Rwanda Welcomes First Group Of African Refugees From Libya

This handout picture from Rwanda’s Ministry of Emergency Management (MINEMA) taken on September 26, 2019, shows Rwanda’s UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, senior protection officer Zahra Mirghani (C) welcoming the first arrival of 66 refugees and asylum seekers from Libya at the Kigali international airport in Kigali, Rwanda. PHOTO:CYRIL NDEGEYA / RWANDA’S MINISTRY OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT (MINEMA) / AFP

A group of 66 African refugees and asylum-seekers have arrived in Kigali from Libya, the UN said, the first in what could be thousands of people being helped to flee the conflict-torn country.

The move follows a pledge by President Paul Kagame in 2017 to offer a “home” to Africans after reports emerged of the torture, sexual violence and forced labour they suffer in Libya.

Earlier this month, Rwanda signed a deal with the African Union (AU) and the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR agreeing to take in African refugees and asylum-seekers stranded in Libya.

The Rwandan government has said it is prepared to accommodate as many as 30,000 evacuees, although the plan is for the programme to unfold in batches of 500 to prevent the country of 12 million from feeling overwhelmed.

“Just landed!” the United Nations refugee agency wrote on its Twitter account as the group landed in the Rwandan capital late Thursday.

The youngest passenger was a two-month-old girl born in Libya to Somali parents.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told journalists in Geneva Friday that 26 of the evacuees were unaccompanied children.

“One evacuee had not been outside a detention centre for more than four years. All evacuees were either Sudanese, Somali or Eritrean,” he said.

A UN official told AFP Wednesday that a subsequent flight carrying 125 people was planned for “between 10-12 October”.

They will be housed in a transit centre in Rwanda before being resettled elsewhere unless they agree to return to their home countries.

“UNHCR will provide persons evacuated from Libya with shelter, education, food items, basic hygiene products and health care services,” Olivier Kayumba Rugina, permanent secretary at the ministry of emergency management, told AFP.

The new arrivals will be resettled at the Gashora Refugee Transit Centre in Bugesera District, approximately 60 kilometres (37 miles) from Kigali.

The facility was established in 2015 to host Burundians, about 30,000 of whom have transited the country to flee political violence in their homeland.

Asylum-seeker status

Baloch said a psychologist, counsellors and other health professionals to aid those “who survived torture, sexual violence and human rights abuses during their time in Libya.”

“The entire group has been granted asylum-seeker status, pending an assessment of their refugee claim by UNHCR,” he said.

In the chaos that followed the fall and killing of former dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 uprising, Libya became a key transit point for sub-Saharan African migrants seeking to embark on dangerous journeys to Europe.

The UN says some 42,000 refugees are currently in Libya.

Kagame first offered to take in Africans stuck in Libya after a CNN report showed what appeared to be a slave market there.

The issue took on new urgency in July when more than 40 people were killed in an airstrike on a migrant detention centre in the Libyan town of Tajoura.

The UN has been criticised for its handling of a transit mechanism for evacuees from Libya established in 2017 on the other side of the continent, in Niger.

The facilities there have struggled with overcrowding and the slow pace of resettlement.

But UN and Rwandan officials say they have learned from Niger’s experience.

While the influx of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers to Europe has become a political flashpoint, countries in East Africa are often praised for their openness to those displaced by conflict in the region.

Uganda is host to around 800,000 refugees from war-torn South Sudan while countries in the region host hundreds of thousands of refugees from Burundi, Somalia and elsewhere.

At the end of 2018 the region hosted over four million refugees and asylum-seekers, according to the UNHCR.

AFP

Rwanda’s President Meets Israel’s leadership In Jerusalem

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame met Israel’s leadership on Monday in Jerusalem and said he was looking forward to reinforcing cooperation between the countries.

Kagame, on a two-day visit to the region, met Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kagame is widely admired for restoring stability after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, presiding over rapid economic growth and a relatively corruption-free government.

