THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY IS OMNISCIENT : A STORY OF NEGLECTED FORMER RWANDAN REFUGEES LIVING IN ZAMBIA.

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PRELUDE.

Paul Kagame has been denying the existence of Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups in Rwanda since 1994.What is surprising from Paul Kagame is where he forcibly dictate to Hutus, even those who were not born in 1994, that they have to publicly ask to their compatriots Tutsis for forgiveness for the sins(if any) committed by some of their fellow Hutus back in that national tragedy.

Over the years,this policy has being rushed from top to bottom of the Rwandan administrative structures after that the Gacaca judiciary system has confined more than 1,500,000 Hutus and their entire families to a second class category of citizens.

This government campaign moves at a serious pace as reported by the EastAfrican, apparently because many high ranking government ‘Hutu officials’ (with DE JURE powers of cosmetic nature only) lead the apology queue, this only explains that there are Hutu dignitaries who are motivated by greed and ready to preserve their selfish interests without any consideration of their attitude on present and future generations of Rwandans, both Tutsis and Hutus.

It is critical to remember that for the Rwandan Patriotic Front to come to power it played the ethnic card of the Tutsis perpetual victims of the Hutus. It has persistently played it while it systematically oppressed, imprisoned, killed, deprived and discriminated the Hutu in the past two decades.

ZAMBIA : FORMER RWANDAN REFUGEES’ CONCERNS.

INTRODUCTION.

Rwandan former refugees welcome the durable solution of local integration in Zambia.They have consistently refused the durable solution of repatriation to Rwanda for their “well-founded fear of persecution.”

The offer of local integration shows the Zambian government is listening to Rwandan refugees and acknowledges the same fear of persecution.

The durable solution of Rwandan refugee resettlement was blocked by the UNHCR because of the cessation of Rwandan refugee in June 2013.

However local integration may not be the durable solution hoped for.

CONDITIONALITIES.

ECONOMIC HURDLES.

This is because it is tied to two potentially damaging requirements:

Firstly,Rwandan local integration is tied to the possession of a Rwandan government passport necessary for Zambian immigration permits.

Possessing the passport confirms that the recipient renounces refugee status,and becomes a “normal migrant” in Zambia,like a newly arrived Polish or Chinese migrant.

It confirms that the Rwandan migrant no longer fears persecution,but recognizes Rwanda as a safe country to return to at any time.

The passport costing US$ 100 will need to be renewed three times in the ten year waiting period for a Zambian residence permit. Failure by the Rwandan government to issue or renew a passport will oblige the Rwandan migrant to return to Rwandan within a certain period as an illegal migrant.

It is common knowledge that the R.P.F. Tutsi-dominated Government wants Hutu exiles to return for security purposes,to be under their control.Rwandan refugees note the efforts made by the Rwandan Government to promote their repatriation and the acceptance of Rwandan Government passports.

RWANDA-NOT YET A SAFE COUNTRY.

These include “Go and see come and tell” programmes began in 2004 and reinstated recently in December 2014 and March 2015.

Refugee leaders Louis Ukulikiyeyesu in 2004 and Egide Rwasibo in 2015 returned with negative reports about the country.

Two Rwandan Government delegations visited Zambia in July 2013 and October the same year,both of which were boycotted by Rwandan refugees.

Secondly,Rwandan local integration is tied with the requirements of Zambian immigration permits.

A self-employed Rwandan migrant will need to show US$ 25,000 capital.A Rwandan migrant may not receive an employment permit if the employment offered can be done by a Zambian national.Similarly the Rwandan Student will need to pay high cost “economic” fee paid by any Foreign Student.

Failure to fulfill these immigration requirements may compel the Rwandan migrant to return to Rwanda.Noone will show concern because the Rwandan migrant already has their passport for return.

For the reasons above,the acquisition of a Rwandan Government passport for Zambian immigration permits can make Rwandan local integration in Zambia uncertain and unpredictable.

RWANDAN PASSPORTS-A TICKET TO KIGALI.

Rwandan Government passports may or may not be renewed,and Zambian immigration permits for various reasons may or may not be issued or renewed as required.The many years the Rwandan migrant may have lived in the country will not be regarded.Then ten years necessary for a residence permit will be counted only from the date of the first issue of an immigration permit.

Many Rwandan exiles will consider it inadvisable to possess a Rwandan Government passport even if it may mean forced return to Rwanda.

