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Rwanda: UNHCR concern at return of Congolese Tutsi

Briefing notes

Rwanda: UNHCR concern at return of Congolese Tutsi

8 August 2000

UNHCR is concerned about clandestine returns of Congolese Tutsi refugees from Rwanda to highly unstable areas of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. UNHCR has learned of the nighttime departure last Friday of a group of 33 Congolese refugees from Gihembe camp in Rwanda's Kibuye prefecture for Goma in DRC's North Kivu province. The transfer by private vehicle was at least the third of this type in the past two weeks, with 88 people known to have been bussed from Gihembe to the DRC on 24 July and 123 on August 2.

Many of the remaining refugees have expressed concern about the clandestine nature of the departures. They told UNHCR that the individuals who have provided transport had also been visiting the camps to encourage refugees to repatriate.

The return of the Congolese refugees from the two camps in Rwanda is a source of growing concern for UNHCR and Rwandan government authorities, who still judge the refugees' home areas in North Kivu province to be unsafe. The 27,000 Congolese in Gihembe and Kiziba camps are mainly of Tutsi origin and left the embattled Masisi area of North Kivu in 1995 and 1996.

In recent weeks, there have been several deadly raids on villages and camps of displaced people north and west of Goma. UNHCR staff in Goma feel that returnees could be targeted by the attackers.

UNHCR field staff continue to inform the Congolese about developments in North Kivu. The refugees are being warned that the security situation in the Masisi area regularly prevents aid agencies in Goma from delivering aid or monitoring the situation there. We have also met with senior Rwandan government officials who have taken steps to ensure that local authorities are not playing any role in the returns.