Zimbabwe: Rwandans refuse repatriation over extermination fears

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Rwanda refugees resident in Zimbabwe are resisting moves to be repatriated to their homeland claiming that they would be killed once they set foot over there.

Close to 800 Rwandan refugees have been camped at Tongogara Refugee Camp in Chipinge – south west of the country for years.

Zimbabwe, reeling from a barrage of economic problems, has become home to at least 9 000 refugees mainly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Burundi, who perceive the southern African country as a safe haven for asylum seekers from the troubled Great Lakes region.

Rwandans, who have blended well with Zimbawean — some of them having married locals–, accuse the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Harare for working in cahoots with the Kigali government to force them to return.

Last week the Zimbabwean government said it hopes to repatriate all Rwandans by December 2011 after the UNHCR cleared Rwanda as safe for refugees to return.

Minister of Public Service and Social Welfare Paurina Mpariwa said on World Refugees’ Day: “We are doing the best we can to ensure the provision of shelter, water sanitation and shelter. Like any other country in the region, Zimbabwe will soon embark on repatriation of Rwandan refugees by December 31 2011.”

However, according to Joseph Habineza, a Rwandan refugee at Tongogara Refugee Camp in Chipinge recent events in Rwanda were clear for anybody to see the country was not safe.

“Just look at how Kagame is arresting and killing opponents. Returning refugees are being arrested or killed. We will not go back.” Habineza said a former top army general who has fled to South Africa was almost murdered and a journalist shot and killed outside his Kigali home recently. “All these incidents can tell you Rwanda is not safe”.

Another refugee said: “There is a planned repatriation of Rwandans, but we will not go back because the security situation is not yet stable. Those currently fleeing Rwanda say the future is not promising.”

Human Rights Watch, an international human rights watchdog, has accused Rwandan leader, Paul Kagame of human rights abuses in the run up to a presidential poll next month. Kagame has rubbished the claims.

The Rwandan refugees in Zimbabwe have also written to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the government informing them of their unwillingness to return to Rwanda.

They accused the UNHCR of collaborating with the regime in Kigali in hatching “a plan to kidnap” and forcefully repatriate them.

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