Report on advocacy for the participation of DRC in the Global Refugee Forum Summit in Geneva
First half of the Report on the advocacy for the effective representation of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Summit of the Global Refugee Forum in December 2023.
A group of refugee leaders during the briefing meeting on the Global Refugee Forum at our offices in Goma
Our interventions on the situation of refugees in DRC in general and in North Kivu in particular is at different dimensions, on one side we are involved in addressing the daily challenges faced by refugees through projects and at the same time we are involved in advocacy which aims at the change of policies, attitudes and practices which will fully contribute to the well-being of refugees in North Kivu. That is why we picked interests in the Global Refugee Forum which will be held in December in Geneva which we believe is one among the best opportunities to exchange on the situation of refugees in DRC who have been forgotten for years now.
Problem: We observed the exclusion of DRC in the whole process towards the Global Refugee Forum Summit. The consequence is that not much will presented on the situation of refugees in DRC and therefore nothing much will be done for them, and that will expose them to more risks as it being observed.
Target: UNHCR, in the Democratic Republic of Congo we continue seeing UNHCR as the problem towards refugees, UNHCR has failed to position herself as potential solution or even part of the solution. UNHCR is perceived as being closer to Rwanda and merely implementing Rwanda’s Policy which tend to criminalize refugees and make them suffer.
Drivers for charge: COJESKI and NDSCI North Kivu, all these actors are part of the Civil Society and bring together various organizations and associations,
Objectives: To ensure the situation of refugees in DRC and the Congolese refugees in various countries is fully discussed at local, provincial, national, regional and in the Summit in Geneva. It is time to clearly engage all actors to take up their responsibilities towards refugees at all levels, we should put to the end the plight of refugees in DRC, and they have suffered enough, that should stop now, and it will start with me and you.
Awareness: Our first awareness activities focused on actors of the Civil Society in North Kivu, the media and humanitarian actors. In Goma 37 organizations of the civil society have attended our activities and many do support our call for actions and this cause, 30 media and journalists are involved in our activities and do broadcast news about the struggle for our participation to the Summit, 49 refugees have attended our various information sessions among them some are already our advocates, and our social media Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and the websites are often updated on various activities in line with this summit.
Letters to UNHCR
We have addressed four (4) letters to UNHCR in Goma and in DRC and copies for information to various authorities in order to seek for information but UNHCR has kept silent.
We have visited twice the offices of UNHCR Goma in order to seek for an appointment but we were not received, the only message they gave was “write a letter for an appointment and then they will call you” but unfortunately they do not call us back up to now.
Phone call: We had a phone call with CNR head officer who also declined having information about the summit and argued that CNR has never been informed.
Through various networks we tried to involve UNHCR Geneva and in other places but UNHCR people do not often respond to our emails, and the few who responded requested us to contact the local UNHCR offices,
We participated in two different zoom meetings focusing on this summit and participants were wondering why UNHCR has not yet Congolese people on this issue. Particular questions remains: Why is UNHCR silent? What are the interests of UNHCR if DRC is absent? And what could UNHCR loose once DRC is present? We do share our analysis of the situation and believe that UNHCR in DRCongo is so much political bending towards Rwanda, we believe instructions on what should be done are coming from Rwanda.
We have held two media press conference and issued four press release on this Summit in order to attract the attention of public,
With all these we observed that UNHCR Goma was not willing to engage with us, to share information with the public and to interact with the refugees, we opted then to the change of strategy and called for the public action.
Letter for a sit-in at the office of UNHCR
The letter was addressed to the Mayor of Goma for a sit-in at the office of UNHCR on Monday November 6th 2023. In response the Mayor requested us to first put the activity on hold as he gets clear information about this summit, the Mayor then invited all the concerned parties for a meeting which was held at the Mayor’s Offices on Tuesday November 7th, 2023. The first group to be received was us and then after us UNHCR and the CNR also came in separately. The Mayor proposed then another meeting in order to harmonize on this issue.
Capitalizing the meeting in order to address all other refugee issues,
Our meeting was attended by the Mayor and his technical team including various security services representatives. Much as we focused on the exclusion of DRC in the Summit more issues also came in on particular questions affecting refugees mainly: The lack of refugee documents, the lack of specific areas of residence for refugees, the lack of humanitarian relief aid, the forced repatriation, the perception and allegations that UNHCR and CNR staffs are pro-Rwanda and lack credibility, the management of the existing relief aid, the physical security of refugees among others.
This was so important to us because security officers are transferred from time to time and this was an opportunity for the new ones to be updated about the situation of refugees. Unfortunately the meeting took the form of the information where we were briefing the Mayor and his team about the situation on ground which he did not know.
Interview of UNHCR with the media after the meeting,
After the meeting with the Mayor of Goma, the UNHCR representative engaged with the media and stated that DRC was not excluded and that the Minister of Internal Affairs was highly involved, we have strongly rejected this and we are planning for more actions if dialogue fails.
We are so much happy with the achievements so far which include the following:
Breaking silence on the exclusion of DRC in the Global Refugee Summit,
Engaging various actors to talk about this issue including Government officials who are copied in various letters,
Highlighting the situation of refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Congolese refugees in other different countries,
Interacting with the local authorities and security services to understand the pressing need to ensure the physical protection of refugees in North Kivu,
Discouraging the existing negative practices made by UNHCR/ CNR especially the issue of forced repatriation of refugees back to Rwanda,
Our major challenge is generally connected to funding that can help us to engage the general public, to organize events, discussion forums, campaigns, meetings and dialogues at community, provincial and national levels, and to mobilize funding for the team to travel to Geneva for the Summit,
Two activities are being planned during this week, mainly to seek once again for an appointment with UNHCR Goma and to wait for the meeting with the Mayor in order to get the feedback and the concrete actions that are being proposed. A period of one week has been agreed upon in order to engage on other public actions including demonstration.
To engage with authorities at the national levels and to seek for their involvement the same way it being done here in North Kivu,
Three more organizations have are being considered to join the team for actions.
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos
COJESKI North Kivu