By Charles KM Kambanda, PhD.
Under the 1951 Convention for the protection of refugees, when the conditions that forced people to flee their country of origin change fundamentally, so that the refugees have no reason to fear that they will be persecuted if they returned home, the UNHCR may declare that refugees therefrom do not need protection per the the 1951 Convention for the Protection of Refugees. That declaration is what’s referred to as cessassion clause; ” cease to be a refugee”. The UNHCR is the sole guarantor of the 1951 Convention.
Rwanda, through Kagame’s well placed and well paid lobbyists, asked the UNHCR to evoke cessassion clause against all Rwandan refugees. The UNHCR agreed. Contrary to Rwanda and UNHCR scheme, Uganda has announced that they will not implement the cessassion clause.
By refusing to implement Kagame junta sponsored cessation clause against Rwandan refugees, Uganda has dealt a diplomatic blow to Rwanda. Kagame’s critics suggest that Kagame bribed some UNHCR officials to evoke cessation clause against Rwandan refugees. For these critics, there was no reasonable ground, under the 1951 Convention, for the UNHCR to evoke cessassion clause against Rwandan refugees. The ” deal” was that, effective January 2018, UNCHR would discontinue protection for, and assistance to, all Rwandan refugees, thereby forcing them to return to Rwanda. UNHCR cannot repatriate refugees without the host country’s approval and/or explicit consent.
Kagame believes that he has “successfully” terrorized Rwandans, in Rwanda, into submission. The Rwandan dictator’s preoccupation is to bring under his ruthless control all Rwandan refugees in DRC, Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda and other countries. Kagame thinks that Rwanda refugees in the neighboring countries will rip to shreds his life presidency plan. Kagame unreasonably hoped that after evoking the cessassion, all countries would send Rwandan refugees packing.
In an interview with the BBC, Hon. Musa Ecweru, the Minister in charge of Refugee affairs outlined four major reasons why Uganda can’t implement the cessassion clause against Rwandan refugees:
( i) The conditions that forced Rwandan to flee their country still persist
( ii ) Rwandan refugees in Uganda have reasonable fear of persecution if they were forced back to Rwanda
(iii) Uganda is bound by non-refoulement principle – prohibition to sent refugees to a country where they will be persecuted.
(iv) Uganda receives Rwandan refugees, fleeing Kagame’s brutal junta, everyday.
Uganda’s position against the cessassion clause is a big challenge for the UNHCR officials that fell for Kagame’s favors against the refugees the UNHCR is mandated to protect under International Law.
( a) Will the UNHCR acknowledge that they evoked the cessation clause in bad faith, owing to corruption and criminal scheme between some UNHCR officials and Kagame’s junta?
( b) What’s the legal and/or political implication of the cessation clause, now that Uganda has confirmed ( i), (ii), ( iii) and ( iv) above?
( c) Can UNHCR reasonably discontinue / terminate UNHCR protection and material assistance to Rwandan refugees in Uganda and other countries?
(d) What does Uganda’s decision say about Rwanda’s diplomacy?
(e) Will other countries in the region, and beyond, take a similar position against Rwanda/UNHCR ” imposed” cessation clause?