Open letter to Fillipo Grandi the UNHCR Commissioner on the situation of refugees in DRCongo in line with Global Refugee Day June 2024

Mr. Fillipo Grandi ( the original English version is here attached ( LETTRE 17 Juin 2024 Fillipo Grandi UNHCR     )

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

UNHCR Geneva, Switzerland


The United Nations Special Rapporteur of the situation of Forced Migrants, Geneva,

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, Geneva,

The United Nations Human Rights Office, Geneva

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR Representative in Kinshasa/DRC,

The African Union Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Addis Abbeba,

The UNHCR Inspector General Office, Geneva,

Re: Open letter: Abandon the forced repatriation to refugees and promote refugee protection in the Democratic Republic of Congo,

Dear Commissioner,

The Collective of Youth Organizations for Solidarity in the Democratic Republic of Congo, known as COJESKI/DRC, Coordination of North Kivu which also enjoys the observer status at ECOSOC and has a focus on refugees in North Kivu in particular and in DRC in general. COJESKI North Kivu is led by Congolese who were refugees in neighboring countries mainly Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi among others where they were active in the field of refugee rights. Our goal is to make DRC the best country in the world for forced migrants and promote the observance of their rights at all levels.

On the occasion of World Refugee Day June 2024, we humbly get this opportunity to share with the alarming situation of refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Allow us to inform you that this is the third time we have addressed you a letter on the same matter of refugees in DRC, and despite our visit in DRC in 2022 we have not yet observed much progress as we wonder what the impact of your coming was.

Despite the threats of war by M23 in North Kivu which has forced thousands of people to flee their homes including refugees who have been on the run in their life time, refugees do continues to enjoy security in areas that are controlled by the Government and in North Kivu arbitrary arrests of refugees reduced even those who have no documents, since 2023 up to now we have not witnessed cases of arbitrary arrests, abduction, and deportation of refugees back to Rwanda. We have also witnessed the decrease of hate speech against Rwandan refugees due to our activism to engage youth groups on social media with accurate information about refugees, and the last time a refugee was deported to Rwanda was in December 2022, in the same way the last assassination of a Rwandan refugee in North was in 2021. This is because of our active advocacy with various Congolese Security Services in North Kivu, DRC.

However as we push for the protection of refugees in DRC we have observed that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR offices here in Goma have not been helping us on contrary has supported either directly or indirectly acts of threats and intimidations against us and against vocal refugees in Goma.  The Democratic Republic of Congo remains the only country in the world which is sending refugees to Rwanda and unfortunately this is done with support from UNHCR, such exercise remains an insult to our human conscience. The only programme which benefits all refugees in North Kivu is the repatriation back to Rwanda which has been based of wrong information, unrealistic promises of a huge amount of money to refugees in exchange for their acceptance to go to Rwanda. Staff officers who are involved in this exercise of repatriation are perceived as being either Rwandan spies or working closely with Rwandan security services, in Masisi we observed that some among those involved in the awareness of refugees for repatriation exercises were themselves formed refugees who were repatriated to Rwanda and then were brought back in order to convince others by brandishing lies, on the same way the United Nations Radio Okapi broadcasted a Programme “ogutahuka” “ going back home”  produced by people who are believed to be either Rwandans or highly associated to Rwanda which provided wrong information to refugees about the situation in Rwanda and which made many being victims.

We also regret that UNHCR does not have a clear programme that focuses on the protection of refugees in North Kivu and UNHCR does not encourage the government to recognize all refugees who are not yet identified on contrary all these refugees are told to go back to Rwanda. Only 527,000 refugees are recognized which is almost 2% of the entire refugee population in DRC, and for the last four years nothing at all has been done to recognize them. In a Press Conference in Goma on Friday June 21st, 2024 UNHCR claimed about 170,000 refugees in North Kivu among them 3,000 in urban area in Goma, most of these refugees have been abandoned by UNHCR and do not access relief aid.

