Rwanda Information Portal

Government to Issue Passports for All Rwandan Refugees

Rwanda has told a UN conference reviewing the status of Rwandan refugees living in different countries that it will provide them with national documents so they seize to be called “refugees”.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR and countries hosting Rwanda refugees agreed in December 2011 that the refugees would no longer be called so after June 31, 2013. Among the options provided was repatriation back to Rwanda and local integration in host countries.

At a Ministerial meeting in Pretoria (South Africa) on April 18, Rwanda renewed its desire to have all refugees choosing their country. However, considering that most of the refugees have established their lives in host countries, it will not be necessary to return to Rwanda.

“Rwanda’s delegation outlined a number of steps it has taken and will continue to implement to support the respective solutions,” said UNHCR spokesman, Adrian Edwards, a press briefing on Friday in Geneva.

“These include issuing national passports for Rwandans who opt to stay in their current host countries.”

The first Ministerial meeting on the Strategy, in Geneva on 9 December 2011, had agreed with a recommendation for States to consider giving effect to the so-called cessation clauses of refugee status as of 30 June 2013. Cessation clauses are built into the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1969 Organization of African Unity Refugee Convention.

They provide for refugee status to end once fundamental and durable changes have taken place in the country of origin and the circumstances that led to flight no longer exist. This is the case with Rwandan refugees who left the country in periods when there was different nature of challenges.

The 1994 genocide against Tutsis and its aftermath and armed clashes in northwestern Rwanda in 1997 and 1998 – the last time the country experienced generalized violence – produced more than 3.5 million Rwandan refugees.

Most have since returned to Rwanda, including recently, 12,000 mainly from Democratic Republic of Congo. An estimated 100,000 Rwandan refugees remain in exile.

With the issuance of Rwanda national documents, the status of the affected people would change to nationals living in the diaspora. This means that they could be invited on regular basis to visit and invest in their homeland.

Since 2003 when the national dialogue conference was introduced, delegations from the Diaspora have attended. Various programs have been put in place to facilitate Rwandans living outside to remain in constant contact with their country.

The South Africa meet had delegations from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Source: All Africa

April 20, 2013   No Comments

Tanzania reportedly arrests Rwandan deputy FDLR commander

Numerous sources are now reporting on the arrest of General Stanislas Nzeyimana (aka Izabayo Bigaruka), the deputy commander of the FDLR––the German Tageszeitung wrote about it last Friday, and sources close to the Tanzanian security services are now confirming.

Bigaruka, as he is commonly known, was not directly involved in the 1994 genocide, as he was in undergoing military training abroad at the time. However, he did play a significant role during the insurgency in northwest Rwanda between 1997-1998. He later became commander of the South Kivu division and eventually was promoted to become deputy overall commander in 2008.

It is not clear how and when Bigaruka was arrested, although according to one UN source he was taken into custody by Tanzanian security officials at the Serena Hotel on April 5. He was allegedly accompanied by two Congolese protestant ministers. The newspaper Umuvigizi, which has been banned in Rwanda, however reported that he had been arrested in Kigoma, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, where he had been based for several years as an FDLR liaison officer. Accounts also differ on Bigaruka’s fate, although it appears the Tanzanian authorities have not yet accepted to extradite him to Rwanda.

If confirmed, Bigaruka’s arrest would be a further blow to an already weakened organization. In the past two years, the FDLR have lost their Chief of Staff Colonel Mugaragu, head of logistics Lieutenant-Colonel Furaha Honoré, and the influential battalion commander Lieutenant-Colonel Sadiki Soleil. Their president and vice-president are being tried by a German court, and the appearance of the Raia Mutomboki, which made it increasingly difficult to protect their civilian population in particular, have been further setbacks.

The FDLR’s future depends on whether it can re-establish its alliance with the Congolese army, or at least with other armed groups. There have been numerous reports in the past year that Kinshasa––or at least certain officers––have considered renewing their ties with the FDLR in order to defeat the M23, especially after many commanders lost faith in their own troops after the Goma debacle in November 2012. But those ties are still extremely tentative, and it is questionable whether the FDLR would present anything more than a huge reputational liability for the Congolese government.

Source: Congo Siasa

April 20, 2013   No Comments

2 decades after genocide, Hutu refugees in Uganda fear a forced return to Rwanda

Rwandan Hutu refugee Sifa Mahoro speaks to an Associated Press reporter at her home in the Nakivale refugee camp in Uganda

Rwandan Hutu refugee Sifa Mahoro speaks to an Associated Press reporter at her home in the Nakivale refugee camp in Uganda

Leodegard Kagaba lifted his shirt to reveal an ugly scar on his belly left by a bullet that nearly killed him. Tutsi neighbors in Rwanda, he said, attacked him after accusing him of participating in the 1994 genocide.

“I have many scars, even in my heart,” he said. “The people who put those scars on me still live freely in Rwanda.”

Now nearly two decades later, Kagaba and many of the other 9,000 Rwandans in this camp of 68,000 African refugees say they are troubled by the looming prospect of forced repatriation back to Rwanda. Hutu refugees say they fear reprisal attacks by Tutsis inside Rwanda. During the 1994 genocide, at least 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in a campaign of mass murder orchestrated by Hutu extremists.

After the genocide, hundreds of thousands of Hutus — some charged with participating in the genocide, others simply afraid of reprisal killings — fled Rwanda and sought refuge across East and Central Africa.

Many ended up in a sprawling settlement in western Uganda that some now regard as their home for life. Here, in a place called Nakivale, amid green hills reminiscent of their ancestral land, the Rwandans have access to pasture for their cattle and many have set up successful businesses selling groceries or farm animals.

Rwandans who spoke to The Associated Press said the political climate in Rwanda discourages them from leaving Nakivale. At least 92 percent of all Rwandan refugees in Uganda are Hutus, according to U.N. refugee agency.

Kagaba, an ethnic Hutu whose father and siblings were killed in 1994, said he would be harassed or worse in Rwanda because he witnessed atrocities committed by the Tutsi soldiers who came to his village looking for genocide suspects.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame — an ethnic Tutsi — dismisses allegations that his country unfairly targets Hutus, saying those who played a role in the genocide should face the law. Kagame encourages a gospel of unity that disregards ethnicity.

But groups such as Human Rights Watch — which the government openly spars with — have long accused Rwanda’s government of using a genocide ideology law to target the regime’s critics. Independent journalists who have written critically about the history of the genocide have been threatened with jail terms. Many have fled.

Rwanda’s government said in a statement Friday that “Rwandan refugees who hesitate to return home either lack enough information on the current situation in Rwanda or have developed significant ties with host countries.”

The 8,000 Rwandans who arrived in Uganda before 1998 have until the end of June to return home voluntarily. Uganda, which hosts the highest number of officially recognized Rwandan refugees, has published lists of those who are expected to return home soon.

In Nakivale, the Hutus who fled Rwanda at the end of the genocide spoke of a persistent witch-hunt, saying sons can be harassed for their father’s crimes. Their grim opinion of life in Rwanda is reinforced by the accounts of refugees who returned to Rwanda and fled back to Uganda, saying they had been jailed on trumped-up charges and even tortured.

Some of the refugees freshly arriving from Rwanda claim persecution and want political asylum, said Lucy Beck, a spokeswoman for UNHCR in Uganda.

“It’s still a country producing refugees,” Beck said of Rwanda. “There is a large amount of fear (in Nakivale), and it’s not helped that refugees have gone and come back again.”

Belonging to a family seen in the community as having participated in the genocide carries a lifetime stigma, some refugees said, equating a Hutu’s return to Rwanda to committing suicide. Some Tutsi families are still eager to exact revenge on neighbors they believe killed their relatives, said Rajab Simpamanuka, a Hutu refugee who has lived in Nakivale since 2001.

In January, after his mother died, he briefly considered sneaking into Rwanda for the funeral but was advised against it. Instead he gathered some relatives and friends and performed a parallel ceremony in Nakivale.

“The family you come from is still a problem to this day,” he said. “If you return home, they will say the son of so-and-so is back. And the police will come for you. You can pay for your father’s sins. I still like my country, but I will go back only if there’s a change of government.”

Hamida Kabagwira, a Hutu refugee, said she won’t be forced to return to Rwanda.

“If they want it, they will have to come here and kill us. I will never find peace in Rwanda,” said Kabagwira, who was recently reunited with her husband, Shaban Mutabazi.

Mutabazi, who said he spent 16 years in a Rwandan jail for alleged genocide, fled to Uganda in January after serving his sentence because “after that everyone in my village saw me like an animal.”

UNHCR opposes forcible repatriations but is powerless to stop them. The agency favors solutions such as integration and naturalization for those who have lived in Uganda long enough, said Beck. A decision to forcibly evict refugees would be the responsibility of Ugandan officials, she said. About 90 percent of refugees don’t want to return, she said.

Moses Watasa, a spokesman for the Ugandan department that manages refugees, said his office can’t be expected to rely on the refugees’ opinion of safety in Rwanda and that input from Rwanda’s government and the international community would be crucial. “They would go back if their home areas are deemed safe,” he said.

Some refugees are taking precautionary measures such as avoiding their beds at night.

“I don’t really go to sleep these days,” said Ephraim Rutabingwa, a Hutu refugee who bears a deep scar on his forehead, the mark of a machete that he says was wielded by a Tutsi neighbor in 1996. He wants the U.N. to help refugees find safe haven in another country.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Associated Press

April 20, 2013   No Comments