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Urgent call for mobilization on behalf of our colleague HABUMUREMYI ENGELBERT ANGELO kidnapped in Goma DRCongo on Wednesday May 26th, 2021 on his way to the refugee office.
Our colleague by the name of Habumuremyi Engelbert commonly known as Angelo was born in Rwanda in Rwaza in Rwanda on November 12th, 1968, later on in 1994 he also like many others fled to DRCongo where he was granted a refugee status No: HCR/014-19-01114, Angelo is married and together with his wife they have 7 children and 3 more other dependents, his is the leader of one wing of Rwandan Civil Society organizations based in Eastern DRCongo.
Angelo was living in some parts of Goma with his family members.
As a Human Rights Defender, Angelo stands strongly for the promotion and the protection of refugee rights in Eastern DRCongo where he is well known in his activism against refugee rights violations and he is among the few rare refugee voices that remain. Angelo is not a politician and he has never joined politics and he has never joined military services, Angelo is just a human rights defender.
Circumstances surrounding his kidnap
On that fateful day of Wednesday May 26th, 2021, Angelo left his home towards AIDES (UNHCR Implementing partner for urban refugees in Goma) in the morning at around 7am, where he was to meet an officer in order to give him reports for the children in hope that they would be supported with school fees for his children. Around 9am of the same day, his phone was going through but he was not picking, and it was only in the evening when the phone was off that the family started alerting other people.
On a sad note the very night of Wednesday May 26th, 2021 the Military Authorities in Goma gave orders to people to evacuate because of feared volcano eruption, this affected all efforts in order to do some work to look for him.
But so far the family has visited some well- known detention places but have not managed to get him, around the town of Goma, DRCongo.
Over the years, Rwanda has used similar strategies against refugees in Eastern DRCongo and in Uganda, including assassinations and forceful deportations. Whereas those who were killed, deported and kidnapped in Uganda are known, those killed, kidnapped and deported from DRCongo by Rwanda Security Services remain unknown apart from being known by their fellow refugees.
Based on this unfortunate history, we believe that Rwanda security services may be behind this kidnapping and in case this perception is true then chances may be that Angelo is already in Rwanda.
A week before his disappearance, Angelo was expected to receive money from a Congolese woman based in Goma, the money was sent by Angelo’s friend who resides in Uganda, and it was to help Angelo to get some food. Right now, we do not know the amount of the money but the family indicates it was just for their survival.
However the Congolese lady who had the money, kept on promising to give the money to Angelo and she could not show up to the venue where they could agree for an appointment. The family believes this Congolese lady may be the first suspect, and then the second suspect may come from AIDES where some staff might have shared information about the coming of Angelo and then in this it would have been possible to wait for him on the way. We do not know yet what happened to him on the way, but there are cases of kidnap of people in Goma.
What could have provoked the kidnap of Angelo?
Apart from our usual work on controversial refugee rights in Goma, since April this year we observed some changes and we started getting threats and intimidations from various stakeholders in the refugee affairs, security services and other armed groups, these included warnings which we took seriously, and put in place security management approaches.
However, a week before, more than 19 asylum seekers came from Rwanda and were arrested by Congolese Security Services at the border, Angelo then managed to get involved and later on discovered that these asylum seekers were refugees in DRCongo and were repatriated by force in January 2021, we think that in order make that information disappear Angelo had to be kidnapped. These remain the few scenarios we have now as we wait for more in case we happen to get more information.
Is UNHCR Goma and CNR Goma not involved?
We seem to observe some anxieties among various players in refugee affairs here in Goma since we launched our activities, this may be caused by our engagement to denounce refugee rights violations which is well maintained in place, some reactions of discomfort from some actors may attract the attention of many observers.
Refugees in Goma have reported about some cases of refugees who have been kidnapped and where some officers from CNR Goma have been involved, but also refugees have been complaining about UNHCR and CNR Officers who are based in Rwanda and others who are Rwandan but working on refugee issues in Goma. We have alerted both UNHCR and CNR about this abnormality and we hope they will work on it, much as we have not yet received any formal reactions.
Both UNHCR and CNR Goma organized a meeting on Wednesday May 19th, 2021 in which Angelo together with other refugees were invited, but also participants alleged that some people who are perceived to be working with Rwanda Intelligence Services were in the meeting and from there they might have traced more about Angelo. All these are still details which we believe may help in investigations, in order to know what might have happened to Angelo.
Kidnapping is an attack on our work
Since 2016 Angelo has been active in our efforts to establish the Global Refugee Leaders Forum and strongly advocated for us to get involved in refugee issues in Goma and actually facilitated our installation in Goma, and opened us to various leaders in order to carry out our activities.
Taking him from us by force is a deliberate strategy not only to weaken our activities by a clear threat to our engagement on issues affecting refugees.
We shall not give us
You may imagine, what we are going through now, thinking about our colleague Angelo but also about ourselves, you may imagine what our neighbors, relatives and friends are telling us and the pressure we are facing, you may imagine what we are thinking about our future.
Despite all these questions and challenges, we can assure you that we resolved to do this work, no amount of threats and intimidations will divert us from this noble cause. They will either kill, kidnap all of us or put in place principles that abide with the obligations of human rights standards towards refugees.
On this note, we do humbly alert you to be with for a series of activities in the near future in order to ensure that what happened to Angelo brings a new era for refugees in Eastern DRCongo especially in Goma. We have already alerted both UNHCR and the CNR who are in charge of refugees.
We call upon you to do all you can to ensure that Angelo is brought back to his family, we want him dead or alive and his family must know what happened to him and why.
You can engage three major actors: The Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Government of Rwanda.
We humbly ask you ask to join and together we should condemn the silence and the indifference of UNHCR Goma, and the Congolese National Commission for Refugees (CNR) about this case, and their failure to put in measures in place which ensures the protection of Angelo’s family members.
Jackson Baguma Nt