Open Letter to the President and Head of Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Rwandan refugees

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Cape Town, 25 March 2018

 

To   President Joseph Kabila Kabange

Le Cabinet du Président de la République

Avenue Roi Baudoin,

cabinet@presidentrdc.cd

  

RE: CONCERNS ABOUT IMMINENT ABDUCTION OF RWANDAN REFUGEES IN THE DRC BY RWANDAN DEFENSE FORCES (RDF)

 

Your Excellency,

 

[1] The Global Voice of Rwandan Refugees (GVRR) has followed with keen interest the recent developments of the situation of Rwandan refugees and FDLR combatants stationed in Lt Gen Bauma Camp and, if reports from Kisangani are to be believed, is saddened by the fact that there are two planes carrying the Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF) soldiers that landed in Kisangani with the intent to kidnap and force the cantoned combatants and their dependants to repatriate against their will. This operation is being carried out with the support of other stakeholders, including the FARDC and MONUSCO. According to sources inside the Congolese security services, the said military operation is supposed to cover all three transit camps, Kisangani, Kanyabayonga and Walungu.

[2] The GVRR has learnt that this operation comes immediately after the recent declaration by both MONUSCO and your government that no humanitarian relief and assistance will be provided to the cantoned hence the time to go home has arrived. Both the MONUSCO and your government had been referring to the 2011 UNHCR Declaration of Cessation Clause from which it is justified that Rwanda is stable and peaceful enough for refugees and cantoned combatants to return. The 2011 UNHCR Declaration has been initiated by the Government of Rwanda and approved by the UNHCR without taking into consideration due process of international refugee law. As a result, the 2011 UNHCR Declaration has been rejected by the European Union and African countries, such as Uganda, Malawi, and Zambia. Other countries hosting Rwandan refugees have also expressed their concern over the 2011 UNHCR Declaration in that they will not force Rwandan refugees to return on account that the UNHCR cannot be trusted. The UNHCR could not convince host countries why Rwanda was safe to refugees who fled it between 1959 and 1998 and unsafe to refugees fled it as from 1999 to date. The UNHCR and other UN agencies had been used as instrumental to gain control over refugees, including killing, kidnaping, abducting Rwandan refugees who are not willing to surrender to Kagame’s draconian regime or who show potentiality in opposing Kagame regime, politically.

[3] Your Excellency, the operation to force the combatants to return home is contrary to international law principles stating that conflicts involving nations or tribes (such as Hutu and Tutsi conflict) should be resolved through dialogue, not through military actions as military actions are not suitable to finding a political solution to either racial or ethnic conflict.

[4] The GVRR has also learned that several letters from the FDLR combatants voluntarily disarmed and cantoned with their dependants at the Lt Gen BAUMA (Kisangani), Kanyabayonga and Walungu had addressed to your office for purposes of voicing their dissatisfaction with respect to how the MONUSCO had been treating them. The GVRR further learned about the MONUSCO’s complicity in the attempt to close the camps of cantoned combatants. Very recently, the decision to close down the camps and to send the cantoned combatants packing was communicated to them through the Head of the Government delegation Mr Gilbert LIKONDO (Representative of the CNR), who was accompanied by MONUSCO representatives led by Mr Lan ROWE (Head of the DDRRR / MONUSCO Division), during their recent visit to the Lt Gen BAUMA camp, on 06/03/2018. This decision comes at a time when MONUSCO has declared that it was about to cut off all assistance to the cantoned combatants and their families; the declaration which was reiterated and confirmed by the Head of DDRRR Division at the time of the visit.

[5] The declaration caused chock, worries and anxiety among the cantoned combatants and their families given that this is not what was agreed to when the combatants laid down their weapons. Weapons were laid down with a high expectation that stakeholders such as the MONUSCO, FIB, DRC Government, the ICGLR and the SADC would use their political influence to encourage the Kigali regime to come to the table of negotiations and resolve their political differences. The GVRR is of the view that your government needs to play a crucial role to ensure that the conflicting and warring parties reach a political settlement for the sake of stability and security in the Kivu region. It should be emphasized that refugees and the cantoned combatants have expressed their will to return home when the circumstances that had forced them to leave their beloved country no longer exist. It was therefore surprising to learn that the said delegation gave the cantoned combatants and their families no alternative solution, except cornering them to a repatriation that human rights organisations and host countries of Rwandan refugees deem to be premature.

[6] The salient question to ask is if a politician can be sent in jail for life for expressing an intention to create a political party or to contest in presidential elections, what would happen to those who expressed their intention to remove the regime through a barrel of a gun? No one could refute that should the cantoned combatants be repatriated, they would be killed after being subjected to an unspeakable torture. Indeed, Rwandan refugees have been told time and again that Rwanda is safe and there might be some truth in that. However, one wonders why the call for cessation clause is happening while there are still Rwandans who are seeking asylum. Anyway, why RDF soldiers should invade a sovereign nation to force people to return?

