Panafrican News Agency

Rwandan dailies highlight repatriation process of Burundian refugees, Rwanda-Zambia ties

Kigali, Rwanda (PANA) - Rwandan newspapers this week focused on the ongoing talks to organise voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees in Rwanda and an allegation by a deported Rwandan terror suspect who told a court that Zambian President Edgar Lungu allowed insurgents space to operate in his country to overthrow the Rwandan government.

The newspapers also focused on the Zambian Government's reaction where the President's Office in Lusaka issued a statement strongly condemning the allegations and unequivocally stated that they are false.

The semi-private 'KT Press' reported that on 16 July, President Lungu dispatched his country’s Foreign Minister Joe Malanji to Kigali to meet Rwandan President Paul Kagame over the matter, after the opposition in Zambia turned the heat on their government for more explanation.

Speaking during a press conference earlier this week, Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Dr Vincent Biruta stressed that Rwanda’s relations with Zambia remain intact despite the utterances in court by the Rwandan terror suspect, Callixte Nsabimana.

'KT Press' wrote that the top Rwandan diplomat also stressed that the matter has been discussed extensively with Zambia to ascertain the authenticity of the claims.

According to the Rwandan Foreign minister, it is not in Zambia alone that the insurgents operate, as they are also in Uganda and many other places.

"When such allegations come up in court, then there is a need to investigate more. These people are there, the Government of Zambia is aware of them," Dr Biruta told reporters in Kigali earlier this week.

In another article, the English daily 'The New Times', reported that Zambia had dispatched an envoy to Rwanda to discuss the issue and be invited to engage with Nsabimana to ascertain the truth of the allegations. 

Dr Biruta was quoted by the newspaper as saying that these allegations have not affected their relations.

Commenting on a separate topic, Rwandan newspapers focused on a tripartite videoconference meeting held on Thursday involving Rwanda, Burundi and the UN agency for refugees where the three parties agreed to begin preparation of the refugees.

Under the headline 'Burundian refugees in Rwanda begin repatriation in two weeks', the privately-owned 'The Chronicles' reported that the deal comes following days of a fierce propaganda war between Kigali and Bujumbura over the refugees.

According to the newspaper, it all began after a letter surfaced supposedly written and signed by 331 refugees to Burundi’s new leader President Evariste Ndayishimiye asking that he facilitates their repatriation from Rwanda.

The Burundian president followed up the said letter with what he said was a written response, telling them that Burundi was open. However, in a speech, President Ndayishimiye called Rwanda a “hypocritical country”, accusing Kigali of holding the refugees hostage.

The refugees began pouring into Rwanda, and other regional neighbours in the lead up to a controversial election in 2014. The situation got worse after a failed coup against the late leader Pierre Nkurunziza in May 2015.

'The Chroniles' wrote that currently, the refugees live in the Mahama camp, which is more of a permanent settlement in eastern Rwanda, near the Tanzania border, where thousands of people have integrated into Rwandan communities.

Reports indicate that while many are employed in Rwanda, others have successful businesses, with the bar industry, for example, dominated by them before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

For those in Rwanda, it remains to be seen how the new agreement is going to be implemented, the newspaper said.

In another opinion article 'KT Press' also questions if the Burundian Government was behind the ‘Refugee Letter’.

It said further details indicate that the 331 signatories contain names of dead people, refugees who have already returned home through unofficial arrangements and others who found their names on the list but did not actually sign the petition.

-0- PANA TWA/MA 15Aug2020