The Congolese refugees in Kiziba Camp in Karongi District have called upon the United States and the international community to help them return home.
They made the appeal on Saturday during a visit by US Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Senator Russ Feingold, to the refugee camp.
“What has kept us going for all these years is hope that we will one day return home but this hope is fading by the day. We have all along waited for conditions to normalise in our country but it only gets worse,” said Jacques Kayangwe, who spoke on behalf of the refugees.
Kayagwe hailed the US for providing asylum to some of the refugees but added that the most important thing is to pacify their country so as to enable them return home.
Kiziba is home to nearly 17,000 refugees and like four other camps in different parts of the country, shelters refugees from eastern DR Congo, which has suffered decades of instability.
Mapendo, one of the refugees in the camp and a native of Katanga Province, Eastern DRC, claims she fled her country after being raped by Congolese government soldiers.
“I am a wounded woman. I was raped by the very soldiers who were supposed to protect me and I have little hope that the same soldiers can one day protect me,” Mapendo said amidst sobs.
Bahati Kazungu, another refugee, said they have never received a single official from their government and attributed to this to lack of political will in Kinshasa to help them return home.
Reacting to the appeals, Feingold promised to ensure that the refugees one day return to a safe homeland.
“We have already eliminated some of the illegal armed groups that had been a security threat for a long time,” Feingold said.
Most of the refugees belong to the Kinyarwandwa-speaking community, a section of Congolese that has suffered at the hands of a myriad of extremist militia groups, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a group comprising elements responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
“We are concerned and want to ensure that these people are treated like any other Congolese when they return home,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Advisor to the Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs , Jean Damascene Kayitana, said Rwanda will continue to support the refugees.
He added that it is the government’s hope that peace returns to DRC soon so that the refugees can repatriate.
“Rwanda is working closely with other countries in the region and the international community to help end the war in eastern Congo so that the refugees can return to their country,” he said.