Refugees International (RI) condemns the September 15, 2017 massacre in the Kamanyola transit site in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in which at least 39 Burundians were killed. Among the victims were 15 women, with another 100 people wounded. RI also regrets the loss of a Congolese soldier who was also killed.
Initial reports suggest that this past Friday’s killings occurred after a protest that opposed the planned involuntary repatriation of some Burundians. Congolese authorities allege that the protest turned violent, provoking an armed response.
In April 2016, RI documented the plight of the Burundian refugees housed at the Kamanyola transit site. In its May 2016 report, No Respite: Burundian Refugees in the DR Congo, RI highlighted that these refugees were subject to extortion, arbitrary arrest, and refoulement without due process. Burundian refugees told RI that they experienced ill treatment and that the Congolese National Police, the Democratic Republic of Congo Armed Forces, and the Directorate-General for Migration specifically were seen as threats to protection rather than support.
“It is unconscionable that Burundians who have fled political violence and crimes against humanity were forced to bury their dead in the DRC,“ RI Senior Advocate Francisca Vigaud-Walsh said. “We welcome Sunday’s announcement that the DRC will open an inquiry, but reject the government’s assertion that there are no refugees among the killed. Security forces there have long-ignored refugee law. Those responsible for this massacre must be held to account.”
As recommended in its May 2016 report, RI urges donor countries to increase their funding for the Burundi Regional Refugee Response Plan; the appeal for $406 million is still only 10 percent funded. In the case of the DRC, of the required $34.3 million needed to tend to the humanitarian needs of Burundian refugees, only 3 percent has been allotted. Increased funding for the protection monitoring and response activities of the UN Refugee Agency in South Kivu is critical, as well as funding for the training of Congolese security forces in refugee rights and refugee law.
Finally, RI extends its deepest condolences to the families of those killed and reminds the governments of the DRC and neighboring states of their international obligations to provide asylum and protection to the 400,000 Burundian refugees in the Great Lakes and East Africa.