Kakuma News Reflector – A Refugee Free Press

Kiziba refugees protest

Posted in Human Rights, Humanitarian Services, News Updates by KANERE on February 22, 2018

By Qaabata Boru & Roland Kalamo

On Tuesday, February 20th, 2018: A large movement of refugees – some report several thousand – departed on foot from the Kiziba refugee camp in Western Rwanda. Leaders declared that they were repatriating to the DRC in response to both recent and proposed reductions in aid provision. It may be one of the first examples of voluntary repatriation undertaken as a protest.

During a confrontation with Rwandan military, soldiers fired live bullets with intentions to force refugees back to the camp. At least 11 refugees died according to the report from UNHCR Rwanda, a protestor was wounded when a bullet struck his foot, and several other injuries were alleged during the mayhem.

The refugees, predominantly Congolese, left the Kiziba refugee camp at 6:30am, passing the UNHCR office in the town of Kibuye to make a formal request for repatriation. Four people were wounded and one arrested as the group made its way to the office, says Mr. Louis Mbangarutse Maombi, president of the refugees’ committee.

(Kiziba refugee protest – a man wounded on gunshot during recent protest “image circulating on social media.”)

As of Thursday morning, refugees were still in Kibuye demanding facilitation for repatriation. Videos of the crowds singing outside the offices have been circulated on social media.

The move comes after submission of multiple letters to UNHCR and the Rwandan Government’s Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR). The first letter on 5th of January 2018 formally announced intentions to either return to DRC or seek durable solutions in a third country such as Uganda. The second letter sent on 7th February denounced discrimination, poor health care and hunger.

Since January 2018, refugee contacts claim that the per capita aid ration from the World Food Programme (WFP) was reduced from 9 USD to 6,7 USD per month. As far back as 1996, refugees were receiving 12.5kilograms (kg) of maize, 3.6 kg of beans, 0.9 litters of cooking oil, 0.9 grams of salt and flour for porridge. But since July 2017, WFP moved to cash transfers of approximately 9 USD per person per month.

On 8th February 2018, refugee leaders invited by MIDIMAR head Me De Bonheur Jeanne D’arc arrived at Kigali convention Centre. Attendees were told that the refugee community – which has been in Rwanda since 1996 – would be reinserted into the Rwandan community, a proposition that many feared would result in further decreases in aid. However, MIDIMAR’s Director of Refugees Affairs has dismissed claims that refugees would be included in the national Ubudehe system. Rather, he claims aid agencies have been inspired to replicate the model for refugee aid provision.

As they were making their demands for UNHCR to facilitate repatriation in Kibuye, Louis Maombi expresses uncertainty about what they will face in Congo. Many of the older refugees fled the DRC due persecution and discrimination. The majority of the Kiziba camp are Banya-Murenge from South Kivu and Banya-Masisi from North Kivu which constitutes more than ¾ of the current camp’s populations of 17,000 refugees.

This is a unique development and demonstrates one of the first cases of refugees undertaking voluntary repatriation as a protest. While not explicitly related, this event comes as Rwanda prepares to accept refugees from Israel in an international agreement that has drawn the ire of many.

While refugees are bound by international laws and protection – the use of excessive force by Rwandan soldiers following the refugees protest would require an immediate investigation.

When KANERE reached out to UNHCR, reporters were directed to a forthcoming press release. UNHCR did confirm that food rations have been forced by shortfalls in international funding.

Louis said that if DRC will not receive them, they may look to Uganda as an alternative destination.

2 Responses

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  1. Jean Intarebatinya said, on February 23, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    The representatives of UNHCR in Rwanda have abandoned refugees and they remained silent until it’s too late when many refugees have been killed. Those protesting were also handed over to the security forces for punishment.

  2. SF said, on April 5, 2018 at 3:15 am

    thanks for resuming coverage of news!

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