By Moses Walubiri
Government has quickly moved to refute reports that it’s already considering Rwanda’s request to extradite seven of its nationals enjoying refugee status in Uganda, clarifying that it’s yet to receive the names of the ‘wanted people.’
Rwanda, through its Inspector General of Police, Emmanuel Gasana, without naming names, recently requested the extradition of seven refugees it accused of committing a litany of crimes.
State Minister for Refugees, Musa Ecweru, was earlier this week quoted by French News Agency (AFP) as saying that government is considering Rwanda’s request, implicitly indicating that Kigali had finally submitted the names of the wanted refugees.
“Rwanda is yet to give us the names,” Commissioner for Refugees, Apollo Kazungu, said when asked about the AFP report, adding; “In any case, we will strictly abide by the laws and conventions governing refugees.”
Kazungu said Rwanda will have to adduce a convincing case that the refugees being sought have genuine criminal charges to answer, noting; “being granted refugee status doesn’t grant any one amnesty from prosecution for crimes committed.”
According to Article 41 of the Refugee Act, the Minister for Refugees in consultation with Commissioner for Refugees might okay the extradition of a person granted refugee status to a country which has extradition agreement with Uganda.
However, the offences which might occasion the extradition of such refugees ought not to be political in nature.
Ecweru averred that he had been misquoted, and no consideration of extradition of refugees was being considered as reported by AFP.
“The position is that government has not received names for any refugees for extradition, and if we do, the international conventions governing refugees will strictly apply,” Ecweru said, revealing that “government is keen to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing Mutabazi incident.”
Government was in October last year left with egg in face when Lt. Joel Mutabazi was fraudulently expatriated to Rwanda, despite having been granted refugee status a few months earlier.
A former body guard of Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame, Mutabazi was long sought after by Kigali, with his expatriation spawning remonstrations from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Police Spokesperson, Judith Nabakoba, noted that at the time of his questionable extradition, the Ugandan authorities were in receipt of an international warrant of arrest for Mutabazi over bank robbery charges.
Uganda, according to UNHCR, is hosting close to 20,000 Rwandan refugees, with the recent admission of Rwandese expelled from northern Tanzania set to swell their ranks.