Participants during the World Refugees Day in Kibuye last year. The New Times

This comes as Uganda and Zambia are reportedly debating whether to grant Rwandan refugees citizenship.

This was confirmed by an official from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR).

“We met with our ambassadors and high commissioners during the (just concluded) Leadership Retreat and we requested them to take on the responsibility of continuing to inform the refugees about the exact image of our country, and encourage them to continue voluntarily returning home,” Jean Claude Rwahama, Director in Charge of Refugees in the ministry, said.

“What we want is for all Rwandans to return and participate in the development of their country,” he urged, adding that those who will opt to remain in their host country are free to do so

The Cessation Clause states that with effect from June 30, 2013, refugees who fled between 1959 and December 31, 1998, must either voluntarily return home or apply for citizenship to stay in their host countries.

While more than 3.4 million refugees have voluntarily returned to Rwanda since 1994, 100,000 are still living as refugees, mainly in East, South, Central and West Africa.

The Clause does not prevent individuals from applying for refugee status. In such a case the recipient country will have to decide whether the individual cases warrant the continuation of international protection.

After the Clause was invoked, the Minister of Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs, Gen. Marcel Gatsinzi, confirmed the government was committed to welcoming its nationals.

“The Government is wholeheartedly committed to the return of all refugees. We believe it is the right of every Rwandan to enjoy the benefits of living in his or her own country, to be close to their relatives and to contribute to the development of Rwanda. We will do all we can to ensure that they make their choice based on accurate information, free of fear and in the knowledge that they will be welcomed and supported when they return home,” Gatsinzi said.

In a telephone interview, Cristina Planas, the Deputy Country Representative of United Nations High Commission for Refugees, said that the “Come and See, Go and Tell” campaign, where refugee representatives are flown in to witness the current state of the country, will continue.

“It’s a good tool to use and it will continue since it encourages the refugees to observe what is in the country,” she told The New Times.

By Eric Kabeera, The New Times

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