Expressive violence and the slow genocide of the Banyamulenge of South Kivu

Rukumbuzi Delphin Ntanyoma, Helen Hintjens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Recent warfare in Eastern DRC, especially since 2015, is marked by violence inspired by ‘race’ narratives. Identity politics around ‘race’ is used to legitimise ‘expressive’ or reprisal-oriented violence against ‘Hamitic’ or ‘Tutsi’ minorities. The case of the Banyamulenge of South Kivu is examined in this article. Following Autesserre, we show that one-dimensional narratives – in this case of ‘race’ – tend to over-simplify the dynamics of political violence. Anti-Hamitic racism is derived from colonial ideas around race hierarchies, and has resulted in systematic killings of Banyamulenge civilians in what resembles a ‘slow genocide’. Expressive violence has, in turn, produced a lack of concern for the plight of Banyamulenge civilians among the military, humanitarians, media, scholars and NGOs. Given armed alliances between local Maimai forces, Burundian and Rwandan opposition and the DRC army, such ‘race’ narratives cruelly legitimise violence against civilians from ‘Tutsi’ communities, associated by neighbouring communities with Rwanda. Resultant displacement, starvation and killing of Banyamulenge civilians in this context amount to an on-going, slow-moving genocide. As the COVID-19 crisis unrolls, the decolonisation of identity politics in Eastern DRC, and in South Kivu in particular still seems very remote.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
Issue number0
Early online date8 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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