By Edwin Musoni
The Minister of Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs, Gen. Marcel Gatsinzi has dismissed efforts by Kayumba and Karegeya to undermine the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) cessation clause on Rwandan refugees, describing them as inconsequential.
Speaking to The New Times, over the weekend, the Minister pointed out that the cessation clause is not a single country’s initiative, but a multi-lateral agreement largely driven by the UN.
“The Rwandan fugitives can’t do anything about the cessation, it is an international agreement that, indeed, works in the interest of the refugees themselves,” Gen. Gatsinzi said.
“Their intentions are criminal, since it is evident that they are working to keep these Rwandan refugees hostage. It’s not any different from what the FDLR (Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda) has been doing with Refugees in Eastern DRC,” the Minister added.
Gatsinzi went on to emphasize that the fugitives’ efforts are simply futile, as demonstrated by the return home of refugees from the DRC and indeed from South Africa, in spite of intimidation and distortion of the truth by FDLR to keep them in bondage.
The two fugitives have been contacting some of the Rwandan refugees in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi, instigating them to lobby international NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the local media and local politicians against the cessation clause, in their respective countries.
The clause, under the UNHCR system, stipulates that no Rwandan living abroad will qualify for refugee status after 31 December 2011 and does not allow claims for refugee status after verification by the agency that there are no conditions in the country of origin that qualify for UN protection.
“We are carrying out intense sensitization, repatriating Rwandans living out of the country and ensuring that they are all integrated,” Gatsinzi noted.
The Minister pointed out that significant progress has been realized in working on a road map of activities and benchmarks to allow the invocation of the cessation clause for Rwandan refugees by December 31, 2011.
“Our main intention is to give all Rwandans a chance to enjoy the privileges that their country offers. Most people living as refugees do not enjoy even the basic amenities like education. The government is working to ensure that they don’t miss out on those basic rights,” he said
The UNHCR cessation clause on Rwandan refugees is a result of a general consensus that there was no reason for any Rwandan to seek refuge.
Beyond 2011, Rwandans living abroad will be asked to apply for citizenship in their countries of residence or register as Rwandan nationals.
Lately, Rwandan officials have been visiting refugee communities across Africa to assure them of the transparency of the justice system, the success of reconciliation efforts and their right to reclaim the property they left behind.
Following previous campaigns, refugees have voluntarily returned to Rwanda, in large numbers.
Rwanda’s constitution guarantees the right to citizenship and, since 1994, Rwanda has welcomed more than three million refugees home.
A UN Security Council Group of Experts’ report, last year, confirmed that both Kayumba and Karegyeya have strong links with the FDLR and were involved with armed groups in the DRC.
Regional security chiefs, representing the Economic Community of Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL), recently disclosed that the two fugitives, formed a new armed group based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with the aim of destabilizing the region.
Kayumba and Karegeya were sentenced to 24 and 20 years in prison, respectively, after they were found guilty of forming a terrorist group, threatening state security, undermining public order, promoting ethnic divisions and insulting the person of the President of the Republic.