Shadows of Return: The Dilemmas of Congolese Refugees in Rwanda

Published: 1/Jul/2011
Source: International Refugee Rights Initiative

In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu province, rumours and speculation have been rife regarding the anticipated return of Congolese (Tutsi) refugees from Rwanda, in particular since the signing of a tripartite agreement between the governments of the DRC, Rwanda and UNHCR in February 2010. These refugees, some argue, are not really Congolese, and their “repatriation” is, in fact, part of a broader scheme by Rwanda to appropriate land in North Kivu. Yet as is so often the case when rumours abound, relatively few facts are circulating about these 53,000 camp-based refugees.

This paper sheds light on the prospects of ending exile for this group of Congolese (Tutsi) Kinyarwanda-speaking refugees. Most fled North Kivu in 1997 during the internationalised war in DRC and have been living in camps in Rwanda since. Specifically, it seeks to understand their hopes for the future, whether they return to the DRC or seek citizenship elsewhere. It draws on interviews with 52 refugees living in Gihembe camp, who responded to questions about their lives prior to flight; their experiences of flight; their views on their current circumstances; their understanding of issues relating to human rights, notions of home, identity, belonging and citizenship; and their opinion regarding the viability of potential return. It also builds on previous research with Congolese refugees living in Uganda and internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in North Kivu.

Download file: Shadows of Return

Themes: Nationality and Refugees
Regions: Central Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, East Africa, Rwanda
Year: 2011