‘Voluntary’ Repatriation of Rwandan Refugees in Uganda: Analysis of Law and Practice

Frank Ahimbisibwe
IOB Working paper 2017.08


Uganda hosts refugees from neighboring countries including Rwanda. According to UNHCR, by the end of 2016, Uganda was the 5th and 1st top refugee hosting country in the world and Africa respectively. It hosted over 900,000 refugees. This number had increased to over 1.2 million by May 2017. In 2003, a tripartite agreement was signed to repatriate 25,000 Rwandan refugees. Only 850 refugees accepted to return and most of them came back almost immediately to Uganda claiming insecurity and human rights violations in Rwanda. Although legal principles and norms exist on voluntary repatriation, they have been violated in the case of the Rwandans’ repatriation. There exists a gap between the legal principles and the practice of repatriation. This article analyzes this discrepancy by focusing on specific legal principles of repatriation like the right to return, the principle of non-refoulement, return in safety and dignity and the ceasing of causes for flight.

Keywords: Rwandan refugees, Voluntary repatriation, Refugee law, Human rights law, Uganda, Rwanda

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