Regional integraton, globalization, foreign language and conflict. A case of “Ikinyarwanda” in North Kivu province, eastern DRC

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Regional integraton, globalization, foreign language and conflict. A case of “Ikinyarwanda” in North Kivu province, eastern DRC

By BANZI S. Philippe, Senior Lecturer and Researcher

Email: banzinat@gmail.com


The study looks at the narrative and behavior around the issues of ‘ikinyarwanda’ language and the Kinyarwanda speakers and examines how the challenges can be overcome. It examines the significant ethnolinguistic development that has taken place in Eastern DR Congo, specifically in North Kivu Province following a protracted conflict among communities. It is particularly concerned with the positions and the impact of prejudice and marginalization on the social and regional fabric. This led to the creation of a new discourse whereby people in the area assume they speak Kihutu, Kinyabwisha, Kinyarutshuru, Kinyamasisi and finally iKinyarwanda, whereas their community is called ‘Rwandophone’. Using the Relational theory and adopting the adversarial, the reflective and the integrative approaches, the study shows the ways ikinyarwanda works as a strategy, a source of frustration and a tool for self-affirmation, while it also bears a negative connotation. This language reflects a strong ethnic consciousness and is more an agent of cleavage, isolation and a forgotten element in the regional integration than an instrument of openness. The study cautions that any disintegration based on linguistic identity, though possible, still has a long way to go. The paper concludes by pointing to the current negative peace and cohabitation which, even if supported by the International Community, does not address behavioral issues that will one day confirm the regional fragmentation.

Key words: Globalization, foreign language, integration, identity


Cet article porte sur la problématique autour du Kinyarwanda et des locuteurs de cette langue et suggère les pistes pour relever les défis y relatifs. L’étude examine l’ampleur ethnolinguistique des relations intercommunautaires dans l’Est de la RD Congo, plus particulièrement dans la Province du Nord-Kivu ; situation causée par un conflit interminable entre groupes ethniques. Elle envisage les positions et l’impact des préjugés et de l’exclusion sur base d’appartenance sociogéographique. Cette situation a débouché sur la création d’un nouveau discours selon lequel certaines personnes considèrent que leur parler est le Kihutu, le Kinyabwisha, le Kinyarutshuru, le Kinyamasisi pour finalement être le Kinyarwanda ; quand leur communauté est appelée « Rwandophone ». A partir de la théorie sur les relations humaines et l’approche intégrative et compétitive, elle prouve combien le Kinyarwanda est conçu comme stratégie ou un outil de frustration et d’auto-affirmation quand, d’autre part, cette langue reflète une connotation négative et une forte dose de conscience ethnique en fonctionnant  plus comme moteur de clivage et d’isolation tout en étant une dimension oubliée dans le processus d’intégration qu’une voie d’ouverture. L’analyse attire l’attention sur le fait que toute désintégration basée sur une identité linguistique, bien que possible, a encore du chemin à parcourir. Elle conclut en indexant la situation actuelle caractérisée par une paix négative et une délicate cohabitation qui, même si cautionnées par la Communauté internationale, ne répond pas à la problématique attitudinale qui, un jour, sonnera le glas de l’unité régionale.

Mots clés : Mondialisation, langue étrangère, intégration, identité

Introduction: Background and Study Problem

The Democratic Republic of Congo, herein DRC, is a big country in Central Africa; the 2nd in size after Algeria and covers 2,345,410 square kilometres (905,568 square miles)[1](Tuner 2007, 24). It has an estimated population of 62,660,550 inhabitants[2]. This gives an average density of 74.5 inhabitants per square kilometer. There are more than 400 different ethnic groups speaking hundreds of different languages in DRC. The official language is French to which the Mobutu government added four others as lingua franca. These are: Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo and Tshiluba. The DR Congo is divided into 26 Provinces. It is basically an agro pastoral country covered with one of the biggest natural forests. The country has been endowed with enormous mineral and energy resources like copper, diamond, gold and ‘coltan’, just to mention few. Its rivers offer the greatest energy potentials that the country has difficulties to tap.

Literature has it that DRC is a fragile or a failed State on two extremes defined by wealthiest and poorest country in the Continent, with lack of infrastructures and a proliferation of armed groups especially on the Eastern hills and forests (Nye J. et al. 2013; Turner Th. 2007).The Country shares borders with 9 other countries namely: Central African Republic to the north, the Republic of South Sudan to the Northeast; Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east, Zambia to the Southeast, Angola to the southwest, Congo Brazzaville, Cabinda and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Hence, more neighboring countries would imply more openings and development opportunities for economic and cultural exchange; however, for the DRC case, this geographical position means more challenges especially from the porous frontiers (with Angola, Rwanda, Central African Republic and the Mbororo people in the North, Burundi, Uganda). For decades, there have been conflicts in Eastern DRC since the independence, more than fifty years now. Some ‘zones’ in the East have never enjoyed a “true peace” for years. Immediately after the independence (in 1960) there was the Mulele Mayi rebel group (even though this group did not directly affect areas like Masisi and Rutshuru), followed by the Kanyarwanda conflict in Masisi after which came the issuance of the national ID (early 1970s). This ID had codes according to the then ‘Zones’ or  District; for Masisi the code was ‘140’ and for Rutshuru, it was ‘144’. The Kinyarwanda speakers from these places will be termed ‘the 140s’ or “ba 140” in Kiswahili following these codes. That alone was enough reason to be arrested. There was also the ‘national census’ in 1980s. This operation took place in the East with damages in Masisi. In 1990s, various ‘Operations’ were initiated to end the conflicts in this area; these operations are like: ‘operation MBATA and operation MKUKI’ among others. Then the world witnessed the ‘AFDL war in 1996, followed by different phases of rebel groups, mostly the RCD, the CNDP and the M23[3]. Several causes of conflicts have been listed with various aspects or dimensions. Nevertheless, we can sum them up into three main causes, namely: lack of ethnic cooperation, the end of the Cold War and the current trend or globalization.

