An Unforgettable Sunday

By Muletere Innocent

It was on a Saturday in my native village called Kigoma, a village located in the Congo’s South Kivu province, specifically in Uvira territory, when a group of armed people who call themselves Banyamulenge, Tutsi from Rwanda, came to displace us. They came from the Uvira territory’s highland, where they moved to when they were displaced from Rwanda a long time ago. In the highlands, they were welcomed by the natives of those places and were allowed to live with other community members. From the community members, they got food, shelter, and other necessities and they were doing fieldwork in the natives’ fields to get something for their survival. Because of their desire to rule and own land, they owned guns that they used to harm people in our village and they are still using them to fight against natives.

At 7 pm, while my parents, siblings, and I were having supper and some other families were still preparing it, we heard two shots of a gun not far from our village. Everyone stopped eating and my parents decided to take us all to spend the night in the bush. They thought of taking us there because of a similar incident that happened in another village in the same territory. In that village, several shots of guns were heard. People in my village could hear the shots in the distance. As the result, some people lost their lives, and properties like cows, goats, clothes, etc., were taken by those who came to loot the village. As my parents knew that even looters kill, they took such a decision.

My father and mother started gathering some clothes, food items, a mattress, and fewer of my fathers’ school documents. As I was ten years old, studying in grade 4 and my elder brother was 12, my father gave me some clothes and gave other clothes to my elder brother who had to carry heavier luggage than mine. My father carried our young sister and his documents, and my mother took the mattress and some food items. Then we and the majority of the village families ran away and spent that night in the nearest bush. Unfortunately, some people thought that those were thieves who wanted to steal only something from community members and decided to spend the night in their homes. Some of those who ran away came back to spend the night in their homes because they did not hear other shots apart from those two ones. On the same night, the Tutsi surrounded our village and entered it. On Sunday at 4 am, they started shooting everywhere. The community members who decided to spend the night in the village had no possibility to run away since the Tutsi spent the whole day in the village looting and killing people.

At least 7 people lost their lives that Sunday. In an intercession room at our church, the Reformed Protestant Church, there were nine people who were there praying to God. One of them, Ngunga, was a choirmaster. Three weeks before the incident, he told his choir members that he would travel and wouldn’t come back. The choir members did not understand what Ngunga was telling them or meant. They thought it was a joke and did not understand that he was predicting the future. When the Banyamulenge attained the intercession room whose windows and door were closed, they shot several bullets through the window. Unfortunately, the choirmaster and another woman called Sina got shot and passed away immediately. The rest of the people who were not shot ran away after the Banyamulenge had left and they were the ones who informed other community members about the death of those two people. Apart from these people, one woman, Sulina, and her son aged 4 were killed. On Saturday, she also ran away but decided to come back to spend the night in her house; thinking that there could be no problem. The Tutsi people killed them in her house using a knife when they entered it. Besides, there were other two men who were shot in their homes and another one who was trying to run away.

Safora, a woman who was living next to us lost one of her baby twins aged one month in the bush. She had two twin girls. One of them suffered from fever in the forest. There was no hospital or medicine to treat her. The family had not even had a single Panadol to treat the daughter. She died of fever and she was buried in the bush. People always mourn for at least four days in the village but there was no way to do so because of insecurity.

Bura, a primary school teacher, escaped death that Sunday. He was a tall and thin man who could collaborate effectively with his co-workers. Bura was living at the end of the village and could do some fieldwork in the afternoon. Like some community members, Bura also believed that the shots of a gun community members heard were from thieves. He did not leave his place on Saturday night but spent the night in his house. His wife and children told him to go with them but he did not accept. When the Tutsi people started shooting in the early morning, he failed to leave the house. He remained in his bedroom under the bed. The Tutsi people came to his house and entered his bedroom. When he heard them, he was afraid and like a dead person. They removed the mattress which was on the bed but did not see him because of the mat which was under the mattress since they did not remove it. Bura left his house when the killers went away with everything they needed, including the mattress.

The Tutsi people looted the community’s properties. They took several things such as money, mattresses, clothes, etc. They destroyed or burned other things they were unable to go with or carry. They also took the community livestock. It included the community cows and goats. At that time, my grandfather had 15 cows. All of them were taken that Sunday. He remained with no cow. That caused him to feel so bad and he was about to die of pressure. They killed other cattle and burned some community houses which were covered in graces.

Later in the evening when the village was quiet and the shots had stopped, some men decided to go to the village to check. They saw that the Tutsi had gone; they had looted many community properties and destroyed others, and killed some community members. Because of the fear and lack of enough time, they buried the deceased people in a common pit/grave. They had to do so and go back to the bush to let us know the situation or what happened. They came back and told us the situation. That was the names or number of people who were killed, the cattle that were taken, and some of the destroyed community properties, including houses covered in graces. Since that day, no one came back to our village to live in it but people, especially men were coming to collect their remaining objects. Then, we were displaced to different villages in the Uvira territory. In those villages, my people had to adapt to the new life with limited resources, including the shortage of food and shelter.

24 February, 2023