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5 Congolese Refugees Die in Violent Protest in Rwanda
At least five refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo have died after a violent protest was crushed by Rwandan security forces on Thursday.
According to videos obtained by ChimpReports, the refugees at Kiziba camp in Rwanda could be seen scampering for safety as Rwandan forces pursued them in police patrol vehicles.
“We don’t mind being shot. Enough is enough,” a Refugee is heard charging at the Rwandan armed forces.
“We want to return home.”
Rwanda Police said in a statement that about 500 refugees marched out of Kiziba Camp (Karongi district) in protest over reduced food rations.
“Rwandan government officials, UNHCR and local leaders, among others, urged them to return to their camp as their grievance is being looked into,” said Rwanda police.
However, according to police, these calls were met with “strong resistance” that “turned violent.”
The law enforcement body further said the “Refugees armed with sharp objects (stones, sticks and metal pieces) began to assault police officers, who then used tear gas to disperse the unacceptable riots and secure the nearby community.”
The police force added: “When the attacks persisted, we used proportional force that left 20 rioters and 7 police officers injured. They were rushed to hospital. 5 rioters unfortunately succumbed to their wounds and 15 were arrested for illegal demonstration, taking hostage and inciting violence.”
But some of the pictures obtained by this website show some of the refugees succumbed to gunshots.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency on Thursday night issued a statement calling for “calm and restraint” after “worrying reports of a refugee protest turning violent in Rwanda’s Kiziba refugee camp.”
The camp is located in the Karongi District, in Western Rwanda and hosts over 17,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, around 77 per cent of which are women and children.
UNCHR confirmed that protesting refugees were reportedly angry about reduction in food assistance.
Humanitarian operations in Rwanda remain severely underfunded, forcing the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 10 per cent in November 2017 and by 25 per cent in January 2018.
“Refugee protection and safety is our top priority,” said Ahmed Baba Fall, UNHCR Representative in Rwanda.
UNHCR urged the refugees to “respect local laws” and “express grievances through dialogue”, while calling on authorities to handle the situation with “calm and restraint.”
Some refugees have also indicated their desire to return to the DRC, out of desperation.
“Refugees have the right to return to their country whenever they wish. But we urge refugees to make an informed decision and not to listen to misinformation or rumours,” added UNHCR’s Country Representative.
Rwanda authorities are yet to comment on the bloody incident.
However, UNHCR said it was advocating with donors to address the gaps in humanitarian funding and urgent needs of refugees.
To date, UNHCR’s 2018 appeal for US$98.8 million to support refugees in Rwanda is only is 2 percent funded.
WFP warned about potential larger ration cuts if monthly requirements of US$2.5 million are not met.
“Prolonged ration cuts put at serious risk food security and nutritional needs of refugees, who are dependent on assistance,” said UNCHR.
Rwanda hosts over 173,000 refugees in six camps, including Kiziba, where Congolese refugees have lived for over 20 years.