This paper focuses on the North Kivu Province in the East and targets the Kinyarwanda language at the core of conflicting issues in the Province. North Kivu covers 59,483 square kilometres and host around 5,767,945 inhabitants. To the east, the Province is bordering Rwanda and Uganda. Among the ethnic groups living therein, there are mainly the: Nande, Hunde, Hutu, Tutsi, Kumu, Nyanga, Tembo, Rega and Shi. The Province is mainly agro pastoral and, like the rest of the Country, it has big amount of natural resources including the famous ‘coltan’. Quite often, the relationships among the Northern Kivu people with their neighbors in Rwanda have been characterized by stereotypes and hatred leaving open doors to conflicts. Yet, for decades, there have been strong trades between Rwanda and DRC through the North Kivu Province given the closeness between Goma town and Gisenyi that look like one town. The borne of contentious has always been the presence of the people who speak ikinyarwanda in this Province and in the Region at large.  It should also be noted that ikinyarwanda is a ‘trans-border’ language and, as such, it should be useful in uniting people and nations (Mkandawire 2005:184).

Significance of the study

By focusing on the linguistic variable added to other aspects that most studies had not previously or deeply exploited – especially the identity aspect within the globalization phenomenon – , this paper makes a contribution to understanding the linguistic conflicts in Eastern DRC so as to manage or transform them for a sustainable peace. The paper opens a way for further research, conflict transformation, peace processes, advocacy and regional or sub-regional dialogue and policy action for the Eastern Province, for the entire country and the region. So this study finds its meaning through the fact that conflict transformation and ‘reconciliation can be promoted while adequately addressing perceived historical injustices’ and accommodating the various identities that arouse from human or ethnic contacts in North Kivu (Tobi P. Dress 2005: 41). From the linguistic challenges and the social relationships in the Eastern DRC, this study attempts to highlight the psychological and physical effects and positions resulting from people’s contacts and the perceptions they have of each other while looking at the cooperation and/or integration processes. There is a rich documentation on the conflicting relationships in the Eastern DRC and in the Region. This documentation has especially highlighted the economic and political causes of conflicts from the interpersonal contacts and their consequences (Bucyalimwe M. 2009; Turner Th.2007; Reybrouk van D. 2010).  Therefore, the main question is: taking into account the psychological aspects of intercommunity relations, what are the impacts on interpersonal relations, on peace and unity or integration in DRC and in the Region in general? Answering this concern is vital as it will give a way out of conflicts and contribute to the literature on conflicts in DRC and the Region at large. Additionally, we consider the way iKinyarwanda speakers see themselves and the way they are seen by other communities; precisely the issues raised by the language and the people who use it to communicate, to conclude with the fate of the two and the geographical space where the language is spoken. Precisely, we look at the outcome from the Kinyarwanda issues and we see whether the exit path could be either the cultural assimilation or the linguistic pluralism (Harris P. et al., 1998: 245); whether iKinyarwanda contributes to the regional cohesion or disintegration. We look at how the language as a tool is used in searching for a type of identity but also in protecting the linguistic space through conflicting debates, a defensive attitude as opposed to an offensive position. The language is used for opposing the others (‘Them’) thus becoming a source of frustration leading to the ‘congolization’ of the discourse.

Conflicts in Eastern DR Congo and Rwanda are protracted and did not give a clear approach for their transformation or resolution because of their complexity. These conflicts have several dimensions, socio-economic and political dimensions but it appeared to us that one variable under the social aspect has always been under looked and this is the linguistic element. The most dominant linguistic tool is iKinyarwanda used as a ‘dangerous weapon’ or strategy by non-speakers to attack the speakers.

Structure of the paper

The first section gives the background to the study while the second section sketches out the theoretical and empirical literature on integration or cooperation, on the language (iKinyarwanda) and the identities around it; and on the latent conflicts in North Kivu. The third part focuses on the specific conflicts in Eastern DRC and a discussion of the data. The conclusions are presented in the last section.

Theoretical and empirical approaches: “Ikinyarwanda” and identity issues

Quite often, analyses of conflicts in Eastern DRC and in the Region stress the economic and political factors while giving very little room to the language, here ‘iKinyarwanda’. Hence, this study brings in another way of looking at conflicts in Eastern DRC and neighboring countries, more specifically Rwanda. That is why the analysis looked at the integration aspect between Congo and Rwanda taking a local language that unites the two countries into account and, on the other side, looking at the current trend of globalization. The study triangulates the theoretical approaches around the sociopsychological approach to understanding conflicts and their complexity. Specifically, the analysis is based on the relational or intergroup contact approach coupled with the international relation and the transformative approaches to conflicts (Koen Vlassenroot, in Kaarsholm Preben 2006:51)

The analysis is premised on the following hypotheses: (a) there is a permanent and strong enemy image toward people who speak iKinyarwanda in Eastern DR Congo. And this image puts the regional integration at stake. (b) Stability in North Kivu Province and the ethnic acceptance are unavoidable ingredients in the regional peace and harmony.

