RUSIZI- The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) recently received more than 200 former Rwandan refugees who voluntarily repatriated from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
At least 131 returnees passed through the Nyagatare Transit Camp in Rusizi while another 98 were received at the Nkamira Transit Camp in Rubavu.
Most of the returnees came from Masisi, Walikale and other parts of eastern Congo.
The head of the Nyagatare camp, Safi Uwitonze, urged the returnees to work towards developing Rwanda when they resettle in their respective home districts.
With only eight males among them, the former refugees revealed that rebel leaders of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) use false doctrines to dissuade men from returning to Rwanda.
“My husband was forced to join the rebel group after being convinced that returning to Rwanda would guarantee his imprisonment or public lynching,” said Edith Nyampinga, a returnee.
Angelino Niyonsaba, another returnee from Kigoma, recalled that there was a lot of shooting by the rebels the night before they returned to thwart the repatriation process.
Some returnees reported having left their children behind, alleging that they could not trace their home areas.
Uwitonze confirmed that the group would be transferred to their respective homes and provided with a starters’ package.
The returnees confessed that they never expected such hospitality in a country they fled from with some having participated in the 1994 genocide.
“The national identity card bears the word Rwandan on it, not Hutu or Tutsi. Everyone was happy to receive us, just wondering what hindered me from returning all along,” said Rwajekare Munezero, 80.
Munezero stayed in forests in the DRC for the past 17 years with this being the first time he had set his eyes on a national identity card.
Officials at the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs assured the returnees of their total support including helping them to enroll for the different government developmental projects like Girinka, Mutuelle de Sante and Bye-bye Nyakatsi.
Returnees were requested to sensitise their relatives in DRC on the need to return home, before their refugee status ends in December 2011.