Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|April 25, 2022|4 Minutes|In Editor's Desk

Editor’s Desk

Rwanda and Refugees

I have been trying to get my head around this refugees to Rwanda story for a few days now and I think it merits a lot deeper discussion  especially among the entrepreneurs of Africa.

The plan seems  bizarre and controversial at face value. Britain intends to transport thousands of largely African refugees,  who risked their lives on leaky  small boats crossing the English Channel  in search of asylum.

The idea is to send  them to Rwanda for processing in one of the country’s many centres for refugees. The African nation’s turbulent past and unstable neighbours mean the country shelters more than its fair share of refugees.

The British press has been full of criticism. The Archbishop of Canterbury has called it : ”ungodly” the Refugee Council said it was cruel and nasty  and there were allegations that the plan was tantamount to human trafficking. The plan is also seen as a sop to the right-wing anti-immigration crowd in Britain.

My problem with the coverage was that it was almost like Rwanda had no say in the matter. It was almost colonial in its tone and indolent in its research.  I do not like that as a journalist.

So, I researched more about the Rwandan side of the story in the Kigali newspapers and it took me about 30 seconds to find balance in the shape of quotes from President Paul Kagame.

“At that time, I was the Chairman of the African Union. And when the issue came up to me, I said, ‘well, we are not a rich country, we are not a big country, but there are solutions we can always help find and solve big problems,’” said President Kagame.

“So, we told those international institutions that ‘we’re trying to deal with the problem…why don’t you actually bring these people (immigrants) to Rwanda?’”

So, it was Rwanda’s idea in the first place? Where was that little fact in the coverage?

Also, anyone asked the reasons why Rwanda wanted this in the first place ? Well, heads up, I interviewed President Kagame, in 2018, and he expressed sorrow – like a lot of influential people on the continent – at the sight of shivering Africans in rickety boats and quite right too. His aim is to keep enterprising Africans in the continent.

The long-term plan is to get the refugees to settle down in Rwanda and why not.  The country has a stable forward-looking  economy that promotes entrepreneurs and is one of the quickest places in the world to set up business. Like most progressive economies you have to obey the rules and pay your taxes – but the sky is the limit, as an entrepreneur, no matter where you were born.

Contrast that to what could await in Britain: menial low-paid jobs, unfriendly neighbours  and rotten weather.

Whether any Africans actually make it to Rwanda from the English Channel remains to be seen. There are likely to be a number of legal challenges.

Meanwhile,  Africa should be asking itself why many refugees are so desperate that they are prepared to risk a watery grave rather than stay in the land of their birth.