Mozambique: Rwandan refugees call for respect for Geneva convention

The Association of Rwandan Refugees in Mozambique on Monday called on the Mozambican government to respect the Geneva convention on refugee status, following the approximation between Maputo and Kigali in recent months.

” For me, the rapprochement of two African countries is always good, but it is necessary to respect the Geneva convention and the rights of refugees,” said the president of the Association of Rwandan Refugees in Mozambique, Cleophas Habiyareme.

At issue is the rapprochement in recent months between the governments of Mozambique and Rwanda, which provided a contingent of 1,000 men to support the Maputo forces in the fight against terrorism affecting the Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado since 2017.

For Cleophas Habiyareme, the arrival of forces deployed by the Kigali executive to Mozambique “does not scare” the Rwandan community that has taken refuge in Mozambique but it must be ensured that Maputo “continues to respect the status of refugees”.

“Rwandan troops have arrived, but we are not afraid of that, as long as Mozambique respects the convention it has signed. If there are problems, we can go to another country”, stressed Cleophas Habiyareme.

According to the association, Mozambique has at least 4,000 Rwandan refugees, some of whom fled the country due to alleged persecution of opponents and intellectuals in exile by the regime of the current President, Paul Kagame.

In March, the Association denounced the disappearance of Rwandan journalist Ntamuhanga Cassien, who was in exile on the island of Inhaca, Maputo, in unclear circumstances.

According to the association, Cassien was taken away “by eight unknown individuals who presented themselves as Mozambican police officers (PRM)”, in a group that included another Rwandan citizen “who spoke the same local language as the target”.

The Mozambican authorities have distanced themselves from the possible arrest of the journalist, considering that the case remains under investigation.

Ntamuhanga Cassien, 37, was a journalist and director of the Christian radio station Amazing Grace in Kigali (Rwanda’s capital), and now works as a trader in Mozambique.

He claimed to be a victim of political persecution like other critics of President Paul Kagamé’s regime.

He escaped from prison in Rwanda in 2017, after being sentenced in 2015 to a 25-year prison term for conspiracy against the state, complicity with terrorism and murder – a sentence at the time contested by human rights organisations.

Rwanda’s leader since 1994, Kagamé is credited with developing the country after the genocide of Tutsis that year, but the head of state is also accused of limiting freedom of expression and repressing opposition.

Human Rights Watch in late March accused the Rwandan authorities of limiting use of the internet for self-expression in the country after restricting freedom of expression in the media.

The restriction of freedoms has also been denounced and condemned by other organisations such as Reporters Without Borders and the European Union (EU).

The genocide in Rwanda was responsible for the deaths of more than 800,000 people, mainly from the Tutsi minority, between April and July 1994.(Lusa)

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