Urgent Action on behalf of Jean Habimana a Rwandan Refugee Human Rights Defender in Nyiragongo North Kivu, the Democratic Republic of Congo threatens by the Wazalendo Armed Group
In June 2023 the Wazalendo local militia group invaded the gardens of the residents in Karangara in Muja/Nyiragongo and harvested all the sweet Potatoes, Beans and Maize. The farmers then organized themselves in a committee of three people spearheaded by Jean Habimana to go and meet Colonel Wimba who was the leader of the Wazalendo Armed Group controlling Muja. The intention of the residents was to stop his troupe from harvesting in their gardens.
During the meeting Colonel Wimba refuted the allegations and claimed that they would be thieves who came to harvest the crops, which also the farmers rejected as the area is not known for that, no one has the intention to steal because everyone has a garden.
The team of the three persons moved back home after meeting Colonel Wimba and shared information with others, however on that very day Jean Habimana went to Goma for somethings and that very afternoon because he feared for his security. He could silently go home to visit his family and come back to Goma, the mere fact of being a Rwandan Refugee in the area pushed the Wazalendo to attack him on ground that he was a member of M23 yet the other two people who were in the Delegation who are Congolese where not targeted.
On Saturday September 2nd, 2023 he went to visit my family in Muja, as he left home a group of Wazalendo Armed people estimated to be 8 came and attacked his house claiming that they looking for Jean and that his first born aged 18 years who they said is a spy working for M23 Armed grouped, and that they are hiding guns in their house.
They entered the house and searched everywhere but they could not find the guns, in the process they managed to take everything they found interesting in the house. They also arrested the wife and the son whom they went with and detained them in their camp.
When Jean Habima had about that he decided to stay in Goma for safety, information reached the Commander of the Congolese Army where the other family members went to seek help in order to ensure that they relatives are released but in vain.
The Commander only told them to go and negotiate with the Wazalendo and in that way negotiations meant to give them money. The second day, the Wazalendo asked for 500$ to the two people in order to be released but they did not have it, in the process Jean Habimana managed to mobilize 100,000 CF and send it, then they ordered the two people to write a letter that they will come with the rest of the money and signed it.
After writing the letter, they were then released and they moved back home, they decided to run away because they knew they would not get the money. As per now they are also hiding somewhere.
They are currently living in a very critical situation as they do not move from the house where they are living because of fear, they need urgent relief aid as of now in order to survive for a while. Jean Habimana needs also to feel free from threats in order to continue his work in the field of human rights.
About Jean Habimana
He left Rwanda during the Genocide in 1994 and has survived various wars in DRC. He is one among the resourceful Rwandan Refugee Community Leaders and has helped so many humanitarian organizations in order to reach out to refugees in different parts, and at the same time he links refugees to service providers and is key in order to share information with other refugees in different communities. In order to survive Jean does small income generating activities such as small businesses, he is known in his community as the voice of others and he advocates for them when there are problems.
Human Rights Violations by Wazalendo
The Wazalendo are an additional force to the Congolese Army currently in the fight against the M23, the Wazalendo seems not being controlled by the Army leadership and are committing various human rights violations in total impunity.
We still hold the view that Jean Habimana and his family are at risk and need our solidarity in order to survive this, the Wazalendo are active everywhere even here in Goma where Jean is hiding. However it is possible for him to hide here in Goma for a while as we believe this problem will finish on itself after some few months. We think if Jean is supported for only three months, after that the situation may be different, these Wazalendo will not look for him for long.
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos
Global Refugee Leaders Forum