Cablegate: Drc/Unhcr/Rwanda Tripartite Agreement: View From the Drc

DE RUEHKI #0250/01 0551054
O R 241052Z FEB 10



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: The Governments of the DRC and Rwanda, and
UNHCR signed a long-awaited Tripartite Agreement in Kigali on
February 17 providing a framework for the voluntary repatriation of
Congolese refugees from Rwanda and Rwandan refugees in Congo. For
the Congolese refugees, the agreement will cover only those
registered with UNHCR, some 53,632. Between now and the next
meeting of the Tripartite Commission in May 2010, the technical
working group of the commission will work on the modalities of the
return process, including verification of registrations and areas
of return. Organized returns could begin as early as summer 2009.
UNHCR and both governments face significant challenges in ensuring
a voluntary, safe, and durable repatriation of these two entrenched
refugee populations, avoiding a precipitous return that could risk
destabilizing return areas in North Kivu. End summary.

2. (SBU) On February 18, UNHCR DRC Eastern Coordinator Karl
Steinacker briefed Goma-based diplomats and MONUC officials on the
Tripartite Agreement signed in Kigali on February 17. PRM TDY also
met separately with UNHCR, MONUC, and GDRC officials to discuss the
Tripartite Agreement and the refugee return process.

Tripartite Agreement


3. (SBU) UNHCR described the agreement as "very standard," in line
with other, similar UNHCR arrangements. Steinacker noted two
particularly contentious aspects of the agreement negotiations: the
scope of which Congolese refugees in Rwanda would be covered; and a
clause calling on the Rwandan Government not to discriminate
against returnees. On the designation of which Congolese refugees
would be covered by the agreement, Steinacker said most of the
debate took place within the Congolese delegation itself, while the
Rwandan delegation was largely silent on the issue. The final
consensus was that only refugees that were registered by UNHCR -
53,632 - would be covered under the agreement. These refugees
reside mainly in three camps and receive formal protection and
assistance from UNHCR. Given tension and conflict over land in the
primary areas of return - Masisi and Rutshuru Territories in North
Kivu - limiting the number of Congolese who could claim benefits
under the agreement was a crucial point. On the second contentious
issue, the clause on non-discriminatory policies, the Rwandan
delegation reportedly took umbrage at this "stock" clause in the
Tripartite Agreement. Per Steinacker, the eventual solution was to
phrase the clause with a positive construct, i.e., "the Government
of Rwanda will not discriminate against repatriated refugees"
became "the Government of Rwanda will take measures to protect the
fundamental rights of the returnees should be treated with

4. (SBU) The DRC delegation numbered nearly thirty participants,
led by the Minister of Interior, and including the head of the
National Refugee Council, the governors of North and South Kivu,
the North Kivu Provincial Minister of Justice and Social
Reinsertion, and as last minute invitees, a large complement of
traditional chiefs from North Kivu and South Kivu. Steinacker said
nearly all members of the Congolese delegation intervened at
different points, often debating more amongst themselves the
various aspects of the agreement, rather than with their Rwandan or
UNHCR counterparts. In contrast, on the Rwandan side, only ten
members were in the delegation, which through its spokesperson,
Secretary of State Christine Nyatanyi, "spoke with one voice,"
according to Steinacker. UNHCR had pushed to include observers
from the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL).
However, per Steinacker, the Rwandans declined, adding that CEPGL
participation would be welcome at subsequent meetings of the
Tripartite Commission. The delegation visited Gihembe refugee
camp, where the Congolese leaders stressed to camp residents that
"the war is over" and that it is "time to come home."

KINSHASA 00000250 002 OF 004

Return process


5. (SBU) On timelines, the technical working group of the
commission will work for the next two months on modalities of
return, including identification of areas of return, methods of
return, assistance packages for returnees, return infrastructure
(e.g. transit centers), etc. There will then be a formal meeting
in May of the Tripartite Technical Committee to finalize these
arrangements. With time allotted for the construction of transit
center facilities and other assistance arrangements, UNHCR Goma
estimated facilitated returns could begin as early as July 2010.
Steinacker noted that the Rwandan delegation provided UNHCR a list
of some 8,000 Congolese refugees who were ready to return as soon
as possible. Given the complexity and political sensitivity of the
caseload and the significant work involved in identifying areas of
return and ensuring the returnees' acceptance in these areas,
Steinacker, when pressed for an overall timeline for the return
operation, commented that "at best, it would muddle along for at
least two years."

6. (SBU) To assess whether areas of return in DRC can be declared
safe, and to work on community reconciliation in areas of return a
two-tiered committee system is being developed by the GDRC, UNHCR,
and MONUC at the Groupement (Comite Locale Permanent de
Conciliation - CLPC) and the Provincial (Comite Provinciale de
Gestion de Retour - CPGR) levels. Local authorities, civil
society, traditional chiefs, IDP representatives and UN officials
will be members. Upon recommendation of the CLPC, the Ministre de
l'Administration Territoriale (of each Province) will declare a
particular Groupement to be safe for the return of IDPs, displaced
returnees and the facilitated/promoted repatriation of refugees.
If the area is declared unsafe by the committee, UNHCR will not
facilitate return. The CLPCs, the establishment of which is
included in a clause of the GDRC-CNDP March 23 Agreement, may also
have a role in identifying which refugees are eligible for return
to certain areas, although the modalities of this identification
process have yet to be determined. Referring to these resources as
"embryonic," Steinacker made a pitch to the donor community to
support these committee mechanisms which UNHCR and MONUC officials
see as key to ensuring a peaceful return process. In advance of
the returns, and as part of ongoing IDP operations, UNHCR has
expanded its presence in areas of potential return, with new
offices in Masisi and Kitchanga. In addition, UNHCR is recruiting
national UN Volunteer staff to be deployed to support the CLPCs, as
technical advisors, but in part in an effort to thwart manipulation
of the CLPC process by the CNDP. Financing for the committees and
support staff will be through a $2 million allocation from the UN
Peace-building Fund.



