A top United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) official and Jordanian royal are in the country for consultations and humanitarian visit to better understand refugees’ conditions and devise better ways to fund their welfare.
UNHCR assistant high commissioner Volker Tür and Princess Sarah Zeid began their visit in the country, yesterday, with a trip to Gihembe Refugee Camp in Gicumbi District, which hosts Congolese refugees.
Today, Tür and Zeid are scheduled to visit Mahama Refugee Camp in Kirehe District, home to Burundian refugees.
Thereafter, they will attend consultative meetings on Wednesday, at Kigali Convention Centre, before departing to Bujumbura, Burundi, on Thursday.
Yesterday, the duo also visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, Gisozi, to pay their respects to the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Speaking to The New Times at the memorial site, Tür said the main purpose of the visit was to familiarise themselves with the situation here, with refugees who are in the country and “to find ways and means to better our response.”
He said this has to be done through close cooperation with the government and civil society.
“We work closely with the government and other partners. We have looked a lot at funding solutions for refugees, so we want to also see a little bit more on what we can do about that,” the UNHCR commissioner said.
Tür added that by visiting refugees they will have better impressions before holding discussions with government and civil society.
He acknowledged Rwanda’s open policy to refugees from neighbouring countries, adding that “as the UN refugee agency we are there to provide support.”
“We are deeply grateful to Rwanda for providing support and for doing this, it’s very important,” he said.
Gihembe camp hosts over 14,700 refugees, while Mahama camp hosts about 50,000.
In all, Rwanda hosts about 200,000 refugees.
World urged on genocide, atrocities
After visiting Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, Princess Sarah Zeid said: “I have to confess that I’m left without word. I think this memorial is an extraordinary testimony to Rwanda.
“It takes incredible courage to be so honest about what has happened and that is the only way to allow recovery, it is to be fully open about what happened and how it happened and why it must never happen again and learn the lessons from that.
The Jordanian princess expressed hope that the lessons from Rwanda can be used elsewhere in the world, where there is still too much pain, violence and brutality.
“I’m deeply moved, it’s an understatement, about what we have just seen, but we are encouraged as well because Rwanda has changed profoundly, and so that is where the hope comes from,” Zeid said.
She said, everyday, on real time,television, over computers, people watch “terrible, terrible atrocities that are being carried out in the world.”
Zeid called for action on behalf of “our collective humanity.”
“When we say ‘never again,’ we actually have to mean it and do something about it. And, the greatest honour that we can pay to the victims of such terrible crimes is by making sure that it never happens again,” said the Jordanian princess.
Tür said it is gratifying that Rwanda managed to restore social fabric after it had been shattered.
“We live in a world that is very polarised, very divisive, where questions of religion, questions of ethnicity, questions of race are used time and again by populism, by politics. And, it is important that people visit this memorial site because if divisiveness and polarisation are given place, they result in dehumanisation of the other.
“I think it is for all of us who are part of the international community, it is extremely important to be confronted with it,” Tür said.
The UNHCR assistant high commissioner commended the people of Rwanda for doing their best to become a model of healing and reconciliation.
About the visit
The visit from October 23-27 is meant for high level bilateral consultations with the Government of Rwanda on refugee matters, visits to two refugee camps, and interactions with the diplomatic community, heads of UN agencies and NGOs, according to a statement from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs and UNHCR.
The purpose of the visit is to discuss strategic plans for management of the asylum regime in Rwanda, with a key outcome of enhancing the partnership between the UN Refugee Agency and Government of Rwanda, which co-lead the refugee response in the country.