Lusaka Talks Tough On Rwandans

The Zambian government has aised Rwandans residing in various parts of the Southern African nation to register to legalise their stay or face banishment.

Over 6091 Rwandan are reported to be living in Zambia. The Lusaka government is concerned that they have refused to return home and the Rwandan and Zambian governments have been working on modalities to facilitate voluntary repatriation. There have been plans to integrate those who wish to continue living in Zambia. However, according to the Lusaka government, some of the refugees have failed to cooperate especially in seeking local documents.

The Zambian Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, Lt Col (Rtd) Panji Kaunda said in interview that his government would not hesitate to deport any Rwandans who are not cooperative. “The only choice they have is to seek for passports and legalise there stay in Zambia nothing else. There is a very good justice system in Rwanda and the country is safe they should return home if there are some issues, they will be resolved,” he said.

Col. Kaunda further said Rwandans who were still living in Lusaka were no longer refugees and wondered why they continue to remain in his country. “We don’t have Rwandan refugees in Zambia,” he said. The Zambian government officials were in Kigali on March 25 to again discuss other mechanisms to continue enticing Rwandans to repatriate to their home country. During the meeting the two governments agreed to continue sensitizing the Rwandans for the next three months for them to acquire the Rwandan passports.

“They should visit our offices or go UNHCR for help,” the Zambian minister further noted. After the three months of disseminating information it was agreed that a survey will be undertaken to ascertain those who will have cooperated. Then the deadline will be set by Zambian government to all the Rwandans to either return home or acquire Zambian passports and reintegrated in local communities. It is reported that some Rwandans do not want to repatriate because of a number of hardliners who continue to bar others from returning by spreading misinformation that they would be killed in case they repatriate to Rwanda.

Kigali has always refuted the claims. Most of refugees fled in 1994 genocide against Tutsi where over one million innocent people were strangely slaughtered in just three months. Zambia has always been accused of harboring a number of Rwandan fugitives who supported and perpetrated the genocide since the government has been reluctant to extradite the fugitives citing lack of extradition agreement between the two countries.

According to statistics, those who will be affected by the Cessation Clause are 4000. Most fled between Rwanda between 1959 and 1998. Only 733 out of 4000 have secured various immigration permits that allow them to stay and work in Zambia. According to Zambia local authorities anyone willing to be integrated in Lusaka must have a Rwandan passport or any other legal document that allows him to stay as a foreigner not as a refugee. All Rwandan refugees lost their refugee status in June 2013 when the UN Cessation Clause was invoked.

The Cessation Clause, which applies to those who fled the country between 1959 and December 1998, was invoked after it was concluded that there is no reason for any Rwandan to remain a refugee.

The Cessation Clause is provided for under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and international humanitarian law considers refugee status a temporary condition and envisages a situation when the status can be revoked. As part of the implementation of the Cessation Clause, Rwanda also support local integration by facilitating former refugees to acquire national passports to enable them to legally stay in their host countries due to socio-economic ties.

The majority of former Rwandan refugees are in African countries especially in DR Congo, Uganda, Congo Brazzaville, Zambia Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Burundi.

Since 1994 to last year over 3.4 million form Rwandan refugees have returned and according to the ministry in charge, over 8000 Rwandans are still living in various countries though they have lost their refugee status.

Seraphine Mukantabana, the Rwandan minister in charge of refugees observed that the government was ready to welcome all the Rwandans because it is not noble for them to continue suffering in foreign countries when Rwanda is stable. “We are committed to provide all the necessary support for those who want to return home. Rwandans need to regain their dignity,” she said.

Re-integration process

As an incentive, the government, in collaboration with the UN agency in Rwanda, reintegrates the returnees by providing basic needs like shelter, food, medical facilities, and domestic appliances to help them start new lives as well as offering them land. Recently, a project that will help at least 5,000 vulnerable returnees was launched and it will be funded by the governments of Rwanda, Japan and International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The project dubbed “Enhancing socio-economic reintegration of Rwandan returnees and other vulnerable groups,” will be implemented in phases and will see returnees obtain vocational and technical skills and micro-business start-up kits, livestock assistance as well as construction materials to build their own houses.

This was the fourth phase of the general project to reintegrate Rwandans returning from different countries. The project also intends to rehabilitate some infrastructure such as primary schools and health posts in communities where the returnees are being resettled. Over 9,300 returnees and other vulnerable Rwandans have been provided with direct reintegration assistance to secure sustainable livelihood since 2010. More than 2,600 beneficiaries were trained in vocational skills in carpentry, masonry, tailoring, mechanics, hairdressing and other market-driven skills.

Source : The Independent

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