We cannot keep being host to refugees for which later on we are held accountable – Kagame

By Théophile Niyitegeka
On 10 January 2023 at 09:14

President Paul Kagame has said that Rwanda cannot accept continuous abuses and insults over problems of Congolese refugees accommodated in Rwanda for many years.

Kagame made the disclosure on Monday 9th January 2022 as he received oath of the new Senate President, Dr. François Xavier Kalinda.

In his speech, Kagame talked about different issues including tensions between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Deteriorated relations between both countries arises from reciprocal accusations where DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting M23 rebel group in a fighting with Congolese Army (FARDC) while the latter refutes the allegations and blames Congo for working with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

FDLR is a terrorist group formed by individuals responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi with intentions to continue propagating ethnic divisionism and destabilize Rwanda.

Apart from the alleged support, DRC says that some of M23 fighters are Rwandans who must return home.

President Kagame has said that those Congolese called Rwandans have stayed in Congo for so many years that they became nations due to reasons linked to history.

He said that Rwanda can’t stand and watch continuous blames over the problem of hosted Congolese refugees who fled violence in their country.

“I want to talk about the usual problem we have in our neighbourhood which keeps bringing up Rwanda’s name in all sorts of ways […] I want to start with a problem we have had for long time. We have had refugees from different places for different reasons. There is one type of refugee that I think we are not going to accept,” he said.

“ We cannot keep being host to refugees which later on we are held accountable in some way or even abused about, refugees as a result of ethnic cleansing based in another country and we must be the dumping ground of those people deprived of their rights,” added Kagame.

Today, Rwanda accommodated over 75,000 Congolese refugees in different camps across the country. The majority of them have spent more than 25 years in the host country.

Kagame went on to explain that the problem of Congolese refugees in Rwanda was addressed to Congolese President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi shortly after taking power.

“In fact, when the current President of DRC, when we were still talking, I raised this matter with him when he had just come to the office. And I told him a long story about all along what we even contemplated doing. We tried many things,” he noted.

“I told that we even thought of saying, should we absorb these people and make them our citizens and put the matter to rest just as a way of solving the problem. I also told him the difficulty with that,” highlighted Kagame.

The Head of State further disclosed that the plan to grant citizenship to Congolese refugees failed as they had different views. Firstly, he said that some refugees themselves did not want the citizenship because they wanted to go back home in DRC.

Secondly, Kagame stated that others were not interested in having Rwandan citizenship but wished to stay in Europe, US and Canada.

“I have no quarrel with that at all. When we were proposing to give them citizenship, we also told them that, if they accepted it, they can’t be the same people who would again go and cause trouble in the DRC. If they did that, we would be rightly blamed that our citizens are springing from that and now causing trouble in their country of origin,” he said.

Kagame said that he raised the issue to his counterpart of DRC AND promised support to have it resolved.

“At the beginning, he looked he was convinced and was may be going to do something about it. But now, you see where we are,” he stated.

Remove Congolese refugees from here to wherever you want

President Kagame said that Congolese leaders who continue to say that M23 combatants are wrong.

“We even tried to explain on regular basis how those people fighting there did not actually come from here. Little did I know that those who say it are actually saying these are Tutsis from Rwanda as of origin even if it is hundred years ago. So, they must go back to Rwanda,” he noted.

“At least, that’s what the authorities in Congo are actually implying. I don’t know whether those who support the idea from outside are aware of this and therefore could be doing it deliberately also or doing it knowingly. But it is a gross abuse of people’s rights and actually abuse against us as a country,” added Kagame.

The President went on to say that Rwanda won’t keep carrying that burden and held responsible for problems in DRC.

He said that one of Rwanda’s reactions to prove how it has nothing to do with Congolese problems is to handover accommodated Congolese refugees for which the country has been blamed and abused for.

“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.

“If it is my business, it yours also meaning the international community. These are the ones I am addressing. It is as much your problem as it is mine. But I am refusing that Rwanda should carry this burden and be insulted, abuse every day about it. So, either carry them from here to wherever you want or they go back to Congo and you protect them there,” he added.

Kagame makes the disclosure at a time when Congolese refugees accommodated in Rwanda have been staging protests to denounce violence against their relatives and demanding the international community to take action, return them to Congo and defend their rights as is the case for other nationals.