Jean Paul Rubyagiza – DR Congo – Heroes for peace

3 Oct

Those that were killed were travelling on route to the Plateau to undertake humanitarian work with local schools in Itombwe. They had no other task than this.

A posting from Children in Crisis’ partners in DRC, Eben Ezer Ministry International, to mark the three-year memorial of the tragic murder of our friends and colleagues.

By Jean Paul Rubyagiza

Our colleagues who were killed on 4th October 2011 are heroes for peace and sustainable development in the region.

The date of October 4, 2011 remains anchored in all our memories. For staff at Eben Ezer and at Children in Crisis, for the widows and orphans, and friends of those we lost, our memories of the tragedy which occurred that day are still immensely painful.

Those that were killed were travelling on route to the Plateau to undertake humanitarian work with local schools in Itombwe. They had no other task than this. As is well known, the work of Eben Ezer and that of our partners, Children in Crisis, is for all communities without discrimination on any grounds.

As we mark the three year memorial of the tragedy, the victims we commemorate today are:

 

Eraste

Eraste

Eraste Rwatangabo

Head of the Education Program at Eben Ezer, a man of open heart, always happy, a friend of everyone, enterprising, eager to make a positive change in everything he did, committed to contributing to the development of all communities. He gave himself body and soul to fight against all forms of discrimination (ethnic, domestic, family, tribal, gender) and across the different communities of the region. He laid the foundation for a lasting peaceful coexistence in the selection of schools to be built under the education programme, ensuring that they were built in multi-ethnic communities. Unfortunately, he was killed simply because of his membership of the Banyamulenge community. With a BA in History, Eraste was a former history teacher in DR Congo and Burundi (1985-1996), Head of Provincial Division of Primary Secondary and Vocational Education in South Kivu (199-1998), Field Officer at ICRC Bukavu (1998-2004), Head of the Liaison Office in Minembwe for the independent Electoral Commission in DR Congo (2006) and finally, Education Program Manager (2007-2011) at Eben Ezer Ministry International based in Uvira.

 

Tite

Tite

Tite Kandoti Rugama

Team leader within the Education team of Eben Ezer and Children in Crisis, Tite was highly organised, he maintained impeccable records and was very dedicated to his work. He was warmly regarded by principals, teachers, students and parents. It was clear to all that he loved his job very much; and would always go the extra mile, organising additional training sessions during the monitoring visits he undertook of teachers to help them master classroom techniques and teaching concepts they may not have well understood during the residential teacher training.

 

Gifota (in yellow)

Gifota (in yellow) delivering training

Gifota Byondo

With a BA in Biology, Gifota served as a Principal of a Secondary School (1981-1987), a Professor in Burundi (1989-1994), he was in charge of research at ADEPAE Bukavu (1998-2000) and finally trainer of teachers and principals of primary schools across the Plateau territories of Fizi , Uvira and Mwenga with Eben Ezer and Children in Crisis. Gifota always gave his time to patiently guide and advise school principals; he respected and listened to everyone regardless of which community they belonged to, which family or tribe they hailed from.

 

Musore (in red) never let the route defeat him

Musore (in red) never let the route defeat him

Musore Fidele

An exceptionally experienced Driver who could navigate unimaginably bad roads during all seasons. Musore gave himself to his work. He knew that the success of our education programmes depended on his ability to navigate the roads. He never left his work station, always had a smile and regardless of the weather or the lateness of the hour, was always prepared.

Reverend Pastor Ngeremo Amedee

A member of the Board of Eben Ezer, he did theological studies and was a Pastor of the 5th CELPA Church. He was much loved by his parishoners and known for his spirit of non-discrimination and compassion. He was responsible for the ecclesiastical district in the highlands (2006 and 2O11) and member of the Board of Eben Ezer (2000 – 2011).

Opiyo Gitando: stepfather to the driver, Musore, pastoralist.

Nabisage Giselle: a young female student at the start of her academic career.

Two people, Antoine Munyinginya and Mrs Roda were both seriously injured, but survived the attack. It is thanks to specialized treatment and the amazing care given in England by Doctors and Nurses at the Alexandra Hospital that Antoine survived the attack and is well on the road to recovery.

Eben Ezer extends our sincere thanks and immense gratitude to all those who supported us at our time of need. We are thinking in particular of our partners, Children in Crisis and of individuals, James Thomspon, who stood by us. We are thinking of the countless other people, strangers to us, who were touched to help.

 

Our on-going call for Justice:

Despite enduring efforts to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice, this has so far eluded us.  Appeals continue to be made with the Military Prosecutor, High Court Prosecutor’s Office, Office of MONUSCO (Human rights and Humanitarian Affairs), National Police and OCHA, among others. We are encouraged by the initiatives of the Military Prosecutor of Uvira, with support from the Office of the United Nations (MONUSCO), to conduct investigations at the site where the attack took place in Kalongwe, although the results of this survey are not yet published.

We urge the Congolese Government to recognise the commendable acts of humanitarian heroes and engage effectively in the search for the perpetrators of this despicable crime. The silence observed from the various State Departments seems to us to dismiss the severity of the crime and feed the culture of impunity.

Within the humanitarian sector, the massacre is regularly discussed. Civil society is in no way divided – the attack that took place on 4 October, 2011 was of innocent people undertaking a humanitarian mission who were killed on the grounds of their ethnicity.

We urge all human rights activists to continue to demand justice, and to follow the logic of Human Rights Watch, who reported the massacre, when demanding that:

“The Congolese government should not use new abuses in the region as an excuse to ignore atrocities elsewhere’’ Bekele, Director of the Africa Division at Human Rights Watch.

“To ensure that the perpetrators of appalling crimes are brought to justice is a necessary part of broader efforts to end abuses in the troubled region. Although there have been other incidents of ethnic violence in the region, the attack on October 4, 2011 was significant because of the obvious ethnic grounds and the large number of casualties, according to Human Rights Watch.

Tragically, our colleagues were victims of this massacre because of their ethnicity, yet they were agents of peace. They walked the mountains in all weathers, across all terrains. They crossed major rivers and swamps, climbed steep mountains, for all children of different tribal communities to live in peace and have access to quality education. They knew education was the key that unlocks the door to a better future for children, the Congolese nation, why not the whole world.

Dare we to suggest that this crime was part of a logic to discourage and halt development across the Plateau Territories of Fizi, Uvira and Mwenga, we’d be wrong. This logic will not succeed since the blood of these humanitarian heroes is manure for peace and sustainable development for the country.

 

Click here to learn more about Children in Crisis and Eben Ezer Ministry’s continuing work in DR Congo.

Children in Crisis announces that all funds given by the British public between the 3rd September and the 2nd December 2014 will be matched, pound for pound, by the UK government.

Your support of our work has never been more powerful or important.

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