THE NEW MINISTER of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR), Séraphine Mukantabana (pictured), has appealed to Rwandan refugees to return home before the Cessation Clause comes into force.
The Cessation Clause states that with effect from June 30, 2013, Rwanda refugees who fled between 1959 and December 31, 1998, must either voluntarily return home or apply for citizenship to stay in the host countries.
Addressing a news conference yesterday, Mukantabana who was appointed minister last week, said about 70,000 Rwandans are still living as refugees in different countries.
“We want at least 90 per cent of them (refugees) to return home voluntarily before the implementation of the cessation clause,” she emphasised.
Mukantabana explained that Rwandans living outside the country and engaged in lucrative business, are free to remain there, as long as they are living a better life, but urged them to come and get Rwanda Identification cards.
Most Rwandan refugees are in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Congo Brazaville, Malawi, and Zambia.
Once the cessation clause comes into force, Rwandan refugees will no longer be entitled to refugees’ benefits from United Nations High commission for Refugees (UNCHR).
Without divulging the new measures, Mukantabana said the ministry was developing new repatriation mechanisms that will see refugees return in big numbers.
“We are providing transport fares and other assistance if need be, to enable refugees wherever they are in the world return home with ease.”
“I am new in this ministry and confident, we will achieve our target. I didn’t come to sleep in the office, I came to work. I have been a refugee myself and I know how challenging it is, to live as a refugee,” she emphasised.
According to the government, the returnees are facilitated to resettle in terms of medical care, food, education for the children, and shelter, among other things.
UNHCR, in partnership with Rwanda last year allocated $12 million to facilitate voluntary repatriation of refugees and permanent settlement.
Since 1994, up to January 2013, a total of 3, 437,472 Rwandan refugees have voluntarily returned including 11,031 who returned in 2012.
Since January this year, over 800 refugees have repatriated.
At the same news briefing, two former Rwandan refugees told reporters that, they were happy to return home.
“I am so amazed by the transformation of the country I left torn apart by war,” said Zaria Karangwa, 52, a former refugee in Chad.
Karangwa returned last year in December, with his wife, three children and two grand children.
Sarathiel Nyandwi, another refugee who recently voluntarily returned from South Africa, said he thought Rwanda was faced with political instabilities and civil strife before he returned.
“I came back in December on a fact finding mission but I was surprised to see that Rwanda is very peaceful compared to where I have been staying. I have realised that people who speak ill things about Rwanda are enemies of this government based on their personal interests,” he explained.
Nyandwi currently operates a security firm in South Africa but plans to conduct business between Rwanda and South Africa.
He hails from Rusizi District and that is where most of his family members are.