Our observations on the current IDPs Camps Managements around Goma-DRCongo
Report on our first participation in the CCCM Cluster Camp Management for IDPs around Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Should we call these IDP Camps or Refugee Camps? You can get the full report here ” Report on the CCCM Meeting in Goma
The meeting took place at UNHCR Goma Office on Tuesday August 29th, 2023 starting at 10am and ended at 12pm.
Note: This report will serves as an alert on the situation but not as holistic document that can be used as guide in order to take decisions.
At our offices we are currently receiving Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who are in four categories as per now: Those who are refugees mainly from Rwanda and living in DRC since 1994 who we believe constitute the big number of the population in Camps around Goma, Refugee Returnees from Uganda generally, people running away from Ituri and people from specific tribes in North Kivu especially those who were living in dire conditions in Goma, and who decided to move to camps.
This is based on testimonies they share with us during our interactions at the office on daily basis or during their community meetings which we do organize.
This led us to visit several IDPs Camps in order to understand better the situation, the identity of the people and how humanitarian relief aid takes into account the human rights dimension. Most of the people in various camps are generally victims of the M23 Terrorists group operating in some areas in North Kivu mainly in Hutus dominated areas in Masisi, Rutshuru and Nyiragongo.
Testimonies we continue getting indicate that M23 was targeting Rwandan Hutu Refugees in some areas as this one indicated to us “we were informed that M23 was send by Kagame to kill us, that is why I decided to run away up to here, in some areas M23 called local leaders and told them to show Rwandan Hutus Refugees, we do not know what happened those refugees up to now and the local leaders who refused were killed”.
However we observed that in these areas under the control of M23, some people decided to run away while others decided to stay. Then this attracted our attention on why people decided to run away while others decided to stay, who are those ones who stayed and who are those who ran away. Still some decided to go back in those areas under the control of M23 while others decided to remain in camps, some do go collect food in areas under M23 while others cannot go there.
This needs more research work in order to understand the dynamics of displacement in North Kivu and provide appropriate responses. We do also observe that the majority of the people in all camps are Kinyarwanda speaking, we also want to understand why did they choose to come to Goma despite all other options they had, and lastly how are the interventions being coordinated, what are the appropriate responses to this situation, do all actors have a deep understanding of the people they serve.
The identity of the persons in Camps is key and very important because it may dictate the nature of the camps, where should the camps be located and which responses should be given to people in these camps, which actors should do what and how best the camps should be managed, which legal framework should be referred to in the camp management and who should play the leading role.
Leading Agencies in Camps
Camps around Goma are divided among three key leading Agencies mainly: World Food Programme (WFP), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the first challenge is that everyone is king in the camps under her control.
How did we come this? Why UNHCR is not the leading Agency? Yet it is also mandated to handle IDPs? Why should we have IOM and WFP as leading agencies in-charge of some camps?
We may need clear answers before we embark on advocacy work to call upon UNHCR to assume her mandate towards Refugees and IDPs and then coordinate all other Agencies.
Field visits in Bulengo, Rusayu One and Kanyaruchina
Generally we observed the above mentioned that most of the residents in the camps are Kinyarwada speaking and many among them are Rwandan refugees who came in 1994 but who have stayed in Congo for long, many do not have any single document that can identify them as refugees. Those who spoke to us claimed that they do not want to disclose themselves as Rwandans because they may be exposed to security risks of possible attacks from Rwandan Army, if M23 capture Goma they may be massacred, they may lose the relief aid they believe they are getting the aid because the DRC Government and the International Community believe that they are all Congolese Citizens, and lastly they may face hostility from Congolese once they are identified as Rwandan refugees.
On the question of the identity of people
Those from Ituri actually are not comfortable that they are being registered as from the areas which are controlled by M23, and this is due to political reasons in which they want to be recognized as from Ituri and registered as from Ituri. Generally one among the conditions in order to access the humanitarian relief aid is that you must have come from one among the areas controlled by M23, this has made other people to forge their identities especially people from Goma who also sneaked into the IDP Camps and other refugees who were in Goma living in dire conditions and who decided to move to camps.
People from Goma in different IDP Camps
Goma is populated at 80% of people who have history of displacement in their lives, in actually most of the population in Goma are Internally Displaced Persons who should be able to access relief aid in order to restore their lives. In our view people who are in Goma who wish to access the relief should not be criminalized and especially that some IDPs are living in host families in Goma.
