Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos presentation to the media on Monday October 23rd 2023 in Goma DRC
Press Conference on the deliberate exclusion of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the effective participation to the Global Refugee Forum Summit in December in Geneva
Today Monday October 23rd, 2023 we are engaging the media at local, national and international levels on another activity in our efforts distance ourselves from UNHCR move to isolate the Democratic Republic of Congo from taking part to the Global Refugee Summit.
Over the years DRC has been left out from any forums on refugee issues, unfortunately this seems to be deliberate from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, however this should not continue in this way. With a refugee population estimated at 4million inside DRC, more than 8million Internally Displaced Persons and more than 3million Congolese refugees in various countries in the world, the Democratic Republic of Congo should be involved in discussions around the world issues on forced migrants.
Since this year 2023 started, we deployed efforts to contact the UNHCR in DRC over the summit but UNHCR loot the option of silence. Refugees do not know anything, the host communities do not know anything, the Civil Society does not have any information, and the Government Authorities do claim they are not aware, yet the summit is nearby. We visited recently the website of the Global Refugee Forum and there was no information about refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This Press Conference is in that line to oppose this longstanding UNHCR policy which isolates DRC and refugees from engaging other stakeholders on forced migrants’ issues.
Questions here on the ground remain: Why does UNHCR opt for such strategy, who does this policy of isolation benefit, what are the interests of UNHCR in this?
But also on the other hands, what does DRC loose, what would refugee benefit in case they are included and why this campaign is too important for us, are there other better options to engage.
This Press Conference focuses on these questions and its purpose is to denounce exactly the paradox between UNHCR mandate to ensure the protection of refugees, the cooperation with the states, the involvement of host communities and this operating policy of silence and exclusion which has been implemented in DRC over the years.
Since 1996 up to the recent many parts in DRC have been under the control of Rwanda, and as we all know Rwanda is against the idea of granting refugee status to Rwandan outside, in DRC therefore Rwanda has exercised a heavy influence on UNHCR operations over the years, to the point that UNHCR does consider Rwandan asylum seekers as economic migrants, while those who are considered as refugees are victims of forced repatriation in which UNHCR plays a frontline in order to please Rwanda. Various credible allegations tend to show the high presence of UNHCR staffs in DRC who are either perceived as Rwandans, either residing in Rwanda or are connected to Rwanda. The currently DRC law of refugees was created and highly influenced by Rwanda which makes UNHCR to find it difficult to push for the protection of refugees, therefore the idea of excluding DRC in the Summit aims at one thing “showing that there are no refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo” in order to please Rwanda, which claims that Rwandans in DRC are merely economic migrants.
We all know that the majority of refugees in DRC are Rwandans who unfortunately have never been identified and granted fully a refugee status, it is not clear which status they do have in DRC and again UNHCR has totally remained silent of this issue yet these people need protection.
By the strategy of silence and the failure to recognize the refugee status of Rwandans in DRC again UNHCR seeks to bury the debate on the responsibilities of the United Nations in the whole protection issues of refugees in DRC over the years, yet it is time for the United Nations to account for what has been done over the years. UNHCR cannot continue to cover up it failure to ensure the protection of refugees in DRC in order to draw a lesson from its mistakes.
The other observation is that in so many cases basing on the testimonies of Rwandan refugees in Eastern DRC, UNHCR actively played a frontline role in abuses against refugee rights, obviously UNHCR in DRC does not want all these violations to be documented and be known but also UNHCR is not willing to account for these violations, so the best way is to ignore the existence of these refugees.
Conscious that such move is inhuman and should not last long, confronted with the pain and plight of refugees in the Democratic Republic we are now here to say no to this policy of silence and push UNHCR to make reforms. We believe that UNHCR should not continue to be used as a Rwanda Political Tool in order to oppress Rwandan refugees in DRC, as a country we deserve a name, our hospitality to host more than 4million refugees should be recognized and appreciated globally, the host communities who are the first protectors of refugees in DRC have be recognized, appreciated and supported in order to improve the well-being of refugees, as it is in various countries the capacities of refugees to contribute towards socio-economic development in their communities should be strengthened and well planned for in order to expand the protection opportunities in DRC.
The absence DRC, the host Communities and refugees to this Summit is again a failure to show concerns about the situation of refugees in DRC, it is to deny their existence and it is to sentence them to continue facing the current plight they are in, this contradict our conscience and that is why we are here to oppose it.
All our efforts is to ensure that we do all we can for each refugee in DRC to live a better life, and if UNHCR cannot come along with us then it may not be necessary to have this institution in DRC.
It is a must, refugee, host communities, local leaders, the Civil Society, the Private Sector and the Democratic Republic of Congo Government must effectively participate in this Forum.
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos
COJESKI/DRC-Coordination of North-Kivu