Security organs in Uganda have been ordered to hunt down illegal Rwandan immigrants who reportedly disappeared from their refugee camp in the south western part of the country.
Officials told local media that several immigrants, part of the 5,000 that Uganda plans to repatriate to Rwanda this year, disappeared to neighbouring districts.
But the Ugandan minister in-charge of Refugees, Musa Ecweru, said a number of ‘organs of the State’ including police were searching for the Rwandans whom he believes ‘melted into the local Banyarwanda community.’
The Ugandan constitution recognizes the Banyarwanda, a trans-national community, as one of the local tribes. “We have been informed that they have disappeared but we are looking for them because they are illegal immigrants. State organs including the police are searching everywhere,” Ecweru told The New Times on Saturday.
“But we suspect they could have melted amongst the Banyarwanda here. I think it is wrong for a local community here to conceal such elements,” he added.
The Kibati Group, as they are commonly known in Uganda, was denied refugee status after they were expelled from Tanzania about two years ago.
The UN High Commission for Refugees also confirmed reports that the immigrants had disappeared from their resettlement camp. Uganda hosts over 25,000 Rwandan refugees, who have come into the country since 1950s.
Mbarara Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Clement Kandole, also confirmed that the Rwandans had vanished.
Kandole said: “In fact they have not just ‘gone’. They started disappearing long time ago. We have been reporting but there has not been any action taken. They were over 6,000 when they came but presently they are less than 5, 000.”
He added that they are indeed a security threat since they are not under any authority’s jurisdiction.
During a recent meeting between Amandin Rukira, the Secretary General in Rwanda ’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and his Ugandan counterpart, James Mugume, it was resolved that arrangements for the deportation of the Kibati group be initiated, if the immigrants resist peaceful return to Rwanda.
At the same meeting held last month in Kampala, Rukira said the repatriation would be enforced in this month because “it is good since it has been an outstanding issue.”
Earlier, Mugume had said: “We have alerted our agencies that we have not given them asylum. It is our intention that they accept the alternative; that they go back where they came from.”
Critics say both countries’ position could have prompted the disappearance of the Rwandan illegal immigrants since they have persistently declined going back to their country of origin.