The most vulnerable people crossed into camps in order to access free food and free accommodation, and free land as it was believed that people in camps will be granted plots of land where they will build houses from. This is normal and any other person can do this, but also observed now a new trend of people going to camps in order to get relief aid and sell it off in order to make money, actually most of the leadership in all IDP Camps are connected to this practice of getting food for commercial benefit, these leaders are not necessary IDPs and no one knows how they became leaders. This is what we should discourage.
Good enough the CCCM meeting yesterday emphasized on the urgent need to hold elections of the leaders in the camps.
Despite efforts by humanitarian aid workers to register people at midnight in order to know who are true IDPs and those who come from Goma, this did not help so much because those from Goma also decided to reside in camps and are permanent there. The question should focus more on the relief aid to people in need in Goma and its surroundings and the nature of relief aid to different category of people.
The Camps around Goma
Two questions may appear crucial on the identity of those in the camps and why are the camps located in near Virunga National Park which hosts various armed groups. Is thatthe best option DRC can offer to these people? Who decided about this and what should be done now? How long will relief aid last and what are the options for a transition?
The security in the camps is also well observed and there is a consensus with all actors that first of all it may be difficult to control people in camps some may be members of armed groups, the camps are close to Virunga National Park, there is no Camp Community Leadership put in place among others. Most of the camps are located in highly militarized areas due to operations against M23,
The CCCM meeting reported yesterday that DRC Government is currently training around 200 Police Officers who will be in-charge of the security in camps, this is good but more efforts should be oriented towards the involvement of the intelligence services, the Courts of Law and other Government Agencies.
There are speculations of possible infiltration of M23 rebels in the camps, these allegations need to be taken seriously and a lot of research work should be given priority by relief agencies especially the CCCM Cluster. We are interested in such a research work in order to bring light to this debate.
Who exactly is in charge of the Camps?
While the management of all camps seems to work in coordination with all actors, it may be difficult to know who the central coordinator is, actors work more of tasks and duties rather than a clear structure that should coordinate and account. The management of Camps being more an issue of sovereignty of the country the DRC Government should have been in charge of all camps but generally it seems not in control of everything.
For example the yesterday’s meeting was hosted by UNHCR, initiated by partners and only one person from the government attended. In Bulengo and other Camps Government bodies do not have offices there even. One area of our advocacy will be the strong involved of the government and to ensure it is in charge of everything, it is the government to account about issues in camps.
The involvement of the Civil Society Organizations
Activities around camps seem to work on the high presence of foreign organizations with few local implementing partners and some national staffs who are not the main driver in the whole decision making process. This leaves the gap of the ownership of the local communities, in yesterday’s meeting we were the only one Civil Society Organization represented, we shall develop an advocacy approach to involve more Civil Society Organizations in this issue and promote local approach.
Issues we brought on the table
The presence of armed soldiers in camps and around camps: This was viewed as a general concern but no clear information was shared about how best to engage Military Authorities to handle this issue. As organization we are interested in engaging Military authorities on this issue,
We shared information of soldiers who organized an operation where IDPs were taken their things and money in a certain evening by blocking the road and everyone was taken what they had, this was based on a rumor that IDPs received money. The CCCM encouraged us to share with them such a report and in other incident which we may have. Our team will share the findings on this issue.
The issue of people who are registered in different camps: Efforts are being done to solve this through the compiling of a complete list of people but also the Camp Coordinator should solve some cases. We shall then go back and engage the Camp Coordinators.
We also showed concerns about the decision to move people from Rusayu Two camp in order to get registered in Bulengo yet the services could have been taken to people where they are. This had severe consequences on women, children and other vulnerable people,
As organization we still have number of pending issues which we need to have more light about it,
The transparency in the relief aid: We do observe that there are stores in Goma where items for IDPs are sold and in big quantity, this needs more research work,
The flow information among IDPs: Is also among issues actually we would like to work on, in order to provide clear information on which organization is offering what, the criteria in order to access the aid, for how many people, which donor has given aid, how will the aid be managed, who are the most vulnerable people, what are the challenges people are facing that may need urgent interventions,…
The participation of people in decision making: We are also interested to help people in the camps to make their views and to ensure their opinions count,
To advocate for the increase of the money for food ration which is estimated at 1,000 FC per person and per day, this money should be increased at 5,000FC. We believe that Relief Organizations should reduce on their expenses in order to increase on the food ration of IDPs,
To advocate for refugees to be handled by specialized relief agencies which have expertise in refugee issues and should be in camps basing on international standards,
Create awareness in Camps for refugees to be fully identified and not to fear about their identity as refugees, and engage with authorities at all levels to ensure that refugees are fully protected especially against Rwandan Army,
To advocate and create awareness among local community on the need to ensure the protection of refugees, the access to land and pacific cohabitation,
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos