The Democratic Republic of Congo Security Services are being deployed to target human rights defenders and vocal refugees in Goma, North Kivu Province. At least 3 human rights defenders working on refugee issues in Goma are being targeted by security services.
“When I feed the hungry, they call me Good Samaritan, when I ask why the people are hungry, they call me Communist” by Helder Camara.
It seems difficult currently to criticize the deteriorating situation of refugees in North Kivu, DRCongo without being threatened and being targeted by the security services. This started a few weeks ago when unidentified armed men believed to be agents of security services in Goma attacked one refugee leader and took his phone as it was believed that the phone had important numbers of various influential people who are quickly informed about the situation of refugees. Taking away the phone was a strategy to silence this refugee leader so that he may not be able to alert anymore. Shortly the phone of another human rights defender based in Goma which was believed to have critical information was mysteriously taken from his home, and the Police did not help to recover it, instead Police officers were bribed in order to help the suspect to escape and disappeared.
Currently some staff members of our organization are being targeted by security services and are living in fear of their lives in Goma, at the same time, yesterday Wednesday June 8th, 2022 one vocal refugee leader in Goma survived being kidnapped by armed people putting on the Congolese Army Uniform who came to look for him at his home-place. It was around 1pm during the day when this vocal refugee reached his home, but shortly he was called by a neighbor who had issue, and as he entered the neighbor’s house, armed people came to his house looking for him but did not found him there, he survived because just the nature programmed that he should not be in his house at that particular moment.
We visited him and he told that he does not have any problem with other people apart from his activism on refugee issues, as he claimed “ Do not waste your time, I know why they are looking for me, they just want to arrest me because I’m actively denouncing the presence of Congolese Nationals in the Refugee Database, especially here in Goma where at least more than 80% of people who are registered as Burundian refugees are actually Congolese Nationals, and they are the ones who consume the available humanitarian relief aid which is supposed to be given to refugees”
This situation happens at this particular moment when there is a tension between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda at various borders between the two countries, this has forced various actors to raise up their voices on the necessity to ensure that refugees are safe and protected, and that refugees should not be amalgamated to Rwandan spies.
But also those who are being targeted participated in different activities where information was collected in order to formulate recommendations on the situation of refugees in eastern DRCongo which were sent to Geneva where UNHCR is holding a one week consultative meetings and Conference with NGOs on the situation of refugees in the world. It seems that some actors among the refugee regime in Goma are not comfortable with those recommendations and other advocacy activities in Goma,
More important there is a generalized malaise in Goma, North Kivu Province among actors of the refugee regime (UNHCR, CNR and implementing partners) do not feel comfortable with various voices that are showing how the situation of refugees has been ignored over the years and pushing for change especially that thousands of refugees lost protection over the years, and yet the refugee regime seems to paint the situation as normal,
With the current move marked by threats and intimidation against those who have a different view on how refugee affairs are being handled, we do reiterate our engagement and determination, that no amount of threats and intimidation shall divert us from our zeal to advocate for a better protection space for refugees in eastern DRCongo. We strongly believe that refugees in eastern DRCongo deserve protection, and the country has opportunities which should be exploited to ensure the protection of each refugee, and that is possible.
We regret to observe that people who are believed to be Congolese Security Services are used in order to target vocal voices, despite the promises made by the leadership at all levels about the reforms in the security services,
We are concerned that these deployed security services are operating in the same way as kidnappers instead of inviting people they want to engage with, and this at this particular moment when kidnapping is so common here in Goma.
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos
In-charge of Refugees and Foreigners
COJESKI-DRC, Coordination of North Kivu