The Mai-Mai militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo is known to kill and eat captured tribal leaders, which they think gives special powers to shield them from bullets.
LUBUMBASHI - In the northern part of the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Mai-Mai militia group, lead by Gedeon Kyungu Mutanga, have become notorious for murder, rape and robbery of civilian populations. When they overtake a local tribe, they take possession of their homes, forcing into the street thousands of families at a time. But what also sets their ruthlessness apart are reports of the practice of eating the traditional leaders of their various enemies.
Justin Kalenga Tamba is a local chief from Mitwaba, and he decided to speak out from Lubumbashi where he fled for his life.
SYFIA: When did you arrive in Lubumbashi, and why did you come?
JUSTIN KALENGA TAMBA: I moved here a month ago. I fled the raids of the Mai-Mai, which are spreading all over the northern areas of the Katanga region, targeting the entire population, and particularly the traditional leaders. I asked the authorities of the country to do everything possible in order to bring peace to our territories. I do not know why this still continues.
Do the Mai-Mai attack only the traditional leaders?
No. They attack the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), the police, the security services and any other authorities. As they do not have any food, they plunder the houses and take away everything they find. They accuse the traditional leaders of working with the military forces. Since 2003, 40 chiefs have been killed by the Mai-Mai, who ate their flesh, which they believe can strengthen their power and make them invulnerable to bullets. This has happened to the leaders Musumari, Mwele, Lwalaba, Dilenge, Kawama Mubidi, Kiyombo, Ntambo, Kileba ...
The regular army doesn’t give you enough security?
They are deployed in the administrative towns of the territory, as in the city of Mitwaba. But the territory is not only the capital. Elsewhere, in the chiefdoms and the villages, it is the Mai-Mai groups who impose their law. They are armed, but we do not know where their weapons and ammunition come from. I can’t even explain to you how they resist the Congolese army. In the chiefdom of Kiona Ngoy, where I am a leader, the Mai-Mai arrested 11 of my local chiefs, and I don’t know where they brought them. This is why I escaped. Here I am not alone. Several other chiefs fled like me..
How many displaced people do you estimate there are now?
There is a thousand of families living in the bush without any assistance. Just in my chiefdom there are more than 130,000 people living in the bush. I do not know if it is possible to determine the number of people fleeing to other chiefdoms, villages, because they are fleeing in all directions.
Among these Mai-Mai, there are children of your country, therefore your own children...
They are mainly young people without any education, nor occupation convinced by Gideon to join his group. When they are under the influence of drugs, they can do anything.
Gideon is a son of North Katanga. Why does he make his own brothers suffer?
He is from the Nyembwakunda group. His hometown is Kabala. We do not understand what he wants, nor what he is looking for.