The governments of Rwanda and Mozambique and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) signed a tripartite agreement on Thursday on the voluntary repatriation of an estimated 900 Rwandan refugees in Mozambique.
At the signing in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, the parties pledged to support the operation scheduled to begin in mid-2004, and assigned each other roles and responsibilities to ensure the success of the process.
Most of the Rwandan refugees in Mozambique are women and children. The head of the Mozambique delegation, Rosa Chissaque, said her government would help by sensitising the refugees to voluntarily repatriation.
Under the agreement, Rwanda will ensure the security of the refugees, while UNHCR would provide support for travel as well as help with initial resettlement for the returnees. A Rwandan delegation will travel to Mozambique in early 2004 to carry out a promotional campaign aimed at sensitising the refugees.
UNHCR regional coordinator Wairimu Karago called for concerted efforts, especially by the Rwandan government, to intensify information campaigns in countries where Rwandan refugees were still staying.
"The promotional campaign by the government has to be stepped up. In this respect, mass information campaigns that include 'go and inform visits' by Rwandan government officials have to be regularly conducted to keep refugees informed of developments in the country and to help them make an informed choice," she said.
Wairimu said during the first quarter of 2004, UNHCR would finalise the creation of a legal and operational framework with the remaining countries of asylum in west and southern Africa which host significant numbers of Rwandan refugees.
According to Sheikh Abdul Karim Harelimana, head of the Rwandan refugee commission, Rwanda has repatriated 3.3 million refugees, of which the majority left Rwanda in 1994 at the height of genocide.
Rwanda has signed similar repatriation agreements with the governments of Malawi, Namibia, Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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