Over 60 Rwandans held in DRC – envoy

At least 60 Rwandans are detained in different military facilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo capital Kinshasa. The Rwandans who include two females, were transferred from Goma, the capital of North Kivu Province following their arrest at the border between the two countries, according to the Rwandan ambassador to DR Congo, Amandin Rugira
Rwanda’s Ambassador to DR Congo, Amandin Rugira
Rwanda’s Ambassador to DR Congo, Amandin Rugira

At least 60 Rwandans are detained in different military facilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo capital Kinshasa.

The Rwandans who include two females, were transferred from Goma, the capital of North Kivu Province following their arrest at the border between the two countries, according to the Rwandan ambassador to DR Congo, Amandin Rugira

“We have reports of Rwandans  who were arrested from the border. So far, about 60, including two females, have been transferred to Kinshasa. They are being held in military bases and intelligence ‘safe houses’,” Rugira said yesterday.

He added that the embassy has written several letters to the DR Congolese Foreign Affairs ministry requesting to visit the detainees, or at least be informed about the condition of the detainees, in vain.

“We are appealing to anyone who has a missing relative or friend to inform us so that we can follow up,” he said. This comes after continued reports of harassment of Rwandans crossing over to the DRC, which officials say escalated this week, after a Congolese man was arrested by Rwanda for assaulting a policeman.

The  man, identified as John Ngoyi, allegedly assaulted a Rwandan policeman who had stopped him at the Goma-Rubavu border for routine security check.

Officer strangled

According to the Mayor of Rubavu District, Sheikh Hassan Bahame, following the Congolese national’s resistance to being checked, the police officer requested him to return back to DRC but he refused.

“Instead, he strangled the officer but other policemen immediately intervened and took him in custody. Following the incident, the DRC border authorities immediately arrested nine people but later released four after learning that they were not Rwandans but Congolese. We don’t know the whereabouts of the five Rwandans and their condition as well,” said Bahame.

Police Spokesperson ACP Theos Badege said the Congolese national will be charged with assaulting a law-enforcer.

Bahame added that since Wednesday, DRC border officials have mounted humiliating body search procedures on every Rwandan who crosses the border.

“Men are stripped of their shirts and subjected to all kinds of humiliation...everything is out of order,” said the Mayor.

Speaking to Saturday Times, Stanislas Gakwandi, a researcher working with a regional research institution based in Goma also confirmed the development and said that, lately, Rwandans are increasingly being targeted and picked.

“This is not the only case of kidnapping, Rwandans are always picked up randomly from the streets,” he said by phone.

Meanwhile, the communications officer at Rwanda’s Directorate of Immigration and Emigration, Ange Sebutege, said yesterday afternoon that two people on Thursday showed up at the Rwandan side of the border saying that they had been abducted in DRC.

“The two, Justin Nzabonimpa, 23, and Daniel Bazirake, 33, arrived at the border on Thursday at 2.30pm and said they had left behind four other Rwandans,” said Sebutege.

A border official on the Rwandan side, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that efforts are underway to secure the release of Rwandans and one of the measures that would be considered is to involve the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM) to ensure that the victims are released.

When contacted for a comment, DRC’s Information minister and government spokesperson Lambert Mende admitted there were Rwandans held in Kinshasa but insisted they had been arrested legally. 

Asked about the Rwandan embassy’s failed attempts to access the detainees, Mende referred this newspaper to the Justice minister Wivine Mumba.

However, the latter refused to discuss the matter, only saying, “Do you know the size of this country? Do you expect me to know every detainee?” She then hung up.

Rwanda and DRC have seen their relations plunge to new low over the past one year, following allegations that Kigali supports the M23 rebels who took up arms last year accusing Kinshasa of breaching a previous peace accord.

The government in Kigali has denied the allegations and instead accused Kinshasa of shelling its territory on several occasions, collaborating with FDLR, a militia blamed for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and arbitrarily arresting and torturing Rwandan nationals.

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