When the defeated genocidal government and its armed forces fled to former Zaire- now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), they forcefully took along with them millions of civilians.
Their reasons for doing so were several. They wanted to depopulate the country to create an impression that the population was fleeing a marauding victorious Rwanda Patriotic Army.
They also wanted to create a humanitarian crisis in Zaire where they could prey on the misfortune of the displaced people for financial gain. But their main objective was creating a human shield around them as they continued their attempts to destabilise Rwanda.
After continued provocations, Rwanda entered into Zaire and repatriated the refugees but pushed the armed factions deeper into the jungles, where some still live today.
Last week, over 800 of them together with their families were peacefully repatriated. They will pass sometime in a transition camp where the former combatants will undergo reintegration courses and brought up to date with a country they lost contact with for a quarter century.
Many had been held back by rumours propagated by their leaders in the forests of the Congo that harm would befall upon them once they returned home. So the first thing the integration process does is to dispel those fears and later help them settle in.
But as was to be expected, not everyone was pleased with the repatriation of refugees. Many have seen in them a free meal ticket. To some NGOs, they were their raison d’etre while some sections of the media saw them as fodder for heart-wrenching suffering stories.
To the Congolese civilian population, it is a sigh of relief because Rwandan armed groups, Such as the FDLR, have unleashed upon them unending terror for years. As for the repatriated ex-combatants and their families, it is a chance to rebuild their lives on a clean slate devoid of hatred and ethnic ideologies they have wallowed in for decades.