A Dangerous Impasse: Rwandan Refugees in Uganda
Source: International Refugee Rights Initiative / Refugee Law Project
Sixteen years after the genocide in Rwanda, tens of thousands of refugees remain in exile. Over the past few years these refugees have come under increasing pressure to return to Rwanda: they are an ongoing reminder of ethnic tensions that are supposed to have been addressed, and the Government of Rwanda has strongly pursued the return of all of its citizens accordingly. The country is enjoying stability and economic growth, so there is no reason for anyone to remain in exile. Yet many continue to resist return.
This paper examines why one group of Rwandan refugees, those living in Nakivale settlement in Uganda‘s southwest, refuse to return. The push factors are considerable. Despite the official emphasis on voluntariness, refugees are feeling under considerable pressure from the governments of Uganda and Rwanda and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to repatriate, in particular as a result of the announcement of deadlines for repatriation. Rwandan refugees told of how they have had their land re-allocated to Congolese refugees, have seen their rations reduced and are no longer allowed access to some social services available to other refugees. Many live in constant fear of being forcibly repatriated and some have resorted to hiding their belongings and sleeping in the bush.
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