Gov’t refutes refugee persecution claims

KIGALI - Government has allayed fears by some refugees returning from Uganda that they stand to be persecuted. The refugees who started returning home Tuesday, said the rumours being spread in the Uganda refugee camps include that the Rwandan government arrests and detains all the repatriated. “Those claims are baseless… they just lack enough information about their country. I have been there (in the camps) myself but we are preparing to send a team to give them the real picture of what Rwanda is and mobilize them,” Protais Musoni, the Minister of Local Government told The New Times.
UNHCR and Red Cross staff supervising the distribution of food to returnees from Uganda at the Rwanda Red Cross Headquarters in Gacuriro before they were transported to their respective districts. (Photo / J Mbanda)
UNHCR and Red Cross staff supervising the distribution of food to returnees from Uganda at the Rwanda Red Cross Headquarters in Gacuriro before they were transported to their respective districts. (Photo / J Mbanda)

KIGALI - Government has allayed fears by some refugees returning from Uganda that they stand to be persecuted.

The refugees who started returning home Tuesday, said the rumours being spread in the Uganda refugee camps include that the Rwandan government arrests and detains all the repatriated.

“Those claims are baseless… they just lack enough information about their country. I have been there (in the camps) myself but we are preparing to send a team to give them the real picture of what Rwanda is and mobilize them,” Protais Musoni, the Minister of Local Government told The New Times.

Tuesday saw the return of 83 refugees, the first batch of an estimated 20,000 refugees based in South Western Ugandan camps of Nakivale and Nshungerezi.

The repatriation was influenced by the recent tripartite meeting between the governments of Uganda and Rwanda and the UNHCR.

Samuel Ndagijimana, one of the returnees told The New Times in an interview that people are reluctant to repatriate because of speculation that those who repatriate would hardly survive.

“There are dangerous rumors in the camps we had always been told by our colleagues that when we come, the government will take us to solidarity camps from where most of us will be killed,” Ndagijimana said.

Musoni, clarified that the solidarity camps are not for civilians who repatriate but for armed militias from DRC who have to go through the demobilization and reintegration process.

30-year old Saidi Bigirimpfura accused some local authorities in Uganda of receiving bribes, then assisting some refugees to flee the camps to avoid repatriation.

The 83 who are now temporary based at the Rwanda Red Cross headquarters and UNHCR and GTZ (a German NGO) , with officials who were at the site saying that food and other logistical needs are enough even if all the refugees were to repatriate.

The Rwanda and Ugandan governments agreed to repatriate all refugees living in Uganda by July 30, 2009 and those who will remain there would be considered illegal migrants.

Meanwhile, today, at least 100 are expected cross via the Gatuna boarder post.

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