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00KINSHASA8413 2000-12-19 12:19:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kinshasa
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1. (C) Summary: During her Nov. 26-Dec 1 visit to Goma,
Econoff discussed refugee issues with Eddie O'Dwyer, UNHCR's
Acting Head of Field Office in Goma, and with Kasuku, a
member of a Congolese NGO involved in repatriating Congolese
Tutsis. O'Dwyer said that UNHCR and the Governor of North
Kivu had overcome mutual distrust to implement a unique
cooperative program to facilitate the return of refugees to
Rwanda. These flows amount to about 1500 per month. O'Dwyer
said UNHCR was playing no role in the return of Congolese
refugees. Kasuku said that thousands of Congolese Tutsi's
returning from Rwanda were desperately in need of
international assistance. End summary.

2. (SBU) On November 28 Econoff met with Eddie O'Dwyer,
UNHCR's Head of Field Office (Acting) for Goma. O'Dwyer
explained that UNHCR had returned to the DRC in May of 1999
with three missions: to repatriate willing Rwandan refugees;
to reactivate tripartite cooperation with the DRC and Burundi
to facilitate the repatriation of Burundian refugees; and to
facilitate individual Congolese repatriations. The climate
at the time was one of mutual suspicion. UNHCR feared that
Rwandan Hutus were being forced out of Congo against their
will. The North Kivu authorities blamed the UNHCR in part
for the disastrous consequences of the arrival in Congo of
Rwandan refugees following the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

3. (C) In the absence of UNHCR, the Governor of North Kivu
was responsible for the refugee issue, and his office had
based its operations on the premise that all the Rwandan and
Burundian refugees in Congo needed to go home. In October
1998 the North Kivu authorities began a sensitization
campaign to encourage voluntary repatriation. When that
didn't work, according to O'Dwyer, the Congolese in February
1999 began rounding up Rwandan hutus and sending them home.
Between February and July 1999, over 13,000 Rwandans were
repatriated. After lengthy discussions, UNHCR began
providing limited logistical support to the repatriation
campaign in July 1999, in exchange for an opportunity to
interview refugees and confirm that they were returning
voluntarily. In December 1999 this evolved into a formal
partnership agreement. O'Dwyer said that 20 UNHCR staff
members worked in the field with 80 employees from the
Governor's office to coordinate assembly and transportation
of refugees. Since July 1999, on average, 1500 Rwandans have
voluntarily returned home each month.

4. (SBU) The Rwandan refugee caseload is a moving target.
O'Dwyer said that UNHCR had estimated that there were some
40,000 Rwandan refugees in North Kivu in May 1999. Today,
despite 37,000 repatriations, UNHCR estimates that about
40,000 Rwandan refugees remain in North Kivu.

5. (C) O'Dwyer said that most skirmishes between Interhamwe
and RCD/RPA forces lead to the "liberation" of groups of
refugees. O'Dwyer is convinced that these populations, while
not precisely held hostage by the Interhamwe, are being
intimidated into remaining in the Congo. A journalist who
visited a refugee processing station in December 2000 told
Econoff that she met with a group of these refugees who had
recently gained the liberty to make their way to the UNHCR
site. She described them as physically and emotionally
exhausted, and she characterized their experience in Congo as
a life of slave labor.

6. (C) On November 27, Econoff met with Kasuku, Vice
President of the local Chamber of Commerce and member of the
NGO most active in repatriating Congolese Tutsi's from
Rwanda, "Tout Pour le Developpement" (Ref A). Kasuku was
once the head of the North Kivu cattlemen's association, but
he and all his fellow ranchers lost their livelihoods when
the Masisi cattle herds were slain in the years following the
arrival of the Rwandan refugees. He said the Congolese
refugees in Rwanda wanted to come home, but both the GOR and
the UNHCR were holding them back. He said Caritas and
another NGO provide limited support, but Congolese Tutsi
returnees desperately need more assistance. Kasuku claimed
that 8000 more Congolese who had recently returned from
Rwanda had nothing to eat, and pleaded for USG assistance.

7. (C) Econoff asked O'Dwyer about TPD and reports that
pecuniary motives underlay the NGO's effort to repatriate
Congolese refugees (Ref A). O'Dwyer said that UNHCR's
official policy is that the return of the Congolese refugees
should coincide with the second phase of implementation of
the Lusaka agreement. He said that in general the UN system
provides the same assistance to repatriated Congolese that it
provides to other internally displaced persons. The
exception is UNHCR, which has been forbidden by its regional
office in Addis from providing Congolees returnees the
plastic sheeting it offers other IDPs. He believes that TPD
is benevolent in its desire to help those who want to come
home now, and does not think the NGO receives any financial
benefit based on number of returnees. O'Dwyer criticized the
site chosen to receive these refugees because it is on the
border of Virunga park, which makes it vulnerable to
Interhamwe raids.