Netanyahu, who visited Rwanda last year as part of three nation tour to Africa, said the two countries shared a ‘ great bond’ – having both experienced genocide in their histories.

Kagame will run for a third term on August 4 against Frank Habineza, nominated by the opposition Democratic Green Party, and Philippe Mpayimana.

Rwanda President Puts Third Term Bid On Referendum’s Outcome

Paul-KagameRwanda’s president says he will decide whether to seek a third term in office after a referendum on a constitutional change that would allow him to run again.

The referendum may hold before the end of 2015.

A major donor that has long praised President Paul Kagame for rebuilding the nation after the 1994 genocide, the United States, has urged him to set an example to the region by stepping down at the end of his second term in 2017.

The debate about term limits has flared across Africa. In next door Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza’s election for a third term that faced opposition has plunged the nation into crisis. Other African leaders are also approaching term limits.

“Still Listening”

Kagame, who was first elected president in 2003 but was seen as Rwanda’s main power broker long before that, has not announced his intentions but has said those who want him to stay must convince him.

Reuters quoted Kagame as saying that he is “still listening”.

Addressing senior officials in the Rwanda Patriotic Front on Sunday, he said: “Whatever you want from me will be based on the decision of the referendum and thus my answer will come after the referendum”.

He did not give a date for the ballot in his comments that were aired by the state broadcaster.

Senator Tito Rutaremara, a member of the ruling party, told Reuters the cabinet was expected to give a timeline this week.

“We would wish it to take place on Dec. 18 but, you know, demanding is different from getting,” he said.

The pro-government New Times daily cited officials saying that the vote should not be held later than Dec. 18.

Under proposed constitutional changes approved by parliament and being put to public vote, Kagame would be allowed to run in 2017 for another seven-year term plus two more five-year terms after that, potentially allowing him to stay in power till 2034.

Rwanda’s main but tiny opposition, the Democratic Green Party, tried to block the amendment to extend Kagame’s term, but a court rejected the bid.

France Bombs Isis Targets

IsisFrench jets have begun to bomb Isis targets in eastern Syria.

According to France’s defence ministry, the bombing started hours after the country’s national police launched an international manhunt for a dangerous suspect wanted for his involvement in the Paris attacks.

The French Ministry of Defense said it targeted a command post and a terrorist training camp, dropping 20 bombs on Isis’s de facto capital in Raqqah, Syria.

The first target includes a command post, a jihadist recruiting centre and a weapons warehouse.

Ten French fighter jets were launched simultaneously from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan in an operation carried out in coordination with U.S. Military Command.

Hours earlier, the French national police said it was looking for Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old French national who was born in Brussels, for his involvement in the attacks.

France Calls For End To Burundi Violence At UN 

BurundiConcerned by the rapidly escalating violence in Burundi, France has submitted a draft resolution at the UN Security Council calling for action to stop the crisis.

The council met on Monday at France’s request to discuss Burundi’s worst violence in ten years.

The crisis began in April with protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial decision to stand for a third term.

On Saturday, nine people were shot dead in a bar in the capital Bujumbura.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the killings saying that the dead included a un staff member.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda has also been critical of the way its neighbour is dealing with crisis and there is increasing concern that the spiral of violence could be taking on more of an ethnic dimension.

Rwanda Court Scraps Presidential Term Limits

rwandaThe Supreme Court in Rwanda has ruled that the country’s constitution can be changed to allow President Paul Kagame to run another term in elections in 2017.

The country’s parliament had approved changing the constitution, after more than 3.7 million people had signed a petition, asking for the two-term limit to be scrapped.

However, a referendum has been scheduled to determine whether the public supports a constitutional amendment to lift the current two-term limit on presidents.

Third term campaigns have caused unrest in other African countries; especially in Burundi, where at least 70 people were killed, after President Pierre Nkurunziza in April, said that he was running for a third term.