Sustainable Return and Reintegration of Rwandan Returnees
Kigali, November 19th, 2012 – The Government of Rwanda and the One UN in Rwanda have jointly launched a new programme entitled “Sustainable Return and Reintegration of Rwandan Returnees” in response to the invocation of the cessation clause on 30 June 2013.
When the cessation clause is invoked, these provisions end the international protection of a specific group of refugees, unless they can argue ‘compelling reasons on the grounds of past persecution’. UNHCR recommended all States to invoke the cessation clause for Rwandan refugees on 30 June 2013, but only for those who fled events occurring between 1959 and 1998. Recommending the cessation clause for Rwanda is assuming that the reasons for a person becoming a refugee ‘have ceased to exist’ and that ‘fundamental changes in the country’ have occurred.
The ceremony was attended by representatives of the Government of Rwanda and representatives of development partners institutions such as the High Commissioner of Kenya, Ms. Makena Muchiri , and the Japanese High Commissioner to Rwanda, Mr. Kunio Hatanaka. “We strongly believe that the reintegration of the returnees will play an important role in Rwanda’s development” stated the Resident Coordinator of the UN and Resident Representative of UNDP, Mr. Lamin Manneh.
According to UNHCR statistics, between 2009 and 2011, 10,000 returnees came back to Rwanda. It is forecasted that there will be a total of 10,000 returnees in 2012, 30,000 returnees during 2013, and an additional 20,000 during 2014. These returnees come back mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda.
Hon. Gen. Gatsinzi, enumerated some of the challenges faced by Rwandan returnees: (1) Over 60% of returnee households were on permanent aid, (2) 96% needed support to re-build their shelters, (3) 72% had not received any kind of poverty alleviation assistance, (4) 50% of them did not possess any health insurance scheme, (5) 11% of returnees had no identification cards, (6) the vast majority of children born to returnees did not possess an adequate birth certificate, and (7) that despite access to 12-years basic education the majority struggled to provide their children with school materials and uniforms.
“I am sure that together with the support of the One UN and development partners we can make the final chapter of return and reintegration a success story” stated Hon. Gen. Gatsinzi in his opening remarks. The overall goal of the Sustainable Return and Reintegration of Rwandan Returnees programme is to benefit the 70,000 Rwandan returnees from 2009-2014 by 2014. Both the UN Resident Coordinator, and the Country Representative of UNHCR, Ms. Neimah Warsame, commended the Government of Rwanda for its leadership role in ensuring the reintegration of such an important number of returnees.
Mr. Manneh highlighted that “the initiative [the new programme] was jointly conceived and designed by the Government and the United Nations” as a means of finding sustainable solutions to assist a successful reintegration of the increasing number of Rwandan returnees. Hon. Gen. Gatsinzi added that the initial idea of this joint programme was originated in 2009, when the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. António Guterres, on visit to Rwanda, mentioned that “despite all efforts made by the Government of Rwanda, the needs of returnees were still not being fully addressed and that there was a need for developing an elaborate stand-alone reintegration programme to compliment those efforts”.
The programme will be implemented for an initial period of 2 years, from November 2012 until December 2014 and will address 5 pillars of the One UN, namely governance; health, nutrition, and HIV/AIDS; education; housing and environment; and food security and economic growth. “…through this programme we hope to provide the necessary and immediate support to returnees, provide for their basic and immediate needs, create a variety of opportunities for returnees to effectively reintegrate and successfully provide for their own livelihood through income generating activities” added Mr. Manneh.
The programme will be a partnership between 6 ministries: the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR), The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MINAFFET), the Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC), the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN), the Ministry of Justice (MINJUST), and the Ministry of Health (MINISANTE). Within the One UN, there will be 6 participating agencies, namely UNHCR, UNDP, FAO, UNICEF, UN-Habitat, and WFP; and 4 silent agencies: WHO, UNFPA, UNAIDS, and UN-Women. On the side of the Government of Rwanda, MIDIMAR will take the lead in the implementation of the programme, and on the side of the One UN-Rwanda, UNHCR will play the coordinating role.
The programme has 3 main objectives: (1) To ensure a peaceful, safe, and sustainable reintegration of all returnees into their communities; (2) To promote access to basic amenities such as health care, education, and livelihood support, with high emphasis on peace building, gender equality, women, and children’s rights, access to land, and justice; and (3) To facilitate effective and peaceful cohabitation between returnees and local population in their communities. Ms. Warsame mentioned that during the initial years of the implementation of the programme, the Government and the One UN are going to be targeting “Life Saving Interventions”. She invited other development partners to join in the implementation of this programme in order to ensure its wider sustainability and the consolidation of the return of Rwandan refugees. Mr. Manneh concluded that “The return and reintegration process is ongoing and on behalf of the UN, I am personally committed to support this important program because it provides a durable and satisfying solution to the problem of the Rwandan refugees … as Rwanda progresses on its path towards more transformation, all of us would need to continue to play our role to facilitate and ensure that this noble and collective objective is accomplished.”