Rwanda accommodates nearly 80,000 Congolese refugees who fled insecurity more than 20 years ago but their government has remained silent on their problems.
When M23 rebel group resumed fighting with Congolese Army (FARDC) in 2021, DRC started accusing Rwanda of being behind insecurity in eastern part of the country and put it forward as the major concern instead of addressing issues that pushed its citizens to flee to Rwanda.
As he delivered remarks after presiding over the swearing-in of the new Senate President on Monday this week, President Paul Kagame said that Rwanda has been blamed for DRC’s problems but insisted that it is time to show how it is not Rwanda’s business.
“We are going to ensure that everybody realizes that it is not Rwanda’s problem. And starting with saying, those who think this is Rwanda’s problem and not Congo’s, first remove these Congolese from here. Those who coming in every day just on the actions of the government and institutions, you will tell me, ‘the government is not functioning properly, this or that but this is still none of my business,” said Kagame.
Following his speech, some media houses misinterpreted the message and reported that ’Rwanda won’t accept Congolese refugees any longer’ while others ran stories indicating that ‘Rwanda may expel Congolese refugees’.
This comes at a time when violence against some ethic groups is ongoing in DRC where there is fear of possible Genocide against Kinyarwanda-speaking communities.
Meanwhile, Congolese refugees in Rwanda have been staging protests demanding their government to respond to their concerns.
During an interview with BBC, the Deputy Spokesperson of the Government of Rwanda, Alain Mukuralinda underscored that Rwanda will continue to receive all refugees crossing fleeing to the country.
“Rwanda respects international norms and abides by laws protecting refugees. Besides, it is part of the country’s culture to welcome all people coming to us as mentioned before,” he noted.
“We will continue to accept refugees and keep pushing the international community and DRC Congo government [...] It is surprising that we have never had Congolese government taking into consideration problems of its citizens hosted here over the past 20 years yet Burundi sent officials in the past few days to visit different camps and mobilize Burundian refugees to return home,” added Mukuralinda.
Mukuralinda explained that Congo did not show willingness to do so but is only concerned with Rwanda and M23.
“When the problem is not addressed from its roots, it will take five or ten more years,” he said.
“To make things clear, Rwanda will neither reject refugees nor evict them. They will only return when they feel their security is guaranteed,” added Mukuralinda.
As at May 2022, Rwanda registered 127,369 refugees including 76,968 from Congo equivalent to 60.43% and 49.859 Burundians equivalent to 39.15%.