Urgent Action on behalf of Muco Kennedy and Nimbona Hassani (Burundian Refugees Human Rights Defenders in Goma, North Kivu the Democratic Republic of Congo
On Tuesday October 25th, 2022 in the morning around 10 am Muco Kennedy and Nimbona Hassani went to the Office of the Congolese National Commission for Refugees known as “CNR Goma” in Goma in order to follow-up with cases of refugees in Goma, North Kivu the Democratic Republic of Congo. They found that there was a problem with the theft of a CNR where it is believed that 16,000$ was stolen from CNR Offices the previous night.
As Kennedy and Hassani were exchanging with the security services at the gate, police officers in plain clothes came in and arrested Kennedy and Hassani. Immediately they were transferred to Kahembe Police Station in Goma where they are still detained.
We visited Kennedy and Hassani at the Police engaged with them and supported them with different forms of assistance as we could afford. We then engaged with the Investigating Police Officer who told us that they were arrested for two things: They are suspected in the robbery that took place at CNR Offices in Goma, and also they threatened the CNR Head Officer known as Felix Musanganya who is the main complainant. “The Police Officer then requested us to facilitate negotiations with Felix Musanganya which could culminate in both Kennedy and Hassani to apologize and commit themselves that they will never be critical to CNR”.
When we informed Kennedy and Hassani they refused to apologize, claimed that they will not stop their human rights activism and requested for justice to be done. We deployed all our efforts to contact the UNHCR Protection Team, mainly Nora Staunton who did not pick our phone calls, and could not respond to our various messages, and efforts to seek for a meeting with UNHCR Goma have been in vain.
The United Nations Human Rights Office here in Goma claimed that they do not have the mandate to deal with refugee issues and told us to engage with UNHCR. We engaged with the DRCongo Permanent Secretary of CNR in Kinshasa Eric Mukangilwa, he promised us to follow-up with the case but then he could not respond to our phone calls up to now.
We also engaged Felix Musanganya on the phone and talked for a long time, he insisted that both Kennedy and Hassani have been a serious problem to him, they have been too critical and do allege a lot of things against him and on top of that they have threatened him. “Refugees in our country cannot attack a government officer like this, I have been so tolerant towards them, but now I cannot, if there is nothing they are accused of then the Investigating Police Officer will find out and release them, if he finds that they are suspects then they should go to court. You should help us and teach these refugees to be docile and obedient, let them come and apologize and commit that they will never be stubborn anymore” Felix Musanga said during our engagement on phone.
Muco Kennedy and Hassani victims of their human rights activism on refugee issues,
We are not sure if the money was stolen, and if Muco and Hassani played a role in that, but it is possible that such allegations can be smartly arranged in order to arrest them, and this is the most probable option.
Kennedy and Hassani are too critical towards UNHCR Goma and the CNR Goma in the way they do deliberately violate refugee rights, and oppress or silence any voice that comes out. So many issues have been alleged by Kennedy and Hassani mainly: The existence of “fake Burundian Refugees”, the fake refugee leaders put in place, issues of money to support refugees, deportation of refugees to Rwanda, among others. Felix Musanganya is perceived as one among the key people who played various roles in this and he is perceived as being close to the Kigali Regime.
Background on the situation in Eastern DRCongo
UNHCR portrays statistics which are not accurate claiming that DRCongo hosts 526,000 refugees mainly from Central African Republic, however UNHCR remains silent of the estimated more than 2millions refugees mainly from Rwanda living in the eastern DRCongo since 1994, among them UNHCR Goma has identified only 200,000 but still UNHCR cannot clearly say where they are and how they are living, UNHCR estimates refugees in Goma at 2,500 yet Goma could have more than 30,000 refugees among them Burundians and Rwandans. Among the Burundians it is believed that 80% of them are fake Burundians who were introduced in the refugee system by Felix Musanganya when he was the Protection Officer of CNR Goma, and these fake Burundians are the one who get all the necessary humanitarian relief aid.
It is also argued that Felix Musanganya works closely with Rwandan Authorities and in the same process some UNHCR Officer in Goma are Rwandans put there in order to facilitate the extradition, the deportation, the forced repatriation, the assissanation and the forced disappearance of Rwandan refugees in North Kivu, DRCongo.
We believe that Muco Kennedy and Nimbona Hassani are innocent and they are arrested because of their activism on various refugee issues,
We therefore call upon you for the following:
To provide a legal assistance and financial assistance to Kennedy and Hassani during this critical situation they are facing, putting in mind that detention in DRCongo is a punishment and in many cases a death sentence to those we do not want anymore,
Both Kennedy and Hassani are suffering from chronic diseases and may not have access to adequate medical treatment in prison here in Goma,
To engage UNHCR Goma to change her policy towards Rwandan refugees in eastern DRCongo and put in place staffs that are willing to ensure the protection of all refugees and distance themselves from Rwanda,
We call upon various efforts to engage the DRCongo Minister of Interior to operate changes in the CNR at all levels in order to put in place officials who will work for the protection of refugees and distance themselves from Rwanda,
We call upon the International Community to put in place strategies that would reclaim the protection of refugees which we all lost since 1996 up to now,
We call upon the resignation of CNR Head Mr. Felix Musanganya and at the same time the resignation of UNHCR Head of Protection Nora Staunton who have failed in their tasks to ensure the protection of refugees,
We call upon the immediate release of Hassani and Kennedy without conditions,
We call upon the United Nations Human Rights Office, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and all Human Rights Defenders to put in place a special protection mechanism towards Refugee Human Rights Defenders in the Great Lakes Region of Africa,
We call upon UNHCR in the Democratic Republic of Congo to condition her cooperation with CNR in the total observance of Refugee Rights, and hold accountable all staffs and partners who are involved in refugee rights abuses,