- The governments of Rwanda and Burundi today were massively criticised by the UN for the forced repatriation of 5,000 Rwandan refugees from Burundi. The Burundian government had termed the Rwandan asylum-seekers as "illegal immigrants" in violation of several international treaties and despite the protests of the UN.
Government officials from Burundi and Rwanda this weekend issued a joint statement, saying that the group of recently arriving Rwandans were "illegal immigrants" and as such should be returned to Rwanda. On Sunday and Monday, some 5,000 Rwandan asylum-seekers in Burundi were thus forcedly sent back to Rwanda.
The UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, already last month had expressed concern over Burundi's unwillingness to treat these new Rwandan arrivals as refugees. According to the agency, many of those Hutus arriving Burundi were telling credible stories of persecution based on ethnicity in Rwanda. Rwandan and Burundian authorities nevertheless claim these persons were escaping trials, where thousands of Hutus are accused of participating in the 1994 genocide on 900,000 Rwandan Tutsis.
Rwandan asylum-seekers first arrived in Burundi in March, citing fears over traditional local courts, or gacaca tribunals, looking into the 1994 genocide. They also cited threats of intimidation, persecution and rumours of revenge as reasons for leaving home. The refugees built makeshift shelters just inside the border in Burundi.
The UNHCR and international human rights groups have claimed that many of these asylum-seekers seemed to have a real need for protection. In any case, they hold, Burundian authorities were obliged by international law to give each and every asylum-seekers a possibility of having his or her case proven. There had also been hundreds of Rwandan children arriving; too young to have any responsibility for the 1994 genocide.
The UN refugee agency thus was "alarmed" as Burundian officials on Saturday agreed to term the asylum-seekers "illegal immigrants", thus preparing for their deportation. UNHCR warned that the decision to re-label refugees "could well be in contravention of international refugee law" and warned against an involuntary repatriation.
Hearing of the expulsion of 5,000 refugees thus caused anger within the UN today. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this action by Burundian and Rwandan authorities "constitutes a violation of international law." He urged Rwanda and Burundi "to respect international law" by giving due process to the 7,000 Burundian refugees still in Rwanda and 700 Rwandan asylum seekers still in Burundi.
Also the UNHCR protested today. A spokesman of the refugee agency said that the agency could "not consider their return as voluntary and hence it constitutes a violation of the principle of non-refoulement that is enshrined in the 1951 Refugee convention, to which both Burundi and Rwanda are both signatories." UNHCR staff had been denied access to the refugees and were not allowed to oversee the forced repatriation.
The UNHCR spokesman also expressed concern about the fate of some 7,000 Burundian refugees in Rwanda, the spokesman said, since they too were now considered "illegal immigrants" and "we fear they could be returned to their homeland against their will," he said. "We strongly urge Rwanda to refrain from any such initiative," he added.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.