UNHCR and CNR Goma seem to have created their own refugee militia group to defend their interests in North Kivu

Putting in place royal refugees who can confirm UNHCR assistance to refugees in Goma, DRC and argue for more UNHCR funding.
Be careful if you need to come to Goma and interact with refugees, you must first of all mind about the person who will put you in contact with refugees and this will determine the type of refugees you will meet, the content of the discussion and results. Here there is a serious war to filter who will say and what will be said, behind the curtain of that war you will see UNHCR.

On Friday November 5th, 2012 a Delegation of UNHCR from Kinshasa (DRC), South Africa and Geneva held a meeting with refugees in Goma. Some refugees alerted us that they were being forced to “accept” that they received aid from UNHCR and her partners during and after the eruption of Nyiragongo Volcano, and that they were being supported very well by UNHCR. We wrote to UNHCR on these issues and in her response, Madam Jackie Keagan the Representative of UNHCR Goma assured us that the meeting had nothing to do with the assistance during the Volcano, nothing to do with the people from Geneva and that is was a routine meeting from UNHCR Goma and refugees, the idea according to Keagan was to listen to issues that are of a concern to refugees, she added “UNHCR’s policy is to listen to refugees but not to tell refugees what they should say”. We then innocently believed in this and actually encouraged refugees not to fear and have faith in UNHCR.
Surprisingly the same meeting which Madam Jackie Keagan moderated was between refugees and the Delegation and aimed at showing and defending the great work UNHCR has done, including during the Volcano eruption in Goma.
What happened with the “do not harm policy? Where is dignity and respect of refugees? Why should a section of refugees be exploited by UNHCR? Where is credibility of UNHCR?

Anyway there is a lot to talk about but in Goma, UNHCR and the Congolese National Commission for Refugees (CNR) put in place a “special refugee group who are identified in their document as Refugee Community Members” which acts purely like a militia in a country that has been seriously affected by militia groups over the years.
Who is this group?
The group is composed of three categories of refugees mainly: Former refugee representatives who were royal to dealings during their term in office, refugees who receive aid and do respect instructions that are given, and those who are mobilized to join the chain, in most cases the third category is on the waiting list and hope to replace others when opportunities come. Generally they are Burundians who have stayed in DRCongo for long period of time and they have their leaders appointed by the UNHCR system.
What is the work of this militia group?
Like elsewhere the militia group plays a role of surpletive, in Goma it seems that the reports and words from UNHCR and her partners alone are not enough to convince the audience, the donors and even fellow UNHCR’s staffs that visit the area. They need refugees who can argue on behalf of UNHCR Goma, generally in meetings these refugees are coached before, a document which they will present is made by CNR and they cherished. They are the “dear beloved sons and daughters”. The militia justifies how UNHCR has helped them in different situation in order to justify the funding for a particular activity, they threaten and blackmail other refugees who would have a different opinion, they are the only ones called to be participate and take lead in UNHCR’s activities in Goma, they sing glory and praise to UNHCR, they work as spies among refugees to identify and mark refugees who complain about how things are done, and in return they are rewarded either with money, opportunities and some form of assistance. These are considered as the model of refugees and all refugees are encouraged to imitate them.
When did it start?
This group started appearing in Goma, in April 2021 when the UNHCR boss visited DRCongo. The current refugee leaders are perceived by UNHCR as not “collaborative not flexible to make deals”, they are viewed as leaders who can ask questions, who can say no sometimes, who seek for accountability and who can stand for the interest of all refugees. Efforts were deployed by UNHCR to weaken the elected refugee leadership in Goma, and now it is divided into three parts: Those who are still committed to defend the cause of refugees, those who are on the side of UNHCR and CNR and those who were disappointed and decided to give up.
This militia group is dangerous not only to refugees but also to us who advocating for better ways to interact with refugees, being in a very fragile security zone UNHCR Goma move to keep this group puts our lives and the lives of refugees at risk. This group should be dismantled quickly.
We should promote a system that helps everyone to have access to accurate information about refugees in Eastern DRCongo, we need accurate information in order to make good decisions. We have been supplied with lies over the years and UNHCR does not seem to be prepared to face the truth, and confront the facts.
emocratic Republic of Congo where many actors seem to believe in militia and rebels in order to advance their cause.

Author: Kuliloshi Pecos