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Backgrounder Tutsi

Backgrounder Tutsi

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Published by: Daniel Álvarez Malo on Oct 28, 2013
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 1
In February 2007, the United States, through the Bureau of Population,Refugees, and Migration at the U.S. Department of State, will beginresettling about 600 Banyamulenge Tutsi from the Democratic Republicof the Congo. The refugees are survivors of a brutal attack in 2004 by Hutu extremists on unarmed Banyamulenge residents of the GatumbaRefugee Camp in Burundi, near the Congolese border. The massacrewas the latest episode in a 10-year history of violent persecution againstthe Banyamulenge Tutsi in the Congo.The Gatumba survivors will be joining a small community ofBanyamulenge Tutsi refugees who first began arriving in the UnitedStates in 2000. To help U.S. resettlement agency staff better understandand thus better assist the refugee newcomers, this Backgrounder pro-vides basic information about the Banyamulenge Tutsi in general andthe Gatumba massacre survivors in particular.
The Banyamulenge Tutsi
Survivors of the Gatumba Refugee Camp Massacre
COR Center Refugee Backgrouner No.1
Who Are the Banyamulenge?
Beforetheirdisplacement,theBanyamulengeTutsiwerepastoralistslivingintheHighPlateauxregionofSouthKivuprovince,intheeasternCongo.TheyaredevoutChristiansandspeakKinyamulenge,alanguagecloselyrelatedtoKinyarwandaandKirundi,thenationallanguagesofRwandaandBurundirespectively.BeforetheCongogainedindependencein1960,relationsbetweentheBanyamulengeandtheirneighborswereusuallypeaceful,butoccasionallyfraughtwithtensionoverlanduse.Inthemid-1960s,duringtheSimbarebellionthatbrokeoutinsoutheasternCongo,theBanyamulengeencounteredwarandforceddisplacementforthefirsttime,andmanyfamilieswereforcedtofleetheirhomesandvillagesfortownssuchasUvira.There,forthefirsttime,manywereexposedtotheamenitiesofmodernlifeandacquiredathirstforeducationthatpersiststothisday.Theywerenotabletoreturnhomeuntilabout1968.In1994,theRwandangenocide—inwhichHutuextremistsmurderednearly1millionTutsiinagovernment-organizedcampaignofviolence—spilledoverintotheCongowhenHutuperpetratorsofthegenocidefledacrosstheborderandincitedlocalCongolesetoattackTutsi.Sincethentherehavebeenregularmas-sacresagainstTutsiintheCongo.In1996,theBanyamulengeTutsirebelledagainstthecentralgovernment,whichsupportedtheiropponents.ThisbecamethecatalystfortheregionalwarthatoustedCongolesePresidentMobutuSeseSekofrompowerinMay1997andinstalledLaurentKabilaaspresident.InAugust1998,anewrebellioninvolvingBanyamulengebrokeoutintheEast.BanyamulengeandotherTutsiwhowerestrandedinKinshasa,
INSIdE:
2 The Nee for Resettlementin the Unite States2 Cultural Attributesof the Banyamulenge 4 The Gatumba Survivors:Resettlement Consierations6 Banyamulenge at a Glance
 
 
www.culturalorientation.net
 
COR Center Backgrounders provide key information aboutnew refugee groups for U.S. resettlement workers.The contents of this Backgrounder were developedwith funding from the Bureau of Population, Refugees,and Migration, United States Department of State.The Cultural Orientation Resource Center (COR Center)at the Center for Applied Linguistics works to increasethe capacity of overseas and U.S. refugee serviceproviders to orient refugees to their new Americancommunities and to inform U.S. communities aboutrefugee orientation and new refugee groups.
February 2007
 
