Some 20,000 members of Tutsi ethnic group live as refugees in Kenya
Dozens of Tutsi refugees protested in Kenya’s capital Nairobi on Wednesday as part of a mounting push for repatriation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Ethnic violence over the past two decades has forced thousands of Tutsis, a community of around 5 million, to escape from DR Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi.
They have been living in refugee camps throughout Africa for more than 25 years, including about 20,000 in Kenya.
With little to no progress on efforts for their repatriation, there is growing fear that they could be rendered stateless for good.
Silvia Hermand, a 36-year-old mother, said she has lived as a refugee in Nairobi for 10 years.
“The most important thing for me is peace in DR Congo and an end to the violence against Tutsis. If there is peace, we can go back home,” she told Anadolu at the protest in the Kenyan capital’s Kasarani neighborhood.
“It is very sad to hear that DR Congo is rejecting Tutsis. We are not Rwandans, we are Congolese. We do not want to live any longer as refugees. We can help develop our country,” Hermand added.
There have recently been similar protests in other East African countries, with Tutsi refugees calling on the DR Congo government to restore peace in their areas and facilitate their repatriation.
“It is impossible to go back home because of the armed groups, the negative ones,” said Jeff Kazungu, who was leading the Nairobi protest.
“We can’t go back. First of all, we want peace in our areas and the entire North Kivu province. Once there is security, and the government and these groups stop killing people, we will go back. There is nothing for us here in Kenya.”
DR Congo has been blighted by constant violence for decades as a plethora of rebel factions fight each other or the military and UN forces for control of resource-rich land.
According to the UN, exploitation of natural resources remains a major factor in the conflict, with the majority of armed groups engaged in trafficking of precious minerals.
UN estimates indicate more than 5 million people have been displaced due to violence and insecurity in DR Congo in just the past two years, including approximately 2 million in the northern province of North Kivu.