Rwandan refugees, like these trekking from DR Congo, are scattered all over eastern and southern Africa. Photo/REUTERS
By KITSEPILE NYATHI (email the author)
Zimbabwe is deporting five refugees from Burundi and Rwanda following violent clashes that rocked a camp holding exiles from the Great Lakes region.
Burundians and Rwandans at the Tongogara Refugee Camp in eastern Zimbabwe are reportedly blaming each other for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Last month, the camp was rocked by violent clashes that led to the arrest of the five refugees who were thrown into remand prison in the eastern city of Mutare.
At the weekend, they were transferred to Harare awaiting deportation despite protests by UNCHR.
“We are not going to allow them back at the camp. We have to deport them to their countries of origin,” Zimbabwe’s minister of Labour and Social Welfare Paurina Mpariwa told a Harare daily on Wednesday.
“We want to set an example. They caused chaos and commotion at the camp. After all, there is no longer war in Rwanda and Burundi,” she said.
But UNCHR representative in Zimbabwe Marcelin Hepie told NewsDay that they were not happy with the impending deportations and were now trying to have the refugees resettled in neighbouring countries.
“We tried to advise government to release them because we felt spending two months in remand prison would have been enough punishment,” he said.
“They signed affidavits to say they will no longer misbehave.
“We used that as a tool to advise state security to release them, but unfortunately it did not yield fruits.”
He said one of the affected refugees was a woman with a husband and children at the camp.
“There has been tension for over a year. They (Burundians) claim one group is genuine and the other is not genuine,” Mr Hepie said.
Rwandan refugees clashed with their counterparts from Burundi who were accusing them of misrepresenting themselves to the Zimbabwean authorities.
The Burundians accused the Rwandana of concealing their identities because they feared they could be linked to those being sought for crimes related to the genocide.