A background to the conflicts in this part of Central Africa compelled us to establish the key players in the battlefields and the changes therein. According to Paul D. Williams (2011: 36)

“it is during periods of war that social change occurs most intensely. ‘War’, as Morten Bøäz observed, is by its very nature an instrument for social and economic restructuring. It is a site for innovation, which reoders social, economic, and political life.”

This ‘social restructuring’ leads us to think of iKinyarwanda and the speakers as some of the dynamic bodies that are affected by the changes subsequently to conflicts. Conflicts in North Kivu are a consequence of the end of Cold War (in 1989; Nye J. et al. 2013) and modern situations whereby social norms and rules have to be adapted to the modern society and its produce (new technology and means of communication, guns, search for space, etc.). This factor authorizes us to read the language phenomenon under the lenses of globalization process of expansion and connection as Paul D. Williams put it:

“consequently, one of the most useful ways to approach the mega-concept of globalization is to see it as essentially about circulation – processes through which people and places become interconnected.” (2011: 35)

However, the other side, ‘disconnection’ is also another area to approach, especially in the North Kivu context.

Scope of the study: Rwandophony or a dangerous linguistic belt

Ikinyarwanda is a trans-border language spoken in Eastern DRC, in Rwanda and in Uganda. In fact, there is a historic and cultural commonality between DR Congo, especially in North Kivu Province, and the neighboring countries, particularly Rwanda and some parts of south western Uganda where people speak the same language. In the north Kivu Province, particularly in Masisi and Rutshuru, iKinyarwanda has always – and is still – been a source of various discriminatory attitudes, narratives or discourses; a source of marginalization and fear to express oneself. Here, the study sets to talk about ‘iKinyarwanda’, as it is spoken in North Kivu, on the linguistic groups speaking this language, and on the issues it raised. The speakers are ethnically ‘Hutu’ or ‘Tutsi’.

Scholars  locate the ethnic group of people who could be categorized as ‘Hutu’ in the Great lakes region, specifically in : DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania (Serufuri H. P., in Bucyalimwe 2009: 123-147; Sebagenzi wa Lulenga, in Bucyalimwe 2010: 87-98; Nkiko D. et Shumbusho G. in Bucyalimwe 2010: 393-405)

We narrowed down the geographical scope to North Kivu and Rwanda. The elements that make a link between these spaces are the language, on one side and the protracted conflict that characterizes the neighbourliness on the other side through a spillover effect: what starts in North Kivu ends up in Rwanda and vice-versa. These areas share some historical aspects. Indeed, according to Tobi Dress,

“conflicts are not tidy and do not always remain within borders. They spill chaotically across borders, cultures, actions and societies, and it is imperative that there be regional and sub-regional mechanisms to build and maintain transnational cooperation. Such regional mechanisms do exist, but vary widely in their interests, efforts, abilities and resources.”(2005:132)

In addition, the views from Barrett Rubin confirm what Tobi Dress asserted as they both give theoretical approaches that would help to transform conflicts in North Kivu and in the region. Through the ‘framework’ proposed by Barrett, we understand better the “nature and complexity of conflicts in Eastern DRC and in North Kivu”: for him, majority of conflicts are first of all a result of a network effect that affects States or entire regions. Then among the threads that will draw the countries into war, Barret listed the following: “invasion, State collapse, cross-border solidarities, looting, arms trafficking and forced population’s movements.” On the third level of analysis, the actors to such conflicts could be: “regional military, political, economic and social networks that can be linked to global networks.” (2005: 133) This framework provides the causes of conflicts, the actors, the conflict resolution instruments and approaches. Barrett Rubin adds:

“regional strategies require that conflict elements should be treated comprehensively, addressing all factors promoting the conflict. Finally a regional approach needs to include regional and/or sub-regional actors with varying roles, and must include the relevant components, including States, regional or sub-regional intergovernmental organizations and civil society networks.” (2005:133)

Statement of the objectives

Our main objective is to establish the contours and challenges of conflicts in North Kivu Province from the linguistic perspective and to envisage the way out. Specifically:

-to understand the underlying causes and psycho-social and physical effects of conflicts in North Kivu Province taking into account iKinyarwanda.

-to study the consequences of the attitudinal positions and how the attitudes impact on social and interstate relationships.

-to recommend future strategies for changes and conflicts transformation in North Kivu.

In North Kivu, there is a link between linguistic factors and identity used as starting points to harm the others. A detailed analysis shows that these factors and the subsequent results are negative to the national and regional fabric. The dangers to national and/or region cohesion can be seen through the following features: the creation of linguistic belts coupled with the search for identity.