2
Lubumbashi,andotherCongolesecitieswereattacked,killed,orimprisoned(insomecasesfortheirownsafety).From1999to2000,theUnitedStatesacceptedforresettlementsomeoftheseimprisonedfamilies,whohadbeenreferredtoU.S.refugeeofficialsbytheUnitedNationsHighCommissionerforRefugees(UNHCR).TheseindividualsbecamethecoreofthecurrentBanyamulengecommunityinAmerica. Afterthepeaceagreementin2003betweenthevariousrebelmovementsandtheCongolesegovernment,Congolese Tutsihopedthattheywouldnolongerbediscriminatedagainstandsubjecttoviolence.By2004,thesehopeshadevaporatedaselementsinthegovernmentconspiredwithextremistpoliticiansfromeasternCongotoincreasehostil-itytowardsTutsiintheEast.AfteramilitaryconfrontationinBukavuinMayandJune2004betweenrivalelementsintheunifiednationalarmy—onestronglyTutsi,theothernot—largenumbersofBanyamulengeandTutsicivilianswereforcedtofleeUvira,Bukavu,andsurroundingareasforsafetyinBurundiandRwanda. ThefamilieswhofledUvirainJune2004weretemporar-ilysettledbytheUNHCRinasmalltransitcampinGatumbainBurundi,withinwalkingdistanceoftheCongoleseborder.Mostofthecamp’s760residentswereBanyamulenge.OnAugust13,2004,aforceofarmedcombatantsfromtheCongoenteredGatumbacampandmassacred152residentsandinjured107.AlmostallofthevictimswereBanyamulenge;mostwerewomenandchildren.Theattackersweremem-bersof
Forces Nationales de Libération
(FNL),aHuturebelmovementknownforitsviolentattacksonTutsi.SomearmedCongolesegroupsknownas
Mayi-Mayi 
,aswellasremnantsoftheRwandan
 interahamwe
militiasthatarestillpresentintheCongo,mayalsohaveparticipatedintheattack. Aftertheattacks,UNHCRplacedthemostvulnerablevic-timsinaschoolneartheburnt-downcamp,movedtheinjuredtohospitalsinnearbyBujumbura,thecapitalofBurundi,andevacuatedthemostseriouslywoundedtoNairobi,Kenya.WhilesomesurvivorsweresettledbyUNHCRinotherrefu-geecampsinBurundi,includingMwaroandGasorwe,otherrefugeeswereunderstandablyfearfulofgoingtoanotherrefugeecampandchoseinsteadtoprovideforthemselvesinBujumbura.Somefamiliessplitup,withdifferentmembersgoingtodifferentplaces.
The Nee for Resettlement
in the Unite States
 
 TheresettlementoftheGatumbamassacresurvivorsis,inessence,ahumanitarianrescuemissionofagroupofpeopleforwhomtherearenoothergoodoptions. Therearethreeinternationallyacceptedsolutionstoarefu-geesituation.Thefirstandbestsolutionisfortherefugeestoreturntotheirownhomes,safelyandvoluntarily.Thesecond-bestsolutionisforthemtointegrateintothecommunitieswheretheyhavefled;theseareoftenplacesthatarefamiliartotherefugeesintermsoflandscape,language,andlifestyle. Thethirdsolutionisfortherefugeestoresettleinathirdcoun-try,suchastheUnitedStates.FortheGatumbamassacresurvivors,thefirsttwooptionsarenotpossible.TheycannotreturntotheirhomesbecauseoftheongoingviolenceagainstthemintheCongo—thosewhohavetriedtoreturnhavebeenattacked—andtheyfearfortheirlivesinBurundi.Theonlydurablesolutionistoresettletheminathirdcountry,suchastheUnitedStates.
Cultural Attributes
of the Banyamulenge
 TheBanyamulengewillbringwiththemtotheUnitedStatestheirownbeliefs,customs,andwayoflife.Whatarethesebeliefs,practices,andpastexperiences?Arethereanytradition-alpracticesthatmaybeconsideredunusualorevenillegalintheUnitedStates?Hereweexaminetheseandotherquestions.
Everyday Life
Beforetheybecamerefugees,theBanyamulengeledaruralexistencecenteredoncattlekeepingontheHighPlateaux,aruralareaoftheSouthKivuthatuntilthelast3yearslackedelectricity,telephones,orcars.Becausetheytendedtoliveinpermanentvillages,theyalsogrewcrops.Bycomparisonwiththeirneighbors,theywereperceivedaswealthybecauseofthevalueoftheircattle,butbyeveryothermeasure,theywerepoor—particularlyascattlestocksweredecimatedbywarandforcedmigrationafter1995.TodayBanyamulengecontinuetoliveontheHighPlateaux,buttheirsecurityisprecarious.Beginninginthe1960s,someBanyamulengesettledintownsineasternCongo,particularlyUviraandBukavu,wheretheywereexposedtomodernamenitiesandotherlanguagesandcustoms.Inthe1970s,someBanyamulengefamiliessettledinKinshasa,thecapitaloftheCongo,andinLubumbashi,thecountry’ssecondlargestcity,andsomeBanyamulengestudentscouldbefoundstudyingatuniversitiesaroundthecountry.
The Banyamulenge Tutsi
Survivors of the Gatumba Refugee Camp Massacre
 
