News / Africa

Armed Groups Impose 'Gun Law' in Eastern DRC

Members of the Nyatura militia at Mushake in eastern DRC, Nov. 2012. (Nick Long/VOA)
Members of the Nyatura militia at Mushake in eastern DRC, Nov. 2012. (Nick Long/VOA)
Nick Long
People who have fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern conflict zone say the armed groups that control their villages have imposed a new rule: each family must buy a firearm from the local armed group, or face unpleasant consequences. 

There are many firearms in Masisi territory, the part of eastern Congo that saw the country's worst inter-ethnic violence last year.  Now, according to people who fled the territory, gun ownership has been made virtually compulsory in some of the villages.

These displaced people, who are from various tribes and many of whom are ethnic pygmies, are living at a camp at the village of Shasha on the fringes of Masisi territory.

Conditions at the camp are basic.  A church service was being held outdoors.

Adolphe Bonane is the so-called president of the camp, and a pygmy.

He said that people who tried to go back to their villages and work their land were told by the armed groups that they must buy weapons.

A group of about dozen camp residents confirmed it.  Nyirumba Vuleta was one of them.

Vuleta said he was harassed when he went back to his village. The armed men controlling the area told him that because he had a field, he must have a gun, and if he did not obtain a gun he must leave.

According to camp president Bonane, there was a third option, but it amounted to slave labor.

He said the reason villagers were forced to buy weapons was so that they could defend their villages if they were attacked. 

Villagers who don’t buy weapons were ordered to work, without pay, as guards. If there is any further disagreement with the armed group, they face the possible loss of their land.

The gun-buying rule was introduced in May in Masisi and Walikale territories, and the armed groups involved are the Nyatura and the Raia Mutomboki.

As of April, said Bonane, you could buy an AK-47 assault rifle in these districts for just $25 or $30.

Politicians and some army officers were supplying these weapons, he said, but he and many others refused to arm themselves because they feared being mistaken for rebel fighters.

Bonane's group named several politicians who distributed weapons, among them Jean-Bosco Sebishimbo, a deputy in the North Kivu provincial parliament.

Sebishimbo denied the accusation. “It makes me laugh,” he said.  He blamed “powerful individuals” for slandering him due to his political popularity.

“Certainly there are politicians involved in distributing guns to armed groups,” he said, but he couldn't say which politicians, except for those who have proclaimed their affiliation to the M23 rebel group.

The civil society association of North Kivu said it has heard that armed groups were forcing people in Masisi to buy weapons.  The association’s vice president, Omar Kavota, said he would soon be revealing which politicians were distributing firearms.

A source at the United Nations mission in Congo said an investigating team would go to Shasha to investigate the claims.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs