Rwandan refugees refuse to leave Uganda
Kampala – About 10 000 Rwandans living in a Ugandan refugee camp are refusing to go home eight months after they were instructed to leave, an official said last week.
Uganda has taken away their right to cultivate land in the camp in an effort to compel them to leave.
“We have about 10 000 Rwandans remaining in Nakivale,” said Festo Wafuta, assistant commandant of the camp near the Rwandan border.
“They say they will not go home, one, because of land issues in Rwanda, and the other is … these gacaca courts,” he added, referring to Rwanda’s local justice initiative to try genocide crimes at grass-roots level.
All Rwandan refugees remaining in Uganda, the vast majority of whom are Hutus, the majority group that carried out the 1994 genocide, were told last year to leave Uganda by July 31 following a decision by both governments and the UN refugee agency that Rwanda is safe for all ethnic groups.
Any Rwandan who wants to stay in Uganda as a refugee has to provide a compelling explanation to camp officials.
“Their reasons have not been not convincing at all,” Uganda’s State Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Tarsis Kabwegyere said, insisting that fear of the gacaca courts was not a valid reason to remain in Uganda.
“If they are criminals, let them face the law,” he said. “Our settlements are not a sanctuary.”
The minister said the decision to cut off cultivation rights was taken because there were refugees from the Democractic Republic of Congo who were more deserving of the scarce land in Uganda.
But Wafuta, who is based permanently in Nakivale, said the land directive has had no impact.
“They are remaining with land for residence, and receiving food aid,” he said.
Of concern to Kabwegyere was that in recent weeks some 400 Rwandans who had left the camp returned there.