UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is urging authorities in Rwanda to ensure safety and protection for refugees after protests led to the tragic deaths of at least five refugees and the injury of many others – including the members of the police force.
Around 700 Congolese refugees from Kiziba refugee camp were demonstrating outside the UNHCR field office in Karongi, in western Rwanda.
The protests, ongoing since February 20, were related to food ration cuts that have added to the refugees’ sense of despair and lack of long-term prospective. Police were reported to have used teargas to disperse the protestors, after attempts to resolve the situation had failed. Clashes were reported before the police fired shots at angry protesters.
UNHCR statement says:”We regret that our continued appeals for maintaining calm and restraint were not considered. This tragedy should have been avoided and disproportionate use of force against desperate refugees is not acceptable. UNHCR calls on authorities to refrain from further use of force and to investigate the circumstances of this tragic incident.”
UNHCR appeals to refugee leaders to show a sense of responsibility to avoid further confrontation and again urges them to respect laws and seek solutions to all their grievances through peaceful negotiations.
Underfunding has severely affected humanitarian operations in Rwanda, now with deadly consequences. UNHCR’s 2018 appeal for US$98.8 million to support refugees in Rwanda is only is 2 per cent funded.
Kiziba refugee camp hosts over 17,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Over 173,000 refugees from the DRC and Burundi live in six camps in Rwanda.
In a statement released Friday, the Rwanda National Police (RNP) said several of its officers were also injured in the process and both the wounded refugees and demonstrators were taken to Kibuye hospital for treatment.
“This Thursday afternoon, following three days of sit-in at UNHCR premises, the demonstrations turned violent and Police intervened to calm down the situation,” the statement, signed by Police Spokesperson CP Theo Badege, says.
The Exress News