Bernard Maingain, the Belgian attorney who has been representing 7 Rwandan officials in the ex-President Habyarimana assassination case, claims to have been hired for another in DR Congo.
The Banyamulenge community whose people are being slaughtered in South Kivu province have mandated Maingain to prepare a petition to be submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to him.
The situation in South Kivu is extremely complicated and independent sources of information are rare. To understand what is behind Maingain move to highlight the Banyamulenge case at ICC, here are the dynamics of the conflict in that region.
For decades, the Banyamulenge who live primarily in both Kivus were subject of government-orchestrated abuses. In 1996, they formed bulk of the fighting force that ousted former Zaire (DRC) strongman Mobutu Sese Seko, backed by Rwanda.
However, despite a lull in their suffering, beginning around mid 2018 more fighting erupted in South Kivu’s Mulenge region where most of the Banyamulenge are settled. According to various accounts, the Banyamulenge are being targeted by Mai Mai militias made up of Bembe, Bafuliro and Bashi tribes.
Tens of thousands of civillians are said to have fled their homes, villages razed and thousands of cattle, a major societal property among the Banyamulenge, looted by force.
Except for occasional coverage by the BBC and VOA great lakes services, there has been no international highlight to the war raging in South Kivu.
In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame admitted in November last year, following social media hashtag #SaveMulenge and #IamMulenge, that what is happening in Mulenge had regional dimensions.
What Kagame was referring to is a situation where Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda are flexing themselves in South Kivu. Burundi and Uganda, says Kigali, are backing Rwandan P5 rebels and CNRD/FLN.
Burundi-Uganda backing for P5 of ex-Rwandan army chief Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa based in South Africa, has been confirmed by the regular UN Group of Experts reports on DRC.
Burundi on the other hand accuses Rwanda of supporting Burundian RED TABARA rebel group based in South Kivu fighting government of President Pierre Nkurunziza. The group has made various incursions into Burundi in recent months.
Amidst this geopolitical wrangling, are Banyamulenge and their communal rivals. Different unconfirmed reports claim either side is getting arms from Rwanda or Burundi-Uganda alliance. However, the Banyamulenge are suffering most. As all this is happening, the Kinshasa government and UN peacekeepers MONUSCO have simply been looking on.
In a document circulated to media on Tuesday, the Belgian attorney Bernard Maingain is announced as going to lead team of lawyers including Banyamulenge to compile the dossier to be submitted to ICC and DR Congo government.
“The objective is to contribute, by legal means, towards breaking the cycle of violence, the restoration of human rights and return of peaceful coexistence among neighboring communities, security and justice,” reads in part the press document.
The document is co-signed by Innocent Nteziryayo for the Banyamulenge and Jean Paul Shaka, another lawyer based in New York. Maingain says he is in contact with Congolese government and UN mission MONUSCO. He also says he will soon be heading to South Kivu to start work.
Bernard Maingain has been representing 7 high profile Rwandan officials in a controversial French case in which they are accused of shooting down plane of President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira on April 6, 1994. The case has been dragging on for years, and reopens next week on January 15 in Paris.