7. (SBU) UNHCR Goma's presentation to Goma diplomats was rather
sanguine, noting that the agency was working with the MONUC
stabilization team to "manage the risk" of returns, but sounding no
dire warnings of impending instability due to return operations.
However, in private discussions with PRM TDY officer, UNHCR staff
admitted much more concern about the potential for violence
stemming from refugee returns. Recognizing that the CNDP had much
invested in the return to bolster its constituency in the Kivus, a
senior UNHCR official said the agency was worried about the
potential for violence stemming from an acceleration of the process
by either the CNDP or the Government of Rwanda. The official said
that it would be very easy for indigenous groups opposed to the
return to "stage a small massacre" to terrorize Congolese Tutsis
into staying in camps. When asked what UNHCR could do to prevent
such attacks, the official said that the process hinges on the
CLPCs, who will be key to ensure local buy-in of the process, and
critically, to determine which areas are safe for return. But it
remains to be seen how the guarantors of the return process could

KINSHASA 00000250 003 OF 004

prevent manipulation of the CLPCs, many of whom will operate in
CNDP strongholds. A UNHCR official candidly said that that the
Congolese delegation had signed the Tripartite "for the gallery"
and that much of the refugee return process was "out of the
government's control" - overseen by the CNDP parallel
administration, which the official suggested would become even more
entrenched following the recent GDRC cabinet reshuffle which
excluded the CNDP.

8. (SBU) The specter of the return of the Congolese Tutsis has
already led to instability in certain communities, notably in
Walikale and southern Lubero, where in October 2009 residents
attacked UNHCR offices causing the evacuation of the agency from
its field office (Note: According to UNHCR, there are only 800
refugees in Rwanda who are from Lubero and 600 from Walikale. Part
of the intense reaction in these areas was due to a confusing map
that circulated widely confusing IDP and refugee return numbers,
implying that thousands of Congolese refugees would return to the
two territories. End note). With the signing of the Tripartite,
rumors spread of impending demonstrations in Lubero, although none
have yet occurred. Potential spoilers to a peaceful refugee return
process also include the "unofficial/undocumented" returnees (or
migrant Rwandans or a mixture thereof) that have been entering DRC
from Rwanda since 2009 (ref B), as well as other spontaneous
returnees, including some 400 households of Congolese refugees that
have come back to Rutshuru from asylum in Uganda (where no
Tripartite has been signed). In response to a question about
managing the risk of the return operation, Steinacker suggested
that the international community could and should play a helpful
role by conveying a clear message to both the DRC and Rwandan
Governments that, while the opportunity has come for return, the
operation should not be rushed, nor disrupted by manipulation of
the process.

Rwandan refugees


9. (SBU) While the Congolese return attracts most attention, and
indeed was the dominant element of UNHCR's presentation and ensuing
discussions of the Tripartite Agreement, the return of Rwandan
refugees from Congo is equally, if not more complex and difficult.
This is because of the difficulty in identifying this caseload,
many of whom remember little of Rwanda, and have only tentative
links to their "homeland." PRM TDY has spoken with multiple
Rwandan refugees over the past several weeks at transit centers in
Bukavu and in Goma, who had left Rwanda following the genocide as
children, integrated in Congo either with Congolese or Rwandan
families (including FDLR), but who had recently been separated via
military operations against the FDLR. These refugees - in limbo at
transit centers where they did not leave, fearing the reaction of
local populations - knew no home in Rwanda, and were not allowed by
the DRC authorities to remain in Congo. These returns have been
occurring for years (9,019 returned in 2009), and thus the
Tripartite represents only a formalization of the movement, which
has been ongoing for years. A key development will be whether the
technical committees work out a system of formal local integration
within the DRC for this caseload (Note: This question will be
linked to, but separate from, whether FDLR combatants can be
relocated within DRC rather than return to Rwanda. End note).
UNHCR recognizes that the transit centers, which are intended to be
temporary and limit refugees' freedom of movement, are not a good
solution, but claim to have little choice until Rwandan and DRC
authorities change their positions on these difficult cases.

10. (SBU) Comment: In discussions, UNHCR officials have
oscillated between optimism - based on hopes for the nascent
Congolese structures being put in place to address return issues -
and pessimism - based on a realistic assessment of the political
dynamics in return areas that are admittedly "out of UNHCR's
control." UNHCR and the MONUC Stabilization Team have drafted a
strategy document on the Return, Reconciliation, and Reintegration
of IDPs and Refugees in Eastern DRC as part of the overall UN
Security and Stabilization Support Strategy. Working closely with

KINSHASA 00000250 004 OF 004

the GDRC on the implementation of the strategy, the UN system will
need to be well-supported financially to ensure the implementation
of the plan to address outstanding issues of citizenship, land
access, conflict mediation, shelter assistance and peaceful
coexistence. While a massive, precipitous return of the official
refugee population seems unlikely, undocumented "unofficial"
returns have continued in recent months, and there exists a real
possibility that the process could accelerate. The real potential
for significant violence and instability due to a poorly managed
return operation demands close attention to and support of the
actors: MONUC, UNHCR, and the new committee structures overseeing
the fragile process. It is important that the USG continue to
support voluntary return in safety and dignity, which in this case
means slow and steady. As a first step, this message should be
sent clearly to all parties with a stake in controlling the pace of
returns, including the GDRC and GOR, as well as CNDP officials.
End comment.

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