On Aug. 13, 2004, an ocean away from Maine, Banyamulenge refugees in Burundi were massacred. This weekend, survivors of the mass murder and others plan to gather in Portland to remember the event and raise awareness of their history.

The Gatumba Refugees Survivors Foundation and the Mahoro Maine Peace Association are coming together to host the 19th annual national commemoration for the Gatumba massacre in Burundi this Friday to Sunday. Every year the commemoration is held in a different city around the United States, and this year the organizers chose Portland.

Members of the Banyamulenge community in Indianapolis walk to commemorate a massacre of their people in Burundi in 2004. Portland, which has about 400 Banyamulenge refugees, is hosting a similar commemoration this weekend. Courtesy Gatumba Refugees Survivor Foundation

The Banyamulenge people are a group that has lived in the South Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo since the 17th century. The group has spread east into Rwanda and Burundi and has faced significant persecution in those areas.

The massacre in Gatumba, a village in western Burundi, took the lives of 166 people and left over 200 wounded. The Banyamulenge community was affected worldwide by the violence, and many fled. Over 400 Banyamulenge people have resettled in Maine.

On Friday, there will be a walk of remembrance at 1 p.m. starting at Portland City Hall. Representatives of Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Chellie Pingree will join the walk. On Saturday, survivors of the massacre, experts in international conflict and members of the organizing groups will give presentations and deliver testimonies at a memorial event at the Sheraton Hotel at Sable Oaks in South Portland starting at 9 a.m. Speakers will include Gregory Stanton, the founder of Genocide Watch, and Bojana Coulibaly, the manager of the African language program at Harvard University.

The Gatumba Refugees Survivors Foundation started in 2007 in New York to specifically support the Banyamulenge people who sought refuge in the U.S. following the massacre. Mahoro Maine Peace Association is focused on supporting members of the Maine community from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Through this commemoration, the Banyamulenge community aims to bring awareness of its history in Burundi, where the perpetrators of the violence never faced consequences. They also raise funds for the relocation of those still facing persecution in the Burundi area.

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