Minutes of the Refugee Thematic Meeting today Thursday September 28th, 2023 in Goma-DRC
Summary of the monthly meeting of COJESKI North Kivu Refugee Thematic Group held on Thursday September 28th, 2023 at our offices in Goma.
The meeting had the following points
The current situation of refugees in North Kivu
Conferences and workshops on refugee issues
Funding opportunities on refugees,
The commemoration of the Genocide against refugees in DRC,
The meeting started at 11 am .
The welcome remarks were done by Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos and members introduced themselves and their organizations. Pecos thanks the participants and the interest they are showing on refugee issues in North Kivu, he reminded the participants that this is the very first local initiative focusing on refugees, the field may not be easy as it has been for years dominated by International Relief Aid, so we have nowhere to start from but we shall pave the way by ourselves. So far UNHCR does not position herself as an ally but rather looks at us as competitors, it is also important that we have started the very first initiative in DRC on refugees, so we should congratulate ourselves.
The situation of refugees in North Kivu was done in form of information session, questions around who are these refugees, where do they come to DRC, when did they come, where do they live, how do they live, which documents do they use, what challenges are they facing, where the main questions.
The meeting observed that 90% of the refugee population in North Kivu are Rwandans, 5% are Burundians and others are Ugandans, Somalians. The meeting also observed that almost 98% of the refugee population in North Kivu do not have documents and are not accessing relief aid despite the presence of UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations. Actually the participants were wondering why UNHCR was not present in the meeting, we informed then that we always invite them but they do not come, the meeting argued to continue the work despite the absence of UNHCR and CNR.
Members observed that refugees came to DRC in various periods since 1959, 1960, 1976, and 1994 up to now. The meeting was informed that in 1976 the former Zaire President Mubutu granted citizenship to a group of refugees but it was then revoked in 1978 and up to now it is not yet clear which status do those concerned refugees have in DRC, however members believe that this may the category Rwandan President is claiming to be Congolese Nationals living in refugee camps in Rwanda.
More other questions need serious research work which members committed themselves to focus on next year in order to understand better the situation and make information available to the public. We observed that little information is found on issues of refugees in DRC and UNHCR does not communicate on the situation of refugees, but also the meeting noted that the Congolese National Commission for Refugees was put in place by Rwanda and most of her officers were appointed during the RCD Goma rebellions which makes it to lose credibility among refugees.
After analysis the meeting was satisfied with the current physical security of refugees especially Rwandans and commended the current government for changes in various security services where you cannot see the heavy presence of Rwandan officers anymore. At the same time members observed that UNHCR does not have a clear position on the protection of Rwandan refugees in DRC, we regretted the ongoing forced repatriations of refugees and showed concerns about UNHCR silence towards the protection of each refugee in DRC, often times UNHCR is heard through the media on issues about Internally Displaced Persons while not much is said about refugees.
Lastly members observed that in most cases Rwanda is the most beneficiary of the lack of refugee protection in DRC because it uses this situation to argue that these refugees participated in the genocide in Rwanda, they are Interahamwe and that they are FDLR which should be crushed out. Members vowed to start showing the reality of the presence of refugees in DRC and advocate for their protection. Actually the participants believed that Rwanda has a lot to gain in the effective protection of refugees in DRC and efforts should be done to influence Rwandan foreign policy about these refugees, the meeting believed that Rwanda should be friend and close to these refugees in order to convince them about the situation in Rwanda and motivate them to go back to Rwanda.
The meeting concluded this point on the necessity to embark of serious research work, strong advocacy at all levels, and serious mobilization of funds for the work on each refugee regardless the period he/she came in DRC. More advocacy work will target the DRC Minister of Interior, the Foreign Affairs Minister and the Presidency.
Members were informed about various meetings and workshops on refugees which will be organized by COHERE and requested to know how they can participate. We promised to seek for more information from the organizers. On the Global Refugee Forum Summit in December we observed the total silence on UNHCR and CNR, we addressed different correspondences to UNHCR in DRC but not answer is available up to now, still on this note we have not yet managed to get contacts of the organizing committee in Geneva. However we are in discussions with some organizations who have promised to include two people in their delegation to Geneva, we also submitted a fund application form to Switzerland Embassy in DRC and we are still waiting for the response, our intention is to ensure that at least 10 people from the Civil Society and Independent Refugee Leaders participate in this Summit. The meeting concluded to deploy a team of two people next week to make a follow-up to UNHCR.
The meeting concluded on advocacy programme and at the same time collect the necessary information in order to formulate strong recommendations on the situation of refugees in DRC. Members are going to compile information in order to make a document which should have key recommendations.
Minute Four: Funding opportunities
While there are opportunities about funding towards refugee issues, the participants observed that there are no clear funding towards refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the few which are there do have complicated conditions. So the meeting resolved to focus on online fundraising opportunities and other flexible funding opportunities that may come on our way.
Minute Five: The commemoration of the genocide against Hutu Refugees in DRC
Members were briefed that the United Nations Mapping Report clearly pointed various massacres and other crimes against Hutu Refugees in DRC by the current Rwanda regime, we also observed that the August National Commemoration of the Genocide in DRC did not include refugees at the national level. The meeting was informed that the month of October shall be dedicated to the Commemoration of the Genocide against Hutu Refugees in DRC and various activities may come up depending on the funding. Members agreed that COJESKI should then come with activities and mobilize others to join.
Multiply activities and become more visible on refugees issues next year 2024 after general elections in DRC,
Monitor the physical security of refugees during this electoral period, and strengthen the secretariat of the refugee thematic group, and now keep the minutes of the meetings and other necessary documents,
Minute Six: A.O.B
NDSC informed the participants that it is planning an information session about elections,
COJESKI informed the participants about the training in human rights which is being organized, and the members suggested to meet again very soon in order to share ideas and information on available opportunities for online fundraising COJESKI will organize for the meeting, also members agreed to initiate a meeting and various training activities and information with various youth groups including pressure groups on demonstrations with the purpose to make these demonstrations in Goma more peaceful and nonviolent, again COJESKI will provide space for various meetings on this issue.
COJESKI welcomed the participants to the new office and informed them that it has a meeting room which can accommodate more than 100 people and encouraged the participants to use it for their public meetings,
The meeting ended at 1:42 pm, the next meeting will be at the end of October on Thursday 26th at 10 am at the office of COJESKI.
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos