Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rwanda-Uganda: Refugees leave camps fearing repatriation

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

Date: 14 May 2009

KAMPALA, (IRIN) - Some 20 Rwandan refugees a day are fleeing camps in neighbouring Uganda for localities further inland, fearing imminent repatriation, officials said.

"They [the refugees] are trying to mingle with local communities but we have been returning them to the camp," Poly Namayi, southwestern Uganda police spokesperson, told IRIN.

Namayi said some refugees had been arrested in Isingiro district. Others were crossing into neighbouring Lyantonde, Mubende and Kiboga districts, and as far as Karagwe in northern Tanzania.

At least 20 refugees have been leaving the Nakivale refugee settlement daily in the last week, according to police records. Nakivale is home to about 11,000 Rwandan refugees, most of whom fled to Uganda after the 1994 genocide.

According to UNHCR communications officer, Carolyne Akello, the agency is investigating the cases of the fleeing refugees.

"The UNHCR continues to assist and encourage Rwandan refugees in Uganda to seize this opportunity and return to their country; however, the exercise is voluntary. We shall devise means of dealing with those who are not willing to be repatriated after July 31, when the exercise closes," Akello said, adding that UNHCR was still providing aid to the refugees in the camps.

"The government of Uganda and UNHCR will undertake to find a durable solution in case of [a] residual caseload."

Since April, the Rwandan and Ugandan governments, with UNHCR, have been conducting sensitisation campaigns to encourage returns.

The first batch of 80 returnees is expected to leave Uganda on 19 May, said Innocent Ngango, the head of refugee repatriation in the Rwanda's local government ministry.

Gacaca fears

However, Ngango noted that some elements in the refugee camps were discouraging their counterparts from returning to Rwanda for fear of being prosecuted for genocide-related crimes.

A lack of understanding of the workings of the Rwandan traditional court system, the Gacaca, is contributing to the refugees' reluctance to return home, Denis Bikesha, the head of mobilisation in the courts, told IRIN earlier.

At present, Uganda is hosting about 20,000 Rwandan refugees half of whom have in the past been opposed to repatriation, according to camp officials.

nb/aw/mw A selection of IRIN reports are posted on ReliefWeb. Find more IRIN news and analysis at

This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. Refer to the IRIN copyright page for conditions of use.

Related Materials:

Rwanda Gacaca Criticized as Unfair for Genocide Trials


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