17 December 2012

Rwandan Refugees in Zambia 'Buy' Citizenship

Some Rwandan refugees in Lusaka, Zambia have resorted to buying citizenship from other countries as the time for implementation of the cessation clause draws nearer, The New Times has learnt.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)'s cessation clause will be effected on June 30, 2013.

Declaration of the cessation clause means that a person recognised as a refugee will either voluntarily return to the country of origin or apply for residence in the host country.

According to a source, those who are buying citizenship are afraid of retuning home after the declaration of the UN cessation clause.

"These are people who are educated, rich and have families abroad and are using money to buy citizenship such that when the cessation clause comes into force they will have where to reside instead of coming back home," a Rwandan returnee from Zambia told this paper yesterday.

He added "They normally buy citizenship in Tanzania, Angola, Burundi and other neighbouring countries."

An estimated 6,000 Rwandans, mostly accommodated in Maheba camp in the North-Western Province of the Southern African country, remain in Zambia.

Zambia is one of the African countries that is said to be harbouring most Rwandan refugees and according to the statistics since 1994, more than 217 have willingly returned from Zambia.

Asked why he returned home, the source said that his colleagues were often intimidating him accusing him of working for the Rwandan government.

"Some of them were my neighbours in the camp but I know they killed people in the Genocide and these are the same people who spread propaganda within the camp that Rwanda is not secure... I could not risk my life to continue living amongst them," he added.

He claimed that his house was once burnt down and he was detained after failing to agree with his colleagues on voluntary repatriation.

He added that apart from obtaining citizenship outside Zambia, others especially the businesses bribe government officials to shield them once the cessation clause comes into force.

The returnee disclosed that some refugees are nicknamed depending on the number of people they killed in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.

"Some are called number 30, 9, 25 and others, depending on the number of people they killed and they are freely moving there in the camps."

Contacted for a comment, the Minister of Disaster preparedness and Refugee affairs, Gen. Marcel Gatsinzi, said he heard of reports of refugees who were accusing their colleagues of changing their citizenship when he visited Lusaka for sensitisation campaigns.

He noted that those trying to hide their nationality could be among Genocide perpetrators.

"I think they are trying to hide because of what they did in Genocide but they are lying themselves; they should know that the sins they committed will continue haunting them," the minister said.

Dr Rodriguez Maniriho, a Biomedical Scientist and the leader of Rwanda, Diaspora in Zambia, who had come to attend the just concluded National Dialogue, says there is need for more sensitisation campaigns, especially about the cessation clause.

"We sensitise them on voluntarily repatriation in view of the cessation clause and its impact. But there are some refugees who think that the clause will only be applied in Zambia and may be they will turn to other countries; they don't know that it's global, "he said.

He, however, added at least some, especially the youth, have now understood the reasons they have to return home, adding that this has increased the number of returnees.

In Zambia, Rwandan refugees are categorised differently due to their economic contribution.

In Kanyama Parish, located 18kms, west of Lusaka, Rwandans were dedicated the last Sunday of the month to lead the Catholic Church Sunday services.

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