From 10-11 August 2013, the Gatumba Refugees Survivors Foundation is hosting the 9th annual Gatumba Massacre Memorial Gathering to commemorate the memory of the hundreds of innocent Congolese refugees, who were brutally attacked at the Gatumba Refugee Camp in Gatumba, Burundi. This event is open to the public and will be held in Des Moines, IA. The purpose of this event is to request justice, to provide healing to those affected by the massacre, to draw public awareness to the ongoing plight of those still suffering in the Congo and to promote a spirit of reconciliation.
During the night of 13 August 2004, in the Gatumba Refugee Camp, armed factions mercilessly slaughtered 166 unarmed Congolese refugees, the majority whom were defenseless women and children from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), at the United Nations-run refugee camp in Burundi. The 166 who lost their lives, the additional 116 who were injured, and their families traumatized that bore witness to this atrocity, were targeted based solely on their ethnicity.
Those attacked were almost exclusively members of the Banyamulenge people group, a Congolese Tutsi minority, though a handful of some moderate Bembe were attacked as well. Prior to the attack, the Gatumba Refugee Camp, located just a few miles from the DRC, provided refuge to hundreds of Banyamulenge who had been forced from their homes in the southern Kivu region of the DRC by various terrorist and militia groups, such as Interahamwe, FNL and the Mai Mai Militia. Innocent civilians continue to suffer a wide variety of injustices and persecutions in this forgotten and ignored portion of the world. The Gatumba massacre is just one of many massacres that have occurred and continue to occur in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Since that horrific night, some of the Gatumba Survivors and their families have been relocated to safety in communities across the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia, though many still live in fear and famine in DRC Burundi, Uganda and Kenya.
Each year, on the anniversary of the Gatumba Massacre, survivors from across the country gather together in a convenient location for a memorial ceremony. This event helps survivors and their families maintain old bonds and forge new connections, pay respects to those who were murdered, and provide a path for the continued healing of the many emotional wounds born by most Gatumba Massacre survivors. It is an opportunity for both survivors and other refugees, to acquire insight to help them to lead a more productive and successful life in their new U.S resettled home.
On a greater scale, the survivors use the memorial as a platform to draw awareness and to encourage the international community to bring the authors of the Gatumba massacre such as Agathon Rwasa to justice. This is also an opportunity for everyone, regardless of background, to peacefully come together against massacres, genocides, rape, torture and discrimination still rampant in the Congo. This event is a call for justice and equal protection. Also, survivors use this opportunity to seek reunification with their family members, as many families are still torn apart. The violence, torture, and discrimination, against innocent civilians in the Eastern DRC that continues to this day, must be stopped. Everyone in the Congo deserves the same basic human dignity and equality that we all enjoy in the U.S. We request your assistance to be the voice for the many voices silenced in this conflict and the voiceless still suffering in silence in this forgotten and ignored side of the world.