Rwandan refugees living in Uganda will be given more time to return home, Tarsis Kabwegyere, Uganda’s Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, said in an interview yesterday.
Several of these refugees based in Uganda whose total number is estimated at 20,000 have been returning home over the last two months but at a slow pace.
This follows a tripartite meeting that brought together the governments of Uganda and Rwanda with the UNHCR, to work out a repatriation programme for the refugees.
“We have allowed more time because people have to be sure that they will return home. It’s all about voluntary repatriation as required by the governing conventions,” Kabwegyere explained to The New Times.
Earlier last month, the three parties had resolved that the refugees be given until the end of August to return home.
Kabwegyere however added that the Ugandan government will keep encouraging the refugees to return home, and that those with reasons for staying back will be carefully screened.
The remaining number of refugees, the Minister said, is currently unknown because the refugees keep going back home.
In a separate interview, Innocent Ngango, the head of the National Refugee Commission clarified that the August timeline was not a deadline, but was time given to ensure smooth repatriation of refugees who have special cases, such as those who had to ensure the last harvests of crops.
“Ours was the July 31 deadline. Everything now is in the hands of the Ugandan government and UNHCR,” Ngango said, disclosing that only 6,000 refugees are yet to repatriate.
The refugees are mainly concentrated in Nakivale refugee settlement in South Western Uganda and most of them fled the country after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
It has been reported that some of the refugees are reluctant to repatriate because of the role they played in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and fear to be prosecuted.