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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

DRC: Who are the Raïa Mutomboki?

After a period of relative calm, fighting has erupted once more around the town of Bunyakiri in South Kivu, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Reports from the area suggest that in early June, members of two armed groups burned down villages of their opposing constituencies following a dispute. In the subsequent days, further skirmishes evolved, ultimately including a third rebel group based in the area. The violence involved a militia called the Raïa Mutomboki clashing with Nyatura, a Hutu armed group allied to the Congolese army, and with the Mayi-Mayi Kifuafua, a former splinter group of the Raïa Mutomboki.

The Raïa Mutomboki are a frequently discussed militia group in reports of conflict in the DRC. But who are they, what are their origins and what are their motivations? …

The movement’s founder and spiritual head is local healer Jean Musumbu. According to combatants, Musumbu’s dawa – a magic potion believed to render them invincible – is particularly strong and has helped them defeat better-equipped enemies, such as the FDLR in 2005. However, asides from this figurehead and a few other known commanders, the Raïa Mutomboki do not really have an established organisational structure. The Usalama Project’s Jason Stearns refers to the group as a series of “armed franchises” due to the vague diffusion of the Raïa Mutomboki label.

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