On April 9, 2016, Rwandan president Paul Kagame allegedly said he was dying for war.
“I wish we could be invaded and I show you. I am dying of anxiety — from waiting in vain for war,” Kagame is quoted as saying.
Twagiramungu Faustin, President of RDI-Rwanda Rwiza Party, has now written to Kagame on the plight of refugees who are currently unable to return home due to the political situation.
Here is the letter dated April through the embassy of Rwanda in Belgium Bloemenlaan and copied to UNHCR and other assistance refugees’ Organisations Host countries for Rwandan refugees and the Commission of the African Union:
Excellency, Mr. President, I have the honor and it is my duty, on behalf of our political party, RDI-Rwanda Rwiza, of addressing to your Excellency, here attached the memorandum concerning the serious question of the Rwandan refugees as it stands today.
Our main objective, your Excellency, is to draw your personal attention to the compelling necessity to find an appropriate solution, before the end of 2016, to this serious and cyclical situation of the Rwandan refugees that has lasted more than half a century, since 1959.
It is important to emphasize the fact that the Rwandan refugees will never massively and voluntarily return to their country of origin without a preliminary agreement based on a pluralistic transitional government to prepare the way for a major political change.
It is also our duty, your Excellency, as a political party opposed to your dictatorial regime, to warn you on a risk of unnecessary explosion of a new armed conflict, aiming to the repatriation of the Rwandans refugees, as it has been the case in 1990, when your Rwandan Patriotic Front, RPF, imposed a war on Rwanda with the assistance of the Ugandan government that allowed your army to take power in our country in July 1994.
Hoping that your government will take all appropriate measures, in order to find a peaceful solution to the above mentioned problem of the Rwandan refugees, please accept, your Excellency, our highest consideration.
MEMORANDUM ADDRESSED TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF RWANDA ON THE QUESTION OF RWANDAN REFUGEES
This document is intended to attract the attention of Rwandan authorities to the seriousness of the issue of Rwandan refugees and the urgent need for a permanent solution through voluntary return in conditions of safety and dignity of all the Rwandan exiles, wherever they are.
Our party advocates a comprehensive approach; it also wishes to highlight the particular case of our compatriots living in various African countries, especially those that who remain in camps for more than two decades in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the inhumane living conditions should shock the conscience of the world.
Today, more than ever, we have an obligation to put pressure and responsibility on the Government of Rwanda for these inhumane conditions. Rwanda must provide for a safe and voluntary return of refugees in an organized manner. Among the prerequisites as consistently stated by those in exile, opposition political parties and civil society, is high on the establishment in Rwanda of a democratic regime based on a free and pluralistic political space capable of ensuring respect for freedoms and basic fundamental rights for all. Local and international informed observers are aware of the serious violations of freedom of expression and association, freedom of enterprise, freedom of the press, freedom of speech and other fundamental rights that are denied, on a daily basis, the “land of a thousand hills”.
There is a need for a major political change in the direction of democratization of Rwanda and the full respect of human rights. To better understand the severity of the issue of Rwandan refugees, it is appropriate to give a brief historical and political context, highlighting the three main exile movements that have taken place in our country, respectively in 1959-1963, in 1994-1998 and from 1995 until today.
We also have an obligation to share with the Rwandan authorities our assessment of the “strategy of global solutions for all Rwandan refugees” as defined in 2009 in Geneva. Finally, there is a conclusion of our analysis with proposals for practical solutions that we believe that the implementation by the Government of Rwanda would significantly contribute to a final settlement of the troubling issue of refugees which has lasted for over five decades.
The first category concerns the Tutsi political refugees who fled the country after the popular revolution of 1959. This revolution was opposed to injustices inflicted to the “common people” by both the Belgian colonial authorities and their allied authorities of the feudal monarchy.
A group of 9 Rwandan citizens were the first to denounce the injustices published in their historic declaration called the “Bahutu Manifest” by the colonial administration as it was addressed, March 27, 1957 to the United Nations and the Belgian Government in charge of the trust-sheep. Since the “Bahutu Manifest” was published, the alliance between the Belgian colonial authorities and the feudal monarchy authorities was brutally broken and the revolution was in the offing. It was during this turbulent period from 1959 to 1961, about 150,000 Tutsis, including the King Kigeri Ndahindurwa V, fled Rwanda to neighboring countries including Congo, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania and later to destinations more distant, particularly in Europe and North America, mainly the United States.
If some of these “refugees from the first hour” have fled the violence, others fled a “country without the King”, moreover directed by Hutu. B. The 1994-1998 refugees The second wave of massive exile is that of political refugees, mainly Hutus who fled Rwanda after the October 1990 war that reached the pinnacle of horror in 1994.
