Massive Arrival of “Congolese Refugees “from Rwanda

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Source: Congo Actualité n° 102, December 15, 2009,  Contact : Rés. PAIX POUR LE CONGO, Strada Cavestro n°16, Loc. Vicomero 43056 San Polo – Torrile (PR), Italie tel-fax : 0521/314263, E-mail : info@muungano.it

 

Huge populations from Rwanda are increasingly found in eastern DRC for nearly 4 months now, in particular in the territories of Masisi and Rutchuru in North Kivu Province. These people cross the border illegally from Kibumba, twenty kilometers north of Goma, on the axis Rutchuru. Their number is estimated at more than 12 thousand families. They claim to be Congolese refugees, said Laingulia Njewa, coordinator of the National Commission for Refugees (NCR) in North-Kivu. Yet, according to Njewa, these families have no documents that show their status as refugees in Rwanda. Accompanied by their cattle for some, they settled in villages such as Kirolirwe, Kitchanga, Mushaki, Bihambwe, in the farm of Kisuma and elsewhere. 80% of these people claim to come from refugee camps in Byumba and Kibuye in Rwanda.

The Provincial Coordinator of the NCR said: “They say there have been a reduction of rations in the camps and also they would like to take advantage of the new school year to enroll their children. However, according to information we have, the movement in the refugee camps in Rwanda is stable and knows no rate of reduction. The return of these refugees is creating frustration among the population in Masisi and Rutshuru.”1

On the 24 of November, the Minister of Communication and Media and spokesman of the government, Lambert Mende, described the situation as abnormal. However, he was formal: “It is difficult to determine the final number of Congolese refugees in Rwanda from only UNHCR figures because these figures only count people living in camps. We know that there are refugees who are staying with families. Those who have returned have done so anarchically, but if they are Congolese, they have the right to remain in their country. If they are Congolese, we’ll know, because they will be audited. They will be checked whether they like it or not, and if they are foreigners, they will be repatriated to their country. “2

A map of UNDP.

A map prepared by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) said everything about the way the international community wants to strike against the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Several villages and territories in the DRC designated as “priority areas for sustainable return” or “areas of potential return” for refugees have never known Rwandophone (Tutsi or Hutu) population. Several zones of return have never seen a portion of their population flee to Rwanda or Uganda.3  Thus, it is not a return, but an invasion because someone can only return to where he or she had been before.

Also the UNDP’s map shows that villages that were set on fire during the recent fight against the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) are priority or potential zones of return, which strongly suggests that the burning of the villages was a preparation of this Rwandan occupation.  It was meant to push out the Congolese people from their land and leave the later to Rwandese. The economic reason of this occupation is also visible in the UNDP’s map. The oil-rich areas (valley Semuliki), coltan, gold, diamonds, cassiterite (Vuyinga-Manguredjipa), etc… are those listed on this map as priority areas of return.4

Reaction of the Deputies of North Kivu.

On 26 November, state congressmen from North Kivu released a public policy statement following the massive illegal immigration from Rwanda. Here is their statement:
“We the Members of Congress from North Kivu
– Alerted by our respective constituents on irregular and massive migration of people from Rwanda to the DRC through Kibumba, Bunagana and Ishasha;
– Outraged to learn that these people, much of which travels with Livestock and weapons of war are not checked at any border;
– Surprised by the declaration of the Government of the DRC and the High Commissioner for Refugees, both claiming not to know the exact origin, identity and the real objectives of these people estimated at several tens of thousands, the most of which do not even know their exact destination and flow in disorder on the Congolese territory;
— Seeing in this uncontrolled movement of people a possible infiltration of Rwandese in view of the occupation of part of the North Kivu province, whose natives have been scattered by relentless military operations, the burning of their homes and thus clearing their land of its inhabitants;
– Determined to head off any action that threatens the territorial integrity of the DRC;
We therefore
1. Denounce and condemn this Nth attempt of the balkanization of the country, wherever it is coming from,
2. Condemn the Government of the DRC, whose lack of initiative in this case seems suspect;
3. Invite the Government of the DRC to stop the uncontrolled migration, to disarm and identify immigrants who are already inside the country and repatriate them back to their countries of origin;
4. Renew, for a peaceful return of the refugees, our support for the ad hoc resolution of the Conference on Peace, Security and Development held in Goma in January 2008, a resolution which conditions the return of refugees to the establishment of a Tripartite Commission DR Congo – Rwanda – UNHCR), mandates the participation, in the case of the Congo, of true traditional chiefs.”5

Considerations
In fact the information that the North Kivu national commission for refugees has confirms that “the movement in the refugee camps in Rwanda is stable.” Thus, the Congolese refugees have not left their camp. Where are these refugees arriving in Kivu coming from?
Given this situation, there is already tension in the territories of Masisi and Rutshuru. Local people are surprised by this influx, which will have serious social consequences if the situation is not managed well. Consequences may result in the immediate conflicts over land if the people who just arrived happen to not justify in which village they are from. Land disputes has always served as a pretext in Kivu to trigger armed conflict.
Another fear is that of “internally displaced” who are also gradually returning home. What would happen if at their arrival they find their land occupied by other people? Of course there will be an armed conflict which will lead to many deaths.  In this regard, there are many hypotheses to be considered including that of “mass killing to wiping out natives and replace them with new comers” in some parts of the provinces of Kivu.
Why only selected villages that were formerly under the control of the former rebel group,  National Congress for the Defense of the people (CNDP)? The contradiction has reached its height.   While the Congolese people are in refugee camps, their villages are being repopulated. It is the government’s duty to act promptly before it is overwhelmed. The Kivu needs peace.

Endnotes
1. Cf Radio Okapi, 20.11.’09
2. Cf Radio Okapi, 24.11.’09
3. C’est le cas de Kyondo-Kirindera, Vurondo-Butuhe-Masoi en Territoire de Beni; Vuyinga en Territoire de Lubero, etc.
4.  Cf Beni Lubero Online, 12.11.’09,
http://www.benilubero.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1691&Itemid=2
5.  Cf Beni Lubero Online, 01.12.’09
http://www.benilubero.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1720&Itemid=2
In recent weeks the media denounced the influx of Rwandans in North Kivu province trough Monigi, Kibumba, Bunagana and Ishasha. Their primary destination is the territories of Masisi, south of Lubero and Rutshuru which in recent months witnessed a systemic burning of villages to force people to leave and so to create empty space for new settlers. Surprisingly, the later cannot locate the locality they occupy on the map of the Republic of Congo, they do not speak the local language, Swahili, but they only master Kinyarwanda. Worse, they enter with weapons and ammunition on the Congolese territory.

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