KIGALI - Rwandan refugees living in Ugandan camps who missed the July 31 deadline for voluntary repatriation have until the end of August to do so.
This is one of the resolutions made yesterday by the Rwandan and Ugandan governments together with the UNHCR at the 7th Tripartite Commission on Repatriation of Rwandan refugees.
“Cognisant of late expression of interest in voluntary repatriation, the winding up of this exercise targeting registered refugees will end on 31st August 2009,” reads part of the communiqué released after the meeting.
About 20,000 refugees were said to be in Uganda, and following the 6th Tripartite Meeting that was held in Uganda mid this year, only 5,000 have since returned home.
Speaking after the meeting, the Minister of State in Charge of Community Development and Social Affairs, Christine Nyatanyi thanked Uganda for hosting the refugees and reaffirmed her government’s dedication to facilitate their return.
“These people are our family and friends, they need to return home to take part in their country’s development. Their remaining in exile is not a solution,” said Nyatanyi.
The two governments resolved that considerations for differed movements will be given to people under special circumstances such as pregnant women, medical cases and final examination of candidates.
According to Nyatanyi, despite the sensitization campaign and assurances by the Rwandan officials who went to Uganda, many refugees have remained defiant, citing lack of land, security, and Gacaca as hindrances to their return.
Nyatanyi also noted that other than returning, registered refugees will have an option of receiving resident and immigrant status depending on circumstances.
Uganda’s Minister of State for Relief, Disaster preparedness and Refugees, Musa Ecweru, backed Nyatanyi’s remarks, confirming his country’s dedication to ensure the repatriation.
“The milestones achieved during the repatriation process are a result of collective responsibility. This will continue to ensure that that these people return to their country,” Ecweru said.
He noted that the move to repatriate Rwandan refugees should not be misinterpreted to mean Uganda desired to disconnect its good relations with Rwanda.
“This should not in any way send signals that Uganda is interested in cutting links with Rwanda, rather, we will continue to work together as members of EAC and as neighbours,” Ecweru said.
UNHCR Rwanda Representative, Annette Rita Nyekan, commended the two country’s dedication to seek a solution for the refugee’s problem.
“After the deadline has elapsed, the two governments will decide what is to happen to those who remain until the invocation of the cessation clause that will strip the refugees of their status,” said Nyekan.