Forced return would arouse much concern both in Zambia and abroad.It would be seen as a contravention of article 33 of the 1951 Geneva Convention which specifically forbids forced repatriation.

(Zambia ratified the 1951 Geneva Convention and 1967 Protocal in September 1969.)

ZAMBIA MUST ABIDE BY INTERNATIONAL LAW OBLIGATIONS.

The Zambian Deputy Minister of Home Affairs stated at the March Tripartite meeting that failure to take a Rwandan Government passport will result in forced repatriation.This appears to contravene with Article 33(1) and Interpretation of Terms Article 1(C)(1) of the Convention.)

The Rwandan former refugee community may therefore consider it advisable to ask for the return of refugee status.

This was taken away from them by the Tripartite Agreement of the Governments of Rwanda and Zambia and the UNHCR in 2003,and made effective in June 2013.

If the Rwandan exile retains refugee status the refugee status the refugee will live a secure life in Zambia without fear of forced return to Rwanda.

If the Government of Zambia removes the reservations of freedom of movement and freedom of employment made when signing the 1951 Geneva Convention,the refugee will be able to live a fairly normal life,as happens in other countries in the region.

The Rwandan former refugee community may therefore consider it advisable to ask for the return of refugee status.

This was taken away from them by the Tripartite Agreement of the Governments of Rwanda and Zambia and the UNHCR in 2003,and made effective in June 2013.

If the Rwandan exile retains refugee status the refugee status the refugee will live a secure life in Zambia without fear of forced return to Rwanda.

If the Government of Zambia removes the reservations of freedom of movement and freedom of employment made when signing the 1951 Geneva Convention,the refugee will be able to live a fairly normal life,as happens in other countries in the region.

The Zambian P.F Government has hitherto shown much consideration for Rwandan Hutu former refugees who have until recently considered themselves valued and safe in this country.

Unless they can have their refugee status returned,they may consider their continued stay in Zambia unpredictable and insecure.

They believe the cessation of their refugee status,finally effected without their agreement in June 2013 was done in bad faith,not for their welfare,but under pressure from the Rwandan Tutsi-led Government.

The cessation was recommended by the UNHCR and effected by those States which agreed to do so.According to the inter-Ministerial meeting in Pretoria in April 2013,some States declined to effect it,and others deferred their decision.

European states have declined to effect it on the grounds that Rwanda has not made fundamental and permanent changes necessary for the cessation of refugee status.

The Zambian Government can agree to continue the cessation,or to revoke it for the time being,without UNHCR concurrence.To revoke it for the time being would give credibility to the Zambian Government offer of local integration as a durable solution,giving refugees the assurance of security that they need.

Zambia was the first and only country to initiate widespread legal interviews to review Rwandan refugee status in 2011,in preparation for the cessation that was deferred a number of times until June 2013.They were totally flawed.

A FLAWED PROCESS.

Requirement that refugees being interviews should have legal representation was ignored,and the interviews were so organized that almost every Rwandan failed to convince the Lawyer interviewing them of their “Well-founded fear of persecution upon returning to Rwanda.”

Emphasis was given to the situation prevailing in Rwanda rather than focusing on an evaluation of the applicant’s statements.(Guidelin­es found in the 1951 Convention(Page 11)).

Valid reasons for retaining refugee status were ignored.Rwandan refugees appealed against the negative decisions,and their appeals still lie on the Minister’s table.This gives them the sense that their refugee status has not been irrevocably terminated as would happen should they have taken the Rwandan Government passports.

CONCLUSION.

Former Rwandan Refugees living in Zambia have been deprived of all the rights attached to the “refugee status”.They are constantly harrassed by Zambian Immigration Officers and by virtue of their inconclusive status,many of them cannot seek any legal redress.

Students are no longer been sponsored by the UNHCR and as it stands,these Former Refugees are being treated like Migrants even though they have not agreed to it.

Subjecting thousands of people to a LIMBO situation has created fear in the Rwandan Refugee Community.Some people have opted to acquire either Congolese or Burundian papers in order for them to maintain the “Refugee status” because they believe that Rwanda is not yet safe to be a Partner in the struggle they have embarked on.

It is safe to conclude that these unfortunate souls are still in Zambian at the mercy of some Zambian authorities.

LIONEL R. NISHIMWE

(LAWYER/POLITICIAN).

Lionel Nishimwe & Ngandu Consultancy.

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