Joint NGO Open Letter of Concern to Governments on Mass Atrocities Committed Against the Banyamulenge in the Democratic Republic of Congo

December 22, 2021

We, the undersigned representative organization of the Banyamulenge diaspora community alongside international humanitarian partner institutions, firmly condemn the atrocious killing of Major Kaminzobe Joseph in the territory of Fizi, South Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On December 9, 2021, Major Kaminzobe, a member of the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and the Banyamulenge ethnic minority, was traveling from his duty station in Fizi to Uvira together with his direct superior and other soldiers in a vehicle belonging to the local health sector. When they reached Lweba, a village located between Baraka and Uvira, villagers pulled him from the vehicle, lynched him, and burned his body. On December 12, 2021, the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) issued the following denunciation, “The UNJHRO condemns the murder of an officer of FARDC on 12.09.2021 in Lweba, near Baraka, South Kivu. The UNJHRO learned that this officer in civilian clothes was taken from an ambulance by a crowd and lynched because of his ethnicity (italics added).”

This most recent act of violence follows a pattern of calculated and systematic attacks against the Banyamulenge in the Hauts Plateaux region of South Kivu. Since 2017, the remaining Banyamulenge population has been the target of attacks by militias, such as Mai-Mai and RED-Tabara, with the intent to forcibly remove them from their villages. Academics and local sources have estimated that Mai-Mai, often in coordination with elements of the FARDC, have burned hundreds of villages, looted thousands of cattle – which are essential to the Banyamulenge’s livelihoods – killed hundreds of people, and besieged thousands of displaced Banyamulenge in, among others, the Minembwe area of South Kivu Province.

While we acknowledge and condemn any ethnically-charged attacks on civilians that may have been perpetrated by armed groups claiming to represent the Banyamulenge, it is important to note that Banyamulenge civilians are essentially unarmed civilians who have been disproportionately targeted with violence and hate speech. This pattern follows decades of persecution and rejection of their collective identity and has only increased in recent years with rhetoric becoming more extreme and violence more devastating.

A report published in March 2021 by the UNJHRO found that 80% of all hate speech in the DRC was ethnically motivated, with 31% targeting the Banyamulenge. The pervasive belief that the Banyamulenge are “Rwandan invaders” coupled with calls for their extermination or expulsion from Congolese soil by members of Congolese armed groups, local and national public figures, and members of the Congolese diaspora places the Banyamulenge in a precarious situation. This rhetoric has been accompanied by highly dehumanizing language, including descriptions of the Minembwe area as a “cancer” aimed at enabling the “balkanization” (“fracturing”) of the country that must be excised. In particular, Major Kaminzobe’s death follows decades of Banyamulenge members of the FARDC being targeted with hate speech depicting them as agents of the “balkanization” agenda. To date, the international community has done little to leverage its influence to halt the spread of hate speech and violence in the DRC.

In light of the continued atrocities committed against the Banyamulenge, the following actions are required to ensure the safety and security of the population:

  1. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) must forge a stronger partnership with the Congolese government and the FARDC to protect vulnerable populations, such as the Banyamulenge, and commit to expanding operations within the Hauts Plateaux.
  2. The Congolese government and FARDC leadership must provide security and assistance to all affected civilian populations as well as facilitate the provision of  humanitarian assistance and unfettered access to the Hauts Plateaux by relief organizations.
  3. The European Union, individual Member States, and the United States should expand their existing sanctions to cover individual and collective actors involved in current atrocities in the DRC, including those specifically targeting the Banyamulenge. 
  4. All named actors above, both domestic and international, should act collaboratively to ensure that actors involved in the atrocities and in the dissemination of hate speech are brought to justice before competent and effective judicial authorities. They must ensure that social media service providers are able to take appropriate measures to curb hate speech on their platforms.

The time for words has passed and concrete action must be taken to preserve the security and dignity of the Banyamulenge community. All peoples living within the Democratic Republic of Congo, regardless of ethnicity, have the right to a peaceful existence.