The creation of linguistic belt or a deadly strategy in the eastern DRC

Two major blocs are emerging in the North Kivu Province and these are termed ‘Grand Nord’ and ‘Grand Sud’ (Turner Th. 2007; Mamdani M 2001). The first one ‘Grand Nord’ covers the following areas: Kanyabayonga, Butembo and Beni. This is the northern part of the North Kivu province or Beni-Lubero District which is populated by the Nande ethnic group at around 100% and speaking the Kinande language. On the other side, the ‘Grand Sud’ covers the Districts of Rutshuru, Masisi, Nyiragongo and Walikale. This area hosts various ethnic groups speaking different languages among which: Hutu, Hunde, Kumu, Nyanga, Tembo, Tutsi, Nande, Rega, Havu and Shi. This way of structuring the province results into two blocs divided not geographically but mainly following the language factors. So, the current trend has brought in an unofficial creation of a linguistic belt with a clear but dangerous demarcation between them. The two blocs adopt the new trends of globalization features whereby the current world is economically – and to some extent, politically – structured into Global North and Global South. (Kegley W. 2006). In the North Kivu case, this unofficial demarcation reflects the following pictures: economic dependency; exclusion of the ‘dependents’ or the others; creation of micro-states within a big DRC; what we here call ‘disintegration’ from the provincial level. People living in these two areas have a strong sense of exclusion of each other and live in clear separated groups, the in-group (us) opposed to the outgroup (them) viewed as enemies.

So, another feature from this division is the creation of an unjustifiable “enemy image”. According to Kenneth Boulding (in Barash, 2000: 46), in national or international relationships,

“The image is always in some sense a product of messages received in the past. It is not, however, a simple inventory or ‘pile’ of such messages but a highly structured piece of information capital, developed partly by internal messages and its own laws of growth and stability.”

At international level, Kenneth Boulding (in David P. Barash 2000: 46) adds that “the images which are important in international systems are those bodies within the system which constitute its international environment.” However for the regional interaction and in North Kivu in particular, the question remains as to know the deep cause of the enemy image towards the Kinyarwanda speakers because it is really hard to establish the contours or sources of the image and the subsequent conflicts. Hence, in an international system, the DR Congo and its neighboring countries are facing a strong enemy image whereby one looks at the other as an enemy for no reason; that hinders the integration process. At the core of the issues, there are the Kinyarwanda community and the negative image towards this community which is ‘passed on’ through social institutions in general (Kenneth Boulding in Barash 2000: 47).

The search for an identity

From the enemy image, the Kinyarwanda speakers have always fought for their identity claiming their belonging to the Congolese nation. They always opposed to be called “Banyarwanda” or Rwandese (Nkiko Dismas et al., in Bucyalimwe 2010: 393 – 404).


Kenneth Boulding (2000:47) asserts that:

“in the formation of the national image, however, it must be emphasized that impressions of nationality are formed mostly in childhood and usually in the family group. It would be quite fallacious to think of the images as being cleverly imposed on the mass by the powerful. If anything, the reverse is the case: the image is essentially a mass image, or what might be called a “folk image”, transmitted through the family and the intimate face-to-face group, both in the powerful and in the case of ordinary persons.”

Let us look at the ‘Grand Sud’ where iKinyarwanda is spoken and is at the centre of many issues. This part of the Province covers Rutshuru, Masisi, Nyiragongo and Walikale. These ‘Zones’ are problematic in that: Rutshuru is populated by the Kinyarwanda speakers (at almost 95%) but who always have been struggling for their linguistic and social identities. For the linguistic identity, they claim to be: Banyabwisha speaking Kinyabwisha, Banyarutshuru speaking Kinyarutshuru, finally Bahutu speaking the Kihutu (Nkiko Dismas et al., in Buclyalimwe 2010). On the other side, there is Masisi where live the ‘Banyamasisi’ or people from Masisi. In Masisi, there are mainly the following ethnic groups: Hunde, Hutu, Tutsi, Nyanga, Nande and Tembo. However, some of them do not agree to be called ‘Banyamasisi’. This designation which is ‘pejorative’ for some refers particularly to a category of Kinyarwanda speaking people or a particular group of foreigners. And in the jargon prevailing in the area, ‘Banyamasisi’ have always and exclusively been used as synonymous to ‘Hutu’; whereas the ‘Tutsi’ are referred to as ‘refugees’. (Mamdani M. 2001)

The discourse and more specifically the categorization of Rwandophone, Kinyarwanda speakers, Banyabwisha, Banyamasisi and others reflects a demarcation of a ‘country within a country’ through some processes of secession, federalism or ‘balkanization’. In this way, talking about one Kabila’s Ministers, Michel Deibert (2013:146) asserts that:

“Nyamwisi also voiced his fear that North Kivu’s hutu governor Eugene Serufuli Ngayabaseka (whose tenure ended in 2007) wanted to divide North Kivu into two provinces, one Nande and one Rwandophone, and that Rwandophones always bring their Hutu-Tutsi problems and issues with the indigenous population with them and it infects all political activities.”

Through this saying, one perceives the “two provinces” as two entities based on the linguistic factor, those speaking ‘Kinande’ versus the ‘Rwandophones’ or those speaking Ikinyarwanda. This is a kind of language that amount to the creation of what we mentioned as Global North versus Global South whereas in the Congolese context , Grand Nord and Grand Sud are based on two complexes: first the ethnic dimension: Nande and proxies vs Banyarwanda. Second, this distinction is based on economic dimension whereby the Grand Nord or ‘Banande’ side is said to be economically leading the province. The complexity is somehow misleading when one looks at the ethnic groups in both sides: the Grand Nord is homogeneous, exclusively Banande when the so-called ‘Grand Sud’ is heterogeneous with the Hutu-Tutsi or the Banyarwanda groups living with other ethnic groups. People in the area found an easy way to categorize the inhabitants into two groups that they simply designate as G2 (Hutu-Tutsi or Banyarwanda group) and G7 (Hunde, Nande, Shi, Lega, Tembo, Kumu, Nyanga). The situation creates and strengthens more of a separation than unity and cooperation, first at provincial level then at national level: G2 for The ‘Rwandophone’ versus G7 for the ‘Congophone’ (Turner T., 2007:107); two nominal concepts that sketch two new nations defending negative interests for some and positive for others: cleavage, separation, disintegration… and where people are fighting for their identities as ‘Banyabwisha’, ‘Banyarutshuru’, ‘Bahutu’, ‘Rwandophone’,etc.

