Demonstrations started on 20th February where refugees marched out of the camp in protest over reduced food rations.
However, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR), United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and local leaders urged the refugees to return to their camp as their grievances were being addressed. However, according to Police, these calls were met with strong resistance that turned violent.
“Refugees armed with sharp objects (stones, sticks and metal pieces) began to assault police officers, who then used tear gas to disperse the unacceptable riots and secure the nearby community,” Police said in a tweet.
“When the attacks persisted, we used proportional force that left 20 rioters and 7 Police officers injured. They were rushed to hospital, five rioters unfortunately succumbed to their wounds and 15 arrested for illegal demonstration, taking hostage and inciting violence,” tweet reads.
On Thursday, UNHCR urged the refugees to respect local laws and express grievances through dialogue, while calling on authorities to handle the situation with calm and restraint. Some refugees indicated their desire to return to the DRC, out of desperation.
To date, UNHCR’s 2018 appeal for US$ 98.8 million to support refugees in Rwanda only 2 per cent is funded. WFP warns about potential larger ration cuts if monthly requirements of US$2.5 million are not met. Prolonged ration cuts put at serious risk food security and nutritional needs of refugees, who are dependent on assistance. Rwanda hosts over 173,000 refugees in six camps, including Kiziba, where Congolese refugees have lived for over 20 years.