Insurgencies and several circumstances have forced citizens out of their homelands to become refugees elsewhere. For instance, Rwanda faced a series of Genocides against the Tutsi in 1959, 1973 and 1994.
The Rwandan Government requested UNHCR to invoke the cessation clause, as a priority to repatriate Rwandan refugees in its neighbouring countries. On December 31st, 2011, UNHCR and the Rwandan government will meet and decide on whether to invoke the clause.
According to UNHCR’s external Relations Officer, Anouck Bronee, there won’t be visible changes besides facilitating and promoting the voluntary repatriation of Rwandan refugees in exile.
“Rwandans will have choices, for instances opt to come back and integrate or stay in the countries of asylum but they will have to legalize their status. Those who will claim that they still have legitimate reasons, will apply for individual refugee status to meet the protection needs,” Bronee explains.
During the 60th anniversary of the World Refugee Day held on June 20th, 2011 in Karongi District, Western Rwanda, refugees conveyed their camp lifestyles in song, dance and drama.
A day before, 15 Rwandan families who were in the forest areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) returned home. There were only women and the children because their husbands had abandoned them.
The Minister of Disaster Management and Refugees, Marcel Gatsinzi who presided over the event said that refugee status is nothing to be proud of since it’s associated with unbearable circumstances.
“The government endeavors to call upon Rwandan refugees to return home so as to get involved in the building the nation,” said Gatsinzi.
He explained to the returnees the tremendous changes in the medical, education and infrastructural fields, of which they are beneficiaries.
Neimah Warsame, UNHCR Country Representative, said that refugees live in a so called protracted refugee situation with no prospects to return home because of unresolved insecurities and fear of persecution.
“These refugee live in a virtual limbo, therefore every effort must be made to find a solution to this situation. In the context of Rwanda, we have more than 9,000 children and youth who are out of school and we can just imagine its consequences,” Warsame explains.
She adds that it’s impressive to see that Rwandan refugees are continuously returning home in an organized way.
“In 2010, nearly 10,000 people returned to Rwanda. And we firmly believe that one refugee longing for home is one too many and therefore, UNHCR continues to work with the government to consolidate returnees,” Warsame explained.
According to 32-year-old Sarah Nyirangezayo, a Rwandan returnee, life in the DR Congo forest was awful.
“I am happy to return home and meet people with whom we share the same language. We were cutoff from the rest of the world while living in the forests. There were no means of communication, I was unemployed and cultivated land to feed my family,” Nyirangezayo said.
The mother of four said she separated with her husband on May 26th, 2011 and all hopes to meet him are gone with the wind.
Other women still hold on to the hope that they will meet their husbands again.
Bellini Mukafuraha will have to look after her four children single handedly.
“I lost my husband during the war in DR Congo and so I decided to come back home because I was tired of moving from place to place with the children,” says Mukafuraha.
UNHCR’s protection and solution strategy in Rwanda focuses on finding durable answers for voluntary repatriation and resettlement. The process is voluntary and allows for local integration possibilities.