The above subdivision seriously compromises the interrelationship and the national integrity as it creates a kind of mind-set whereby the G7 feel generally but more linguistically ‘engulfed’ by the G2 on a national ground that is slowly ‘balkanizing’ itself and whereby citizens are compelled to live under the Banyarwanda Leadership.

A striking future as earlier said from this linguistic division whereby the Grand Sud is labeled as a Kinyarwanda zone is that the other ethnic groups living in this part feel in danger of losing not only their territory that will be under the Kinyarwanda rule or be annexed to Rwanda where the language seem to originate from but also their identities by become themselves parts of the Banyarwanda identity. As a consequence, they keep an eye on the Kinyarwanda speakers, Hutu and Tutsi together, look at them as enemies and fighting them. They strongly develop this image that everything related to Kinyarwanda is viewed in a negative way. This attitude compromises the provincial harmony and the national unity compromising also the regional cooperation leave alone the integration between DRC (North Kivu) and Rwanda. Though we posit the countries as variables, we assume the integration process to result first from people’s contact in both sides.

About cooperation in North Kivu province or integration between DRC and Rwanda or other neighboring countries, we refer to the preconditions for regional integration as given by Kegley W. Charles et at., (2006:562). Among these preconditions for regional integration, we have selected the following: the geographical proximity, the supportive public opinion, the cultural homogeneity, the internal political stability, similar experiences in historical and internal social development, and the previous collaborative efforts. For the intergroup relationship, we have added the following factors that can promote a successful cohesion first in North Kivu and between DRC and neighbours: the groups status, common goals, the need for intergroup cooperation in achieving the goals; the sanction or support from authority figures, the types of contacts, the group attitude towards each other (Malhotra Deepak et al, 2005:910)

Talking about “the integration models”, Colin McCarty (in Stephen Ellis, 1996:213) establishes the differences between ‘integration’ and ‘regional cooperation’. He argues that:

“cooperation refers to any joint activity across national frontiers for the purpose of cooperation in economic matters, from running a joint airline or coordinated rail system to the joint management of river basins. Integration arrangements take on narrower meaning. They aim to expand intra-regional trade in goods and services”

When applied to DRC (North Kivu) and Rwanda, the above factors give us the following reading: first of all North Kivu is so close to Rubavu-Gisenyi in Rwanda that the buffer zone between the towns of Goma and Gisenyi is just made of five meter road, whereas there is only a fence between the village of Kibumba in DRC and Hehu in Rwanda. An interesting case is that of Idjwi highland whereby one has to use his good senses to demarcate the two countries, DRC and Rwanda where the frontier is contextual and changes with the circumstances. This proximity opens the doors to people’s contact especially for trade and other activities. People living along the frontier share a strong relationship. However, because of political situations, prejudice and historical background, there is a sense mistrust, suspicion and wariness among ethnic groups in North Kivu and among Congolese and Rwandese. This context makes it hard, if not impossible to work together or to associate for a common goal in the region. It is known that a human being is a social being and is called to live in a society, to be accepted and integrated in a community to interact with others. Thus, integration is one of the key paths for wellbeing, development and peace, particularly in DRC and its neighbors sharing some strong cultural ties. However, given the pre-existing crises and the intergroup and interstate conflicts, the integration process is at stake and seems even unattainable in this region. The process has to fulfill several conditions for the States or people closeness to be effective. Hence there are ways and conditions that should first change for the integration to happen as interethnic conflicts between North Kivu and Rwanda should be looked at in the current trends where ikinyarwanda is working for separation and distorting the region instead of uniting people and nations.

Speaking about ‘Globalization’, Sam Tulya-Muhika (2007:92) says: “globalization is a word coined over the last quarter century to describe the coming together all countries in the world.”

Sam Tulya-Muhika goes on and gives the types of the Globalization processes that characterize the area of our study. He talks of the “unstructured” or old model of Globalization through people’s migration and the ‘structured’ Globalization or modern process based on : free flow of capital and trade in goods and services without state restrictions. On the other hand, there are actors or ‘multilateral international institutions’ regulating movements and services. There is also the regional integration, economically speaking. Sam Tulya-Muhika (2007:85) came to the conclusion that the nation-state has ‘matured’ and capable to open up to other states in the world. For him, the nation-state had become ‘inadequate for the information era’, inadequate for the technology era and the subsequent changes, creation and innovations. The new assumption is that “the state has become too small for big things and too big for small things.” (id, 2007:85) thus, the need to break up the barriers imposed by the inherited frontiers in order to accommodate the big things and the language is one of the ways or ‘bridges of cooperation’ (Mkandawire Th, 2005:184).

