Understanding the Longstanding Conflict between the Banyamulenge and "Indigenous" Tribes in Eastern DRC: Why Do Neighbors Struggle to Coexist?




Londoni, Bernard Jefferson

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Literature provides widespread support that intergroup contact (Pettigrew 1997, Davies, et al. 2011) and intergroup empathy (Mazziotta, et al. 2014) play a positive role in improving relations and fostering coexistence. The case I explored in Uvira, of Eastern DRC in 2016 clearly contrasts evidence from existing literature that links intergroup contact and empathy with positive intergroup relations. This research focused on understanding intergroup struggle to coexist peacefully. I used the case study inquiry strategy interviewing 40 individuals (20 from each community) in order to generate in-depth understanding of the complex issues surrounding the Uvira conflict and provide more insights into the gaps that exist for this studied case (Crowe et al. 2011, 1). This research found that both intergroup contact and empathy between the Banyamulenge, Bavira and Bafuliru (Bavibafuliru) have had little effects in fostering coexistence. Research participants stated that contacts between members of these communities are superficial, ironic and hypocritical. Participants also indicated that empathic feelings expressed by members of each group toward the other are insincere, ironic and hypocritical. They cited that members of these groups continue to see each other as enemies, lacking trust, and express hatred and disdain for one another. I used a framework to analyze the role that other concepts such legitimacy, power, trust, forgiveness, common identity, tolerance, interdependency, and social boundaries play in this conflict to facilitate or impede peaceful coexistence. I also developed a contact model to be used to mitigate conflict in the area. This research found that the uncertain status (citizenship issue) of the Banyamulenge and their access to power - that is viewed by their neighboring ethnic groups as illegitimate - were ones of the main challenges for peace efforts in Uvira. Factors hindering or that could facilitate coexistence are discussed; also discussed include the contributions and limitations of the research, implications of the results and recommendations for future research as well as the author's reflection on the conflict. I gained not only a better understanding of what contributes to the lack of coexistence in this area, but also develop insights into similar phenomena occurring in other parts of the world, especially the Great Lakes Region of Africa, where issues of coexistence have been studied and clear answers continue to be searched.



Psychology, African studies, Political science, Banyamulenge, Coexistence, Contact, Empathy, Legitimacy, Uvira