By John Osmers
Twenty-one years after the genocide, and despite a rosy picture created internationally of a healing nation, many Rwandan refugees are reluctant to return home for fear of persecution by the current regime. After those living in Zambia lost their official refugees status, Kigali is pursuing forced repatriation or issuance of Rwandan passports. Neither of these options is safe for the affected persons.
Two years after losing their refugee status, former Rwandan refugees who fled Rwanda between 1959 and 1998 have not yet come to a satisfactory conclusion in their quest for local integration. The durable solution of local integration, which was dependent on international funding, was promised at the inter-ministerial meeting in Pretoria, South Africa, on 18 April 2013, two months before they lost their refugee status against their will on 30 June 2013. In October the same year a Zambian delegation met donors in Geneva who pledged support to integrate 4000 of the 6000 Rwandan refugees.
This development was a reversal of policy of the previous government that had insisted on the repatriation of most Rwandan refugees. It resembled the policy of integrating 10,000 of the 18,000 Angolan refugees in Zambia who lost their refugee status one year before. To date 6000 of them have been screened, and have obtained Angolan government passports, and 233 have been given residence permits allowing them to stay permanently in Zambia. The government recently agreed to give residence permits to those former refugees who have lived in Zambia for over twenty years.
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