While Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman continue to hype Rwanda as a safe destination for refugees seeking British asylum, Rwandan refugees in Mozambique say they’ll be persecuted if they return home.
There are over 1,000 Rwandans exiled in Mozambique and an extradition treaty signed by the two countries last month caused panic among refugees who say Rwandan premier Paul Kagame will oversee their persecution if they return.
A spokesman for Rwandans exiled in Mozambique has described the extradition treaty between the two countries as ‘’frightening’’ after least two Rwandan officials have been found dead in Mozambique.
A Rwandan lieutenant was shot dead in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, in 2021 and the head of Rwanda’s Development Bank was found floating in the ocean, also near Maputo, in 2012. Rwanda has been accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings in South Africa, Mozambique and at home. It’s also accused of torture, ‘’disappearances,’’ and a rigged election in which Kagame claimed 98 percent of the vote.
Rwanda isn’t safe… for Rwandans
The Rwandan spokesman in Mozambique told the AFP agency that the extradition treaty will be used for ‘’persecution’’ rather than justice because Rwanda isn’t safe… for Rwandans.
It’s a real fear shared by Rwandans living a hardscrabble existence in Zimbabwe’s Tongogara Refugee Camp and by Rwandans across Eastern and Southern Africa. What’s clearly not being asked by Britain’s Conservative Party is how Rwanda can be safe if Rwandans themselves deem it unsafe? Zimbabwe, hardly a liberal democracy, relented and allowed the Rwandans to remain, a clear concession that Rwanda remains dangerous.
With a British court this week ruling that asylum seekers destined for Rwanda can challenge the government’s policy, perhaps Braverman will give the project the consideration it needs but clearly hasn’t had. Those asylum seekers who won the court’s permission come from war-ravaged nations like Syria.
Adding to Rwanda’s unsuitability, Democratic Republic of the Congo leader Etienne Tshisekedi, has asked European leaders to put pressure on Kagame whom he accuses of backing the blood thirsty M23 rebels causing havoc and death in the east of his country. Kagame has denied the allegation but admits to having ‘’influence’’ over the rebel group. Those turbulent provinces, where over 3 million have died, are 60 miles from the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
Worst war in African history
In short, both Sunak and Braverman state that refugees, perhaps traumatized by war and terror elsewhere, will be safely housed in hostels a short drive from the worst war in Africa’s long history of wars.
Africans are amused by the Rwanda ploy — and the idea that Rwanda is safe for anyone. In fact, dark and cynical jokes are made about the possible benefits enjoyed by Sunak and Braverman’s East African relatives as a result of the deal with Rwanda. The jokes work only because anywhere in Africa looks curious given the distance and cost, and there are countries far more stable where English is widely spoken. Rwandans, if they have a second language, are more likely to speak French.
Britain’s problem is that countries from Kenya through Zambia and Zimbabwe to South Africa would likely reject any proposal, not least because cooperating with the UK so openly would be unpopular with voters, but also because the plan is absurd. Most already have refugee populations and would find it risible that Britain doesn’t simply warehouse them on its own soil. Why choose a small, poor, under-developed, over-populated, and autocratic regime accused of grotesque human rights abuses as a suitable destination for refugees?
If Britain wants refugees held offshore, it has African territory of its own in the form of St. Helena, a measly 600 miles further from London than Kigali and, under-developed and under-funded, a perfect fit because the islanders need the money. Being offshore but still in Africa surely makes more sense than autocratic Rwanda with its notorious human rights record. It would also justify the almost £300 million the UK paid a South African company to build St. Helena’s airport. It would certainly be less embarrassing than Rwanda.
Related: Leaked emails and WhatsApp messages show BBC reporters being told to be more critical of Labour