Congolese refugees raise alarm over escalating violence arising from collaboration between FDLR and FARDC

By Zaninka Umutesi
On 21 December 2022 at 01:14

The Kiziba camp in Karongi District, Western Province is one of the oldest camps in Rwanda where Congolese refugees fleeing the massacre of Tutsis in North and South Kivu Provinces were settled in 1996.

President Felix Tshisekedi came to power in 2019, they hoped for the end of refugee life nightmare experienced for more than 20 years.

However, the hope has been lost after three years where the refugees are warning about the extermination of their relatives who stayed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The fear for escalating genocide against Tutsi communities prompted over 19,000 refugees from Kiziba camp to stage protests on Wednesday, December 19, 2022, demanding the international community to put pressure on DRC to stop the killings.

The killings target Kinyarwanda speaking people from Tutsi communities, accused of being Rwandans or spies for M23, and all continue to be fueled by the hate speech of the country’s politicians.

Mariam, who has spent one year in the Kiziba camp told IGIHE that the root cause of insecurity in Eastern Congo is often ignored.

Despite fleeing because she was being hunted by Tutsi friends, this non-Tutsi woman says she does not blame the armed groups because insecurity began in Eastern Congo in 1994.

The woman who fled over being hunted for having Tutsi friends said that insecurity in eastern Congo is a complex problem as it involves the collaboration with those supposed to deal with the issue.

“Citizens, the international community and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda [FDLR] have made a coalition that they cannot be separated. FDLR combatants had enough time to teach how to rape women, kill and hit children on walls among other evil things,” she said.

"I don’t know the pact Mobutu had with Habyarimana for the members of the FDLR to be more protected than the Congolese people. Today, President Tshisekedi, representing Congo, also decided to defend FDLR, confirming that it is no longer a problem. Until now, he has become the spokesperson of the FDLR," added Mariam.

The FDLR is a terrorist group responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

It has been reported in collaboration with the Congolese Army (FARDC) and other groups operating in the eastern part of the country, hunting Tutsi, abusing their rights and killing them.

The United Nations Special Advisor on Genocide Prevention recently condemned the escalation of violence in eastern DR Congo, saying that it was a “warning sign” in a region where genocide happened in the past.

Destroyed country

Mariam believes there is an underlying reason behind the dealings between the FDLR and the Congolese government.

“Our enemy is the FDLR, why doesn’t Congo let them go? If they have a secret agreement signed without our knowledge, expel them to Rwanda from the eastern part of the country or take them to Ecuador where Habyarimana is buried,” she said.

Mpayukuri Kayira, who has spent 20 years in Kiziba camp, said that the massacre of Tutsis in the DRC recently reached his elder brother who was in the Congolese Army and killed because of his innate personality.

“Major Kaminzobe is my brother. He belonged to the Congolese Army and was killed by the government," she revealed.

Mpayukuri said that the government watched over citizens as they killed and burned his brother.

The man who fled Rwanda at the age of 38, says that they lived well with other ethnic groups living in that country before the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

“They inherit the cruelty from Interahamwe and the FDLR. During Mobutu’s regime, we lived in harmony. Of course, they used to steal but they didn’t kill. Today, the country is destroyed," he observed.

Alexis Ruhorimbere arrived in Rwanda in his childhood but has graduated from university while in a refugee camp.

Congolese politicians often make utterances that those claiming to be Kinyarwanda-speaking refugees are Rwandans with no rights to fight for Congolese nationality.

Although Ruhorimbere spent most of his life in Rwanda, he said that giving them temporary nationality will not stop them from striving to return to their homeland in case the international community continues to sit idly.

"It is neither the Congolese government that makes us Rwandans nor the language a person speaks that gives him citizenship. We are Congolese, our fathers and mothers were born there, and that is why the Congolese government is very wrong to call us Rwandans. If we were to be Rwandans today, we would not be in a refugee camp. We would be settled in villages and assume leadership positions like other citizens,” he noted.

The refugees have demanded the international community to denounce, stop the killing of their relatives in the country and return to their country.

“We ask the UN to take action and stop this massacre rather than folding arms as they did in Rwanda until a large number of people were brutally murdered," said Ruhorimbere.

These Congolese refugees protested after their colleagues from the camps of Kigeme, Mugomba, and Mahama mounted demonstrations demanding the Congolese Government to stop killing their relatives and help them return to their homeland.

Rwanda hosts more than 70,000 Congolese refugees, including those who arrived for the first time in 1996.

Congolese refugees during recent protests against the killings targeting Tutsi communities in DRC.