Briefing on the engagement with Actors of the Civil Society in Goma for the participation of DRC in refugee forum
Brief Report on the engagement with Journalists, Members of the Civil Society, youth local community leaders, and refugees in Goma, the Democratic Republic of Congo on the DRC participation in the Global Refugee Forum.
Today Tuesday October 17th, 2023 marked again another action in our efforts to put pressure on UNHCR to ensure the effective participation of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva. Our presence in this meeting today marks our determination to resist against the exclusion of DRC in the Summit and to demand that DRC is restored.
Twenty (20) representatives from the Media, Civil Society, Local Youth Leaders, refugees and refugee community leaders attended the awareness meeting which started at 10:20 am and ended at 12:07pm. The information and mobilization session chaired by Martin Chikala from COJESKI, started with the introduction of the participants and brief introduction of COJESKI. We also received 7 apologies from various actors who went to attend another Press Conference about the demonstration against the Eastern African Force in North Kivu.
The second part was a testimony from a refugee woman who share all the challenges she is facing in DRC especially the lack of refugee identification and relief aid in order to survive. This attracted the attention of the media and other participants who were surprised to meet a refugee physically because many Congolese hear about refugees but they have never seen them physically, her testimony might have changed the attitudes of the participants and now questions were on what the government, UNHCR and other actors are doing in order to end this.
The third part Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos capitalized the occasion to challenge the public perception about peace in Rwanda, because in various social media people reacted asking why do we still have Rwandan refugees in DRC yet Rwanda was at peace. This was an opportunity to share with the audience about the real situation in Rwanda and why all Rwandans are not safe in Rwanda, the situation was much easier because some journalists had also shared a study by BBC how Rwanda is killing those who are in exile and the Journalist was in the meeting and shared his ideas. Also Pecos shared his views about those who consider Rwandan refugees as economic migrants in order to expose them to risks and argued about the necessity to differenciate between Rwandan Economic Migrants and Rwandan Refugees, and ended with the living situation of refugees as he called for engagement at all levels. Pecos wondered where the public get information about refugees and observed that many Congolese are victims of information from Rwanda about refugees, which is the issue we need to fix so that local people may access accurate information from credible sources.
Then Germain Mirhonyi from the NDSCI North Kivu shared with the participants about our motivation in order to engage on this campaign, while he observed the total failure of UNHCR in matters of refugees in DRC, the lack of involvement of the communities, the issues of UNHCR policy in favor of Rwanda and the presence of UNHCR staffs who are connected to Rwanda have taken away the credibility of the institution. He noted that DRC deserves to be recognized for hosting refugees, DRC needs to be supported for hosting refugees and refugees in DRC should live better, so if that it is not done this time then we need to wait again after 4 years, and that cannot be accepted. Clear reasons should be provided by UNHCR in order to justify why DRC is absent in this Summit, and shared with people that change in the attitudes and the desire to hold UNHCR accountable are key in order to progress in the debate. The meeting regretted the absence of UNHCR/CNR despite the fact of being invited, and at the same time also was informed that UNHCR/CNR do not wish to answer to questions from the media, at the same time UNHCR/CNR do not have forums to engage with the general public and refugees.
Reactions from the public and various questions
Participants observed that DRC Government is doing nothing on the issue of refugees and that we need to engage them, which we do agree with them however we asked them to wait until next year as we are now in electoral process. However there is a general consensus that the current DRC Government has improved the physical security of Rwandan refugees in DRC, through the changes in various security services, and appreciations were directed towards the current DRC President Felix Tshisekedi.
The meeting observed that the current DRC refugee law is a president decree fabricated by UNHCR and which favors so much Rwanda, and this law is not Congolese therefore the urgent need to change it next year, the meeting also observed that some actors in CNR and UNHCR were appointed by a recommendation from Rwanda and therefore do not serve the interests of refugees. The meeting observed that Rwanda had infiltrated all services in DRC and that the current regime has made efforts to clean up some systems while others are not yet cleaned such as all who are in the refugee business mainly UNHCR/CNR who also need clean up.
Questions about what UNHCR does, where is it operating from, why do we need UNHCR, about UNHCR reports on the protection of refugees and the evaluation of UNHCR work in DRC were also raised, we do understand the legitimacy of these questions and UNHCR should come up and confront the public otherwise these questions may not remain unanswered anymore. While we do not want to speak on behalf of UNHCR, we observed their absence in the meeting and this is not the first time because they do not want to account. However we argued that UNHCR is one among the problems we need to fix in DRC, on top of that a refugee women gave a testimony how she was repatriated by UNHCR by force back to Rwanda and wondered if it was still the same UNHCR we have in place. If it is the same she will never go there anymore.
In brief the meeting concluded with a consensus that there is need to create awareness among people at all levels about the situation of refugees in DRC. We encouraged them to get involved in our various activities but also to consult our website and our social media.
We believe this meeting was a great success much as according to information UNHCR may have called some among our members to do all what they can to stop the meeting to take place. The participants pledged to get involved and include them in our various social media.
After the meeting we had a media briefing in order to respond to questions from the media.
More actions and activities will be coming up,