KIGALI - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), António Guterres is in the country for a two-day visit that aims at drawing a roadmap for a cessation clause, marking a closure to the existence of Rwandan refugees.
During a meeting that was held at the Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC) yesterday, Guterres hailed Rwanda’s efforts of repatriating her refugees emphasizing that the last batch must return so that the chapter of Rwandan refugees becomes an issue of the past.
“Rwanda has ensured that a remarkable number of refugees return home. In fact, it is one of the biggest numbers of returnees registered,” Guterres said.
“We are therefore going to work very hard to enhance voluntary repatriation of those who have not yet been repatriated, but at the same time we must plan for those who are not willing to return so that their rights are guaranteed,” the UNHCR boss said.
Guterres said that it was time to deal with the most complex issues in the region. Citing countries’ cooperation towards achieving the repatriation goal, he revealed that the UNHCR is set to engage in a tri-lateral agreement with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo with regards to voluntary repatriation.
“A clear way as to how Rwandan refugees can voluntarily return from Congo and Congolese refugees from Rwanda will be decided. Cooperation of governments in the closure of this chapter is therefore vital,” he added.
MINALOC Minister, Christophe Bizivamo also said that, since 2002, Rwanda has been requesting the refugees’ body to lift the statute that allows most Rwandans to live in other countries as refugees.
“They had never accepted based on claims that the country is not yet stable but this time round, officials from UNHCR have realized that indeed our country has achieved remarkable strides in good governance, peace and stability among others.
“Finally, they have agreed to the cessation clause and we hope that the over 64,000 refugees that still live in other countries like Uganda and Congo come back home as we are ready to receive them,” Bazivamo assured.
Permanent Secretary in MINALOC, Eugene Barikana, told The New Times this weekend that Guterres’ visit will see him meet President Paul Kagame, Prime Minister Bernard Makuza and other senior government officials.
Government maintains that the country is safe enough to provide peace and security to her citizens and hopes that the cessation Clause is signed by December 2011.
The Cessation clause process, which was first discussed in Geneva, Switzerland last year, will feature highly in talks between the UNCHR boss and top government officials.
Information available from the UNHCR website indicates that with the adoption of the cessation clause, an asylum seeker may lose his or her refugee status leading to automatic loss of residence.
The invocation of the cessation clause means that the refugees will lose their status, privileges, rights and protection which theywould have enjoyed previously.
So far over 3 million refugees have voluntarily returned home over the years.