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Australian Congolese tribe to commemorate massacre and show hope for positive future
Published on 8-08-2016 - at 01:44' by ABC

While the Gatumba massacre of 2004 in the African country of Burundi stands out as the worst of the attacks on the Congolese Banyamulenge tribe, problems continue for the ethnic group.

Members of the tribe will visit Wollongong in New South Wales on Saturday to remember their friends and family who were killed in the August 13 attack 12 years ago.

Most of the Banyamulenge in Australia are here as refugees, and want their new country to know about the struggles still faced by their tribe in Africa.

"I think most Australians don’t know about this, and I think it’s because Australia is far from Africa," Banyemulenge member in Australia Claude Muco said.

"Now Australia has become more involved in international relations, Australians will come to know what’s happened in Africa and the Congo."

The attack happened at the Gatumba Refugee Camp in Burundi, and along with those killed, more than 500 people were severely injured.

All victims were people who had already escaped persecution in their country of origin, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The commemorative event will feature a public talk on Friday at the Illawarra Multicultural Services office in Wollongong at noon, followed by a peaceful march starting in Wollongong’s Crown Street Mall on Saturday at 11:30am.

Being part of a rejected race

Imagine not being accepted in any country in which you live.

No matter where you flee to, each country kicks you out or actively sets out to kill you.

This is the life of members of the Banyamulenge, who have been rejected as Congolese people, despite evidence of Banyamulenge coming to Congo in the 16th century.

"It’s really hard. When I look at myself, even now, I don’t know where I belong," Mr Muco said.
"My parents and grandparents don’t know where they belong. It’s really hard and frustrating.

"Congolese don’t agree we are Congolese. They’re killing us and we are like a ball — everyone pushes us back and from generation to generation, people are dying because of their ethnicity."

Mr Muco said he had been afforded not only human rights, but citizenship and the right to vote since settling in Australia, but he could not enjoy the same quality of life in his country of birth.

Problems still occurring in Congo

Congo has had extensive periods of war over the past 20 years, including the first Congo war from 1996-1997 and the second Congo war from 1998-2003.

Along with tensions between civilians, the conflict is one of the reasons why people like Mr Muco and his friend Mutebutsi Bugegeri have been forced to emigrate to Australia.

Mr Bugegari came to Wollongong in 2014 and is a qualified teacher who has worked as a librarian and school principal.

"My life has been changed since I came to Australia. Now I feel like I’m in a peaceful country and I can assume my security and safety," he said.
"I’ve been surprised since I came to Australia because I grew up in Congo where I couldn’t speak to my colleagues at school and express my emotions.

"Since I came here I have rights and freedoms to talk what I want and express my emotions, and I feel like I’m relaxed."

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Claude Muco and Mutebutsi Bugegeri are members of the Banyemulenge tribe

Kwamamaza
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