Refugees from DR Congo who are in Rwanda have quizzed foreign diplomats on what the international community is doing to address the political instabilities that have continued to make their country inhabitable.
This was as officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and various diplomats based in Rwanda, on Thursday, April 27, visited Mahama refugee camp, a facility that hosts over 58,000 refugees from Burundi and DR Congo.
On January 23, representatives of over 72,000 Congolese refugees who live in Rwanda submitted petitions to different embassies in Kigali, calling on the international community to help stop the killings and persecution of the Tutsi community in eastern DR Congo.
Refugees from DR Congo posed numerous questions to the diplomats about the efforts to settle the situation in the eastern part of their country, as well as having them repatriated.
“We may be okay here, but this is not our home,” William Mutijima, a Congolese refugee, told the diplomats, noting that ever since 1996 when the first influx of Congolese refugees arrived in Rwanda, insecurity has persisted in their country, and nothing tangible is being done to address it.
“In these last 26 years despite the spirit, our call and wish to return to our country, it is unfortunate that no tangible efforts were made on the side of the DR Congo government and the international community to help us repatriate,” he noted.
For decades, the UN has been accused of turning a blind eye to the persecution of DR Congo’s Rwandophones.
Mutijima’s compatriot, Francois Rwabukamba, also raised similar concerns.
“Every time, we hear the phrase ‘never again’ from the international community. You say genocide will not happen again, but what is taking place in DR Congo is similar to how the Genocide started in Rwanda,” Rwabukamba said.
“The East African Community deployed soldiers in some areas but our brothers and sisters in areas like Mulenge and Ituri are being killed, even today because no soldiers were deployed there.”
Besides the volatile situation in North Kivu province where Rwandophones, especially Congolese Tutsi communities continue to be persecuted by their own government, farther south, in South Kivu province, the Banyamulenge community has often petitioned the UN over continued ethnic cleansing targeting them, to no avail.
But the envoy of Sweden to Rwanda, Johanna Teague, said the European Union community is concerned about the situation and is following what is happening.
“In the EU, we are following the situation of what is going on in eastern DR Congo with great concern and we are raising this issue to our headquarters,” she said.
Amb. Eduardo Filomeno Leiro Octavio, the Angolan envoy to Rwanda, called for joint efforts from the international community to address the refugee’s plight.
“Taking into account that the granting of the rights of asylum can result in a heavy burden on the counties hosting them, in this particular case the Republic of Rwanda, we are sure that a satisfactory solution to this problem will be achieved with the effective engagement of the international community,” he noted.
According to the Minister in charge of Emergency Management, Marie Solange Kayisire, Rwanda has been hosting refugees for decades and currently has more than 126,000 refugees being accommodated countrywide.
Of these refugees, 59 percent are Congolese, while 40 percent are from Burundi.