Cablegate: Religious Killings in Bukavu Create Martyrs --
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #1110/01 3550633
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210633Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0464
INFO RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 0016
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 001110
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM SOCI CG
SUBJECT: RELIGIOUS KILLINGS IN BUKAVU CREATE MARTYRS --
AND RUMORS OF POSSIBLE POLITICAL UNDERTONES
KINSHASA 00001110 001.2 OF 002
1. Summary: Bukavu, dubbed the murder capital of the DRC, has been
the site of targeted attacks against journalists, human rights
defenders and religious authorities. A priest and a nun were
assassinated within days of each other in early December provoking
fear and outrage amongst the predominantly-Catholic population.
Calling for justice, religious and political leaders reacted swiftly
and strongly against the attacks. Possible motives for the killings
include attempts to destabilize the region or political retaliation
for support of Kimia II and the current government. End summary.
Bukavu: Murder capital of the Congo
2. South Kivu provincial capital Bukavu has another "capital"
distinction: it is considered the murder capital of the Congo and
for many years has been the scene of violence targeting journalists,
human rights defenders, and religious authorities. Since 2007,
three journalists have been killed and scores of others have been
threatened in Bukavu, known as Costermansville during the Belgian
colonial period. Bukavu, a picturesque mountain city situated on
the southern shores of Lake Kivu, was a major administrative center
until the greater Kivus province was divided into three provinces in
1988. Goma, on the north shore of Lake Kivu, became the capital of
the province of North Kivu and has since eclipsed its sister city to
the south. Many former Peace Corps volunteers know Bukavu well as
the site of a major PC training center.
3. The latest crime wave sweeping the Bukavu area is cause for
grave concern. In recent months there has been an upsurge in
attacks against Catholic Church facilities in South Kivu,
particularly in the area between Bukavu and Bunyakiri. This
development has not gone unnoticed by the local press with several
media outlets reporting on the recent murders of a Catholic priest
and two nuns. The news has also been picked up in other parts of
the DRC. "L'Avenir," a Kinshasa newspaper, opined recently that
religious figures have become the new targets of violence.
Priest and nun assassinated
4. During the night of December 5-6, armed bandits in Kabare killed
Father Daniel Cizimya, a Catholic priest. Two other priests managed
to escape. Local police arrested three suspects and, during their
transfer from Kabare to Bukavu, a mob formed demanding justice. A
faction of FARDC in Kabare fired on the mob killing one person and
injuring five in an attempt to restore calm. Due to the insecurity
caused by the killing and the subsequent local reaction, the
possibility of closing the parish was discussed. In the meantime,
local officials closed public schools for three days to demonstrate
their support for the church and express anger at the killing.
5. On Monday, December 7, just two days after Father Cizimya was
killed, Sister Denise Kahambu was shot dead. Another nun, Sister
Cecile, was seriously injured during the evening attack by armed men
at the Notre Dame de la Clarte Monastery in Murhesa, a town 30
kilometers northwest of Bukavu. The armed attackers did not steal
anything. Unconfirmed reports state that the armed men asked for
the priest and, when told he was not there, they shot the nuns.
Church and state reactions to the violence
QChurch and state reactions to the violence
6. Laurent Monsengwo, Archbishop of Kinshasa, condemned the
assassinations, adding that Catholic leaders in the Eastern DRC are
targeted in order to undermine the church's mission of peace and
reconciliation. He urged the GDRC and MONUC to take "effective
measures to stop the current escalation of violence." Father Jean
Bosco Bahala, a Catholic priest involved in peace negotiations and
mediation in North and South Kivu, also called for government
protection, stating that the Catholic Church in Bukavu is a strong
symbol of peace and help for those who have been victims of war.
7. The government's response has been swift and high level. In the
moments immediately after the nun's death, the vice-governor and
police commander appeared on the scene. President Kabila visited
the site of the nun's death while in Bukavu for a Council of
Ministers meeting on December 13. Vital Kamerhe, a National
Assembly deputy from Bukavu, expressed his condolences to the
community of Kabare after the killing of Father Daniel. On December
9, South Kivu Governor Louis Leonce Muderwa stated that "evil
forces" want South Kivu to become ungovernable. He believes that
the killings are an attempt to destabilize South Kivu by attacking
the Catholic Church. Approximately 80% of the population in Bukavu
is Catholic and these incidents could incite the believers to
KINSHASA 00001110 002.2 OF 002
further violence creating instability. That same day, DRC Interior
Minister Celestin Mbuyu led a delegation of ministers to Murhesa
monastery to visit the nun's grave. Earlier the provincial security
council met at the governor's residence to discuss the situation
with an additional security council meeting held on December 10.
According to Jean Claude Kibala, vice-governor of South Kivu, the
government has launched an investigation into the killings.
A melange of explanations
8. As with similar incidents in the DRC, several theories have
circulated regarding these assassinations. Based on the history of
intimidation and extermination of journalists, some believe that the
killings follow in that same vein. These are not the first
incidences of specific targets against religious authorities.
Bishop Christophe Munzihirwa was killed in 1996 and Bishop Emmanuel
Kataliko was killed in 2000. A second theory revolves around armed
militias in South Kivu. The killings pinpoint influential religious
leaders and institutions in the rural areas. This may be one method
to scare church leaders out of the villages and into the cities,
providing free reign for these groups to loot and pillage.
9. In each of the attacks there is a lack of additional criminal
activity beyond the murders themselves. There have been no reports
of theft or looting associated with these attacks. According to an
anonymous statement by a Radio Okapi journalist residing in Bukavu,
"many people in Bukavu think that the perpetrators of recent
killings of Catholic Church members want Bukavu Bishop Maroy to stop
his support for President Kabila."
10. Some observers believe political agendas might also be at the
root of this trend. Bureau chiefs at Radio Maria, a Catholic
Church-run station in Bukavu, speculate the murders were aimed at
Radio Maria, which has been critical of the Kimia II operations.
These attacks could also be an attempt by the Mundundu 40, a group
of Mai Mai found near Bukavu, to revive itself as a CNDP partner
during Kimia II operations.
11. Comment: We are unable to confirm -- or dismiss -- any of
these theories. In the shady, uncontrolled, rebel-ridden
environment of South Kivu, motives can be intentionally ambiguous.
It is telling, however, that theft and looting do not appear to be
linked with the killings, pointing to the possibility of political
motives. End comment.