Press Conference: End threats and other forms of abuses against HRDs working on the protection of refugees in DRCongo
Press Statement on threats against actors of Civil Society who are involved in the promotion of rights Refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Since October 2023 until now we have observed threats, intimidation and attacks against Human Rights Activists engaged in promoting the rights of refugees; refugee opinion leaders in the DRC are not as spared.
These practices were accentuated and accompanied by intimidation during the months of November and December 2023 against those who advocated for the effective participation of refugees and Civil Society actors at the World Refugee Forum Summit held in Geneva in December 2023. Our actors in Goma and Kinshasa have been the subject of several threats and continue to be victims of intimidation.
We strongly condemn the uncivil and non-humanitarian acts of Mr. Jean Pascal MUGARUKA with the entire team who swear on the weakening of anyone who defends the interests of refugees or aims to promote the defense of human rights here in the provinces of North Kivu and this for the interest of those who benefit from the suffering of refugees for years.
This is an opportunity for us to strongly condemn the assassination of Madame Espérance Dusabe, one of the leaders of the refugees in Goma, savagely shot dead by armed people in her shop in Mugunga on 12/12/2023 at 6:40 p.m. We also condemn the death of an asylum seeker in Hewa Bora Mugunga on 16/12/2023 killed by armed person suspected to be a FARDC soldier.
We also denounce and condemn the attack against human rights defenders in the person of Mr. KILIHOSHI MUSIKAMI Pecos and Mr. BAHIGANA MIRHONYI Germain attacked by heavily armed people, three of whom were dressed in FARDC uniforms and three others in PNC uniforms and who were riding on 3Motos next to Sapientia University on 12/18/2023 around 7:40 p.m., and who took away everything that Pecos and Germain had on them.
We regret different forms of threats and intimidation that our leaders are subjected to in Kinshasa, Goma and other corners of the country because of their commitment to the protection of human rights and for their assistance to asylum seekers on Congolese soil.
At the same time we are concerned by accusations against certain authorities under the pretext of collaborating with the FDRL when efforts should be made to improve relations between the security services of the DRC, the Congolese population and all the armed groups among them FDLR with the aim of properly protecting refugees and Congolese populations in areas under the control of the FDLR and other armed groups in the DRC.
We ask the Government to preserve the gains made in the stability of refugees and continue to improve the efforts already made in past years,
We remind the Government that the only way to promote the effective protection of refugees lies in collaboration with all actors at each level, to protect human rights defenders working in the field of refugees but also to sanction all those who violate the rights of refugees,
We demand serious investigations to identify and punish the perpetrators of the threats against our actors and of all violations of refugee rights.
Done in Goma on 01/18/2024.
BAHIGANA MIRHONYI Germain
Provincial President of NDSC North Kivu
KULIHOSHI MUSIKAMI Pecos
Provincial Coordinator of COJESKI, North Kivu
Questions and answers from the journalists during our Press Conference at the office
The Press Conference was held today Thursday January 18th, 2024, starting at 9:20 up to 10:00. The following Media were represented: Tazama RDC, CCTV, Voice of America French, Shekinah, Bora FM, Hope TV, Infordc.com, Top Congo and Actualite.CD.
Q/ Which threats are you facing currently and who do think ate the perpetrators of these threats?
R/ Most of the threats are in our Press Communiqué and they started in October 2023 when we engaged in a series of advocacy for the participation in the Summit of the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva.
Q/Do you think that you are targeted because they think you are collaborating with FDLR?
R/ We have a serious problem with that confusion around DFLR and the whole criminalization against those who work for the protection of Rwandan refugees in DRC, everyone working on Rwandan refugees is quickly viewed as collaborating with FDLR.
Who are the FDLR according to you?
R/ Basing on our work since 2021 we have observed that FDLR are just Rwandan refugees based here in search of protection, they are always threats by Rwanda soldiers and Rwanda security services in DRC, and unfortunately the Government of DRC has not yet done enough to ensure their protection, in most cases these refugees have decided to take guns in order to protect themselves and protect other refugees especially in various places where the state is absent. We cannot fully understand FDRL if we do not bring to the table the notion of Rwandan Refugee Protection in DRC, so forget about the Propaganda from Rwanda that portrays FDLR as a serious armed group ready to attack Rwanda, and that Rwanda has to destroy it in DRC. These are refugees who are struggling for their survival and have no intention to attack Rwanda, they just want to live in peace and feel protected from the attacks by Rwanda.
Q/Are refugees part of FDLR?
R/ As I have said, many Rwandan refugees are feeling more protected in areas controlled by FDLR and in some cases these FDLR are composed by Rwandan refugees. The question should be why Rwandan refugees do feel obliged to join FDLR and what we can do to end that, this will lead us to the debate around the protection of refugees in DRC, especially Rwandan refugees.
Q/Do refugees work with FDLR
Some are associated to FDLR as relatives and in most cases as we have observed it here in Goma, when there is a presence of Rwandan Army in North Kivu, Rwandan refugees tend to run towards areas under the control of FDLR in order to seek for protection. Unfortunately the Government is not yet in position to address this, so, for us the issue is the DRC Government to claim its role towards the protection of refugees.
Q/We hear Dusabe Esperance was killed because she was suspected to collaborate with FDLR, what to think about that?
R/ First of all killing that women because of collaborating with FDLR is wrong and that should not be accepted in a country which has laws, if collaborating with FDLR was criminal in DRC then she should have been sent to Courts of Law but now being assassinated in that way. We are so much concerned that it is becoming more a habit to kill or abuse someone on ground that he/she is collaborating with FDLR. We have also observed that some officers were called to Kinshasa because of collaborating with FDLR, we are worried with this trend and that should be discouraged.
We observe that the way Dusabe was killed is almost similar with the way Rwanda is killing other Rwandan Refugees in different countries such as here in DRC, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi and in South Africa. So our government should come up clearly and tell us more about this issue of FDLR.
Q/What about Jean Pascal Mugaruka, he was among you here?
Yes, he worked with us here, but in October 2023 we observed that he became closer to the refugee regime and both UNHCR and CNR used him in order to attack us and destroy our struggle for the refugee rights in North Kivu. We highly regret that he is much used by the refugee regime in order to kill our struggle towards the protection of refugees.
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos
Coordinator/ COJESKI North Kivu