Conducted under the leadership of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), by officers of the Ugandan army of Rwandan origin, including General Paul Kagame himself, the war was officially justified by the return of Tutsi refugees for years 1959-1963 and the establishment of democracy in Rwanda.
The true motives will be announced later, as it was for the RPF and Rwandan-Ugandan leaders to take power, and all power, no matter the price. The war led to the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana on 6 April 1994, triggering the genocide and chaos that would allow the RPF to take power in Kigali in July 1994.
The civil war and massacres provoked nearly 4 million Hutu refugees to flee to Burundi, Tanzania and especially the DRC (formerly Zaire).
It was estimated in July 1994, that almost 2.5 million Rwandan Hutu refugees were located in the camps in North and South Kivu. In November 1996, these camps were destroyed with heavy weapons by the RPF, with the silent complicity of UNHCR and some Western powers.
Consequently, some of these refugees were forced to return to their country of origin, Rwanda, while the vast majority fled into the Congolese forests like wild animals, to the point that the RPF army massacred more than 300,000 of them.
According to the Congolese government there are nearly 245,000 refugees still living in the forests and shrub lands of the DRC. Further, it is estimated that hundreds of thousand remain in other African countries and in countries around the world. C. Sporadic political refugees since 1995 until today The third category of refugees is those who are persecuted by the RPF regime since 1995 to date.
These Rwandans have fled for various reasons, including the killings, forced disappearances and arbitrary imprisonment. There are also many Rwandans who continue to swell the ranks of refugees because of humiliations of all kinds that they undergo a police regime that maliciously institutes an apartheid system for maintaining order in the bullying and constant monitoring of anyone suspected of being a member of any political opposition to the RPF.
The situation is even more serious that even within the RPF, some notable not least, are forced to flee the country in order to demonstrate their opposition to the dictates of General President and his clique. And when we know that those in power failed to inspire confidence in the king Kigeli V and his entourage whose exile lasted more than half a century, we measure the obvious failure of the RPF, supposedly, had taken up arms to resolve the issue of Rwandan refugees.
ATTEMPTS BY THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SOLUTIONS In October 2009 in Geneva, under the auspices of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Community adopted “the strategy of comprehensive solutions for Rwandan refugees”, covering four major components, namely: 1. The promotion of voluntary repatriation, 2. The pursuit of local integration, 3. The maintenance of international protection for those who cannot return to Rwanda for reasons of protection, and finally,
- A recommendation on the invocation of the cessation clause. This strategy was revised four years later, in 2013 in Pretoria, South Africa, at the time to examine the application, and even recently, in October 2015, in Geneva by 13 countries, including the 12 that host Rwandan refugees, namely: Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, DRC, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Mozambique, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and, of course Rwanda, which is the country of origin.
At a meeting in Geneva on October 2, 2015, these countries have drawn conclusions on the 4 points mentioned above. Particularly concerning the return of Rwandan refugees, one of the conclusions states that the organized returns will definitely end in 2016. However, another recommendation calls on the Government of Rwanda to guarantee the return and reintegration in safety and dignity of all refugees and to take all necessary measures to this end. In addition, the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo reported on this occasion that 245,820 Rwandan refugees would be on its territory, but refuses to correctly reference to the invocation of the cessation clause until thorough investigations are conducted to know the exact total number of these refugees.
APPRECIATIONS AND PROPOSALS OF RDI-RWANDA RWIZA PARTY In view of the various decisions and recommendations taken in the context of what has been called “the strategy of comprehensive solutions for Rwandan refugees; Considering the lack of political will or bad faith of the RPF regime, to find an appropriate solution to the problem of Rwandan refugees; Given our analysis, including political and historical, we would like to hearken to the Rwandan government following points: A.
The facts give us reason entirely on the sad fact that our country has become and continues to be the generator and the sender of refugees in neighboring countries and worldwide, since 1959 until today.
This is due in large part to the poor governance of the subsequent regimes that have held power, and especially the dictatorial and criminal nature of the RPF, led by Kagame, in place since July 1994. B. Our disapproval is in totality of the RPF policy on refugees, especially regarding “voluntary oblivion” displayed against exiles years 1959, 1961 and 1963.
In this regard, the attitude to the least unfair vis- à-vis RPF of these “refugees from the first hour” and their descendants, speaks volumes about the true motives of the war in October 1990. In fact, this so-called “war of liberation” was conducted on their behalf for their triumphant return to the land of their ancestors.
Yet, many of them abstained from returning to Rwanda, beginning with King Kigeri V Ndahindurwa. And it’s not because they prefer to live abroad where some of them live a miserable life; if they do not want to return to Rwanda, it is simply because they find that the conditions have not been met for their repatriation.
