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Happy New Year 2022: The year 2021 was too ugly for refugees in eastern DRCongo

Happy New Year 2021 and welcome back from Christmas Holidays

We look forward with optimism and hope for an improved commitment towards the protection of refugees in Eastern DRCongo. So far last year 2021 was not the best for refugees in this part of the country, less efforts were deployed to help them, and on contrary deliberate decisions were made to harm them, to devalue the refugee status and to discourage them from seeking for protection, discrimination and exclusion from accessing services is the mode of operation from UNHCR and CNR, but most of the humanitarian actors in eastern DRCongo are working mainly towards Internally Displaced Persons leaving out refugees.

Truly speaking, the situation of refugees in Eastern DRCongo especially in Goma is too ugly, and does not give appetite to look at, the good news is that it is possible to change that narrative. Wrong decisions and poor choices were made by those who have power, which can be improved.

How many refugees do we have in DRCongo? This question has existed over the years since 1994 and little has been done to address it. In 2021 we were told more about why we should not raise such questions but so far no one has told us why it is important to ask such a question, on contrary UNHCR and the CNR have continuously presenting to us wrong statistics claiming that there are around 500,000 refugees in DRCongo among them 200,000 refugees in North Kivu, this should not be condoned anymore and we should all stand up and object this. We are confronted with these deliberate lies from these big institutions, yet we have to challenge this. As per now, we believe that Goma hosts more than 20,000, the North Kivu hosts more than 700,000 refugees and the Eastern part of Congo could be hosting more than 1,500,000 who are forced to live unidentified.

Changing the narrative at the international level: Generally the world seemed to be much aware about refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who are living in other countries but little is said about refugees from other countries living in DRCongo, last year 2021 during his address to the nation his Excellency President Museveni of Uganda claimed that no Ugandan is a refugee in another country and surprisingly very few protested. This unfair description of the situation has denied protection to hundreds of refugees who yearning for it.

We are much aware of the local population ignorance towards refugees. Refugees in eastern DRCongo are quickly perceived as enemies, as security threats, and the lack of separating those who come to destabilize the country and those who come to seek asylum in DRCongo. In Goma it is almost impossible to seek asylum, the entry into DRCongo is a problem, information does not exist, and services where to start from does not exist but no services are available.

Lastly not least, UNHCR and CNR are not the reliable allies, on contrary most of their actions in 2021 had negative consequences on the protection of refugees. This was also added by the unclear position of development partners towards refugees in DRCongo especially in the east.

Despite all these realities, we still believe that 2022 will reserve surprises to us and efforts will be done for the protection of each refugee. The protection of refugees in eastern DRCongo is possible and there are durable solutions towards refugees in eastern DRCongo, we only need strong commitment.

Happy New Year 2022.

Author: Kuliloshi Pecos