4 January 2013

Congo-Kinshasa: Are Congolese Refugees Losing Hope?

Photo: Sylvain Liechti/UN Photo
At the Kanyaruchinya internally displaced persons camp in Goma, a young boy waits to fill his containers at a water distribution area.

The Democratic Republic of Congo refugees who are being sheltered at Nkamira transit centre in western province have lost hope of their country stabilising again for them to return and reside peacefully, The New Times understands.

Many of the refugees, who discussed their plight with this newspaper, said they lost optimism after allegedly realising that government forces, armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC), was conniving with rebel groups to target a certain tribe within the country.

The refugees say the groups, including FDRL, Mai Mai, Nyatura and DRC government army, were persecuting Congolese of Kinyarwanda-speaking tribe, accusing them of being Rwandans.

"We don't have any hope that the situation in Congo will get stable. It has become a dark and cursed country; there is no single day that people are not persecuted, raped or killed just because they speak Kinyarwanda," Sebagabo Kayitare, a refugee at the Nkamira, said yesterday.

This newspaper could, however, not independently verify the claims.

Internal statistics show that more Congolese continue to escape the alleged persecution to seek refuge in Rwanda through La Corniche border post in Gisenyi Sector, Rubavu District in Western Province. More than 3,600 Congolese have crossed the border said in the last three weeks alone, sources.

The frustrated Kayitare wondered how the government could conspire with the rebel groups to harass its nationals, saying unless solid efforts from international communities are exerted, the Congolese will continue anguishing.

Arine Muhorakeye, an 18-year-old girl in the same transit centre, said she was a Senior One student and has no hope of returning to school, citing prevailing danger since no body or even international community is concerned to reverse the trend.

"It's God who knows whether our country will again be stable or not. No one seems to be concerned about intervening, women and young girls are being raped, people are slaughtered and I don't see myself going back to school," Myhorakeye said.

She prayed for neighbouring countries and international human rights agencies to help calm the situation in DRC that has claimed many lives.

The situation in eastern Congo continues to deteriorate despite the ongoing negotiations in Kampala, Uganda, to settle the fighting between the M23 fighters with the Kinshasa government.

"What we need is to enjoy the same rights like other Congolese citizens. Our children should go to school like others, access health care... why are we treated like strangers in our country? No body wants to be a refugee in Rwanda," a refugee this reporter could not readily identify said.

Fredrick Ntawukuriryayo, a communications officer with the Ministry for Disaster Preparedness and Refuge Affairs, said the Nkamira transit centre still had capacity to haven more refugees.

Rwanda is host to more than 50,000 Congolese refugees, mostly those who fled fighting in eastern DRC. They are in various camps, including Gihembe in Gicumbi district, Kiziba in Karongi district, Nyabiheke in Gatsibo and Kigeme in Nyamagabe district.

Others are in Kigali City and Nkamira Transit Centre in the Western Province.

Recent statistics released by the government and UN agencies indicate that 99 per cent of all refugees in Rwanda were from DR Congo.

The refugees are being provided with food and shelter by Rwandan government in collaboration with United Nations High Commission for Refugees, among other agencies.

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