 
www.culturalorientation.net
 
3
Religion
 TheBanyamulengeareaveryreligiouspeople.Perhaps80%areevangelicalorPentecostalProtestants,whileabout20%areCatholic.Theroleofreligionissocentraltothelifeofthecommunitythatpeopleoftensay,“Religionhasbecomeourculture.”Youngpeopletendtobeasdevoutastheirelders,ifnotmoreso.Akeyfeatureoftheirreligiouspracticeislengthysessionsofintenseprayer,sometimesaccompaniedbymusicand,morerarely,bydancing. TheBanyamulengebecameChristianlatecomparedtootherpeoplesinAfrica.Itwasnotuntiltheearly1950sthatthemajorityofthecommunityconvertedenmasse.TheywerenotconvertedbyWesternmissionaries,whoneverestablishedthemselvesontheHighPlateauxwheretheBanyamulengelived,butratherbecameChristianthroughexposuretothereligionfromCongoleseneighborswhohadadoptedSwedishPentecostalisminthe1920sand1930s.Intheearlydays,convertswereexpectedtoprovetheirconversionbyeatingtaboofoodssuchaschicken,andbyabstainingfromtobacco,dancing,traditionalpoetry,extra-maritalaffairs—evenfromsharingmealswithCatholicornon-ChristianBanyamulenge.Thesestrictureshavebecomelesssevereovertime,buttheBanyamulengeremainapeoplewhotakemoralconductveryseriously.
Family Relationships
 Theextendedfamilyisconsideredcloseandincludesauntsandunclesandtheirchildren,aswellasgreat-auntsandgreat-unclesandtheirchildrenandgrandchildren.Paternalcousinswilloftenrefertoeachotheras“brother”or“sister”andtreateachotheraccordingly.Paternalcousinsmaynotmarryoneanother,butmaternalonesmay. AmongtheBanyamulenge,theentireextendedfamilyplaysaroleinraisingchildren.Forexample,childrenmaybesenttolivewithdistantrelativesinordertogotoschool,sometimesformanyyears.Giventhelargenumberoforphansgeneratedbythewars,therearemanyBanyamulengechildrenbeingraisedbyauntsandunclesandsometimesevenmoredistantrelatives. Therearealsowiderconceptionsoffamilybasedonclanorsubclanthathavemoralclaimsonanindividual,thoughnotallclansorsubclanshavethesamelevelofinternalsolidarity.
Role of Women
Banyamulengewomentendtoremaininthebackground,bothinsidefamiliesandincommunitypolitics.NotableexceptionsareMariamuKinyamarura,awidelycelebratedprophetesswhodiedwhiletryingtofleetoRwandain1996; AngéliqueKegaNyakayange,animportantmilitarycom-mander;andNeemaNamadamu,ahandicappedwomanwhoworkedasassistanttotheMinisterforWomen’sAffairsinKinshasa.Inadditiontocookingandlookingafterchildren,Banyamulengewomenwillsometimesconducttheirownbusi-nessortradingactivitiestosupplementthefamily’sincome,notablyinmarketingagriculturalproduceorfabricfortradi-tionalwomen’sclothes.Contraceptionorfamilyplanningisnotpopular,andwomenoftenbearfiveormorechildren.FamiliescanbeverylargebyU.S.standards,afactthatposesseri-ouseconomicchallengesfornewarrivalsintheUnitedStates. TherearemanyBanyamulengewidowsbecauseofthewars,andtheirsituationisoftenveryprecarious.Whentheirchildrengetolder,theyareoftenclaimedbythedeceasedhusband’sfamilyandraisedbyhisbrothers.Awidowusuallyfindsitnearlyimpossibletoremarry.
Marriage Practices
Intherecentpast,itwasnotuncommonforfirstorsecondcousinstomarry,norwasituncommonforgirlstomarryandbeginbearingchildrenatage14or15.Withincreasedcon-tactwiththeoutsideworld,thisisbecominglessfrequent.Marriagesusedtobearranged,andwhiletheextendedfamilyisstillheavilyinvolvedinmarriagedecisions,individualsarenowadaysmoreorlessfreetochoosetheirownpartners.However,aBanyamulengemanwhodoesnotmarrybyage35or40isthoughttobehighlyeccentricandwillgetalotofgrieffromhisfamily.
Food and Dietary Restrictions
 Thepreferredmeatisbeefandsometimesliver,eatenwithastarchystaple,suchasathickpolentamadeofcorn.Banyamulengealsoeatbananas,sorghum,sweetpotatoes,rice,andbeans.Milkisespeciallyprized,asisslightlyfer-mentedmilk.BanyamulengeintheUnitedStatesoftendrinkbuttermilkstraightfromthecarton.Inthepast,Banyamulengedidnoteatfishorchicken,thoughnowadaysmostpeopledo,particularlythosewhohavelivedawayfromtheHighPlateaux—asmostoftheGatumbasurvivorshave.Christianconvertswouldeatthesefoodstoprovethattheyhadbrokenwith“pagan”ways,butsomeoldpeoplearestilluncomfortableeatingthem.
Forms of Leadership
 TherearethreetypesofleadersincontemporaryBanyamulengesociety.Themostimportantarethereligiousleaders.Thesecondandthirdgroupsarepoliticalandmilitaryleaders.Bothoftheseemergedduringtheturmoilofthepast
COR Center Refugee Backgrouner No.1

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