Family of ex-FDLR top commander back home
At exactly 2.30 pm the bus carrying Marie Louise Muhonganseko and her four children arrived in Nyabugogo national bus terminal, from Lusaka Zambia.
Muhonganseko is the wife of Lt. Col. Idrissa Muradadi the former senior commander of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) who abandoned the militia group last month and returned home.
Muradadi is currently undergoing a reintegration course at the National Demobilisation and Reintegration Centre in Mutobo, Northern Province.
The family had spent three years in Lusaka after living in Congo Brazzaville for fifteen years.
FDRL is a group operating mainly in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and it’s composed of elements responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The returnees were warmly welcomed by government officials, relatives and other different people who were standing a side looking at the smiling returnees who had spent eighteen years outside their mother country.
She arrived with four young children, two girls and two boys.
Speaking to The New Times, a quietly smiling Muhonganseko stressed that she couldn’t believe she had stepped on Rwandan soil adding that they lived a hazardous life as refugees.
“We have spent eighteen years as refugees where life is never good. We left DR Congo three years back heading to Zambia thinking that we would get better life but it was the same. No refugee will ever be happy even those who are claiming to be rich”, she said.
“I have been suffering with my children looking for food, no education, but at least I have hope that government will look after us effectively,” she added.
She pointed out that nobody forced her to return home saying it was their own decision after realising that it was unnecessary to continue living as refugees yet their country is stable and secure.
Bernard Placide Ndayambaje, in charge of repatriation in the Ministry of Disaster and Refugee Affairs, welcomed the returnees emphasising that government would provide the necessary support to reintegrate them.
“As a country we are happy to receive these nationals who have been residing abroad and we are going to ensure that they are facilitated and reintegrated in the society,” he said.
He reiterated that government’s vision is to ensure that all Rwandans who want to return are reintegrated.
This comes after UNHCR recently recommended the invocation of a Cessation Clause among all host countries that comes into effect June 30, 2013 for refugees who fled between 1959 and December 31, 1998.
The Cessation Clause states that refugees must either voluntarily return home or apply for citizenship to stay in their host countries.
While more than 3.4 million refugees have voluntarily returned to Rwanda since 1994, 100,000 are still living as refugees, mainly in East, South, Central and West Africa.
The clause does not, however, prevent individuals applying for refugee status, and in that case, the recipient country will have to analyse individual cases that may warrant the continuation of international protection.
More prominent refugees have continued to voluntarily repatriate. Former leader of the Rwandan refugees in Congo-Brazzaville Seraphine Mukantabana voluntarily returned home at the end of last year with her family.
Mukantabana had been leading the refugee community since 1997 and reports had earlier indicated that she was instrumental in the creation of the Rwanda rebel organisation, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in 2000.
She observed that the government’s sensitisation campaigns to refugees, as well as reading and listening to news about the current situation at home inspired her to voluntarily repatriate.
She observed that government needs to extend more campaigns to persuade the remaining refugees to come back home.
Recently, government tasked its diplomatic missions to sensitise Rwandan refugees about the UNHCR Cessation Clause, and ensure that they return home and stop being classed as refugees.
Muhonganseko and her family came by Takwa, a Tanzania Bus, after the returnees had spent one day in Dar –es salaam Tanzania, from Lusaka. Today, they are expected to be taken back to their village in Gicumbi District in the Eastern Province.
Most refugees left the country during the Genocide against Tutsi in 1994.
Contact email: eric.kabeera[at]newtimes.co.rw