Representatives of over 72,000 Congolese refugees who live in Rwanda on Monday, January 23 submitted petitions to different embassies in Kigali, calling on the international community to help stop the killings and persecution of the Tutsi community in eastern DR Congo.
They also demand for peaceful repatriation to their country. The refugees, some of whom have spent over 25 years in camps, say they risk statelessness.
As of Monday afternoon, they had submitted petitions at the embassies of France, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Uganda.
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The petition comes more than one month after they organised peaceful protests against ethnic violence in North Kivu and South Kivu provinces.
It also follows another petition by the Congolese refugee community in Kenya that was submitted last week to delegations of the United Nations, European Union, African Union, the East African Community and embassies of the United States, France, among others based in Nairobi.
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The situation in eastern DR Congo continues to worsen instead of subsiding, said John Nsengiyera, one of the refugees who lives in Kigeme camp in Nyamage District in Southern Province.
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“Even as we speak today, our brothers and sisters who remained in DRC are being killed and more refugees are arriving in Rwanda. The only reason for their persecution is the fact that they are Tutsi,” Nsengiyera said on Monday.
“We call on the international community to address Congolese Tutsi grievances, particularly denial of their citizenship, the protection of Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese from stigmatization and urgent repatriation of Congolese refugees living in the region,” Nsengiyera said.
The petition also calls for the dismantling of negative armed groups, especially FDLR genocidal militia, which was formed by remnants of the perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
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In November 2022, the UN special advisor on genocide prevention, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, warned of genocide in eastern DR Congo, especially violence against the Banyamulenge community in South Kivu province.
The petitioners called on Kinshasa to respect various commitments, such as the Luanda agreement of November 2022, which called for the disarmament of militias like the FDLR, CODECO, Mai Mai, among many others.
“The Congolese government should prioritize a political solution to the impasse rather than pursuing a military option, which can only lead to further suffering among the civilian population and further aggravate ethnic tensions.”
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“There are more than 450 ethnic groups in the Congo. But it is not understandable why only one group, that of the Tutsi, is the target of genocidal killings, sexual harassment with the complicity of the government forces,” said Bosco Maniragaba, a representative of Congolese refugees in Nyabiheke camp in Gatsibo District.
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“The FDLR came from Rwanda, but they have chased us from our ancestral land,” said Maniragaba, who hails from South Kivu.
“We are tired of living in refugee camps, while other ethnic groups live in peace in our country. The international community has the ability to stop these senseless killings. And we will continue to call for help until the massacres are stopped.”