Open letter: Suspend the elections of the representatives of urban refugees in Goma DRCongo

CC:  Here is the French VersionLETTRE O6 Mai 2024 sur les elections des refugies urbains a Goma

Refugee Leaders Meeting at our offices last year 2023

Mr. Permanent Secretary of the National Commission for Refugees,

Madam Representative of UNHCR in the Democratic Republic of Congo

(All in Kinshasa)

Excellency Mr. Governor of the Province,

Mr. Provincial Director of the General Directorate for Migration (DGM),

Mr. Provincial Director of the National Intelligence Agency (ANR),

Mr. Provincial President of the New Dynamics of Civil Society, North Kivu,

Mr. Mayor of the City of Goma,

Mr. Mayor of the Municipality of Karisimbi,

Mr. Mayor of the Municipality of Goma,

Mr. Representative of UNHCR Sub-Delegation of Goma,

To the United Nations Joint Office for Human Rights,

(All in Goma, North Kivu)

To the Head of Branch of the Commission National for Refugees

Request to suspend the organization Elections of Representatives of

Urban Refugees in Goma, North Kivu

Mr. Head of Antenna,

We have just learned through social networks that UNHCR, CNR, AIDES, DGM and other actors would like to organize elections for representatives of urban refugees in the city of Goma.

We remain particularly concerned by this cavalier approach of the refugee regime which confiscates the management of refugees as private cleanliness in Goma and North Kivu. Refugees being a component of the population on Congolese soil are supposed to enjoy all the democratic freedoms and practices of good governance which seem to characterize the management of public affairs in the DRC, to do otherwise would be a way of perpetuating the dictatorship which has long kept refugees in captivity by a handful of people using power that no one knows where it comes from. It would be imperative to cultivate the awareness that we could not speak of urban refugees in Goma without alluding to Rwandan refugees who, according to even the impartial statistics of the CNR/HCR, would attribute this population to more than 4,500 in Goma alone, which would represent more than 90% of the population of refugees and asylum seekers in Goma. Curiously, for a long time this large population always felt deliberately excluded by the CNR/HCR power either by eligibility criteria, or by the context, or by the environment in which the elections were often organized.

While the M23 supported by Rwanda are right on the doorstep of Goma, and mainly targeting Rwandan refugees and asylum seekers, UNHCR/CNR is launching into the organization of elections for urban refugees in Goma, at a time when refugees and Rwandan asylum seekers are currently living in hiding, and at a time when accusations from refugees persist about the efforts and the very desire of the CNR/HCR to not want to protect these refugees, and this at the same time as allegations continue to exist on the presence of agents in the CNR/HCR offices that some refugees think are either Rwandans, resident staff in Rwanda, or simply Congolese perceived as working on behalf of Rwanda.

The lamentations of Rwandan refugees over the presence in various offices in charge of refugees of staff who have contributed to their persecution since the time of the RCD Goma, should first of all attract the concern of all, in particular the Head of Antenna of the CNR Goma. The acts of deportation and kidnapping of Rwandan refugees and asylum seekers whose suspicions weigh on the CNR/HCR, AIDES, and the DGM, as well as the various forced repatriation operations of Rwandan refugees and asylum seekers to the Rwanda or their lives would be at risk would not foster an environment to promote the participation of Rwandan refugees and asylum seekers in these elections.

With the interventions in place by the CNR/HCR/AIDES which move away from the ideal of refugee protection and aim to discourage Rwandan refugees from seeking services from these institutions, we find a great risk of collapse between UNHCR/CNR/AIDES and Rwandan refugees. We can perhaps remind you that it is curious to observe that even with the M23 at the gate of Goma, the CNR/UNHCR persist in their lack of will to register and grant documents to refugees, especially Rwandans, no plan is put in place for effective protection of Rwandan refugees, the establishment of the Mutuelle de Santé which excluded a large number of Rwandan refugees access to medical care thus exposes them to planned death, the squandering of the efforts of Rwandan refugee children to access even basic education ruins the propaganda on the protection of refugees, fuels the debate in which UNHCR/CNR would be useful to Rwandan refugees to put an end to the policy of criminalization of refugees put in place by Rwanda and of which the UNHCR/CNR would remain silent and would protect UNHCR/CNR as simply accomplices. This is being prepared while Rwandan refugees living in Goma commemorate in May the clandestine deportation of Angelo to Rwanda, the UNHCR/CNR brings them elections in a town of Goma which we suspect would already be insulted by the M23.

For us this exercise, although capital and very necessary, deserves to be put on hold, we appreciate certain advances in the eligibility criteria which have been published which move towards inclusion, but we regret that until now UNHCR/ CNR remain unaware of effective strategies to reach refugees in Goma.

It is difficult for UNHCR/CNR/AIDES to receive at least 5 Rwandan refugees per week, a large part of the refugees do not have access to Smart Phones which is the only strategy to mobilize them. We recall that UNHCR/CNR/AIDES are not experts in elections and that this country has institutions competent in electoral matters which should be involved and finally meet the minimum of credibility and impartiality. We have observed that UNHCR/CNR/AIDES are more direct beneficiaries of the elections of refugee representatives and over the years these animators are more perceived as extensions of the refugee regime instead of becoming a true representation of refugees. We have already received allegations that a team has already been prepared by UNHCR/CNR/AIDES as representatives of the refugees.

With the current situation of war in the North Kivu Province we recommend to UNHCR/CNR Goma to suspend the urban refugee election initiatives in Goma while waiting for the situation to change,

Not finding the opportunity and urgency embodied in the urban refugee elections, UNHCR/CNR will have to further capitalize on refugee protection efforts through their community leaders and volunteers who are in their communities,

We ask the Mayor of the City of Goma, the Mayors, the Police as well as other authorities who will copy us to discourage the holding of these elections of representatives of urban refugees,

Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos

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