The New Times (Kigali)

9 January 2013

Rwanda: 100 Refugees Return Home From Congo

AT LEAST 100 Rwandans who were living in the Democratic Republic of Congo were on Monday repatriated.

The group arrived in the country at about 2.45pm through Rusizi border post in Western Province in a voluntary repatriation. Among the returnees were 68 children, 25 women and 20 men.

The repatriation was facilitated by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The returnees will spend three days in Nyagatare transit centre in Western Province before they are resettled in their respective home districts.

Florida Mukarutabana, 42, said they wanted to return home, but the Congo-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) terrorists were preventing them.

"FDLR doesn't want Rwandans to return home. They want people to be with them. Many refugees want to come home, but they are dissuaded," she said in an interview with The New Times, adding that since fleeing the country in 1994, she has been livivng in Kabuye in eastern Congo.

The mother of three says her husband was killed in December last year by a Mai Mai militia group, which she said persecutes Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese.

She also said they had escaped through the forest to contact UNHCR. Mukarutabana, who was happy to return home, hails from Huye district in Southern Province.

Fewer than expected

According to officials from the Ministry of Disaster and Refugee Affairs, the number of returnees was small compared to what they expected due to UNHCR logistical problems in Bukavu transit centre in DRC.

"We were expecting 300 returnees and according to the information we are receiving from Bukavu, the registration is still ongoing and more (refugees) will be arriving tomorrow (yesterday)," Fredrick Ntawukuriryayo, the ministry's spokesperson, said.

Ntawukuriryayo said some refugees had fallen sick in Bukavu and could not be sent home before treatment.

Majority of returnees fled the country during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Ntawukuriryayo said returnees are expected throughout the week, especially from Bukavu where about 500 Rwandan refugees are sheltered.

The government, in collaboration with countries hosting Rwandan refugees and the UN, has continued to sensitise refugees around the world to voluntarily return home before the Cessation Clause comes into effect.

In January last year, UNHCR approved the Cessation Clause that will come into force on June 30, 2013. The clause allows refugees to either voluntarily return home or apply for residence in the host country.

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