Rwanda in bid to convince refugees to return home

AUTHOR: KELVIN JAKACHIRA, POLITICAL EDITOR | HARARE – May 22 2011 17:31

The Rwandan government has dispatched a high-powered delegation to Zimbabwe to try and convince its nationals staying in the country as refugees to return home.

Rwanda’s Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs Marcel Gatsinzi and her delegation are expected to meet the Rwandan refugees and convince them that there was peace back home.

The Rwandan refugees in Zimbabwe are reportedly not willing to go back to their motherland citing security concerns.

There are about 750 Rwandans staying in Zimbabwe as refugees. The majority of them are from the Hutu ethnic group, who are largely blamed for the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of 800 000 Rwandans, mainly from the minority Tutsi ethnic group.

The Rwandan refugees in Zimbabwe claim the government of President Paul Kagame will persecute them once they return home.

Leon Nsengimana, a representative of the refugees told NewsDay recently returning refugees were being arrested and hauled before community courts known as Gacaca and slapped with lengthy jail sentences.

Public Service and Social Welfare Minister Paurina Mpariwa, said she was hopeful the Rwandan delegation will convince the refugees that their country was now peaceful.

“She (Gatsinzi) is around, we have about 700 Rwandans. I hope they will be able to convince them that it is peaceful back home,” Mpariwa said.

“We believe as a government that there is peace in Rwanda. We believe that at their meeting they will be convinced that they should go home.”

An adviser at Gatsinzi’s ministry in Rwanda, Jean Damascene Kayitana, said the majority of Rwandan refugees in Zimbabwe were unaware of the cessation clause, saying the aim of the minister’s visit was to sensitise the refugees about the issue.

The clause, under the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) stipulates that no Rwandan living abroad will qualify for refugee status after December 31 2011.

Last year, the Zimbabwe government promised to repatriate all Rwandan nationals by December 2011 after the UNHCR declared Rwanda safe for refugees to return but the refugees resisted the move.

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