18. Bembe/The Promised Land
Written by Bobby Matos & Justo Almario
Performed by Bobby Matos and the Heritage Ensemble
From the LP Collage Afro Cuban Latin Jazz (Night Life, USA 1993)



A few words about Bobby Matos


Bronx born Afro Latin Jazz bandleader Bobby Matos began playing music beating on pots and pans in his Grandma’s apartment and went on to backstage informal lessons with conga drum masters Patato Valdez and Mongo Santamaria, and composition and arranging studies at Manhattan School of Music. His bands have included the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble and the Heritage Ensemble. […] In the 1980’s and ‘90’s, he recorded several albums, most notably five well received CDs for Ubiquity Records’ ‘Cubop’ label, Ubiquity records has also released the ‘Best of Bobby Matos (the Ubiquity years)’ this summer. Bobby’s music is available on cdbaby.com. Find out more about him at his website, www.bobbymatosmusic.com.’

Source: http://www.myspace.com/bobbymatosmusic


About Bembe, the Bembe people, and Bemba – a tragedy in eight parts.

One: from ‘Bemba people’ – Wikipedia


In contemporary Zambia, the word ‘Bemba’ actually has several meanings. It may designate people of Bemba origin, regardless of where they live, e.g. whether they live in urban areas or in the original rural Bemba area. Alternatively, it may encompass a much larger population which includes some eighteen different ethnic groups, who together with the Bemba form a closely related ethnolinguistic cluster of matrilineal-matrifocal agriculturalists known as the Bemba-speaking peoples of Zambia.


Two: from Art & Life in Africa Online – Bembe Information, the University of Iowa, November 1998

The Bembe originate from the northwest forests of Congo (Zaire). They are representative of numerous ethnic traditions including Lega, pre-Lega, Boyo-Kunda, and Bemba. They are a tough and proud people who absorbed other populations and their systems of thought in the process of carving out their current homeland in a time of widespread conflict and under economic pressure from European invaders and slave traders during the 19th century. Their desire for more land continues to result in conflict in the area today.


Three: from A History Of The Bemba, by Andrew D. Roberts, University of Wisconsin Press, 1974

In a country called Luba or Kola, there was a chief called Mukulumpe. He had a number of sons by different wives, but one day he heard of a woman with ears as large as an elephant’s, who said she came from the sky and belonged to the crocodile clan. Her name was Mumbi Mukasa, and the chief married her. They had three sons, Katongo, Chiti and Nkole, and a daughter, Chilufya Mulenga. The impetuous young men built a tower that fell down and killed many people. Mukulumpe was furious. He put out Katongo’s eyes, and banished Chiti and Nkole. Mukulumpe pretended to relent and called back the exiles. However, he had dug a game pit to kill the three of them. Katongo, though blind, warned his brothers by using his talking drum…


Four: from Jookin’ – The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African-American Culture, by Katrina Hazzard-Gordon, Temple University Press, 1990

The major African deities (orisha) were capable of performing great feats – and great harm to individuals. Like the Greek gods, but unlike the Christian, their nature was inherently erotic. They required appeasement and supplication in the form of ritualised sacrifices and offerings. North American Protestantism came to define African religious beliefs as sinful and strictly forbade their practice, but even among the African Americans who converted to Christianity, African traditions remained vital. Equally important, much of African religious style, fervour, format, and predisposition in worship persisted in secular vestment.

Over time, a clear demarcation emerged between sacred, ceremonial dance and the secular dancing associated with festivities and parties. The split began in the middle passage, and by the time the first generation of slaves was born on these shores the process was well underway.

Both sacred and secular dancing originated in an African worship system that included a wide range of praise methods, including a ‘party for the gods,’ or Bembe as these religious parties came to be known in Cuba. […] At least three types of Bembe were observed among the Lucumi (Cuban Yoruba): bembe Lucumi, bembe Lucumi criollo, and suncho. Bembe Lucumi was more generally African than the other two. Its songs were sung in Yoruba language, its drum rhythms were strictly traditional and were executed on the sacred two headed bata drum. Bembe Lucumi criollo permitted a loosening of tradition; its songs were in a creolised language and simpler. The third type, suncho, appears to have been the true ‘ocha party’ or party for the gods. Unlike the other types of bembe, suncho did not always accompany religious occasions.’


Five: from ‘Attacked by All Sides’ – Civilians and the War in Eastern Zaire, Human Rights Watch, 1 March 1997


In North Kivu, speakers of Kinyarwanda, the language of Rwanda, comprised about half the population of three million before the massive influx of Rwandans in 1994. Known collectively as Banyarwanda, they included about four times as many Hutu as Tutsi. Some had been present before the drawing of colonial boundaries, while others had migrated from Rwanda for economic reasons or as political refugees during the twentieth century. In some areas, such as Masisi, the Banyarwanda comprised a large majority of the population.