When we know that this war was waged in conditions could not be more cruel to sacrifice the Tutsi from inside the country and many other lives up to approximately 5 times the number of refugees in the first category whose behalf the RPF invaded our country, we measure the extent of the cynicism of the leaders of the former rebel movement and how much power alone interests them and that, whatever the price! C. To the Government of Rwanda and 12 key African countries involved in the “global solutions strategy for Rwandan refugees,” we ask that the issue of Rwandan refugees to be considered in all its dimensions, both in humanitarian and political levels.
We would like the search for appropriate solutions is happening in transparency and our country, Rwanda, to demonstrate greater willingness to deal with this extremely serious situation, respecting its commitments and all the recommendations made in the context of the strategy.
These include creating better political conditions different from those of previous regimes, to inspire the confidence of all our citizens. This would give them the hope to live in a country where they would feel free and safe. They would no longer have any fear or concern uncertain future that would push them to flee their country yet. D. Any viable solution requires an unbiased census of Rwandan refugees to fully determine their exact number, wherever they are. It is UNHCR’s duty to perform this task of enumeration of all refugees wishing to return to Rwanda as soon as the prerequisites for repatriation have been established.
Before this census is organized, we recommend to the parties to make every effort to ensure that the competent services differentiate genuine Rwandans from Kinyarwanda speaking persons whose nationality is not necessarily Rwandan. Citizenship, nationality, or naturalization are not acquired by the language, but rather under a law passed by a method prescribed by the constitution.
- We are to respect the cessation clause of the status of Rwandan refugees, only in accordance with the spirit and letter of the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees and the OAU Convention of 1969 governing specific aspects of refugee problems in Africa, and on the understanding that by December 31, 2017, the Rwandan Government will have in place the conditions for a peaceful and voluntary return of all refugees.
- On the eve of the next ministerial meeting in the framework of “comprehensive solutions strategy for Rwandan refugees” in May 2016, we regret that the previous sessions Pretoria and Geneva, were held without the presence of representatives of refugees.
Indeed, who better than the refugees themselves, can express the reasons that prevent them from returning to their country of origin? Moreover, it is to ask why, nor among the 12 countries, or from UNHCR, no delegation dared to place the Rwandan government in front of its responsibilities by asking the crucial question below and trying to arrive at an appropriate response: Why almost 350,000 Rwandan refugees in the DRC and other countries do not wish to return to their country of origin?
With regard to this important issue of the Rwandan refugees, starting from the period of the internal popular revolution in 1959, our party RDI appeals to all parties concerned to do all what it takes to reach an appropriate, comprehensive and final conclusion before the end of this year 2016.
Having taken note of a number of different meetings held on different occasions since 2009, it appears that no reason can justify at this period in time why any other meeting should be held. We expect that the incoming meeting to be held in May 2016 should be the last.
We do recommend however that, due to the importance pertaining to the context of this issue, a number of selected refugees be conveyed to this last meeting, in order to give their views and explain their own expectations and apprehensions about the prevailing political situation their home country.
It is time that the issue of Rwandan refugees, which has caused horrific living conditions and countless deaths for more than half a century, is a finally resolved in the solutions listed above. It must be emphasized repeatedly: Rwandan refugees massively and voluntarily must be allowed to return to their country of origin when it has experienced a major political change.
It is clear that the forced return, such as the one held in 1996 in camps in the former Zaire, can no longer be considered.
Regarding specifically the policy change expected by the Rwandan refugees as prior to their voluntary repatriation to Rwanda the advent of a democratic transition regime based on a comprehensive rule of law is the first step of a process to offer exiles guarantees of a return in dignity and safety.
The outlines of this policy change and other accompanying measures, such as covering by refugees of their rights and their property upon returning to Rwanda should be the subject of negotiations between the Government of Rwanda hand and, on the other hand, representatives of opposition political parties and civil society, including representatives of refugees.
Mediating these negotiations would be ensured by a body appointed by the top 12 countries hosting Rwandan refugees, in close cooperation with UNHCR, in particular in terms of logistical support.
We believe that much time has been lost and that everything should be done to a definitive solution to the problem of Rwandan refugees be found before the end of 2016.
This is all the more urgent, considering more problems, persists more frustration building up among the younger generations of refugees, with the risk that some of them are seriously considering a return to Rwanda by non-peaceful means.
After all, if in 1990, Rwandan refugees took up arms to assert their right to repatriation, it would be equally legitimate in 2016, another generation of refugees seeking to repeat this experience, provided that the Government of Rwanda maintains its refusal other ways out of the crisis.
President of RDI-Rwanda Rwiza Party Brussels – Belgium