A Study of Rivalry between Neighboring Ethnic Groups in Eastern DRC: Is Co-existence Possible after Years of Polarization Following the 1996 War?




Londoni, Runyerera B

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This study explored the perceptions, differences, and narratives that the Bavibafuliru, and the Eastern DRC Tutsis communities living in the eastern DRC hold about the rivalry between them. The study also went further exploring the perceptions and narratives of the diaspora of the Bavibafuliru on the same issue. It was my hope to understand each group‟ perceptions and narratives in order to have a clearer picture of how my study would approach a framework for a proper intervention to resolve the conflict or manage tensions between the Bavibafuliru and Eastern DRC Tutsis communities. Historically, the Bavibafuliru and the Eastern DRC Tutsis lived together side by side for decades, though there were some issues dividing them related to land dispute and appropriation. However, events that took place especially the 1996 war of liberation led by the late President Laurent Desire Kabila escalated the conflict between the two communities after the Eastern DRC Tutsis were accused of joining hands with Kabila‟s rebellion movement that was supported by foreign troops from Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi. My study explored not only rivalries between the two communities but was more interested in finding if co-existence between the two people was possible especially following the level of hatred and polarization that was seen following the 1996 war. The study used social, and identity theories to make sense of the conflict dynamics between the Bavibafuliru and the Eastern DRC Tutsis. Through my interviews and the questionnaires that I distributed, the study found that some hypothesis including conflict theoretical perspectives from scholars were confirmed while others were disconfirmed given the reality and uniqueness of the case that explained the dynamics of the rivalries between the Bavibafuliru and the Eastern DRC Tutsi. The social and identity theories that I used helped me in coming up with some preliminary recommendations and possible explanations of theories and intervention strategies that could address the ongoing internal conflict between the two communities if and only if they are well followed. My study found that both communities have expressed concerns of issues related to the citizenship, land or territorial appropriation, killings and power. The study also acknowledged the major differences in perception between participants living in homeland vs. those in the diaspora. The Major finding in the study was that the Bavibafuliru from the diaspora were less interested in co-existing with the Eastern DRC Tutsis while Bavibafuliru living in the eastern DRC were open for a new beginning, a new world of cooperation, co-existence and expressed the sense of embracing forgiveness. Reconciling the perceptions of the Bavibafuliru form the diaspora and those living in the homeland with regard to co-existence and recognition of the Eastern DRC Tutsis as members of their society was very challenging. I hope to conduct part two of this study to explore more issues and understanding that would help develop a framework unique to the case that could lead the two communities to create a common national identity, which will help them live in peace and harmony as they used to before the 1996 liberation war.



Bavibafuliru, Eastern DRC Tutsis, Possible causes of conflict, Ethnic hatred, Addressing the healing, Possible solutions