A Rwadan refugee woman assassinated in Goma DRC: The operation looks like the same as of the Rwandan security services
Esperance Dusabe, a Rwandan refugee woman assassinated in Goma, North Kivu the Democratic Republic of Congo: All our efforts to save her life have been rendered useless, at the same time UNHCR kept silence.
Esperance Dusabe, a Rwandan refugee woman living in Mugunga suburb in Goma, the capital city of North Kivu, was shot dead at around 6:45pm on Tuesday December 12th, 2023. Esperance owned a shop where she was selling alcohol and other soft drinks for some commodities in Mugunga. On that fateful day, at that very hour, six armed men putting on the Old Army Uniform came ridding on a Motorcycles, according to eye witnesses, they entered the shop and asked her to come as he wanted to talk to her, she refused but they came and pushed her out from the shop, they wanted to force her to board on the Motorcycle but she resisted, then immediately they opened guns on her and 27 Bullets were fired on her and she died immediately. The armed men drove their Motorcycles and disappeared to unknown destination. They did not take anything from her apart from her which they went with, this is similar to all other forms of killings in Goma, and this happened exactly almost the same hours when such operations are conducted generally it is between 4pm-7pm in Goma. The only difference in this case is that they wanted to go with her, however she refused, and such operations may indicate the manner in which Rwanda Security Services operate against refugees. Generally they always come with two options either to go with the refugee or to kill the refugee. All other killings in Goma, they only come and kill you, simple.
Dusabe was among refugees who have been complaining about security threats in Goma, all her efforts to seek measures of protection from UNHCR did not attract the attention of the protection officers. We alerted UNHCR several times about the security threats she faced but no action was taken. She was arrested several times and we intervened to secure her release, she was attacked in her house several times and we intervened, a certain night unknown people even put guns in her shop and later security people came for her, we also intervened. We helped her to shift from Mugunga in order to hide somewhere but we could not afford to offer her the basic needs she wanted in order to survive. Because of the current situation in Goma she had to go back to Mugunga where she expected to continue with her livelihood activities and that is where she found her death.
Dusabe wanted to move away from Goma to Uganda but unfortunately M23 rebel/ called terrorists blocked the road and she did not want to take the risk to pass through areas which they controlled. She pleaded to UNHCR to relocate her to Kinshasa the capital city of DRC but in vain.
Are Rwandan Refugees targeted?
The last time we had about the assassination of a Rwandan refugee was in 2019, the difference is that such killing may be linked to Rwandan Security Services as it was in the past because Rwanda is against some refugees who are viewed as opinion leaders. This killing may be connected to internal reasons which we do not know yet, but which should be established later. Some people accused her of working with FDLR rebels, others claimed she might have been involved in acts of kidnapping and of the recent others claim that she was working as a spy for M23 rebel group. What is also important is that such killing has happened at the time when the Global Refugee Forum Summit started in Geneva and when DRC is in elections period.
Rwandan refugees in Eastern DRC remain too vulnerable to all forms of risks and attacks currently mainly from M23 rebels who are backed by Rwanda. Over the years Rwandan refugees paid a high price of Rwanda oppressive policy against all those Rwandan outside Rwanda, but with the current regime in place in DRC the situation changed and since 2021 Rwandan refugees in North Kivu became safer. It is really a shock that such act has happened and it has provoked fear among Rwandan refugees once again who believed this was over.
The protection of Rwandan Refugees in Eastern DRCongo
The current presence of M23 rebels backed by Rwanda has made the situation very complicated for Rwandan refugees in North Kivu, massacres committed by M23 since 2021 up today were generally in refugee populated areas. To make the matter worse Rwanda claims that most of the Rwandan refugees in eastern DRC are either FDLR or connected to FDLR and the best option for Rwanda is to kill them through wars since 1996 up to now.
The lack of institutions to protect refugees in DRCongo
Despite the high presence of the UNHCR which have the whole UN Mission which could have played a positive role in order to protect refugees, UNHCR in DRCongo has been against debate about the protection of Rwandan Refugees and instead UNHCR has either directly or indirectly supported activities that expose them to forced repatriation back Rwanda. In some cases UNHCR is also a problem and does not provide protection opportunities to refugees like in this particular case and in some other cases.
Information coming to us that needs to be well verified does indicate that both UNHCR and the Congolese National Commission for Refugees known as CNR are highly dominated by staffs who are either Tutsi from Rwanda or are highly connected to Rwandan regime and that alone is a problem to Rwandan refugees who are generally Hutus.
The current security situation in Goma
Goma has been highly affected by urban criminality, in most cases target people and this is not only for refugees but also killings among Congolese people since 2020. The only difference is that Dusabe is the very first refugee who has been assassinated since 2021, while the others have been exposed to forced repatriation back to Rwanda, in most cases they were abducted and then taken to Rwanda in a dramatic manner.
On top of that Goma is highly militarized because of the war and it is an operation area and Mugunga is controlled by various armed groups including the DRC Army. The security in Goma has again deteriorated of the recent and in that each single day that passes there is a person who has been killed. The same day yesterday a young man was also shot in Kyeshero but good enough he did not die.
What can we do to protect refugees?
In short terms
Immediately we should advocate for urgent relocation of key refugees who are at risk and in this way we should be supported financially in order to do so,
We should put pressure on UNHCR and the DRC Government to change actors in both UNHCR and CNR in eastern DRC especially staffs who are perceived of being either Tutsi Rwandans or associated to Rwanda,
Advocate to the security services to work closely with refugees in order to access information about threats facing refugees and put in place urgent interventions,
Calling upon people of goodwill to support a fundraising drive on behalf of Rwandan refugees who are at high risks in Eastern DRCongo,
To join all actors who are working and advocating for peace and security in North Kivu, the Democratic Republic of Congo,
Carry out a comprehensive research on the security situation in North Kivu and in Goma in order to provide clear information to both government and all her partners for a better response,
Advocate for profound reforms with UNHCR and CNR in order to ensure the protection of Rwandan refugees,
Engage the DRCongo Government to put in place an investigation team in order to established the causes and perpetrators of this killing,
Support the DRC Government in order to restore security in Goma and in other big cities,
Empower refugees in order to support the protection of fellow refugees who may be at risks,
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos