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A safe place to call home: Securing the right of Rwandan genocide survivors to resettlement outside Rwanda

April 7, 2010

….It is essential to acknowledge the efforts of the Rwandan government in supporting genocide survivors. Five percent of every annual budget is devoted to programs to support their needs.  However, its resources are intensely strained and it simply cannot afford to provide survivors with their basic needs because it does not have the budget to do so.

Even with this level of support tens of thousands of genocide survivors find themselves without access to adequate shelter, nutritious meals, dependable healthcare, and a steady source of income. Many children and teenagers, numbering in the thousands, orphaned by the genocide cannot afford school fees and are thus denied an education because of their poverty and their lack of a family support network because they have lost their parents and relatives in the genocide.  In this way genocide survivors are further impoverished and marginalized and rendered unable to rebuild their lives and reconstitute their communities.

Even if the Rwandan government had the economic resources to assist survivors in meeting their needs there would still be many survivors who prefer not to remain in Rwanda because of the immense psychological stress and trauma this can entail.

The Rwandan government cannot jail the thousands of Rwandans who were not directly implicated in acts of genocide but who were willing bystanders who looked aside or cheered as Tutsis were murdered and whose actions during the genocide and presence in Rwanda today haunt survivors. Even with the best of intentions there are limits to the extent to which the Rwandan government can help genocide survivors to realize their human rights to live in dignity and free of fear.

Building an extensive Rwandan diaspora ultimately will be of great benefit to all Rwandans. The remittances that survivors who establish themselves abroad will send home to those who remain in Rwanda will inject much needed capital in the Rwandan economy, and some will return to Rwanda to invest, create new businesses and employment opportunities, and to apply skills gained through education acquired abroad.

Enabling genocide survivors to settle abroad then will ultimately not only empower survivors and promote their rehabilitation, it will also promote the development of Rwanda as well as foster positive relations between Rwanda and other nations. There is a Rwandan diaspora in countries like Canada, the United States, Belgium, and Britain. The local Rwandan community in these countries is well placed to welcome Rwandan genocide survivors and extend them support to enable them to integrate the society and to ease the inevitable strains that accompany immigrating to a new country and acculturating….

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