Statement in response to the declaration of May 15, 2023, from the tripartite meeting between the UNHCR, the DRC, and Rwanda regarding the voluntary return of Rwandan and Congolese refugees to their respective countries.
May 17 2023
Following the high-level tripartite meeting between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Rwanda, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which concluded on May 15, 2023, in Geneva, All For Rwanda, a movement dedicated to the relief, protection, and establishment of favorable conditions for the dignified return of Rwandan refugees to their country, would like to communicate the following to the international community and, in particular, the stakeholders involved in this matter.
All For Rwanda welcomes the holding of this tripartite meeting and expresses gratitude to the Democratic Republic of Congo for initiating this process. We consider it more than urgent for the international community to find an effective and lasting solution to the issues faced by Rwandan refugees in the DRC, while respecting their rights, which they have been grappling with for nearly 30 years.
We particularly commend the commitment of the parties to engage in “constructive dialogue in order to create favorable conditions for the sustainable return of refugee populations.”
All For Rwanda also welcomes the commitment of the parties to uphold “the principle of voluntary, safe, and dignified return” and “to continue ensuring the right to asylum” for those in need. We hope that there will be no more forced repatriations, such as those that took place in the past, notably in Kanyabayonga, Kisangani, and Walungu in November 2018, as well as in the Kalehe camps in November 2019, which were flagrant violations of the refugees’ rights. All For Rwanda strongly condemns these crimes against humanity.
All For Rwanda reiterates its call to respect the fundamental rights of Rwandan refugees in terms of protection and humanitarian assistance. The refugees are directly threatened by attacks from the Rwandan army in the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly through the M23 rebel movement. It is imperative to ensure their safety and provide them with urgent humanitarian assistance. We express our deep regret regarding the international community’s inability to protect and aid these refugees over the past 29 years. The recent massacres in Kishishe and Bambou, as well as the discovery of mass graves in territories occupied by the M23, where many Rwandan refugees are among the victims, serve as stark examples.
According to data from the UNHCR and the Congolese government as of April 30, 2023, the number of Rwandan refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo was estimated at 208,297. However, this estimation significantly underestimates the number of Rwandans in dire humanitarian situations due to the absence of an appropriate civil registration system and the challenges associated with the fears and threats they face. This situation makes it difficult to assess their exact number and results in a significant number of stateless individuals.
Despite voluntary repatriation programs supported by bilateral and multilateral partners of the Rwandan government, the alarming number of Rwandan refugees persists. It is imperative for all stakeholders to learn from this failure and consider new approaches.
Before contemplating the return of Rwandan refugees to Rwanda, it is crucial to ensure their safety and guarantee respect for their dignity in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Therefore, it is essential to adopt a more inclusive and concerted approach, taking into account the concerns and specific needs of Rwandan refugees. In line with the final declaration of the tripartite meeting, establishing a “constructive dialogue” is crucial. This dialogue must be authentic, including active participation from the refugees themselves, as well as the Rwandan authorities and the international community as guarantors of refugees’ rights and dignity. Such an approach will seek sustainable and human rights-respecting solutions for Rwandan refugees. This is precisely the purpose of our movement: to coordinate and represent the interests of refugees at this level.
All For Rwanda also calls for awareness of the situation of Rwandan refugees in other African countries such as the Republic of Congo, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, and many others. The distress of these refugees, facing difficult humanitarian conditions, cannot continue to be ignored.
In conclusion, we emphasize the urgent need for relief and protection for Rwandan refugees, especially those in the Democratic Republic of Congo who are victims of massacres committed by the Rwandan army and its rebel movements such as the M23. We underline the necessity of an inclusive dialogue that involves refugees in order to prepare favorable conditions for their dignified return to Rwanda. All For Rwanda is committed to continuing its efforts in support of this essential cause, with the hope that the international community will fully mobilize to provide a sustainable and rights-respecting solution for all Rwandan refugees. Together, we can make a difference and enable a better future for Rwandan refugees and lasting peace in their country of origin.
Public Relations Department
All For Rwanda