Rwanda Sets Tough Conditions For M23 Rebels Seeking Asylum

The Government of Rwanda says the 682 M23 rebels who were loyal to former leader Bishop Jean Marie Runiga must denounce military activities in writing before applying for asylum.

Rwandan Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, Seraphine Mukantabana, says the rebels who crossed to Rwanda during clashes with the Sultani Makenga group cannot be considered as refugees in Rwanda until they denounce rebellion.

Mukantabana further revealed that the Rwandan government has transferred the former soldiers from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo to another place known as Ngoma far away from the border. She says the international norms dictate that in a situation armed rebels cross into another country, they are supposed to be relocated to a place far from the border of their country.

Mukantabana says the rebels will be screened before they can be given a chance to apply for refugee status under the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

The minister, however, says that leaving Ngoma facility will be a gradual process depending on the ranks the rebels held while in the bush, adding that those with lower ranks will leave earlier than their senior commanders.

The minister says she is frustrated by the failure of the international community to support Rwanda in managing the influx of rebel fighters and other refugees in the country.

The rebels crossed into Rwanda more than a week ago around the same time that war-lord Bosco Ntaganda, an ally of Runiga, surrendered to the US embassy in Kigali. He has since been taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The United Nations has accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the M23 rebels who have been fighting the Kinshasa government since April last year.

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