Bernard Chiketo at Tongogara Refugee Camp 8 May 2017
CHIPINGE – Over 500 Rwandan refugees who are facing repatriation to their
country could flee Tongogara Refugee Camp (TRC) if government fails to
address their plea for local integration.
TRC administrator Meshack Zengeya said the predominantly Hutu refugees
fled their country in fear of revenge killings after their ethnic group
presided over a brutal genocide that claimed 800 000 Tutsi lives in 100
days, in 1994.
“I’m certain that the security ministries will have a problem with these
people when they disappear into the community. So it’s an issue which the
Rwandan community are requesting for local integration,” Zengeya said
United Nations has given a December 31 deadline of the cessation of
refugees, a clause which is affecting all Rwandan refugees who fled the
country before 1998.
“There is a cessation clause which has been invoked by the international
community which stops them from being refugees beyond 31 December and they
are supposed to go back,” Zengeya said.
Following the 1994 Hutu-led genocide, the then Hutu government was toppled
from power leading to many Hutus fleeing the country fearing retaliation
from the Tutsi-led government.
Rwanda’s current President Paul Kagame is a Tutsi.
The current cessation deadline is an extension of a 2013 deadline that
flopped after the refugees resisted repatriation in spite of assurances by
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which has been
organising “go-and-see first” visits for a select few with the hope that
they would return with encouraging experiences.
“Unfortunately they are always coming back with negative stories,” Zengeya
Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Services, Prisca Mupfumira,
who was expected to give hope to the Rwandese refugees during a tour of
the facility, said the country was bound by the cessation clause and is
therefore entrusted to repatriate all Rwandan refugees residing within the
“It’s not the government of Zimbabwe that is coming up with a position
that Rwandans have to go back.
“It’s a position which was taken last year in Geneva affecting all
Rwandans wherever they may be,” Mupfumira said.
“In as much as we would want to help, it should be known that this is the
position of the UN and not Zimbabwe… unless there are individuals with
special reasons that we might have to look at. But generally, our hands as
a country are tied. We have to comply,” she added.
TRC Rwandan community leader, Philip Sindayigaya, insists that the
Kagame-led government was vindictive and still on a retributive war-path
against the Hutus.
“No one here wants to return home. We want to stay in Zimbabwe because
what we ran from is still there,” said Sindayigaya.
“We have been appealing for Zimbabwean citizenships, we have noted that
other nationals have benefited or resettled and we want similar treatment.
“There are still problems in our home country and as I speak more people
are still seeking refugee elsewhere,” he added.
Zengeya confirmed that they continue to receive refugees from Rwanda
adding that returning was more of a gamble for some of the refugees.
“Yes, we are still receiving refugees from Rwanda… I believe their
hesitancy emanates from the fact that the majority of the 564 Rwandan
refugees here are Hutus and some of them fear that they may actually be
accused of having participated in the genocide as soon as they land and if
that happens they can no longer be admitted as refugees anywhere in the
world and will have to face trial,” Zengeya said.