Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Giant Demonstrations to Free Nkunda in Congolese Refugee Camps

Gen Nkunda, in the middle, speaking at his eastern Congolese compound on Jan 3, 2009 prior to being detained by the Rwandan military. (photo by G. Neinaber)

There have been large demonstrations in several Rwandan-run Congolese refugee camps in support of General Laurent Nkunda, chairman of the CNDP, after Rwandan authorities detained him under some sort of "house arrest", apparently deceitfully, while he was attending a joint meeting with them. This is according to people on the ground in contact with independent journalist Georgianne Nienaber, who has been staying on top of the evolving situation, as well as according to the BBC.

Nienaber has received several messages recently, which she has now conveyed to me. Here is one communique from one of the camps. I have modified the punctuation and capitalization to make it easier to read:

thanks Georgianna,

We do not know we will pay you back, but God knows to do it in a better way than us. I tried to get you some photos but I couldn't because of the police. No one can enter the 2 camps anymore. It (is) surrounded by soldiers and police, but refugees decided to go on demonstrating until they release their leader,and yes this has an important effect on the world.

Maybe with this, people will realize that Nkunda is not a criminal as everyone said, and everyone here does support NKunda, but people are scared. No one can say it aloud, people are angry but there is no place to express it. That (is) why we need you, Georginna.

I'll get some more news this evening. A journalist from suede (sic) reached the camp yesterday but the police catch her and they deleted all the photos she has taken.

May God bless you Georgianna


Here is a second dispatch sent to Ms. Nienaber:

”Release Major-General Laurent Nkunda MIHIGO”, was one of the main message of Congolese living in refugee camps in Byumba and Kibuye on Sunday January 25, 2009. In fact, more than 45,000 Congolese gathered in their camps in Byumba and Kibuye (Rwanda) for a peaceful march and a strong message to the Rwandan government, asking for the unconditional release of General Laurent Nkunda Mihigo was sent out.

In chanting the slogan of the day,''Release our Leader, we ask for our Leader'', the demonstrators from the Byumba camp, escorted by the police and the army gathered in their game plot before walking around the whole camp to express their dissatisfaction against the Government of Rwanda after the arrest of Major-General Laurent Nkunda Mihigo.

On the signs, it was writen:''We condemn the arbitrary arrest of Major General Laurent Nkunda”, “we have lost the hope of returning home" and “We denounce all the traitors of the nation; allies of the evil forces”. The peaceful march started at 11.00, was covered by some foreign media and ended at 15:00 without incident.

However, in Kibuye, the peaceful march started at 8:00 but was disrupted by a Police Officer who wanted to arrest a demonstrator. A fight between demonstrators and the police followed, the latter shot into the crowd injuring a girl in the arm. According to preliminary information, the girl was between life and death.

The angry demontrators beat the Police Offistate. The refugees’ anger continued until evening, when they burned all the houses of policemen guarding the camp. The Rwandan army intervened and several arrests are reported.


Finally, here is an excerpt from a BBC report confirming that massive demonstrations have indeed taken place in support of Nkunda.

Rwanda Puts Down Nkunda Dissent

(original at:

Security has been tightened at refugee camps in Rwanda after protests calling for rebel Laurent Nkunda's release.

Gen Nkunda, who claimed his fighters were protecting the Tutsi community in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was arrested by Rwanda last week.

A joint force of Rwandan police and soldiers put down the protests mainly by Congolese Tutsis, on Sunday - reportedly using live bullets.

Correspondents says demonstrations against the government are very rare.

A Tutsi like Rwanda's leaders, Gen Nkunda had guarded Rwanda's western flank against attacks from ethnic Hutu Interahamwe militias who fled there after the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

But in a change of policy, he was arrested after being invited by Rwanda to discuss a joint military force from both countries against Hutu forces.....(For the full article, click here.)

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