The speakers of Kinyarwanda in South Kivu, some 200,000 or so, were mostly descendants of people long resident in the area and included fewer twentieth-century migrants. They became known as Banyamulenge (the people of Mulenge hill or forest) in the 1960s when they fought with the Zairian government against Pierre Mulele, a position which put them in opposition to other ethnic groups in the area.


The right to Zairian citizenship, recognized for Banyamulenge and Banyarwanda by earlier laws and constitutions, was limited in 1981 to those people who could prove that their ancestors lived in Zaire before 1885. But the 1981 law was not actively enforced and identity cards of Kinyarwanda-speakers were not revoked. Politicians who feared the number of votes represented by Kinyarwanda-speakers in proposed elections stirred up feeling against them among people of neighboring ethnic groups. At the time of the National Conference in 1991, Celestin Anzuluni, a Bembe from South Kivu, led a move to exclude the Banyamulenge, claiming they were not Zairians but Rwandan immigrants. Banyarwanda from North Kivu were similarly excluded. After this, leaders of other ethnic groups increasingly challenged the rights of Banyamulenge and Banyarwanda generally to Zairian citizenship.


In 1993, Hunde, Nande, and Nyanga civilian militia known as Mai-Mai and Bangirima, encouraged by government officials and sometimes supported by the Zairian military, attacked Hutu and Tutsi communities in North Kivu, killing thousands and displacing 300,000. In 1994, after the government responsible for the genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda was defeated, some one million Rwandan refugees, mostly Hutu, flooded into eastern Zaire. The dislocations in local life caused by this massive influx exacerbated tensions between previously resident Kinyarwanda-speakers and other ethnic groups. The Interahamwe militia and many of the former military and civilian authorities of Rwanda reestablished their authority in the massive refugee camps and spread their genocidal hatred of Tutsi to adjacent populations. In South Kivu, Bembe and Lega, encouraged by speeches of regional politicians, began to organise militia, following the model of the Interahamwe of Rwanda and the Mai-Mai and Bangirima of North Kivu.

Feeling increasingly threatened by harassment and arrests and talk of expulsion, numbers of Banyamulenge young men went to Rwanda where they joined or were trained by the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), which also supplied them with weapons. In South Kivu, others organised their own militia and bought arms during 1995. According to one witness, ‘The Banyamulenge (even) bought rifles from the Interahamwe (in the refugee camps). . . . With the crisis in Zaire, the Interahamwe sold their guns.’

In early 1996 Interahamwe, Mai-Mai, and Bangirima killed thousands of Tutsi and drove more than 18,000 from North Kivu into exile in Rwanda and Uganda. At this time Banyamulenge in South Kivu began to face demands that they too go ‘home’ to Rwanda.


In early September, Bembe militia, supported by FAZ soldiers, began attacking Banyamulenge villages, killing and raping, and forcing survivors to flee. A woman driven from Uvira Zone reported: ‘My husband remained in Uvira. I don’t know if he is still living. Zairian soldiers came to the house to take him, then they left with him. When the Zairian soldiers came, they raped us, down to a ten-year-old girl. The other girls were tied, for example children a year old, less than a year old, were tied up, too. . . . Many women were threatened, some of them were nearly dead.’’


Six: from Review of Christian Outreach Relief and Development [CORD] community services for Congolese refugees in Tanzania, by Shelley Dick, UNHCR Evaluation & Policy Analysis Unit, December 2002

‘In late 1996 and early 1997, Congolese refugees began arriving in Western Tanzania from the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, also called the Congo, where political instability had led to the overthrow of the Mobutu Seseseko regime by Laurent Desire-Kabila. Nyarugusu camp was established in December 1996 and Lugufu camp was established in February 1997 to accommodate this influx of refugees.

Then, in June 1998, the situation in the Congo appeared to be stabilising and a large voluntary repatriation process began, reducing the population of Nyarugusu camp to 28,000 and Lugufu camp to 10,000. However, around this time, wars in Rwanda and Burundi spilled over into the Congo causing further unrest. The renewal of fighting in the DRC led UNHCR to stop facilitating the repatriation of Congolese refugees by September 1998, and a new influx of Congolese refugees entered into Tanzania. It is reported that over 90 percent of the refugees who had repatriated were caught up in the second crisis and returned to Tanzania as asylum seekers for the second time.

Because of these events, the population in Nyarugusu camp rose back up to 50,000 in 1999 but has remained stable for the last two years at the maximum capacity of approximately 53,000. […] The two main tribes represented in the camp are Bembe and Fulero who come from an essentially urban environment around Uvira.’


