Following months of sensitisation, the last three months have seen a record number of Rwandan refugees, living in Zambia, Malawi, Congo Brazaville and Zambia, return home. The surge in returnees follows testimonies from former refugees as well as efforts by the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees (MIDIMAR) and partners that have facilitated their travel back home and settlement.
According to the MIDIMAR Permanent Secretary Antoine Ruvebana, the ministry through the United Nations Refugee agency (UNHCR) has contracted a Zambian bus company to facilitate Rwandans who may want to return home but lack the means.
He said, the bus has so far delivered the first two batches of refugees, who upon arrival rejoin their families and are resettled. “We entered an understanding with a Zambian bus company which gave us a bus coming from Zambia through Malawi to bring us our people who want to return home. On Thursday last week, the first batch of 26 arrived. They also attended the 9th National dialogue,” Ruvebana told The New Times in an interview yesterday.
“Most of these were university and college students as well as adults. It was a very lively group of people. Yesterday (Tuesday) the bus also brought in 15 more people who we welcomed and are being helped to resettle.”
Ruvebana added that there are a number of refugees in the Southern Africa countries who want to return home but some lack means. He noted that those who want to return tend to register with UNHCR but the UN agency waits to have a big number before repatriating them.
“We found that some people get tired of waiting and abandon plans to return. So, when they inform us, we send them travel documents and refer them to the bus company, and then we pay the fare when they get here.”
“We also entered an agreement with RwandAir to transport returnees from West African Countries. Those who want to return converge in Brazzaville where the flight will pick them,” Ruvebana said, adding that the first batch came in Wednesday. Rwanda is scheduled to invoke a Cessation Clause in June next year. It has been observed that there are a number of refugees who are reluctant to return because their parents are suspected to have committed crimes, including participation in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
However, President Paul Kagame, while addressing members of the Rwandan Diaspora last week, said that young people who feel like they want to return home and be part of nation building should not be hindered by the crimes their parents or grandparents could have committed. “Parents are accountable for their crimes not their children. If their
children want to come home, nothing should stop them. Most of the people returning are actually young persons, mainly university students,” Ruvebana said. Close to 3.5 million Rwandan refugees have returned home since 1994. “This year alone we have received over 7, 800 mainly returning from DR Congo,” Ruvebana said.