In his analysis, Sam Tulya-Muhika coined that the “regional integration is difficult.” We should agree with him that it is ‘difficult’ but not unattainable or impossible. He asserts that:

“the emerging picture is that regional integration is a deliberated and fully informed effort to transform the welfare of the  peoples in question through creation of an effective and competitive economy. To do this, each State must be enabled to research and quantitatively assess and accept both the potential benefits and short-term costs of regional integration. Regional integration is difficult.”(2007:88)

About instability, internal and/or socio political situations: conflicts and instability in North Kivu have been associated to Kinyarwanda speakers since 1965 with the Kanyarwanda conflict. The negative feeling has currently grown deep that other ethnic groups see the misfortune that befell on North Kivu to be coming from Rwanda through the Kinyarwanda speakers thus compromising any cooperation and integration processes. In spite of the ‘CEPGL’ organization, for years, there should have been some political will or commitment by States in the region, with strong regional structures, funding institutions for the process and programs for regional unity or mechanisms for development and conflict management between D Congo and Rwanda (Sam Tulya-Muhika, 2007:88). Based on the ‘Kinyarwanda and the Banyarwanda situation’, the process of integration remains questionable as far as DR Congo ( via North Kivu) and Rwanda are concerned . Nevertheless, Colin McCarthy asserts that: “Because of the prominence given to regional integration, Africa-sub-Saharan Africa in particular-has the largest number of regional integration arrangements in the world. Unfortunately, many of these are ineffective or dormant”. (in Stephen Ellis, 1996,213); so has always been the ‘CEPGL’ since its creation with its headquarters in Gisenyi, Rwanda , and whereby people in North Kivu and Gisenyi did not see significant impact.

Let us look at the variability of a linguistic integration in the case of Ikinyarwanda. There are integrative and/or the disintegrative challenges when taking into account this language. The regional integration and any other integration process generally go with positive side and negative ones. Colin McCarthy (in Stephen Ellis 1996, 220) argues that regional integration

“entails a sacrifice of national sovereignty and, presumably, the creation of a supra national regional authority with real powers. (…) it is difficult to envisage the successful integration of weak States; the creation of integration arrangements cannot serve as a substitute for poor or weak national governance. Finally, in respect of political will, it is also difficult to integrate and sacrifice sovereignty if the member states are divided on major political and ideological issues.”

From the facts that ethnic groups in North Kivu Province are not ready to sacrifice something of their linguistic being and their identity, the cooperation or integration processes are compromised even though the linguistic integration has no immediate or direct effects of losing the state sovereignty. The second side of integration and here linguistic integration is about interests, gains or losses of participating groups or countries in the coming together (Colin McCarthy in Stephen Ellis, 1996, 220)

In the context of Globalization and the Global framework, the exit path toward the eastern Congo liberation could be that the linguistic belts are emphasized but out of suspicion and mistrust. These belts should also go hand in hand with the ‘development belts’:

“the Development Belts Model goes as follows. It is impossible to develop a whole continental land mass (or even a country land mass at the same time.) Historical developments have followed easily-developable resource corridors. And other less endowed areas have been secondary beneficiaries (…).’(Sam Tulya-Muhika, in Stahl 2007:102)

Back to Ikinyarwanda as a ‘regional bridge’ and to its other challenges, Scholars and linguists asserts that languages (especially the ‘glossonym’) are associated to ‘ethnonym’ and to the place and sometimes this association goes hand in hand with the sociocultural and political contexts. So, according to them, a “Hutu” (ethnonym) should not have the “Kinyarwanda” (glossonym) as language but the “kihutu” from the linguistic framework that the ethnonym  has the glossonym as another side. So a Munande speaks Kinande, a Muhunde speaks Kihunde, a Munyanga speaks Kinyanga. Besides, in the North Kivu case, the general opinion wants people to be categorized in ‘Bahutu’ and ‘Batutsi’ and not ‘Banyarwanda’. As for their language, the ‘Bahutu’ speaks the ‘Kihutu’. This is true for others languages and ethnics groups. (Nkiko Dismas et al. in Bucyalimwe, 2010: .394-405).

Another striking feature is that of a lot of self-imposed image, the denial of self and iKinyarwanda added to the fragility of relationships. The conflicting situation in North Kivu led to various attitudes that finally put both peace and integration at stake. First, there is a strong ‘imposed-image’ whereby some Kinyarwanda speakers (ingroup, us), being frustrated, want to become like ‘the other’ (outgroup, them); hence moving from their ‘self’ (us) individually or as an ethnic group speaking their language to an ‘artificial identity’ defined by a constant change of names (glossonymes), a way of speaking or adopting other languages, and a way of being. Some Kinyarwanda speakers change their names or adopt new names that for them sound ‘Congolese’ like: Kasongo, Mayanga, Papy, Sebal, Ndula, Kankine, Buabua, etc. or simply adopt  some Kiswahili names like: Faida, Zawadi, Maombi, Byamungu, Mwamini, Maneno, Amini, Vumilia, etc. On this junction, what really matters for the ethnic groups and for their Congolese identity in North Kivu seems to be more the language –ikinyarwanda- than ethnicity. This position compromises the national and regional historical image, at the same time compromising any regional unity. However, Kenneth Boulding cautions about any imposition of a national image or sense of belonging: “imposed images, however, are fragile by comparison with those which are deeply internalized and transmitted through family and other intimate sources”. (2000, 47)

Talking about “Africa’s wars”, Paul D. William argues that:

“the terrain of struggle on which African wars have been waged is multileveled and populated with a variety of actors, structures and processes. I use the term ‘levels’ in an ontological sense to refer to distinct contexts –generally organized on the principle of spatial scale- where both outcomes and sources of explanation can be located.” (2011, 36)

These views confirm or illustrate the conflicts in Eastern DRC; conflicts that to some extent have a strong connotation of local group contacts and the Kinyarwanda influence. About the local level of understanding Africa’s wars and the North Kivu conflicts in general, Paul D. Williams adds that:

“Africa’s wars all have local roots. Here, ‘local’ refers to the relationship between individuals and their immediate politico-geographic context (…). In spatial terms, this immediate context is defined as sub state to separate it from national level dynamics” (2011, 38.).

