Press Release about Global Refugee Leader Forum: We are not Rwandan, we do not serve neither the interest of Rwanda nor the FDLR nor the refugee regime in DRConngo. We are an independent organization, we stand for the effective protection of all refugees in DRCongo.
Since we started our activities in Goma DRCongo, one among the most critical issues we have to respond to every time is mostly issues related to our work and our identity as an independent organization working on the promotion of refugee rights in Eastern DRCongo.
In the last few weeks we have received allegations and rumors claiming that we are in the services of particular interest groups involved in refugee issues and that we are passionate about Rwandan refugees because we also came from Rwanda.
We are much aware about this challenge and risks associated with the lack of information about our work and who we are that is why we avail ourselves to continuously share ideas on allegations, rumors and negative perceptions against us.
We clearly understand these agitations and reactions from various actors who are involved in refugee affairs in Eastern DRCongo about us, partly this may be because for the last 30 years our initiative is the very first to propose a debate surrounding the protection of refugees in eastern DRCongo and being a new initiative may arise concerns about interests and fear among stakeholders, however what we do detest is the failure of various actors to interact with us in a sincere dialogue on how best we can all work in the same directions especially that almost we all claim to promote issues focusing on refugee interests in Eastern DRCongo.
Failure to prioritize dialogue which is a cornerstone in a democratic system may jeopardize our efforts and put at risk our staff members especially in this part of DRCongo where security remains a serious concern. We continue to worry about the security of our colleagues based in Goma especially if issues connected to their work may be misinterpreted.
On the issue of the origin of our founder: Mr. Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos is the Founder of Global Refugee Leaders Forum, he is a Mushi from Mugogo, Chibanda, Kaziba, Walungu in South Kivu DRCongo. Like most of the Bazibaziba Pecos ancestors came from Lwindi and established in Kaziba Kingdom so many years ago, but not from Rwanda as it has been alleged over the years by those with intentions to challenge the legitimacy of his work on refugee rights mainly in Uganda and in DRCongo now where some voices are indicating that Pecos came from Rwanda and established himself in South Kivu in 1994, the purpose of this is connect his work to political connotation in order to harm him. Pecos is well-known as one among the actors of the Civil Society in South Kivu and he holds a refugee status in Uganda.
On serving the interests of Rwanda in DRCongo: We have been informed that a section of people including refugees do allege that we came to help the government of Rwanda to know where refugees are in order to facilitate their deportation back to Rwanda. It is important to inform refugees that over the years up to now we have firmly stood against the government of Rwanda which had abused refugee rights in Uganda and this is still our position and it is the same thing we wish to stand for in DRCongo.
Refugees in Eastern DRCongo should be protected and the time has come for all of us to do this work. We strongly disapprove of the Rwandan foreign policy on Rwandan refugees living in other countries and hold reservations on the current social, political and economic development of Rwanda which are used to influence the return of refugees. “Rwandan is not yet safe for all her citizens”, that is our position.
Claims that we are working with FDLR: This also has been moving around for the last two weeks among refugee communities and it is time to clarify it. From Google we read that the FDRL works for the protection of Rwandan Refugees in DRCongo, and they have claimed all the time that they are being forced to take guns especially when the DRCongo government cannot offer them security. Since February 2021 we have received several persons who come to our offices and claim to be members of FDLR and sometimes have different messages and different views on issues of the protection of refugees in DRCongo.
In order to get a clear information some of our partners have tried to get in touch with FDLR using the phone number that circulates in social media in their press release, in order to know better how best we can all talk about the protection of refugees, and this is part of our routine exercise to contact various actors and stakeholders who may play a role in this work.
Based on observations from refugee participants who attend our weekly meetings, information, views and opinions of many refugees are close to the vindication of FDLR and also as we know many refugees have failed to register because of orders given by FDLR to discourage the registration of refugees.
Currently we are strongly involved in advocacy for the registration of refugees and in this we discourage the culture in place which has kept refugees invisible for more than 30 years now. This cannot be perceived as an initiative to facilitate the Government of Rwanda in order to deport refugees, but as a mechanism to ensure that refugees are known, identified and served in terms of services.
We are an independent organization guided by the whole legal regime DRCongo is a party member and engaged to remind all stakeholders about the obligation to ensure the protection of refugees.
On ground here in Goma we have observed that both UNHCR and the Congolese National Commission for Refugees CNR failed in their mission to ensure the protection of refugees and our current approach is to help them to assume their responsibilities effectively, we want to bring forward our contributions of ideas, skills, talents and any other support which can help UNHCR and CNR to do better and we strongly believe that if they resolve to be willing to work positively towards the common interests of refugees, we may have little crush amongst ourselves.
We have so far proposed open and frank discussions on issues surrounding refugees in North Kivu, and we believe in the supremacy of reason. We must all agree that we have legal policies which should drive our interventions, we must all have access to the same information and agree which information is right and which one is wrong, and we must all agree that refugees in Eastern DRCongo have legitimate demands of protection. We remain available to any idea that can help in the whole protection process of refugees in Eastern DRCongo.
“Refugees are not a problem but they have problems”
Done in Goma, August 5th, 2021
Jackson Baguma Ntamuzinda