Rwanda Closes Borders to Congolese Refugees amid Tensions

Jan 9, 2023 | News | 0 comments

Kigali, Rwanda – The Rwandan government has announced that it will no longer accept Congolese refugees, citing security and humanitarian concerns.

The decision, which took effect on Monday, has caused alarm and outrage among human rights groups and international organisations, which have condemned it as a violation of international law and a breach of Rwanda’s obligations as a host country. They have called on Rwanda to reverse the decision and to respect the rights and needs of the refugees, who have fled violence, persecution, and poverty in their home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are currently over 72,000 Congolese refugees in Rwanda. These refugees have received protection and assistance from the Rwandan government and various humanitarian agencies, including food, shelter, health care, education, and vocational training.

However, relations between Rwanda and the DRC have been strained in recent years, due to border disputes, trade conflicts, and accusations of interference and espionage. Rwanda has accused the DRC of harbouring and supporting Rwandan rebels and of violating its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The DRC has accused Rwanda of backing Congolese rebels and of exploiting its resources and destabilising its peace process.

The closure of the borders to Congolese refugees is seen as a further escalation of tensions between the two countries and as a sign of Rwanda’s frustration and impatience with the DRC. It has also raised fears of a humanitarian crisis and a potential backlash against the refugees, who may be forced to return to the DRC or to seek refuge elsewhere.

Rwanda has defended its decision as a necessary measure to protect its national security and interests and to address the burden and challenges of hosting a large and growing number of refugees. It has also urged the DRC to address the root causes of the refugee crisis and to cooperate with Rwanda to find a lasting solution.

The UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies have appealed to Rwanda to reconsider its decision and to maintain its commitment to hosting and assisting refugees. They have also called on the international community to support Rwanda and the DRC in addressing the refugee crisis and to ensure the respect and protection of the rights and dignity of the refugees.