Seven: from Report on the Causes and Consequences of Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, 12 March 2004


Sexual violence against women and girls is one of the most horrifying aspects of the armed conflict that broke out in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1996. All sides to the conflict have participated in these atrocities: militants from the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD), soldiers in the Rwandan and Burundian national armies, Mayi-Mayi and Interahamwe militias and Burundian rebels loyal to the Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie (FDD) or to the Forces Nationales de Libération (FNL). During the conflict the incidence of these atrocities escalated to such an extent that local and international human rights organisations, as well as women’s organisations working at the grassroots level, began referring to ‘a war within a war’ and to a ‘war against women.’



These atrocities were particularly targeted at: a) women farmers who are the main driving force behind the subsistence economy in the region (76% of the women who were interviewed are farmers) and b) women of childbearing age, although all age groups were subjected to various forms of sexual violence. Most of the women who were interviewed, i.e. 66%, were uneducated. Women with a primary school education represented only 15% of the entire sample whilst women with a secondary school and tertiary education represented 17.7% and 0.2% of the sample respectively. In total, uneducated women and those with a primary school education represented 81% of the sample.

The informants came from 19 different ethnic groups, representing the main ethnic groups in South Kivu Province. These groups can also be found in regions that are geographically close to Rwanda, which were occupied by troops loyal to the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) and the RCD when the conflict began. Most of the women who had been raped were Bembe women who represented 37% of the entire sample […]


Most of the victims were able to identify their attackers by the grievances they expressed against them, the language they spoke and their accents. Some informants also mentioned their physical and morphological make-up. 27% of the victims thus claim to have been raped by the Interahamwe, followed by FDD combatants (26%), RCD combatants and Banyamulenge rebels (21%), Mayi-Mayi rebels (16%), unknown men in uniform (3%) and RPA soldiers (2%).


[…] The analysis provided by women who endured sexual violence varies. Some informants believed that these acts of sexual violence fulfilled the combatants’ need to satisfy their sexual urges. Taking this argument a step further, other informants maintained that sexual violence against women was a deliberate attempt to humiliate the Congolese people and to humiliate the whole country, which is coveted by its neighbours for its immense wealth. More than 50% of the victims firmly believed that the DRC’s neighbours were engaged in a plot to exterminate the Congolese people. Combatants therefore used women’s bodies and their reproductive capabilities to spread the HIV/AIDS virus and to create non-Congolese babies.

It is a commonly held view that rape increases an attacker’s magical powers.’


Eight: from Prosecutor: ex-Congo VP used rape as weapon, by Arthur Max, Associated Press, tricityherald.com 12 January 2009

THE HAGUE, Netherlands. Militias under the command of a former Congolese vice president rampaged through Central Africa Republic raping hundreds of women and men, war crimes prosecutors alleged Monday. But the defence argued Jean-Pierre Bemba sent the troops to rescue an embattled neighbour, and was not responsible for their actions once they crossed the border.

The International Criminal Court began four days of hearings to determine whether prosecutors have a substantial case to put Bemba on trial on eight counts of murder, torture and mass rape during the civil war in 2002-2003. The three-judge panel has 60 days to decide whether to commit him to trial, seek more evidence or let him go.

Bemba, 46, is the most senior political figure to be brought before the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal since it began work in 2002. The court also has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, on genocide charges in Darfur, but he has refused to surrender.

Prosecutors described a horrific five-month campaign by two battalions of Bemba’s militia, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, starting in October 2002. Central Africa Republic President Ange-Felix Patasse had appealed to Bemba for help to fend off a coup led by his former army chief of staff, Francois Bozize, who is now president.

‘Bemba wanted to traumatise and terrorise the civilian population so they would not support the rebels,’ deputy prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in an opening statement. ‘He chose rape as his method.’




Bemba people: http://.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bemba_people

Bembe Information, from Art & Life in Africa Online, the University of Iowa,

The Origins Of Bemba Chieftainship, from A History Of The Bemba, by Andrew D. Roberts, University of Wisconsin Press, 1974.

Jookin’ – The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African-American Culture, by Katrina Hazzard-Gordon. Temple University Press, 1990

‘Attacked by All Sides’ – Civilians and the War in Eastern Zaire, Human Rights Watch, 1 March 1997

Review of Christian Outreach Relief and Development [CORD] community services for Congolese refugees in Tanzania, by Shelley Dick,
UNHCR Evaluation & Policy Unit

Report on the Causes and Consequences of Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo – Preliminary Findings, by Ndeye Sow, Annie Bukaraba, Vénantie Bisimwa, and Jeanne d’Arc Chakupewa.

Prosecutor: ex-Congo VP used rape as weapon, by Arthur Max, Associated Press, tricityherald.com Monday, 12 January 2009



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