In an opinion article published on the Al Jazeera website, Rwandan political figure Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza highlights the pressing issues that Rwanda needs to address before considering itself a suitable refuge for UK asylum seekers. Ingabire argues that instead of welcoming asylum seekers from other countries, Rwanda should focus on resolving the deep-rooted causes that lead Rwandans to flee and refuse to return home.
Ingabire begins by pointing out that Rwanda itself generates a significant number of refugees each year, with thousands of Rwandans seeking asylum abroad. She emphasizes that the country has a long history of displacement, stretching back to the Rwandan Revolution of 1959 and subsequent events such as the 1973 coup and the 1994 genocide. Despite efforts by the government to repatriate refugees, the number of Rwandan refugees in African countries and beyond remains alarmingly high.
The author argues that there are compelling reasons why many Rwandan refugees hesitate to return. The memories of civil war, genocide, and violence against refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are still fresh and have not been adequately addressed through comprehensive reconciliation policies. Furthermore, persistent poverty, inequality, political persecution, and oppression discourage the return of existing refugees and drive more Rwandans to seek safety abroad.
Ingabire highlights the concerning human rights record in Rwanda, with international organizations consistently rating the country as “not free.” She mentions the persecution of opposition figures and dissidents, including her own experience of political imprisonment. The lack of political guarantees for potential returnees and the government’s allegations linking political groups to armed dissidents exacerbate tensions in the region.
To truly address the refugee crisis and establish Rwanda as a stable and democratic country, Ingabire asserts that the government must divorce Rwandan politics from violence. She calls for an inclusive and open dialogue involving Rwandan refugees and stakeholders to draft governance reforms that guarantee political inclusion, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. Development partners, such as the UK, are urged to encourage and support this process.
Ingabire emphasizes that Rwanda must first confront its internal issues before opening its doors to asylum seekers from the UK. By tackling the root causes that lead Rwandans to flee and refuse to return, the country can emerge as a truly safe and welcoming haven for its own citizens and potentially for refugees from around the world.