The first batch of the 20,000 Rwandan refugees in Uganda is expected to be repatriated sometime next week, government has announced.
Currently there are over 20,000 Rwandan refugees who are spread in the two camps of Nakivale and Nshungerezi in South Western Uganda.
The decision to repatriate the refugees was reached recently during a tripartite meeting between the two governments of Uganda and Rwanda and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
“The information I have indicates that the first convoy of refugees will arrive in Rwanda on May 12,” said the Executive Secretary of National Council of Refugees, Innocent Ngago, during a press conference at the Ministry of Local Government yesterday.
He added that the government has come up with adequate plans of receiving the refugees and re-integrating them into the community.
“They will be put in the transit centre located in Gicumbi District for orientation as we prepare for their reintegration” said Ngago.
“The repatriation process is voluntary and in the tripartite agreement signed during the meeting, the Ugandan government was instructed to pick out whoever may be blocking others from being repatriated.”
Of the 20,000 refugee who are in the two camps, 3,000 had been denied refugee status by Ugandan authorities because they entered the camp illegally.
Earlier reports had indicated that these people had been frustrating the exercise by discouraging others to enlist for repatriation.
He added that most of the refugees are said to have entered the camp in 1999, some coming from Tanzania while others came from Rwanda fleeing justice after having participated in 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
However, according to the Ugandan Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Prof Tarcisse Kabwegyere, no force will be used in repatriating the refugees and that reasons for their leaving Uganda have been clearly stated.
“Reasons that may have led to their leaving Rwanda are no longer sustainable and this is why we have set July 31 as the deadline for them to return home,” said Kabwegyere.
Kabwegyere said that there was a small group which did not want to be repatriated at first, mostly those who are not registered.
“The reason why these refugees had not shown interest in going back home is because they lacked sufficient ground information on what happens in Rwanda. It was not until I visited them together with the Rwandan Minister for Local Government, Protais Musoni, that they started expressing their will to come home.”
Rwanda’s State Minister for Local Government, Christine Nyatanyi in charge of Social Welfare, said that the two governments have embarked on a sensitization campaign to encourage the refugees to return home.
“Part of our sensitization programme is to bring some refugees here and explore the opportunities and then go sensitize others,” said Nyatanyi.
This latest development follows the signing of the tripartite agreement between the two governments and the UNHCR to repatriate the refugees, which was held in Uganda’s Western town of Mbarara.