The linguistic conflict in Eastern DR Congo and western Rwanda become more multifaceted from the fact that it falls simultaneously under various patterns : it is local whereby local communities are fighting against what they assume to be ‘foreign’ (them) when on the other side the foreigners are fighting for their identity, belonging and citizenship. (Williams D. P., 2011, 38).

As for the ‘national wars’, conflicts in eastern DR Congo can as well be termed ‘national’ as well as an ‘internationalized internal conflict’ from the connection made between the Kinyarwanda speakers living in North Kivu and their counterparts in Rwanda. Officially, the conflict is seen as a misunderstanding between local groups when, on the other side it brings in others countries starting by Rwanda, Uganda up to Zimbabwe:

“regional wars can assume many forms, but among the most common African variants have been government forces crossing into neighboring states to eliminate rebel bases and supply lines and/or intimidating countries which gave sanctuary to rebels (…).” (Williams D. P. 2011, 41)

From this views, one can mention the example of Rwanda crossing into DR Congo ‘to eliminate’ the Rwandan rebels (FDLR) or to destroy their stronghold. The Rwandan interference is always felt by Congolese as a source of division and hatred towards everyone speaking Kinyarwanda.

Conflicts in North Kivu and in its relation with Rwanda can also be termed “global”. As Paul D. Williams (2011, 42-43) explained it, there is always a close connection between local and global networks in conflicts through the network effects in the way that what happens in a neighboring country can spills over in another country. In this context, the local is closely connected to the national and to the global (Williams D. P., 2011,42). Ikinyarwanda and/or the related discourse – as a source of creation, inclusion or exclusion have become a destructive tool for some and a constructive tool for others. The opponents of the Kinyarwanda speakers (the out-group) come up with a particular discourse that reveals their intention which is to destroy, on one side, to defend on the other side. And so do the Kinyarwanda speakers. Here, we take into consideration what Aminata Diaw and Mamadou Diouf (in Nnoli Okwudiba, 1998, 261-262) assert:

“thus discourse artificialism fully reveals its ideological dimension. It gives the social actors a specific memory turned into a reality –reading mechanism. It creates a particular history by appropriating a land. The ethnic discourse creates its own logic which contradicts national identity discourse aimed at eliminating all particularisms and universalizing while also appealing clandestinely and ethnologically to ethnic reality in practice. Discourse at the service of an opposition can only produce instability since the ethnic land becomes the only place where views other than the governments can be expressed; but it is also a place of negotiation for segments of the leading class competing to gain control of the State and of its peripheral structures”.

This discourse is then actualized as a “desire for change and the construction of new alternatives” (Aminata in Nnoli Okwudiba, 1998: 265) for people who are marginalized and it appears to be something to use in order to regain the lost space or to create a ‘new space’. This latter is what we referred to as a state defined by the linguistic belts created in North Kivu. These attitudes put the inter-ethnic relationship and the interstate cooperation at stake.

Language and new ethnic concepts

Biaya K.T. analyzed “Ethnicity and the State in Zaïre” (in Nnoli Okwudiba, 1998: 327-350). His analysis focused on the history and the interrelationship of ethnic groups in the then Zaïre through three phases, pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial era. It dwells specifically on the political weight that overtook other life sectors, mainly the social sector. As Biaya convincingly concludes: ethnicity “has gained an overabundant political recognition” (1998:349) and it has become the machinery for the exercise of power, par excellence, with the establishment of the MPC” (MPC = Colonial Mode of Production). On the other side, however, one can read the use of the new language or designation in Biaya’s analysis through the categorization of the people he refers to as “Zairians of Rwandan origin” (1998: 339) (I underline). Somewhere else, Biaya talks of “Zairians of Rwandan descent” (id.:341).

Not only this way of determining an ethnic group (one among more than 400) connotes a kind of ‘isolation’, it also bears a heavy psychological weight where two sides are clearly demarcated by this way of speaking: ‘us’ versus ‘them’. However, Biaya puts it very well that both the linguistic and the origin variable were politically used if not created for people from North Kivu. He says:

“Such double –talk, including immigration itself, ended up placing Zairians of Rwandan origin and Rwandan exiles in a situation of scapegoats for a government that cynically manipulated the two aspects of such immigration and linguistic fraternity to create mutual repulsion among these people of the great lakes, who have been good brothers and neighbours, in the past.” (in Nnoli 1998: 342).

