Uganda to throw out Rwandan refugees

Nelson Bwire Kapo

The government through the Ministry of relief, disaster preparedness and refugees has said they will cancel refugee status of Rwandans in Uganda.

According to government, about 14,000 Rwandan refugees who spilled to Uganda following the genocide are still living in the country and it is high time their refugee status is reviewed.

Minister Hillary Onek now says they will turn the refugees over to the immigration department so that their prolonged stay in Uganda is checked as per immigration laws.

“Immigration laws here in Uganda spell that you are given a visa for three months stay after which you must justify your continued stay,” Onek said.

Onek made the statements during a meeting with Members of the East African Legislative Assembly on the committee of regional affairs and conflict resolution at the office of the Prime Minister.

Also part of the meeting were Ugandan line ministers, led by the Premier Ruhakana Rugunda. The Ugandan entourage expressed their concerns about the over stay of refugees.

“People who come as refugees end up as Ugandans and they have national IDs. How long will people continue to be refugees when they can be Ugandans?” a Ugandan representative to EALA said.

According to Ugandan officials, they have tried to convince Rwandans to return to their country in vain.

Minster Musa Ecweru also weighed in on the matter, claiming that Rwandan refugees in the country today have nothing to do with the genocide.

“These ones came when the RPF government took power. They are not running way from the genocide but the current system of the Kigali government,” he said.

He said that the situation in Rwanda and most African states in similar to a cup of porridge which is cool on top but very hot as you go down. This he said could be the reason why most refugees do not return to their country’s even when everyone notices stability in those respective countries.

Rwanda has recently accused Uganda of harbouring political elements operating across the border and destabilising the country.

Uganda and Rwanda had set August 31, 2009 as the deadline for the Rwandan refugees to voluntarily return home, but thousands of them have been hesitant to return for fear of persecution.

So far, only 4,000 out of 17,000 refugees have returned home under the assisted voluntary repatriation exercise supported by United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the Government of Uganda and Rwanda.

For many years, Rwandan refugees in Uganda have faced abuses, including arbitrary detention, forced return to Rwanda and attacks on their physical security, without any form of accountability. However, in August, former Inspector-General of the Ugandan police, General Kale Kayihura along side senior police officers were charged with aiding and abetting the kidnapping and repatriation of Rwandan refugees, amongst other charges.

The illegal transfer of Mutabazi and his co-accused to Rwanda was not an isolated case;

In July 2010, Rwandan refugees were defenestrated from refugee settlements in south-western Uganda to Rwanda. Ugandan police officers used live rounds, wounding several in the process, to force refugees onto buses which dropped them in Rwanda.

In November 2011, Charles Ingabire,  a Rwandan journalist, was murdered when he left a bar in Kampala. He was a fierce government critic who had obtained refugee status in Uganda. An investigation was opened, but to date, nobody has been charged for involvement in this crime.

In 2017, according to judicial documents, a Rwandan refugee was illegally detained for almost two months in Kireka police station in Kampala, and threatened with return to Rwanda, on the basis of his alleged involvement in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Rwanda and Uganda do not have an extradition treaty. He was never charged and was eventually released.


Additional reporting from: ReliefWeb

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