Conflicting UN figures on Rwandan refugees in DR Congo
A confidential report sent by MONUSCO to New York shows there is a total of 153,000 Rwandan refugees in DR Congo – contrary to figures released by the UN refugee agency UNHCR to the media. The secret document has been obtained exclusively by News of Rwanda.
According French radio RFI today, a census conducted by the DRC national commission for refugees (CNR) assisted by UNHCR found 245,000 Rwandan refugees. The count found 199,000 refugees in North Kivu and 42,000 in South Kivu. RFI reports that the census was conducted recently.
However, a confidential report MONUSCO sent to New York on 14th July gives a different number. The document titled: ‘FDLR Incorporated? The movement’s business model at a crossroads’ reports that in 2011, the DRC commission for refugees conducted a census of the Rwandan refugees.
The CNR handed the figures to UNHCR showing there were 120,000 Rwandans in North Kivu and 33,000 in South Kivu.
“…figures by the Commission Nationale des Refugiés (CNR), in 2011, recorded a population of 120,000 Rwandan refugees, of which 80% lived under partial or complete control of the FDLR apparatus,” says the MONUSCO document prepared by the ‘Joint Mission Analysis Cell’ (JMAC).
In South Kivu, “figures for the CNR’s recent pre-enregistrement put the Rwandan refugee population at 33,000 to 34,000″, says the document classified at the top in red as “STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL”.
According to information UNHCR provided to RFI, most of the refugees were born in Congo. In 1994, nearly two million Rwandans crossed into Zaire. The UN has said, until this week, that there were not more than 150,000 Rwandan refugees still in DRC, as most had repatriated back to Rwanda.
Since the 1994 refugee influx out of Rwanda, there have not been any recorded Rwandan refugees going to DRC. The number of Rwandan refugees is suddenly becoming an issue as the international community demands that DRC and MONUSCO launch military operations on the FDLR militia group or the democratic forces for the liberation of Rwanda.
The FDLR, whose leaders and rank-and-file executed the genocide in Rwanda and fled to DRC forests, says if it is attacked, Rwandan refugee civilians will suffer. In December last year, the group said it would begin voluntarily disarming in June this year.
Combatants that have returned to Rwanda say refugees are held against their will. Those who are found to have intentions of running away are punished – often with death. Those that remain under FDLR command are intoxicated with sustained propaganda that Rwanda is inhabited by only Tutsis.
Repatriated combatants have often walked for weeks with their wives and babies to reach the nearest UN bases – hoping to be repatriated back to Rwanda. A World Bank funded program helps resettle them. The government of Rwanda provides them with land, money and opportunities to return to school.
However, after the FDLR gave up only about 200 rebels in June and July. It has since been releasing press statements demanding for political negotiations with the government in Kigali, which has out rightly dismissed. The United States and European Union have also made it clear the FDLR have one option; to disarm, or face military force.
Analysts say the tactic of inflating refugee numbers by whichever quarter is meant to convince the international community that there indeed a large number of Rwandan refugees who need the protection of the FDLR. The UN wants to the world that there is a refugee problem, and therefore the FDLR should be left untouched, say analysts.