Cablegate: Congolese Refugees Abroad: Not Easy to Return Home

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary. UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
officials in Kinshasa expressed concern October 3 over the
manipulation of refugee returns to the East from Burundi,
Rwanda, and Tanzania. They are trying to work with the
various governments involved to facilitate repatriation of
refugees, but do not, however, see the need at this time for
the repatriation of thousands of refugees from Tanzanian
UNHCR-run camps. The Congolese government is making some
efforts to sensitize the population of South Kivu about the
need to welcome all refugees, yet there is no uniform policy
towards Banyamulenge refugees, and hard liners in the
government appear to be encouraging opposition to the return
of this particular group. End Summary.

More Refugees to Return from Burundi to South Kivu
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (SBU) Poloff met September 30 with Aida Mariam, UNHCR's
Deputy Country Representative in the DRC to discuss upcoming
refugee returns to the DRC. Mariam said that UNHCR expects
continued refugee returns from Burundi to South Kivu in the
coming weeks. Vice-Minister of Interior Paul Musafiri told
poloff October 1 that he would travel to Burundi and South
Kivu in the following days to coordinate refugee assistance
efforts. He said the Congo wanted a more organized return of
refugees from Burundi in order to avoid a humanitarian
crisis. MONUC sources in Kinshasa said that the UN was
encouraging future returns from Burundi in manageable groups
of 50 refugees at a time.

3. (SBU) Acting UNHCR country representative, Mohamed Dayri,
told poloff October 3 that out of the 366 mostly Banyamulenge
refugees who arrived in Uvira the previous week (reftel), 150
were planning to go to Minemwe and about 100 were planing to
stay in Uvira; the remainder would go to other nearby
communities. The situation in Uvira was reportedly calm.

Banyamulenge Refugees at Cyangungu want to Return
--------------------------------------------- ----

4. (SBU) According to Dayri, approximately 700 Banyamulenge
refugees remained at the Cyangungu transit center in Rwanda,
close to the DRC border. These refugees had refused to be
moved to refugee camps in central Rwanda. They clearly
expressed to UNHCR authorities their wish to return to the
Bukavu area from which they fled during earlier hostilities.
Mariam told poloff that UNHCR's task in dealing with these
refugees has been complicated by the attention given to
Banyamulenge refugees in general and by the efforts of
diverse groups to manipulate their return. She also explained
that UNHCR could not keep refugees at a temporary transit
center near the border for an indefinite period of time,
especially after the Gatumba massacre. Dayri said that
UNHCR-Kigali and Rwandan authorities have agreed to keep the
transit center open for an additional month to provide
sufficient time for a more organized return of refugees.

5. (SBU) Musafiri told poloff that his mission to South Kivu
included trips to Uvira and Bukavu to meet with civil
society, church, and local authorities to sensitize people
about the importance of accepting and welcoming returning
refugees. He also would work to organize a committee in
Bukavu to assist the expected refugees from Rwanda. Musafiri
acknowledged that the GDRC did not speak with one voice in
this matter and that differences of opinion regarding the
return of refugees complicated his task.

Political Pawns: Bringing Refugees Back from Tanzania
--------------------------------------------- --------

6. (SBU) Dayri explained that the Vice-Governor for South
Kivu was working to bring back to the Congo up to 3,500
refugees from Tanzania in the coming days. Most would be
coming back to Uvira, Fizi, and Baraka in South Kivu. About
500, however, would be going to Kalemie, an area that is
already having difficulties coping with internally displaced
people. Dayri was critical of this effort, saying there is no
reason to rush the return of this particular group of
refugees from UNHCR camps in Tanzania to Congolese areas that
lack the humanitarian infrastructure to receive them.
(Comment: The Vice-Governor, who is from the civil society
component of the transitional government, is openly
manipulating refugee returns for political gain, trying to
bring large numbers of non-Banyamulenge refugees to offset
the 366 Gatumba survivors who returned to Uvira. This is an
apparent "tit for tat" contest with the RCD-G South Kivu
Vice-Governor, who is seen as the Banyamulenges' sponsor, and
is also guilty of political gamesmanship as he seeks to
bolster his provincial base. End Comment.)

UNHCR Plans to Start Repatriation from CAR to Equateur
--------------------------------------------- ---------

7. (U) Mariam said that now that the DRC has signed a
tripartite agreement with the Central African Republic (CAR)
UNHCR would work to repatriate up to 3,000 refugees from
UNHCR camps in the CAR back to Equateur Province before the
end of the year. She estimates that there are an additional
7,000 Congolese refugees in CAR who live outside camps and
who will also receive assistance to return to the DRC.

No Repatriation from Congo-Brazzaville for this Year
--------------------------------------------- -------

8. (U) Mariam explained that, although the GDRC also signed a
tripartite agreement with Congo-Brazzaville, repatriation of
refugees would not begin until next year due to the
difficulty of traveling during the rainy season. She
estimates that there are over 70,000 Congolese refugees in
Congo-Brazzaville, most of whom will return to northern
Equateur province. (Comment: Despite the difficult
humanitarian situation in the province, the security
situation in Equateur remains relatively stable, especially
when compared to the east of the country. End Note.)


9. (SBU) Repatriation of refugees is normally coordinated by
UNHCR with the respective governments of the countries
involved through tripartite agreements. The return of
Banyamulenge refugees to South Kivu, however, has changed
this dynamic as local and national actors try to manipulate
the issue for political gain. As one Vice-Governor from South
Kivu tries to encourage Banyamulenge returns, the other seeks
even larger returns of non-Banyamulenge from Tanzania, most
likely with the support of hardline elements in Kinshasa.
UNHCR finds itself in the uncomfortable position of being
criticized for being too-cautious in its approach to refugee
returns. Their mandate, however, is to safeguard the physical
integrity of refugees under international law and to evaluate
carefully the feasibility of returns to areas that remain
volatile. UNHCR is correct in this case about its concerns of
rapid large scale refugee returns to South Kivu, regarding
both logistical and security issues. Nonetheless, the agency
appears to have recognized to some degree that it needs to be
flexible when facing returns of determined refugees.

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