Refugees call on the UN, African Union to stop atrocities committed by armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Thousands of Congolese refugees have rallied in Rwanda’s Nyamagabe district to protest against what they described as the silence of the international community over the killings of their Kinyarwanda-speaking relatives in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The refugees living at the Kigeme Refugee Camp brandished placards with messages criticizing the international community. Since March, DR Congo troops have been engaged in an offensive against M23 rebels in North Kivu province.
The protests came on the back of the recent large-scale massacre of nearly 300 civilians which authorities in DR Congo attributed to M23 rebels in Kishishe in North Kivu. “We denounce the silence and hypocrisy of the international community about the ongoing genocide against Tutsi in the DRC,” one protestor shouted. Faustin Kalisa, another protestor, who said he fled DR Congo after facing threats on account of his Tutsi ethnic identity, wondered when security will be restored to their country and they manage to return. “We denounce the ongoing genocide. We live a difficult refugee life, and our relatives back home are being killed. It is a worrying situation, and you wonder for how long it will go on,” Kalisa said.
‘Endless refugee life’
Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese make up to 5 percent of the population in North and South Kivu provinces. Kalisa said that since his childhood he was discriminated against in his country on account of belonging to the Tutsi ethnic group and that is why he fled. “We also want an end to this endless refugee life,” he said.
The refugees appealed to the international community to protect their relatives in North Kivu province and other parts of DR Congo, saying they are “targeted on account of belonging to the Tutsi ethnic group.” The refugees, who have lived in Rwanda for more than two decades, also called on the United Nations and the African Union to stop the atrocities committed by armed groups in eastern DRC.
The fighting in eastern DRC has displaced at least 1.5 million people in 2022, more than half of them children, according to recent data from the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.
Similar protests were organized Dec. 12 in Bunagana, a DR Congo border town with Uganda.
Rwanda hosts more than 75,000 Congolese refugees, with some arriving in the country nearly three decades ago.