Summary of the meeting with refugees in Goma: Many are concerned about how elections are being organized

Summary of the meeting with refugees in held on Sunday December 12th, 2021 at our offices in Goma.

The meeting started at 2:45 PM

Four points were on the agenda:

Opening prayer and welcome remarks

Information from the participants

The presentation of refugee candidates

Any Other Business (AOB),

Minute One:

The prayer was done a volunteer and then after followed the opening remarks from COJESKI representative. He thanked the participants, welcomed everyone and apologized for the delays the meeting has taken to start, this was caused by handling individual cases of different people who came to office.

Minute Two:

Refugees shared various information about what is happening in their communities among them cases of those who are sick, and those who were arrested were mentioned. We pledged to follow up on those who were sick and those who were detained by the security services,

But also the meeting brought up the issue of Rwandan Refugee secession clause which is being said by some UNHCR Officers and the medical assistance to Rwandan refugees which some UNHCR officers claim it will be cut off by next year 2022. We could not have much to say about these issues because we do not have yet any information from UNHCR, but we informed refugees that the world over rejected the secession clause including DRCongo, we believe there are better ways to solve Rwandan refugee issues. We also observed that UNHCR Goma does not communicate with refugees and does not provide enough information to all actors so that people can be fully informed.

The meeting also broadly discussed on the Press Conference we held last week, and suggestions were made for the next press Conference on refugee issues, some refugees’ pledges to make some contributions in order to organize a debate on refugee issues which should also bring together all those involved. It was agree that another press conference will be organized soon depending on the finances and the prevailing events.

Refugees shared still information about those who did the verification and did not receive their Cards, and those who are waiting for the registration which is not yet confirmed by the CNR and UNHCR.

Minute Three:

So far those who have demonstrated interested to stand for the coming elections as the representatives of refugees had enough time to speak to their fellow refugees and show them what they are going to do. Two candidates who were present were given space to talk about their plans towards refugees in 2022, before that we presented our priorities which were made by refugees which include:

The Visibility of refugees at all levels in order to reduce myths, stereotypes, discrimination and other negative perceptions towards refugees and even ignorance about the existence of refugees,

The Registration of all refugees: Thousands of refugees are not yet registered by UNHCR and CNR and remain unknown, many others do not have identifications,

Settlements: While UNHCR confirmed recently to the press that there are more than 200,000 registered refugees in North-Kivu, no one knows where all those refugees live, how they live and what happens to them every day. It is therefore now time that we put in place specific places for refugees to stay in and support them from there,

Humanitarian Relief Aid: Thousands of refugees in North Kivu do not have access to Shelter, Food, Medical Treatment and the education for their children.

Security and Protection: Even UNHCR recently acknowledged to the media that refugees are not only at risks, face threats but also they are in danger.

Durable solutions: These include Resettlement to the third country, local integration and voluntary repatriation,

Two major issues will determine who will be the next refugee representative for refugees in Goma: The capacity to stand for refugees interests above through a unification approach especially between Burundians and Rwandans, and to stand for the cause of Rwandan refugees. The second will be his character to resist against the compromises from both UNHCR and CNR which are perceived as key players in this exercise.

In the meeting we presented our position towards these elections of refugee representatives as follow:

These elections do not respond to the minimum requirements of democracy and therefore we shall not get involved in any way, we are ready to engage for a legal battle which will ensure that refugees are given true elections, and that we shall give space to all those who want to campaign.

Minute Four:

On the issue on A.O.B a recommendation was made to ask those in charge of the elections to postpone them because so many things are not yet ready in place.

The meeting ended at 4:40 pm by a prayer.

Author: Kuliloshi Pecos