Adele Kibasumba, President, Mahoro Peace Association
Amber Maze, Executive Director, Crane Center for Mass Atrocity Prevention
Dr. Gregory Stanton, President, Genocide Watch
Neema Namadamu, Executive Director, Hero Women Rising
Courtney Hamilton, Director of Advocacy and Strategic Growth, Jewish World Watch

From the CEO: Coup in Myanmar

In light of the recent news from Myanmar, it falls upon those of us who lead organizations dedicated to human rights to speak out. In the early hours of 1 February, 2021, members of Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, detained President Win Myint, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, and members of the National League for Democracy across Myanmar. These reports raise concerns of an ongoing coup in the wake of weeks of election conspiracy in the nation.

Such an act is not unheard of in Myanmar’s history, and the execution of the current coup echoes the 1962 takeover by General Ne Win which led to decades of genocidal violence that continue today. It is with that in mind that I, along with my colleagues at the Crane Center and around the world, call for the release of Win Myint, members of the NLD, and Aung San Suu Kyi. It is my fear that failure to release all parties above could lead to widespread violence in Myanmar as the military attempts to put down protests against the detentions.

I also join the call to encourage the Tatmadaw leadership to correct its course and abide by Myanmar’s constitution. Absent that, President Joseph Biden of the United States of America must consider repealing the executive order suspending sanctions against Tatmadaw officials, for this coup acts not only as an affront to the democratic will of the Burmese people but as a shield for those in the Tatmadaw as well as many detained by them who are complicit in genocide.

In Solidarity,
Marcus Steiner
Chief Executive Officer
Crane Center for Mass Atrocity Prevention

On the Relocation of the Rohingya

The Crane Center for Mass Atrocity Prevention and the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council join the United Nations (UN) and numerous other human rights organizations in calling upon the government of Bangladesh to cease its plans for the relocation of Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char. With little to no independent evidence demonstrating Bhasan Char’s ability to sustain safe or extended habitation along with Bangladesh’s refusal to allow the island to be assessed, we can only conclude that those Rohingya who are moved to the island will live in imminent peril.

While the government and people of Bangladesh deserve recognition for their willingness to provide aid and refuge to the Rohingya multiple times over the last half-century, they must continue to live up to their obligations, not just as members of the international community, but to basic human decency. As such, we urge the government of the United States to pressure Bangladesh to halt its plans to relocate the Rohingya to Bhasan Char and to take the following steps:

  • Allow all Rohingya currently on Bhasan Char the option to relocate to Cox’s Bazar and other camps with the intention of reuniting families where possible
  • Allow for a thorough assessment of Bhasan Char’s sustainability for long-term habitation
  • The implementation of a transparent system to ensure all future relocations to Bhasan Char are done with the explicit, informed consent of those to be relocated
  • Commit to facilitating third country resettlement of Rohingya refugees by issuing exit visas for those seeking resettlement
  • A thorough investigation into the alleged abuse of Rohingya currently on Bhasan Char with the aid of outside investigators
  • Allow access to UN and NGO observers for the implementation of all above steps

Further, we urge the government of the United States to take the following steps:

  • Commit to working with international partners to facilitate the official recognition of displaced Rohingya as refugees
  • Commit to working with international partners to facilitate an end to Rohingya persecution in Myanmar (Burma)
  • Commit to working with the International Court of Justice to ensure those responsible for the genocide against the Rohingya are held accountable

Removing the Rohingya from Cox’s Bazar and other camps will not alleviate the suffering of the Rohingya nor will it absolve the world of its obligations. What such a move does risk, however, is the further isolation of one of the world’s largest stateless populations, a group that has been subject to decades of genocidal violence already. It risks putting innumerable Rohingya out of sight on a remote island, under guard, where Amnesty International has already reported abuse. As an international community, we must demand justice and fair treatment for the Rohingya. 

We ask you to stand with the Rohingya and lend your voice to our communal effort to end the plight of the Rohingya. This statement, along with the signatures we gather, will be taken to state and federal legislators to encourage real, definitive action.

Click here to sign our joint petition with the Indianapolis JCRC.

In solidarity,

Marcus Steiner, CEO