Society Debate: Do refugees need material incentives to return home?

It’s their right to return home. Everybody needs a place where they can be safe and successful without being looked at as intruders or foreigners. That is why, throughout history, when men, women and children were displaced from their countries, they toiled and sweated all they could, just to return home.
Ivan Mugisha
Ivan Mugisha

It’s their right to return home.

Everybody needs a place where they can be safe and successful without being looked at as intruders or foreigners.

That is why, throughout history, when men, women and children were displaced from their countries, they toiled and sweated all they could, just to return home.

Rwanda’s history guarantees that not all countrymen fled the beloved country at their free will. A mix of gluttonous colonialists, ethnic bloodshed and divisive leadership made it impossible for them to enjoy a calm stay in their land.

They opted to escape the injustice and live a ridiculed life as refugees in neighbouring countries. Although they left, they had not deserted their motherland. Their hearts were set on a future date when they would return with a flag raised in their hands.

Indeed, a good number of them joined forces with the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) in the liberation movement, which toppled a Genocidal regime and put an end to the systemic wipeout of Tutsis, while the international community did not even try (and fail) to intervene.

Many refugees decided to return, not because they were promised prosperity, but because they loved the country. The country was ruined with almost nothing to love, but they started from scratch to rebuild it, nothing deterring their motivation.

This selfless patriotism, rather than material incentives, is what all refugees need to return home.

If the government was to offer material incentives in return for journeys back home, it would appear as if it’s buying patriotism—this would completely backfire. Someone who is given money or a house to return home is not reliable.

When he gets a better offer elsewhere, he will certainly depart without thinking twice.

The general estimate of Rwandan refugees still abroad is about 70,000. Imagine the government offered each of them a house as an incentive to return, wouldn’t that be insanely expensive?

As a matter of fact, instead of serving as a tool to woo people back, the houses on offer would cause rush exits by people hoping to scoop houses for themselves.

In my view, the most important incentive is to create a favorable climate for people to return safely. People need to trust their government and all its structures.

The Rwandan government is aware of this; and it is clear that the government has made it a prerogative to create an environment which warrants refugees to return.

Infrastructural development is improving at a tremendous rate, peace and security is the best in the region and for the first time in history, Rwandans can have a decent conversation without ethnic divisionism coming up.

In response to this tremendous effort by the government, since 2002, an estimate of 146,438 refugees felt it was time for them to return.

They were not wooed by material offers; all they needed was assurance that things are better than the repressive conditions they run away from. East or West, home is best.

mugishaivan@yahoo.com

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