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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More