The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Why Be a Refugee When You Have Options?

LAST YEAR, over 6,500 former refugees returned home ahead of the coming into force of the Cessation Clause last year.

Every year, thousands return home since the government's "come and see" programme was launched, where groups of refugees are sponsored to come into the country, visit to access the situation and then go back to their places of asylum with their message.

Many who return are amazed by what they witness; the stability, development and the government's pro-people programmes that treat everyone on an equal footing.

Many come with tales hatched in the refugee camps that their lives would be in danger if they set foot in the country. These are mainly spread by those who have something to fear - possibly their roles in the Genocide, but their hold on the refugees is waning as more and more return.

The country's policy is that no Rwandan should be stateless, and those who wish to remain in their host countries for a variety of reasons; economic or otherwise, are facilitated with Rwandan passports, they can return when they wish but without the stigma of the refugee label.

This is a far cry from former regimes that shut their doors to their countrymen and set up policies that created more refugees and segregated sections of the society. Today this country belongs to all Rwandans in equal measure, where one's destiny depends on one's hard work and not patronage.

Many of those who have returned have witnessed this and now regret the lost time as they wallowed in misery in foreign lands.

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