This type of narrative ‘Zairians of Rwandan origin’ or ‘Congolese of Rwandan descent’ became popular in a wide literature. However, it does not sound without any friction into the ears of group members in North Kivu as it attracts a conflicting reaction. According to Baksh Rawwida et al., (2005:157), “the use of specific words and the ‘naming’ of events and groupings can inflame tensions in ways that are largely unrecognized.” It is true that the ‘Kinyarwanda’ speakers in North Kivu are of various categories. Mahmoud Mamdani gives three groups of them: the nationals, the immigrants and the refugees. Historically, early in 1930s, the colonialists moved people from Rwanda. These were workers needed for hard work; on the other side, the move aimed at decongesting Rwanda. Those who were moved are known as ‘Transplantés’. The 1959 events and the 1994 war in Rwanda also brought in Eastern DRC other Rwandese fleeing for their lives. These ones are refugees. However, there are other people who moved freely from Rwanda just looking for green pastures. These ones are immigrants. When these different groups came in Congo, they found other indigenous ‘Kinyarwanda’ speakers.

The semantics behind the new discourse ‘Rwandan or Banyarwanda’ call into question the view of the Congolese nation and the provincial belonging because it amounts to exclusion and marginalization on one side and fear or frustration on the other side; all of what results into persistence of tensions among the G2 versus G7. Michael Deibert (2013:32) talks about “the Rwandophone communities”. Here the inclusion through ‘Rwandophone communities’ is based on a linguistic aspect to include all communities or people who communicate through iKinyarwanda. However, still this categorization raises some interrogations among which the clear identification of who these community members are and their clear demarcation since there are five different categories of Kinyarwanda speakers in North Kivu. In this way, speaking iKinyarwanda is generally and negatively associated with integration when taking into account that a true Congolese or ‘congophone’ does not wish to be associated with a foreigner (or a group other than his), especially a Rwandese or a rwandophone.


This research paper sought to find out the effects of iKinyarwanda both in the provincial and regional context and in the integration process; its impacts on ethnic groups living in the Eastern DR Congo and neighboring countries. It shows that the relationships resulting from social contacts are compromised by an enemy image that people have towards each other and the strong cleavage between the in-group as opposed to the out-group, the Kinyarwanda speakers versus the other ethnic groups and vice versa. Besides, this attitude compromises the national integration and the regional or interstate cooperation and/or integration. In the North Kivu province, there are linguistic and social boundaries that divide ethnic groups into ‘us’ from ‘them’.

The combination of psychological and sociological approaches provided the basis for the analysis and revealed that enemy image is so strong that it nurtures the tension between ethnic groups and raises the level of conflicts among them. That is why conflicts in the Eastern DRC become more complex and hard to transform because they are characterized by a high dose of what is hidden in people’s minds without clear causes of ethnic clashes. The research shows that the conflicts have to be approached through a spectrum from the intrapersonal level to the regional level, going through the interpersonal, inter-ethnic and interstate conflicts. Nevertheless, all these levels of conflicts are interconnected.

The study recommended the following ways out of the protracted conflicts in eastern DR Congo and the region in general:

There is need to transform the attitudes that led to the formation of ethnic boundaries if the integration processes have to be effective. Colin McCarthy (in Stephen Ellis, 1996:211) suggests a ‘re-assessment of regional integration in Africa’ as he sees it to be opportune.

At state level, countries, DR Congo and Rwanda with other States in the region should move from just a simple cooperation to a really strong regional integration. This can be possible by adopting common regional institutions dealing with issues like agriculture, trade and security.

There should be creation of a national and a regional language board with permanent staff that comprises social scientists, conflicts analysts and other experts and that will frame the language policy, according to regional context and interests. The Board would “analyse the sociolingual situation, draft policy proposal, and organize language learning programmes”. For example, there should be such board of experts within the CEPGL/ICGLR Organization[4].  Among the remedies, the board should recommend a suitable language policy to be applied in the country and in the region for the sake of unity and communication.

In the case of North Kivu Province, the States should adopt the language pluralism as a ‘democratic language policy’ to promote language diversity because an assimilation option has failed or is deemed to fail. Promoting language diversity will also promote people’s integration. However people need a common language for communication and “mutual understanding and to form and nurture one civic nation.”(Harris P. et al., 1998:246). The common language should be selected among the lingua franca if needed and here ‘iKinyarwanda’ can do well as it is not only spoken by many people in Eastern DRC and in Rwanda but also in Uganda where it is spoken by the Banyarwanda and the Bafumbira (from Bunagana, Kisoro all the way to Kabale, Mbarara, Masaka, Sembabule and Mubende).

People or ethnic groups in the Region should be given the opportunity to express their views on the best policy and the language to adopt. It is crucial to seek for public opinion and public support through: public debates, investigations, interviews, to be conducted both in DR Congo and in the region if any aspiration to integration is to be real.


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[1] http://www.mapsofworld.com/democratic-republic-of-congo/facts.html accessed  in August 2016

[2] Different sources give different data : 46,498,539 people according to http://www.mapsofworld.com/democratic-republic-of-congo/facts.html accessed in August 2016 ; 62,636,000 as given by http://www.oecd.org/dev/emea/40577125.pdf accessed in August 2016; according to the World Bank : 67,510,000 people as given by http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/drc accessed in August 2016.

[3] AFDL : Alliance des forces démocratiques pour la libération (du Congo) ; RCD: Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie (Congolese rallye for Democracy); CNDP: Congrès National pour le Défense du Peuple; M23: Mouvement du 23 mars.

[4] ICGLR : International Conference on the Great lakes Region.

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