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A hundred Rwandans who arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this week, claiming to be fleeing the Covid- 19 vaccination in their country have been sent back to Rwanda.

“All Rwandans staying illegally on the island of Idjwi, located on Lake Kivu, bordering the DRC and Rwanda, “were returned to their country on Thursday morning,” Roger Ntambuka, head of the Ntambuka “chieftaincy”, an administrative entity located in the southern part of the island, told AFP on Thursday.

The deportees numbering 101 “initially opposed their repatriation but we negotiated with them all day yesterday, we forced them to embark,” the official added.

The Rwandans had arrived in small groups and had settled in two villages. They said they were fleeing the Covid-19 vaccination, which is compulsory in all public places. The islanders however had their own reservations about the action taken by the government.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Rwandan government said that “a handful of Rwandans had left for neighbouring countries claiming to be against vaccination, mainly for religious reasons. “Most of them have returned or are in the process of returning (to Rwanda) thanks to bilateral cooperation, including those who went to the island of Idjwi,” the statement added, stressing that “these Rwandans would be reassured (…) and informed of the benefits of vaccination.

Hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutus fled to eastern DRC after the 1994 Tutsi genocide. Some 40,000 of them came to the island of Idjwi, but it has never been plagued by the violence of armed groups that have since plagued the provinces of South and North Kivu.

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