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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid