UN agency encourages Rwandan refugees to return after goandsee visits

Exploratory visits to their homeland have calmed the fears of potential Rwandan returnees who have been taking refuge since the 1994 genocide in other African countries, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said today. In the years following the genocide, some 3.2 million Rwandan refugees have gone home, and UNHCR is actively promoting the repatriation of 48,000 others living in 14 African countries. Josephine, for example, was 19 when she left her village in the southern province of Butare in May 1994, shortly after the start of the genocide in which some 800,000 people were killed in just 100 days.She settled in the Luwani Refugee Camp in Malawi, which is still home to some 3,400 Rwandan refugees. After a visit to her village earlier this month with four other Rwandan refugees, she came back to Malawi to help her fellow refugees decide whether or not to go back to Rwanda for good.According to UNHCR, some refugees remain unconvinced that Rwanda is now a safe country. In addition, some say the establishment of traditional local courts, known as gacaca – which are meant to identify and try lower-level perpetrators of the 1994 genocide – has caused them to hesitate about coming home. During her time in her village, Josephine made a point of talking to the mayor of Gikonko district, as well as the gacaca coordinator in the area, so she could return to Malawi with a better understanding of these issues.“I do not have a bad impression of the functioning of the gacacas, and this is what I am going to say to other refugees back in Malawi,” she told UNHCR. “Rwanda now seems a peaceful country, and I see no reason for not coming back home.” read more

UN chief Security Council urge restraint amid rising tensions along SyrianTurkish border

At least five Turkish civilians were reportedly killed, and others injured, on Wednesday, after mortar fire from Syria hit the town of Akcakale in Turkey’s Sanliurfa province, which shares a border with Syria. Turkey’s parliament today authorized further military action against Syria, as Turkey began its second day of shelling targets within Syria in response to yesterday’s incident, according to media reports.Mr. Ban has “repeatedly made clear his concern about the spillover of the Syrian crisis into neighbouring countries, as occurred yesterday with Turkey,” said a statement issued by his spokesperson.“The Secretary-General calls on all concerned to abandon the use of violence, exercise maximum restraint and exert all efforts to move toward a political solution,” it added.In addition to calling for restraint, expressing their condolences and condemning the shelling “in the strongest terms,” the members of the Security Council underscored that the incident highlighted the grave impact the crisis in Syria has on the security of its neighbours and on regional peace and stability. “The members of the Council demanded that such violations of international law stop immediately and are not repeated. The members of the Security Council called on the Syrian Government to fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbours,” Ambassador Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala, which holds the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of October, said in a press statement after a meeting of the 15-member body.More than 18,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in Syria since the uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began last year. A further 2.5 million Syrians urgently need humanitarian aid, according to UN estimates.“As the situation inside Syria deteriorates yet further – including the atrocious terrorist bombings in Aleppo this week which killed dozens of people including civilians – the risks of regional conflict and the threat to international peace and security are also increasing,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in the statement.Furthermore, he added that the Joint Special Representative for Syria of the UN and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi, has been in communication with officials from Turkey and Syria to encourage an easing of tensions. read more