STATE CRISIS AND THE EMERGENCE OF REFUGEE WARRIOR COMMUNITIES: A CASE OF THE KIVU REGION, EASTERN CONGO

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In spite of having attained independence from Belgium in 1960, the Democratic Republic of

Congo (formerly Zaire) has continuously experienced protracted and sporadic violent conflicts

over the last four decades. The 1994 Rwandan Genocide and the subsequent influx of almost one million refugees did not only amplify a humanitarian crisis but more significantly tilted the scale of ethnic balances in Eastern Congo. The main objective of the study is to examine the major question of Citizenship and its link to ethnicity. What defines a real Congolese? Should the definition be based on time of arrival on the territory? How can the central government define Congolese citizenship in respect of both civic and customary law? For Kinyarwanda-speaking inhabitants in the Kivus, East Congo the issue of citizenship is subsequently interwoven with ethnic identity which further determines right to customary power and territorial rights.

The refugee influx creates two major dilemmas: a state crisis for the Congolese government in the Kivu region where customary law continues to define political and social aspects of both natives and those perceived as non-natives. The manipulation of the Citizenship Law and with the absence of an adequate security apparatus the conflict continues to wreak havoc exemplified by dilapidated infrastructure, refugee influx, internal displacements and emergence of ethnic based armed groups (both internal and external).

Secondly, due to ethnic imbalances, fear of losing political authority and the quest for both local and national citizen recognition by different ethnic groups leads to taking up of arms by refugee communities and the local natives. The emergence of refugee warrior communities interrogates the conventional definition of a ‘refugee’. How has exile duration, political agency and ethnicity played a role in the conventional understanding of refugee communities specifically in the Kivu Region.  The prolonged exile nature of some refugee communities has led to the struggle to find a sense of ‘belonging’. However, refugee communities who resort to violent political activities causes a predicament for humanitarian agencies and by large the international community on how to classify refugee communities who embody and conspicuously exercise political rights. This research concerns itself with the fate of the Kinyarwanda-speaking inhabitants of Eastern Congo.

The study adopted identity theories of both instrumentalist and constructivist scholars to explain

the nature of two warrior refugee communities, the Banyamulenge and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda giving an understanding of the resolutions both groups have made in relation to the local indigenous community and the Congolese state. The civic /ethnic power dichotomy in the democratic Republic of Congo has played a significant role in influencing ethnic based tensions, ethnic-based armed groups  and has been expressed through the ‘bearers’ of power definition of ethnic citizenship and identity legitimization resulting to the emergence of refugee warrior communties.

The research employed the use of published government and policy documents, contemporary periodicals and books and articles written by authoritative scholars and organizations in the subject matter. The study findings revealed that the civic/ethnic power dichotomy continues to play a major role in the Kivu region conflict resulting to the emergence of refugee warrior communities The research concludes by discussing adequate measures to be undertaken by the Congo government, humanitarian agencies and the international community that will provide a durable solution to attaining an environment where post conflict building can flourish in the Kivu region and by large halt the recurrence of conflict and militarization of communities within the Great Lakes region. The research adds to the existing academic literature on refugee warrior communities thus allowing venture into the subject of citizenship status of refugees and the policies to be employed for the implementation of peace and sustainable development.

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PROF. AMB. MARIA NZOMO
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