Statement on the Publication of the United Nations Group of Experts Report on Uganda’s Support to M23 Backed by Rwanda

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The current humanitarian crisis caused by M23 could have been prevented if the United Nations had acted in 2019 when we first raised the alarm.

We learned from Radio France International (RFI) on Monday, July 8, 2024, about the United Nations Group of Experts’ report confirming Uganda’s involvement in the conflict in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly in North Kivu. This confirmation aligns with what we have known since 2019.

We are pleased that the UN Group of Experts has validated our longstanding concerns, although this validation comes late. We had provided substantial information about the recruitment of Congolese refugees in Uganda, particularly from the Nakivale, Rwamwanja, Kyaka II, and Kyangwali refugee settlements. Many of these individuals are now visible in M23/RDF-controlled areas and are recognized by fellow Congolese who knew them from the refugee camps in Uganda. The delay in this confirmation has had severe consequences for both the Congolese population in North Kivu and the Congolese refugees in Uganda.

As Uganda engaged in recruiting Congolese refugees for military operations, active refugee human rights defenders in Uganda who documented these violations faced arrests, detentions, threats, and various forms of intimidation by Ugandan security services. This occurred with the silent complicity of UNHCR, diplomatic missions, and human rights organizations, forcing many defenders to flee to Kenya or return to the DRC.

We observed efforts to undermine UNHCR by appointing staff who avoided confronting Ugandan authorities. Concurrently, UNHCR local staff, suspected of ties to the regime, gained influence over refugee-related decisions and engaged in blackmail and blacklisting campaigns against outspoken refugee human rights defenders.

Diplomatic missions in Uganda, particularly the European Union Mission, saw changes in personnel that reduced criticism of Uganda. These diplomats discouraged documentation of M23 activities and facilitated the departure of those opposing Uganda’s maneuvers.

The few remaining refugee human rights defenders in Uganda live in fear and under strict control, facing daily intimidation. Their attempts to seek protection from UNHCR have been futile. Contrarily, UNHCR Uganda has resettled M23 members under the guise of protection, neglecting the victims.

There remains a significant gap in ensuring protection and solidarity for refugee human rights defenders in Uganda. No organization has clearly assumed the mandate to extend services to these defenders.

While we appreciate the United Nations Group of Experts’ report, we urge human rights defenders and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders to focus on the plight of refugee human rights defenders in Uganda. We call for the establishment of a communication channel for these defenders to easily reach out for support.

We expect the United Nations to impose humanitarian sanctions on Uganda and for donors to freeze aid provided to Uganda under the pretense of helping refugees. Additionally, we advocate for a policy allowing Congolese refugees to use Uganda as a transit point for no more than six months.

Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos
Provincial Coordinator COJESKI

www.cojeskinorkivu.org

 

 

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