Tuesday, December 30, 2014

FDU-MN-INKUBIRI: STATEMENT ON RWANDAN REFUGEES IN EASTERN DR CONGO


By Eugene Ndahayo
Chair, FDU-National Movement INKUBIRI
Lyon, France
December 28, 2014

 According to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) National Commission for Refugees, 245,000 Rwandans were registered as refugees as of August 2014 in an exercise conducted with the support of UNCHR DRC Country Mission.  An estimated 199,000 refugees is reported to be living in the province of North Kivu while 42,000 are reported to be located in the province of South Kivu and the rest scattered in almost all parts of the host country.

These new figures end a situation in which Rwandan refugees had been left in total oblivion by the UN refugee agency for decades since 1997 when Rwandan refugee camps in Eastern DRC were destroyed and an estimated 300,000 Hutu refugees slaughtered by a combined force of Rwandan government army and its regional allies. Shockingly, the UNCHR figures had consistently been reporting Rwandan refugees to be totaling 100,000 in all.

Official estimates of Rwandan refugees in the DRC reported by the UNCHR were 38,783 only in October 2014. Furthermore, only 129,000 people of concern from Rwandan origin are expected to be present on the DRC soil by January 2015, of whom only 20,000 would be assisted in the UN refugee agency’s country operations profile. Even more worrying is that the same agency’s forecasts for Rwandan refugees are estimated at 109,000 people by December 2015.

These disparities raise questions about the concerned UN agency’s good will when it comes to assisting Rwandan refugees in DRC, especially after the tragic episode of the years 1996-97.

We would like to recall that these refugees are survivors of targeted and deliberate massacres of Hutu citizens committed by Rwandan government forces in DRC. It is worth mentioning that the UN Mapping Exercise Report on the Gross Violations of International Humanitarian Law committed in DRC between 1993 and 2003 reported that some elements « if proven before a competent court could be characterized as crimes of genocide ».

Today, we are aware that there are plans to launch fresh military operations in the East of DRC by January 2, 2015 the consequences of which, on these refugees, would result into another slaughter of innocent Hutu civilians. In 1996, such plans designed to please the current Rwandan government led to the worst crime of all -genocide.

A repeat of such an approach would be both politically and ethically unjustifiable and would constitute yet another gross miscarriage of justice on the part of the International Community, especially in regard to the fact that 19 years after its creation, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has closed its doors without accomplishing its second mandate of prosecuting and trying crimes committed by individuals within the former rebel group now in control of the central government in Rwanda.

We wish to recall that the planned 1996 Canada-led UN Humanitarian Multinational Force’s deployment whose declared mission was to provide humanitarian assistance and secure corridors for voluntary repatriation never saw the light of day, because strategic considerations in favor of a consolidation of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front government by military means were given priority over any other considerations, in total disregard of the UN primary mission of protecting civilians, preventing conflicts and promoting peace.

It is because of these miscalculations that of the 1,500,000 Hutu refugees present in the East of DRC at the time, only a couple of hundreds of thousands survived from a possible crime of genocide, to finally be ignored by the UN and its specialized agencies for close to two decades.

In light of these circumstances, we urge the concerned UN authorities, especially its refugee agency, to uphold their respective core values and missions of providing protection and assistance to vulnerable persons during or after armed conflicts by, among other things:

(1)   abstaining from/ and dissuading any other stakeholder/ from any resorting to the use of armed violence when its intended or unintended end-situation would be to enforce involuntary repatriation of Rwandan refugees ;

(2)   engaging representatives of Rwandan refugees themselves for the sake of putting in place mechanisms of dialogue intended to address their concerns ;

(3)   facilitating dialogue between the Rwandan refugees themselves and the DRC government in order to resolve urgent issues relating to proper identification, protection, assistance and voluntary repatriation ;

(4)   addressing the issues of security and justice resulting from the facts established and recommendations made by the UN Mapping Report, especially taking into account the fact that most Rwandan suspects are protected by the current Rwandan government ;

(5)   providing adequate protection and assistance to those who might not opt for immediate voluntary repatriation through facilitating their settlement and their integration into the national economic spheres, education and health schemes;

We call upon the DRC government to uphold its obligations as contained in all national or international legal instruments relating to protection and assistance to refugees they are party to, by continuing to extend its hospitality and improving its protection and assistance to Rwandan refugees.

We further urge the DRC government to resist any calls to act against established mechanisms, just because of political expediency to advance certain vested interests by negative internal or external state or non-state actors.

Failure to protect and to assist Rwandan refugees in Eastern DRC in January 2015 would amount to denying once again their humanity. We strongly believe that the United Nations will not and should not fail again, like in 1994 or two years later in 1996.

Contacts: +32465551485; inkubiri1@fdunm.com

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