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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid