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Uganda: Tripartite agreement signed on return of Rwandans

Briefing notes

Uganda: Tripartite agreement signed on return of Rwandans

25 July 2003

UNHCR has signed a tripartite agreement with the governments of Rwanda and Uganda for the voluntary repatriation of some 25,000 Rwandan refugees in Uganda. The agreement was signed Wednesday in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, during a two-day meeting which ended yesterday evening. The agreement with Uganda is the third in a series that we have reached with governments to establish a legal and operational framework for the voluntary return of Rwandan refugees. At the beginning of the year, we signed similar agreements with the government of Zambia and the Republic of Congo (RoC). Another agreement with Tanzania last year saw the return of more than 20,000 Rwandan refugees from camps in western Tanzania.

According to the terms of this latest agreement, all Rwandan refugees in Uganda who wish to return home will be allowed to do so without any pre-conditions. At the same time, no Rwandan refugee will be compelled to return against his or her will.

During the two-day meeting, several roles and responsibilities were outlined among the three parties. The government of Uganda will ensure that refugees are well informed about the security situation in Rwanda and that they are able to freely decide whether or not to repatriate without coercion or pressure. Those who opt not to repatriate will continue to enjoy refugee status.

The government of Rwanda agreed to ensure that the return of the refugees takes place in safety and dignity. It will continue to take all measures to sensitise and prepare the local populations residing in areas to which the refugees would be returning. Rwanda also agreed to allow refugees to settle in their areas of origin or of their choice.

Under the terms of this agreement, UNHCR will facilitate the return in conditions of safety and dignity and will establish a presence in the main areas of the returnees' settlements. We shall continue to provide international protection in Uganda to those Rwandan refugees who are not yet ready to return.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 8,000 Rwandan refugees have returned home, mainly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

In all, there are more than 50,000 Rwandan refugees scattered across Africa.