[7] The GVRR would like to remind your Excellency that less than a month ago the Government of Rwanda shot and killed Congolese refugees in Kiziba camp inside Rwanda in broad daylight. Several reports by human rights organisations have well documented torture, arbitrary arrest and judicial killings of those who dare to speak their minds and criticise the performance of the ruling party, FPR.

[8] Furthermore, the GVRR has learned that the cantoned combatants have communicated to your office a memorandum dated 18th November 2017 issued on 04th February 2018, in which they have recorded the human rights abuses as they were perpetrated by the RPF against Rwandan citizens inside and outside Rwanda.

[9] Very recently, Your Excellency, the cantoned combatants have also sent a letter to your office in which they have made a humble request to revise the decision taken to force them to return. They expressed that decision of the DRC to return them to persecutor and oppressor caused fear in them to such an extent that they would resist such repatriation and that  they will choose to be shot at (if force is used) or choose to die from hunger (if food is denied). They could not withstand to be statistics of the victims of arbitrary mechanisms (such as semi-judicial and extra-judicial executions, enforced disappearances, kidnappings, torture, deprivation of rights and freedom, recruitment into militias to fight under Rwandan proxies in DRC and Burundi).  Another important question is why refugees should be sent to Rwanda at the time the draconian regime of Kagame has closed doors for the Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other human rights organisations? Who will monitor and report how returnees are being treated should refugees return?

[10] Noting and expressing our deep concerns over the above highlighted flagrant violations of human rights committed through conspiracy between the Government of Rwanda and UN agencies with a view to unlawfully repatriating refugees and cantoned combatants, the GVRR would like to appeal to you, Your Excellency, to have compassion towards the citizens of both Rwanda and the DRC and thus advocate and promote a politically negotiated dialogue as way to put an end to the recurring cycle of conflict in the DRC, in particular and in the region, in general.

[11] Your Excellency, the GVRR would like to remind you that these people your government wants to repatriate against their will are the survivors of massacres and war crimes committed by RPF against the Hutu refugees in the Congo forest. These heinous acts were investigated by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the findings were published under “the Mapping Report” on 01 October 2010. The Mapping Report reveals 617 of the most serious incidents committed across the DRC during the 10-year period. It provides details of grave cases of mass killings, sexual violence, attacks on children, and other abuses against Hutu refugees and Congolese citizens, between March 1993 and June 2003. It reveals a number of exculpatory elements that, if proven before a competent court, could be characterised as crimes of genocide against Hutu refugees.

[12] It surprises no one that the same Rwanda that shot at Congolese refugees and killed 65 refugees and leaving others wounded on 22 February 2018 in Kiziba Camp (Rwanda), is the same Rwanda that is deploying the same mechanism to repatriate Hutu refugees in the DRC. The Congolese refugees sought a safe haven in Rwanda and were shot at simply because they were claiming to return home.  The Government of Rwanda does not support the Congolese refugees’ voluntarily repatriation because their presence in Rwanda is used as a scapegoat to invade the DRC, stating that they would be attacked by Hutu refugees; hence they are Tutsi, known as “Banyamulenge.” The justification of stopping genocide in the DRC is used as a cover-up to hunt down Hutu refugees as from 1996. From that year up to date, it has been estimated that more than 8 million Congolese people, including Hutu refugees have perished and million other displaced. These Congolese refugee camps in Rwanda have been used as a tool to recruit and militarily train Congolese refugees to invade the DRC through Rwandan proxies, such as the CNDP of Gen. Laurent Nkunda and the M23 of Gen. Bosco Ntaganda and later Col Sultani Makenga.

[13] Your Excellency, this open letter is addressed to you because the people who suffer in this protracted and persistent armed conflict are your people who entrusted with you the mandate to protect them. How many more would you like to see dying? Peace and stability cannot be realised without being pro-active in finding a viable solution. Peace, stability and development are impossible without international cooperation. Given that the cantoned combatants had handed their weapons to your government under auspices of the SADC and ICGLR, the SADC and ICGLR should also play an important role in the search of peace and security with a view to securing the people of the Southern Africa and to ensuring that they attained an adequate standard of living, devoid of human suffering, caused by unnecessary and unavoidable armed conflicts. The GVRR assures you, Your Excellency, that this would be possible if Hutu and Tutsi have reconciled and power has been shared among them.

[14] The GVRR calls upon you, Your Excellency, to stop this plan aimed at forcibly repatriate innocent refugees to Rwanda where they still fear for their persecution even for losing their lives as a result of such repatriation.

[15] In the hope that our request herein will meet your approval, we ask you, Your Excellency, to accept the expression of our highest consideration and our anticipated thanks.

Yours sincerely,

_____________________

Jean-Marie Vianney Nyilimbilima

GVRR Chairperson

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