Rwandans have expressed fear of leaving their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as anger over rebel attacks leads to Anti-Rwandan protests within Congo.
While both nations are at loggerheads on the issue, Rwandan citizens say they are afraid, believing they could be hurt by Congolese citizens who are angered by the rebel attacks.
In early June, a widely circulated video showed some armed men with machetes and faces draped in Congolese flags wandering on a Kinshasa street outside a Rwandan-owned shop.
Another video, filmed during a protest in the city on May 30, showed a crowd cheering as a photo of Rwandan President Paul Kagame was disfigured with a Hitler mustache and swastika.
Since the attacks began, protesters, including some well-known politicians, have called for the closure of the Rwandan embassy in Congo.
However, the provincial police commissioner, General Sylvano Kasongo, said officers were under orders to arrest anyone dressed in paramilitary clothing who displayed a threatening posture, and some arrests had already been made.
“The people of Kinshasa are hospitable,” he said, condemning and blaming a minority for the protest against Rwandans in Congo.
Moreover, Kinshasa Governor, Gentiny Ngobila, urged residents not to vent their anger toward Rwandan citizens.
“We should not slip into that xenophobic rhetoric because it would give ammunition to those who would use the excuse that Rwandans are persecuted in Congo; therefore it is necessary to go to their rescue,” Ngobila said.
In a report by Reuters, the Life of Zawadi, a Rwandan lady living in Congo, was covered. Reuters noted that the mother of two had been enjoying a peaceful life in Congo until distant fighting stoked Congolese anger against her country.
Zawadi’s problems began in May when the M23 rebel group resumed heavy fighting against the military in eastern DRC after years of relative calm. While Congo accused Rwanda of supporting the M23, Rwanda continually denied the allegations.
Hundreds of kilometers to the west, in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, Zawadi watched in horror as videos of anti-Rwanda demonstrations circulated on social media and acquaintances began posting anti-Rwanda images and slogans.
“I can’t take my kids to school. I can’t go to the market. I have to stay home,” said Zawadi, who refused to give her last name for security reasons.
“Even my co-workers spew hateful words when they see me,” Zawadi said at her home, where she spends hours every day with her two young children, following the latest developments.