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REFUGEES: Rwanda police probe its police shooting Congolese refugees

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The police is investigating Tuesday’s incident in which Congolese refugees claimed they had been shot at and some wounded by Rwandan soldiers during a food protest in western Rwanda.

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees said the Rwanda National Police is probing the issue after at least 2,000 refugees left the Kiziba settlement camp to protest a 25 per cent cut in food rations provided by the World Food Programme, a partner UN agency, that began last month.

Reports on Tuesday said the refugees had an altercation with the soldiers who had tried to stop them leaving scores injured and others were arrested.

According to Jean Claude Rwahama, the Director of Refugees Affairs at the ministry, all refugees hosted in Rwanda were affected by the cuts caused by funding shortage.

He said the Rwandan government was working with the UN refugees agency, UNHCR, to find a solution to the food rations cut that was causing anxiety among the more than 173,000 refugees hosted in six camps in the country.

“It is unfortunate that some refugees resorted to violence even as local authorities and security personnel were working to find a solution to their grievances,” said Mr Rwahama.

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He disputed the claim that some were injured saying the soldiers only tried to quell the rioting refugees.

“We are mindful of the rights of refugees but also caution that they must respect the laws of the host county. Police will therefore carry out thorough investigations into this incident, to establish responsibility and ensure it doesn’t re-occur,” Mr Rwahama added.

Calls for restraint
UNHCR said on Thursday that it was concerned by the incident at the Kiziba camp which hosts 17,000 refugees of whom 77 per cent are women and children.

The agency urged Rwandan authorities to exercise restraint while also cautioning refugees against making uninformed decisions “out of desperation”.

UNHCR said humanitarian assistance in Rwanda remains “severely underfunded” which led to the decision by WFP to reduce food assistance by 10 per cent in November last year and by 25 per cent in January.

Some refugees have also indicated their desire to return to the DRC, the agency said.

“Refugees have the right to return to their country whenever they wish. But we urge refugees to make an informed decision and not to listen to misinformation or rumours,” said Ahmed Baba Fall, UNHCR Representative in Rwanda.

UNHCR said its 2018 appeal for $98.8 million to support refugees in Rwanda is only is two per cent funded.

Food rations
In January, Jean-Pierre de Margerie, the WFP Rwanda country director, said the agency needed at least $11 million to sustain refugees in Rwanda up to June. WFP warned of a potential larger ration cuts if its $2.5 million monthly spend is not met.

The Rwandan government and the UN agencies having been working on a joint strategy to enable refugees work for a living as part of the effort to address shortage pf donor funding.

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