In Fizi Territory, one of the more prolific armed groups is Mai Mai Yakutumba. Fortunately, I have not had any run-ins with Mai Mai Yakutumba soldiers, but their influence throughout Fizi is highly visible. In Baraka, the political wing of the Mai Mai has logos painted on buildings. In fact, the restaurant that I frequent the most when I am in Baraka (“Jardin des Saveurs”) is owned by the son of the political leader of Mai Mai Yakutumba.
In the past two months, Mai Mai Yakutumba has been consolidating control over parts of Fizi Territory. In June, the Mai Mai stopped a boat on Lake Tanganyika at Talama and demanded a toll of $15,000 from the crew and passengers. Now, the Mai Mai Yakutumba are enforcing a $500 a boat tax on boats traveling between Uvira and Kalemie/Kazimia. Since there are zero paved roads south of Uvira to Kalemie, boat traffic on Tanganyika remains an important lifeline to economic activity in Uvira/Fizi Territories and eastern Katanga Province. These new extortions imposed by the Mai Mai are sure to have negative consequences on economic activity.
The effects of spreading Mai Mai Yakutumba/FNL influence are also having negative human rights effects; most of the 12 survivors of sexual violence that arrived at the SOS FED center in Kikonde in June/July reported being raped by FNL/Mai Mai Yakutumba soldiers.
In Jason Stearns’ excellent blog, Congo Siasa, guest blogger Judith Verweijen writes up a fascinating and detailed profile of Mai Mai Yakutumba. The motivations/identities of the various armed groups in the Kivus are complicated and not easy to comprehend at first glance, and profiles like Ms. Verweijen’s go a long way in terms of understanding who is doing what and why in eastern Congo.
Posted By WALTER JAMES
Posted Aug 2nd, 2011