MALAWI-RWANDA: Kigali, Lilongwe sign repatriation agreement
KIGALI, 5 November 2003 (IRIN) - The Rwandan and Malawian governments as well as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) signed a tripartite agreement on Tuesday to repatriate close to 5,500 refugees who fled the central African nation at the height of the 1994 genocide. Under the agreement, signed in Kigali, both governments would sensitise the Rwandan refugees for voluntary repatriation. However, Malawi's minister of state for poverty reduction and refugees, Ludovic Shati, said that any refuge accused of participating in the 1994 genocide and who was unwilling to return home would be forcibly repatriated. "If Rwanda makes a legitimate complaint that such an individual is wanted, then we shall have to hand him over. We cannot keep anybody who has committed a sin," he said. Shati said that the Malawi government would help shortlist for repatriation the Rwandan refugees now in different camps. UNHCR has undertaken to transport the refugees from Malawi to Rwanda. The Malawi government will ensure that the refugees are well informed about the security situation in Rwanda and that they can decide freely whether or not to repatriate, UNCHR said in a communiqué. "The government of Rwanda for its part will make certain that the return of refugees takes place in safety and dignity. To this end, it will also sensitise the local population of areas in which the returnees will settle," UNCHR said. Rwanda has embarked on an effort to repatriate its refugees in Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. With the aid of the UNHCR, the Rwandan government plans to bring home close to 25,000 of its refugees in Uganda. The Rwandan government has signed refugee repatriation agreements with Zambia, the Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Uganda. Another three agreements are envisaged before the end of this year, UNHCR said.