Our reaction to the statement made yesterday April 7th, 2021 by the Speaker of the Parliament in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Amalgamating refugees to negative forces is detrimental to efforts for their protection in D.R.Congo.
We continued observing ignorance at various levels on the issues sounding refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in order to make the matter worse Development Actors and Humanitarian organizations which could have played a positive role to help the country to understand better the question of refugees seem to be detached from this reality. In order to justify this silence during our meeting UNHCR Goma claimed “Sometimes for reasons related to the protection of persons of concerns, UNHCR prefers to be discreet in public while undertaking advocacy in private on specific refugee issues”. Yet ignorance about refugees is at the center of various abuses against refugees and contributes to a high percentages to their lack of protection.
The International Community represented in the Democratic Republic of Congo by the UN Mission, various Diplomatic Mission, UN Agencies and International Organizations seem to have either an agenda which is not known on refugee issues or have no plan at all towards refugees, the ignorance of the Congolese people about the efforts of the International Community to address and solve issues connected to refugees is another challenge to solve urgently.
It was on this ground that even the Speaker of the Parliament in D.R.Congo seems to ignore the contributions of the International Community towards the efforts of handling refugee issues and calls upon the involvement of all actors at the international level. We do welcome his appeal to the International Community to invest in solving refugee issues because this is also part of our advocacy as we are calling the International community to have a clear Agenda which aims at durable solutions for refugees in D.R.Congo which is one among the pillars for durable peace and stability especially in the eastern part of the country.
However we also get this opportunity to remind the Congolese Government that the protection of refugees is based on efforts of both the host government and the International Community. As we keep complaining about the International Community involvement, we also observed little efforts from the Congolese government to address refugee issues on contrary the government is making it hard for refugees to feel protected. And here are some of our observations:
1. The government of D.R.Congo has continued to allow Rwanda Security Services and their allies to operate in Eastern part where there is a high concentration of refugees, this does not promote efforts to ensure the safety of refugees on Congolese territory,
2. Basing on UN Reports of last year 2020, D.R.Congo allowed Rwandan Army to carry out military operations in some parts of eastern Congo and this also does not favor the protection of refugees especially those from Rwanda who have been targeted by Rwanda since 1996 up to now,
3. Currently the government of D.R.Congo is making deals with Rwanda for a joint military operations in eastern D.R.Congo and that also does not favor the protection of refugees,
4. Many refugees in eastern D.R.Congo have no designated places where they can live either camps or settlements and have no access to humanitarian relief aid, this does not favor the end of looting the natural resources. Just an example most of charcoal used in Goma come from Virunga National Parc where refugees cut the trees as the only option they have in order to survive, yet Goma is the capital city for international NGOs in D.R.Congo.
5. D.R.Congo has not yet done much efforts to put in place her national policy framework and her strategic plan to respond to the refugee problems in the country,
We therefore remind the Congolese Authorities to engage in more research in order to find out why some people “who were supposed to be refugees and should have been protected into camps or settlements” are holding guns and looting natural resources in the east part of the country. Just in Nyiragongo in Goma thousands of refugees despite the fact of being identified have no access to humanitarian relief aid and they only remain with one option to loot the national Parc of Virungu. At the same time thousands among them have not yet been identified much as they deserve to be refugees and there are no services in place to identify them and put them in some places where they can be safe.
Still in our meeting with UNHCR argued that many refugees do not want to go to camps or settlements an information which we highly contest basing on the views from various refugees who come to our offices and also views collected from our field works where refugees are eagerly yearning to be in camps or settlements as long as they are in security.
It is on this ground that we call upon the Congolese government to put in place a clear plan on her efforts towards refugees and then mobilize the International Community on her parts of Contributions,
We also call upon the International Community and all development partners to review their approach towards refugees in D.R.Congo and put in place a response which is effective aiming at solving issues affecting refugees than the current move which aims at leaving refugees on their own,
We reiterate our call and position “in order to move forward for peace and stability in eastern D.R.Congo, there is an urgent need to solve refugee problems especially the protection”,
Jackson Baguma Ntamuzinda