The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
UNHCR Geneva, here is also the attached letter ” UNHCR TRI-PATRIATE RWANDA AND DRCONGO
The UNHCR Country Representative in the Democratic Republic of Congo,
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Regional Representative in the Great Lakes Region,
Re: Calling upon UNHCR to distance from any political agenda that aims at forced repatriation of refugees in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic among others.
We continue being highly concerned about the current UNHCR repatriations of refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo mainly back to the Central African Republic and Burundi while UNHCR considers only one option to send Rwandan refugees back to Rwanda yet we are not even sure of the legal status in DRCongo of those taken back to Rwanda and the voluntariness character of the whole operations.
We are following up various agitations in Rwanda surrounding refugees who are described as Congolese Refugees and who his Excellency President Paul Kagame wants to go back to DRC according to various press statements, but also recently his Excellency Felix Tshisekedi the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo stated that his Government has officially written to UNHCR to convene “a tri-patriate meeting on issues of refugees in Rwanda and in DRC”, at the same time we are also following what is happening to refugees in Uganda.
While we strongly condemn the silence of UNHCR on the politicization and the militarization of refugees in the great lakes region since 1986 up to now, as refugee settings are considered as mere military reserves, we continue reminding UNHCR that refugee repatriation should be clearly volunteer and should be based on the condition of peace and improvement of the situation in their countries of origin. The minimum requirements are not yet observed in Rwanda, in Eastern DRC, in Burundi and in the Central African Republic in order to consider refugee repatriation a the best option in the name of humanitarian act, yet the Democratic Republic of Congo has so many untapped alternatives that can favor the well-being of refugees and which should be exploited for the benefit of refugees in order to give them better options about their destiny.
UNHCR being the leading model on refugee issues ought to engage states to respect their obligations towards refugees and discourage the current hate and intolerance towards refugees in various countries especially to end all forms of using refugee as political tools and mere military reserves in the great lakes region.
We therefore observe that the current initiatives being taken by both the heads of states mainly President Paul Kagame and Felix Tshisekedi are highly political and should be discouraged by UNHCR.
We call upon UNHCR to distance from that so called tri-patriate meeting and instead use other available avenues to remind President Paul Kagame and President Felix Tshisekedi about their obligations to ensure the well-being of refugees on their territories,
We call upon UNHCR to dissociate for the current repatriation process of refugees towards the Central African Republic, Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo which are more political than humanitarian gesture and which does not benefit refugees, as recognized by UNHCR in December 2022 that repatriation is not benefiting Rwandan refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo,
We call upon UNHCR to engage the United Nations to hold accountable countries in the great lakes region that turn refugees into political and military activities,
We encourage UNHCR to put in place initiatives that favor inclusive dialogue among all actors in refugee issues for a consensus on a way forward, and put in place a consultation forum on issues of refugees in the great lakes region,
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos
Refugee Programme Officer