means “let’s defend ourselves”). These are civilians who had been defending themselves at least since April of 2017, to prevent the extermination of the Banyamulenge tribe in their motherland, in the region known as high mountains of Mulenge, in the province of South Kivu, Eastern Democratic of Congo.

The Meaning of Col Makanika's Defection to the Congo

After Congolese officials learned that Col Makanika was no longer in the army, that he had gone to help his people defend themselves, they panicked, because of how he is known to be a great fighter. His defection created a shock within the army and other government officials.

President Tshisekedi's Speech in London, U.K.

Col Makanika's defection was made public in the beginning of January 2020. Hearsay was all over the place about his desertion, but through international media, such as the Voice of America (VOA), department of Kinyarwanda/Kirundi and Kiswahili, Makanika later confirmed his departure from the army.

Some have linked Makanika's desertion with President Tshisekedi's speech in London on January 20, 2020, when he was attending a summit between African countries and the United Kingdom. During his meeting with the Congolese diaspora in London, President Tshisekedi declared that the Banyamulenge people are Congolese and that other Congolese citizens were encouraged to love them as their sisters and brothers. The President added that when he was in Beni, North Kivu, he found troops from the Banyamulenge tribe who were at a hospital after being injured on the side of the Congolese army at the battle with militia groups in that region of the country.

Tshisekedi's speech instigated those who already were inclined to the idea of denying the autochthon of Banyamulenge in Congo, arguing that they are instead refugees from Rwanda and should be kicked out of the country and go back there.

Meanwhile, the Banyamulenge people have been accusing the Congolese government of supporting their killers. It has repeatedly been reported that the Congolese army has been passively involved in supporting the Mai Mai militia to attain their goal, which is to force the Banyamulenge tribe into exile. Congolese troops, for example, have been observed numerous times helping the Mai Mai to plunder Banyamulenge's cattle.

Instability Among Mai Mai militias

Col Makanika's defection has also created an instability among Mai Mai militia in the Eastern region of Congo. Mai Mai militia is made up of armed groups from different tribes, namely, Babembe, Bafulero, and Banyindu. The Mai Mai are fighting alongside with armed groups from neighboring countries, such as Burundi, among them RED-Tabara, FOREBU, and FNL-Palipehutu. These Burundian groups are fighting to overthrow the Nkurunziza administration, the current Burundian government.

It has been reported that Burundian armed groups are helping Mai Mai to force Banyamulenge into exile so they could have a free land to prepare their war against the Burundian government. With no evidence, several media, local people, and local officials in the region have all claimed that all these armed groups are backed by the current government of Kigali, Rwanda. The same sources have indicated that Rwandan armed groups, such as FDLR and P5, are in this region with a plan to topple the Kagame regime.

The Meaning of Col Makanika's Desertion in the Great Lakes Region of Africa

The political mood in the Great Lakes region (Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda) changed as soon as it was made official that Col Makanika had deserted his army with a purpose of defending his people that was at the edge of being wiped out. This insecurity among politicians in the region was revealed through online news media in the region, specifically in Rwanda, namely, Igihe and Rushyashya. These two news sources rushed in publishing news articles accusing Col Makanika to be the head of Gumino (a militia group led by a member of Banyamulenge) in order to assist P5 of Kayumba Nyamwasa to overthrow the current government of Rwanda. These lies were proven wrong through Banyamulenge media outlets as well as Makanika himself through the international radio, the Voice of America.

It should be noted that when the killings of Banyamulenge began, when their cattle began to be plundered, when their houses and fields began to be burned down, the above Rwandan online news outlets did not report anything in an attempt to encourage anyone to help them. This was an indicator that these media were not happy for the Banyamulenge rescue.

What did not make sense, however, was what Radio Itahuka broadcast from Washington, D.C. through its YouTube channel. Its broadcasting about Col Makanika was shocking to the Banyamulenge community, because its main presenter, Mr. Serge Ndayizeye, reported that Col Makanika was on the Rwandan government's mission to kill Banyamulenge. It should be noted that this radio belongs to the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), an overseas political party that is on the opposition side against the Rwandan government. Among RNC leaders is General Kayumba Nyamwasa. This report was later refuted by Banyamulenge and Col Makanika himself through international radio stations, such as the Voice of America.

Another indicator that the Great Lakes region was disturbed by Col Makanika's desertion was that after all these rumors that he had gone on a hidden mission, the Rwandan online newspaper Igihe at the second time on January 22, 2020, published another fake article, saying that Col Aaron Nyamushebwa, a member of the Banyamulenge community, had deserted the national army as well and joined Col Makanika. This fake article was proved wrong by online newspaper, such as Imurenge.com, whose reporter had spoken with Col Nyamushebwa via a telephone call. After Imurenge.com's article, Igihe was ashamed and corrected its previous fake article.

It was later revealed that Igihe had relied on a fake article that was published by Kivu Press, an online newspaper, according to unverified sources, whose owner is from the Babembe community (those who hate the Banyamulenge community so much). Unknown if Igihe and Kivu Press are in a partnership in a hidden plan to exterminate Banyamulenge.

A few days later, the online newspaper Bwiza, up to this hour nobody knows the location of its headquarters, possibly located in Rwanda, published a fake article on February 5, 2020, claiming that there was an army general from the Banyamulenge community, specifically of the Gumino group, who was captured while fighting. You can find an article Congo We Stand! wrote refuting Bwiza's article here. All these are indicators that the Great Lakes region of Africa was in a great shock after Col Makanika had deserted the Congolese army.

We have recently learned that the arrival of Makanika in the high and middle mountains of Uvira and Itombwe has revived the hearts of Banyamulenge, Twirwaneho in particular, who had been wondering and did not know what would happen to them if they did not have such a hero to rescue them. Those groups who had been attempting to exterminate or kick Banyamulenge out of the country have now weakened since Col Makanika's arrival in the area. Banyamulenge can now say they have hope, a hope to live again.

Fidele Sebahizi

PhD Student

Criminal Justice: Homeland Security

Helms School of Government

Liberty University, Virginia, United States


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