In Goma for example UNHCR does not have a transit center in place to receive new arrivals on contrary UNHCR put in place a center for those who should be repatriated, who in most cases leave again Rwanda towards Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and others come back to Goma where they fear going back to UNHCR. 4/10 Rwandan refugees and asylum seekers in Goma have a past experience of forced repatriation in their lives.  We are extremely preoccupied by reports that suggest the presence of refugees from DRC who were repatriated to Rwanda and now fighting alongside M23 in various zones in North Kivu, at the same time Rwandan refugees in Goma continue to complain about recruitment which are being organized among them by M23 some who are believed to be Commanders in M23, this is the same with the presence in M23 of refugees from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania among other countries, not only that but also recently M23 appointed Willy Manzi a former refugee in Uganda who benefited from UNHCR resettlement to Canada as the Coordinator for the Diaspora.

The presence of UNHCR officers in Goma who are either perceived as Rwandan mainly Ngoga Melissa, Senga Ines  Mukamurenzi the other in camps of UNHCR among others, and the Congolese people who are viewed to be so close to Rwanda security services mainly Alex Baruti who work alongside most of CNR officers who are viewed to be pro-Rwanda mainly Felix Musanganya and Reginald Mpendwa melted the completely the desire of refugees to seek for protection from UNHCR Goma. The areas of UNHCR operating from has been reduced to only some parts of the Goma Division because UNHCR is viewed as extension of Rwanda in order to target refugees, and the recent deportation of Angelo Habomuryemye to Rwanda in May 2022 in which AIDES staffs are believed to have been involved has fully affected Rwandan refugees in North Kivu.

We are highly concerned that over the years UNHCR has not been able to amend her statistics on refugees in DRC, claiming that there are 527,000 refugees in DRC is a sense of dishonest towards our communities who have been living with thousands of refugees who have never seen UNHCR yet they are there. The fact of not being identified by UNHCR does not take away the legitimate claims of the thousands who are seeking for the refugee status in DRC and as you may know the lack of identification paper is the main cause of tension between Congolese and refugees both in DRC, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and in many other countries where refugees opt to acquire a Congolese identity in order to survive.

Despite the various violations of refugee rights in North Kivu, UNHCR Goma has not yet been able to take distance from the Head of CNR Goma Mr. Felix Musanganya who ordered the arrest and detention of two vocal refugees mainly Hassani and Kennedy in order to silence them, and in some cases UNHCR Goma has created opportunities for CNR Officers to threaten us like on Friday June 21st, 2024 during the UNHCR Press Conference which was used by Reginald Mpendwa to threaten us who are advocating for the protection of refugees.

UNHCR Goma continues to reduce the protection space for Rwandan refugees and has discouraged their efforts to seek for protection, many have willingly visited UNHCR offices in Goma in order to be registered but they have been sent away as we observed since 2022 up to now, some refugees have been waiting for their refugee status over than 10 years. The few who accessed to basic health services were reduced in number, children who benefited from school fees were reduced in number, and those who benefited from livelihood opportunities were also reduced in number, since 2022 Rwandan vocal refugee leaders who were part of the urban refugee leadership where deliberately put side and blackmailed among other refugee in order to introduce urban refugee leaders which could easily facilitate Rwandan security services in order to gather information, in this way Akaje Alex who was introduced as member of the Committee was quietly called back to Rwanda after getting all the necessary information, Tom’s who was introduced as the one among UNHCR Community Volunteers also smartly returned back to Rwanda after getting the necessary information both Tom’s and Akaje went back secretly when other refugees suspected them to be working with Rwanda security services.


Basing of the above, we bring to your attention the following recommendations

To urgently expand the protection space of Rwandan Refugees in North Kivu in Particular and in DRC in general through clear programmes which focus of the protection of refugees,

To urgently put aside all UNHCR Officers who are perceived as Rwandans, those who are viewed as collaborating with Rwandan security services and end the habit of UNHCR officers to live in Rwanda and work on refugees issues in DRC,

To urgently put on hold the repatriation programme and stop funding CNR repatriation activities, in order to promote other durable solutions to refugees mainly resettlement and local integration,

To put in place clear approaches which may strengthen collaboration between UNHCR and actors of the Civil Society and ensure that all those who work on various refugee issues are not put aside, especially documenting community initiatives that need to be strengthened and amplified,

Condition UNHCR partnership with CNR to the clear observance of human rights and put to end all threats and intimidations against us and against vocal refugees,

To work closely with all stakeholders in order to increase the refugee protection space especially with community leaders,

To partner with other actors in order to offer protection to refugee human rights defenders, refugee leaders, and other vocal refugees in difficult situation in DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya among others,


Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos

Coordonnateur Provincial

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