As Russia intensifies its bombardment of Ukraine, raining missiles on cities like Kirkiv, Kiev and Hershon, the fate of Rwandan nationals trapped in the country remains unclear, as countries do whatever they can to evacuate their people out of the country.
While as of Tuesday, approximately 51 Rwandans had managed to flee Ukraine, others were still trying to find their way to safety. As of Thursday week, it was not yet clear what arrangements were in place for those still stuck inside Ukraine as well as those that sought temporary shelter in Poland.
While a few African countries including Ghana and South Africa had started evacuating their nationals back home, many Africans including Rwandans remained stuck without clear evacuation plans. What has come out clearly is that Rwanda, like other African countries, had not made prior arrangements or issued a travel advisory to caution those residing in Eastern Europe despite war drums being very loud over the past couple of months.
As such, the response has fallen short of expectations. On the sixth day of the way on Tuesday, a Rwandan student, Cynthia Kagambirwa took to twitter and sent an appeal to President Paul Kagame to help rescue her brother and friends who were still stuck in the war zones. She pointed out how some are still stuck in Sumy, a city located in the north-eastern region of Ukraine 330 kilometers from Kiev, with no food and no means of transport to move them to safety, adding that some had to walk 70 kilometers from Lviv to Medyka side of the Poland border, but even after reaching the border they couldn’t get safe passage.
The government should have made arrangements beforehand to have its people, many of whom are students, transported to safety. In recent years, Eastern Europe, especially Poland has generally become popular among Rwandans seeking education abroad.
As such, the student population has been growing. It is unfortunate that prior arrangements were made to assist these students who are easy to trace from their schools.
The office of the government spokesperson said that they are working with embassies in Germany, Poland and Russia to assist Rwandans evacuating from or still in Ukraine,
but the response is very slow. What has been achieved is having a few being moved to Poland, but even these are uncertain of what next and are living in fear and appear to be running out of essential supplies including food.
The government must do more to ensure that all Rwandans in Ukraine, and the neighbouring countries are accounted for, and brought to safety without any further delays.
Rwanda has always put and demonstrated that the safety of its citizens comes first; it is important that this record is not brought into dispute or challenged.
The government must act swiftly to defend its record on protection of its citizen.