25 December 2012

Rwanda: Relocation of Congolese Refugees Begins

THE first group of 135 Congolese refugees was yesterday transferred to Kigeme Refugee Camp in Nyamagabe district amid continued influx of those fleeing reported persecution by armed groups in the eastern region of the DRC.

In less than a week, 1,387 refugees had by yesterday morning been received and registered at the makeshift camp set up La Corniche border post.

Officials say that they receive hundreds of refugees every day.

Fredrick Ntawukuriryayo, the communication officer at the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee affairs, confirmed that the relocation process had begun.

"So far we have only relocated those who completed the verification exercise, we will wait until the process resumes," he said.

Ntawukuriryayo explained that verification exercise had temporarily been suspended due to the festive season but would resume immediately after.

At Kigeme, Ntawukuriryayo said that there are facilities that are able to accommodate about 2000 refugees, adding that there was no need to worry about their accommodation.

Under the international convention relating to the status of refugees, persons seeking asylum from persecution are granted automatic refugee status after registration in a designated database and issued with refugee identification cards.

"It is only after that that we can transfer them to a refugee camp," said Ntawukuriryayo.

The New Times has established that some of the refugees who were received yesterday had been injured with some still nursing bullet wounds.

Augustine Munyarutere, currently admitted at Gisenyi Hospital, said he was shot by armed men dressed in FARDC military uniforms and.

"The other members of the family were hiding under the bed when the rebels attacked us in the house and immediately opened fire," he said.

Munyarutere, who eventually escaped with his wife and a six-month old baby, said that the situation is extremely dangerous for Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese.

He explained that there is actually no war going on except soldiers who target Congolese of Rwandan descent in Goma and neighboring areas.

These xenophobic attacks increased in recent weeks, following the withdrawal of the M23 rebels from Goma and Sake towns, under a regional peace deal.

This violence against the ordinary people, perceived to be ethnically linked with some of the rebel commanders, increased while both the Government of DRC and the M23 rebels had dispatched delegations to Kampala, Uganda for preliminary peace talks.

The talks were postponed last week to January 4.

The rebels mutinied in April accusing the government of reneging on a March 2009 peace deal that had integrated members of a former rebellion in the national army.

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