Eight months and a half after the cessation clause deadline which ended refugee status for Rwandans who fled the country from 1959 to 1998, thousands of refugees finally return home.
2400 Rwandans have repatriated to Rwanda, according to the Ministry of Disasters Management and Refugees.
Jean Claude Rwahama, who is in charge of refugees in the ministry, said that the ministry keeps receiving a number of Rwandans who were refugees in the implementation of the cessation clause for the Rwandan refugees of which deadline was December 31, 2017.
“Until this day (September 17), 2400 people have repatriated. Many of them come from Democratic Republic of Congo but there are others who come from Congo,” he said.
Rwahama added that Rwanda has fulfilled all the requiremets in the implementation of the cessation clause and all the returnees receive a warm welcome back home.
Rwahama says that till now, Rwanda does not know the exact number of its citizens who are refugees abroad.
“It is difficult to know them (Rwandan refugees) because we base on UNHR numbers which I can say are not reliable because they also get them from those countries where Rwandans fullfilled are. Some countries may give true numbers while others may not due to different reasons,” he said.
For countries that provide unreliable numbers, Rwahama names DRC as an example.
“They (DRC) say they have more than 240,000 refugees but we received a larger number of returnees from DRC. And there are places they don’t reach and in the forests where they can’t know the exact number of refugees who live there,” he says.
Though the exact number of refugees is not known, Rwahama says that whatever their number is, they have rights for their nation and they are not put under pressure to return home.
He says that the most important thing is how they are treated in countries they live in and that they can stay there with refugee status while Rwanda is peaceful.
“Somebody can contribute to his country’s development living abroad, you can invest in your home country living abroad, this is normal but this take away the refugee status spot from you. You can be a refugee only as the last option,” he added.
According to MIDIMAR, countries are not on the same speed in implementing the cessation clause decision.
In May 2017, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo told the Members of Parliament the Rwanda refugees refugees to repatriate due to false information that they receive from their fellow refugees but she pointed a finger on some countries which impede the refugees from getting back home.
“There is too much politics in the cassation clause for the Rwandan refugees status end as some countries refuse to send back those who wish to return home,” she said.
“According to the UNHCR refugees convention and agreements we sign with other countries, frankly speaking, you will find that those in charge of refugees most do not want the refugees to repatriate quickly,” she added.
Mushikiwabo said some countries have the political will to let Rwandans get back home but things slow in the implementation.
However, Mushikiwabo commended some countries which were on the right path to help the Rwandan refugees repatriate.
The clause for Rwandan refugees was declared by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) on June 30, 2013.
However, the implementation was met by delays in repatriation which saw the December 2014 deadline extended several times until the new deadline was set on December 31, 2017.
In January 2018 as the implementation of the cessation clause was under way for the Rwandan refugees, Uganda announced it would not end the refugee status for the 18000 Rwandan refugees who lived there, revealing that it had started the processes to offer them citizenship.
Rwanda made efforts in sensitizing its refugees to get back home and put in place means to provide passports for those who do have jobs in countries where they live on condition that they stay there as Rwandans in Diaspora instead of living there as refugees.