The family of two Kiwis brutally slain in Uganda in 1999 have expressed shock after Australia reportedly resettled their killers in a secret deal with the United States. By Jamie Ensor


Mark Avis at the funeral of his wife. Photo credit: Getty


In 1999, Kiwis Michelle Strathern and Rhonda Avis were killed while gorilla-watching in a Ugandan rainforest. Six others, including two Americans, were also slain.

Three Rwandans reportedly confessed to the murders and were sent to the United States to face trial.

But as the men were ruled by an American judge to have been tortured during the Rwandan Civil War, the case against them fell apart. They have been left in limbo since, without legal status to stay in the US, but not wanting to go home.

Politico has revealed two of the Rwandans were resettled in Australia last November in a secret deal with the United States, which agreed to take in refugees being held in Australia's controversial refugee centres.

In 2016, then-leaders Malcolm Turnbull and Barack Obama publicly agreed for the United States to take 1250 refugees from countries like Iran, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan held in Australia's detention centres, reports Politico.

Australia also publicly agreed to take refugees from Costa Rica camps, but the decision to take the two Rwandans was a secret arrangement.

Politico said it had learnt that the two Rwandans - Leonidas Bimenyimana and Gregoire Nyaminani - were accepted by Australia as humanitarian migrants at the United States' request.

Their transfer has shocked the families of the Kiwis, with Jean Strathern, Michelle's mother, telling Politico that she was blown away.

"It makes shivers run down your spine. They're only two, three hours away on a plane," she said.

Avis' mother, Pauline Jackson, said it was a shock and also expressed concern about them living so close. Rhonda's husband, Mark, said it was extremely surprising.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters' office refused to comment when approached by Newshub.

Attorneys for the three Rwandans didn't respond to questions from Politico, while American and Australian officials wouldn't comment.