With elections in DR Congo due at the end of next month, there is a lack of attention on local conflicts. In Fizi territory in South Kivu, a tensions and violence between local tribes threatens to escalate.
An excluded minority
Commonly known as 'Pygmies', and locally called the 'twa', are one of the oldest ethnic groups in DR Congo. Traditionally they live basic lives in the bush, they are seperated from the modern world and they are denied rights. They live without access to healthcare, education and other means of development. Pygmies face discrimination at every level - from the national goverment down to the local population. The lack representation in government, national parliament and even local government.
War between Mupekenya and Mutomboki in Swima
At the beginning of August 2011, an intercommunity war emerged between two groups - the Mupekenya and the Mutomboki - which are drawn from the Pygmie and Bafuliru people respectivly. Tensions began after an attack by the Mupekenya group on the livestock of the Bafuliru people.
After the incident, the Mupekenya fighters attacked the Bafuliru community, raping women and burning their houses. The attacks forceed many Bafuliru to flee.
Now the Bafuliru have allied with Bembe, a neighbouring tribe. The two groups are preparing to launch a joint attack against the Mupekenya and their villages this month.
A minority likely to be massacred
This coalition of local tribes against the Pygmies and the risks a large-scale massacre could cause the extermination of these Pygmies. Exact figures are lacking, but the current local Pygmie population is estimated at between 2,000 to 5,000.
Towards the resolution of this conflict
With the situation in Fizi territory already very fragile, it is pressing that civil society, the government and the international community mobilise for the resolution of the tensions in these communities.
It is with this in mind that our Network of the Peace Builders of Congo (RBPC) wanted to know if it is possible to organise a meeting of tribal leaders to diffuse the conflict. After discussion with members of the community, it was noted that such a meeting would be beneficial to calm the tensions. A small budget was sent already by the network to Peace Direct. However the network thinks that other means are also necessary so that the network and other local and international partners can contribute to resolve this conflict.
Lack of outside attention
With elections fast approaching, and in a zone of high insecurity with attention elsewhere, it is clear that this conflict is not priority for the government. In the same way, the international community, which is allocating all its assistance towards the financing and the monitoring of the elections, is unlikely to shift its focus to this conflict.
It is in this manner that small conflicts are born in Congo, grow and become large enough to extend to the rest of the country.
We can also not ignore the possibility for other groups - like the Mai Mai, FDLR and FNL - could benefit from this occasion to make alliances and influences one or the other side in the area. Adding to the many movements of armed groups which seek alliances and "work" in a country that many do not hesitate any more to describe as a "sick" or "dead-yet-alive".
For us peacebulders, whose heart is close to the communities, the moment is serious and the time is quickly ticking towards a worsening situation in East Congo. If nothing is done, the situation is likely to return to the starting point of 1996.
While many people and organisations are fixing their eyes on the elections in DR Congo, for the RBPC helping the populations of Swima to solve their current disagreement is an urgency.
An african proverb says, "Don't rejoice when you see the hut of your neighbours in under fire, yours might be next".