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Rwanda: Refugee Report, part 2
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Rwanda: Refugee Report, part 2
Date Distributed (ymd): 951109
The following are excerpts from the most recent report from the
U.S. Committee for Refugees, based on visits to Rwanda and eastern
Zaire in September and October. The full report is available from
U.S. Committee for Refugees, 1717 Massachusetts Ave., NW, # 701,
Washington, DC 20036. Tel: (202) 347-3507; fax: (202) 347-3418.
Site Visit Notes
Rwandan Refugees: Updated Findings and Recommendations
October 25, 1995
by Jeff Drumtra, U.S. Committee for Refugees
Part 2 Inside Rwanda
* The number of refugees from each prefecture estimated.
Estimates by UNHCR and the Rwandan government indicate that
perhaps half of all Rwandan refugees originate from three
prefectures: Kibungo, Byumba, and Gisenyi.
Some 340,000 refugees originate from Kibungo prefecture,
approximately 200,000 from Byumba, and 170,000 from Gisenyi.
About 165,000 come from Ruhengeri prefecture, 160,000 from
rural Kigali, and 160,000 from Butare region. An estimated
40,000 originate from Cyangugu prefecture, 40,000 from
Gitarama region, 40,000 from Kibuye, 30,000 from Kigali
town, and nearly 20,000 from Gikongoro, according to the
These estimates are highly approximate, and account for only
1.3 million of the estimated 1.8 million refugees.
* Land occupancy varies significantly in different regions
Population levels in several prefectures remain less than 50
percent of pre-genocide levels, according to Rwandan
government data. Other prefectures have returned to nearly
100 percent of earlier population levels, according to the
Population and refugee statistics suggest that Kibungo
prefecture could be another potential flashpoint in the
future. The Rwandan government has made Kibungo region a
major permanent resettlement area for old caseload Tutsi
returnees. Tutsi are gradually resettling in Kibungo even
though some 340,000 Hutu--more than half the normal
population--have not yet returned to their homes.
* A tense war mentality continues to exist in Rwanda's
Veteran troops of the RPA patrol border areas. Small-scale
infiltrations by former Rwandan military (FAR) or
Interahamwe militia occur several times weekly. Bases of
FAR soldiers or militia exist inside Rwanda, in the Gishwati
Forest of Gisenyi region, according to sources judged
credible and impartial by USCR.
Areas of infiltration appear to be particularly susceptible
to overreactions and abuses by RPA troops on alert. Human
rights violations in these border areas, regardless of
perpetrators, shape refugees impressions about tensions and
poor security in the rest of Rwanda. The pervasive presence
of RPA troops in border areas--posted there for
understandable security reasons--aggravates refugees
concerns that they are unwelcome in Rwanda.
< Recommendation #22 > Train RPA troops to receive
large numbers of returnees.
The government of Rwanda, with international assistance,
should provide special training to RPA soldiers posted in
border areas to prepare them to deal properly with large
numbers of civilian returnees. Training should range from
human rights to proper crowd control techniques.
* Rwanda is a traumatized, post-genocide society that will
likely remain traumatized for years or decades into the
Rwanda's genocide continues to reverberate through Rwandan
society. Fortunately for the world--but unfortunately for
Rwanda--the world has only limited experience dealing with
the legacy of genocide. As a traumatized society, Rwanda
will likely experience revenge killings, violent land
disputes, paranoia, and deep mistrust for years to come.
Proper policies by the Rwandan government can alleviate the
instability, but probably cannot eliminate it altogether.
Similarly, proper repatriation programs can gradually make
refugee return and resettlement possible, but ironclad
guarantees of safety for absolutely all returnees are
< Recommendation #23 > The U.S. Office of Foreign
Disaster Assistance (OFDA) should remain prepared for a possible
new round of humanitarian emergency in Rwanda.
The relative calm inside Rwanda, coupled with OFDA s
worldwide budget constraints, has virtually ended OFDA
operations in the country. Significant repatriation could,
however, propel Rwandan society into new stresses warranting
quick OFDA reaction. Forcible expulsion of the refugees by
Zaire would almost certainly trigger a humanitarian crisis
in Rwanda, as would a massive voluntary return of refugees
under the direction of FAR and the old regime.
< Recommendation #24 > Continue training a national
police force that would reduce the RPA's policing
The RPA is trained as an army, not as a police force. Its
continued involvement in domestic police work is a
prescription for human rights problems and political
concerns. International donors are making progress in
helping Rwanda establish a police force. This should
continue to be a priority in a country where post-genocide
disputes over property, restitution, and ethnic tensions
will be common for years.
* Rwanda currently is sufficiently safe for refugee
repatriation, according to UNHCR/Rwanda.
UNHCR/Rwanda cites several criteria to explain its recent
decision to encourage voluntary refugee repatriation to
Rwanda. Until recent weeks UNHCR had facilitated
repatriation to Rwanda but had stopped short of encouraging
UNHCR/Rwanda cites the Rwandan government's ongoing fidelity
to the Arusha Accords; the Tripartitite Agreement on
repatriation among UNHCR, Rwanda, and Zaire; gradual
improvements in Rwanda's justice and prison systems; the
recent pronouncement by the Rwandan president welcoming
refugee return; and the Rwandan government's commitment to
safe repatriation in order to gain favor with international
UNHCR officials cite a speech by Rwandan President Pasteur
Bizimungu on Sept. 5 stating that the Rwandan government
reiterates its determination to do everything possible to
enable the return of Rwandan refugees. No efforts will be
spared to ensure that every Rwandan enjoys equal rights to
citizenship and protection by the government. Bizimungu
pledged that the process of law will be followed under
international law to ensure there are no arbitrary arrests.
UNHCR staff and other observers point to the relatively safe
return and resettlement of 13,000 refugees in August (who
were forcibly expelled from Zaire) as another indication
that conditions are sufficiently safe for larger
repatriation. Up to 200 of the 13,000 returnees forcibly
expelled from Zaire were arrested or detained in Rwanda,
suggesting that 98 percent of the refugees resettled without
The RPA massacre of 110 Hutu at Kanama on September 11 has
not changed the determination of UNHCR/Rwanda that most
refugees can repatriate safely. UNHCR/Rwanda indicated to
USCR that Rwandan authorities appear to be responding
appropriately to the Kanama massacre.
< Recommendation #25 > Conditions in much of Rwanda
currently appear to be suitable for gradual voluntary
repatriation. Rapid uncoordinated repatriation in large
numbers, however, would probably be dangerous.
UNHCR is correct to promote organized voluntary repatriation
at this time. Systematic persecution of innocent returnees
is not evident. Rwandan civil society, however, appears to
have a limited capacity to absorb large numbers of returnees
at this time. Future human rights incidents and other
disputes are predictable as land becomes more occupied.
Appropriate policies by the Rwandan government can alleviate
these repatriation problems, but probably cannot eliminate
them in a post-genocide society.
< Recommendation #26 > Establish repatriation reception
committees in each commune to deal with local problems
related to repatriation, resettlement, and reintegration.
Before significant repatriation begins, appropriate agencies
should act now to establish local repatriation reception
committees capable of dealing with problems related to
repatriation, resettlement, and reintegration before they
erupt into violence. The UN Human Rights Field Operation
has recently taken a lead in organizing this endeavor, but
much remains to be done.
< Recommendation #27 > Provide improved analysis of the
causes of human rights violations and how to resolve them.
International donors should help the UN Human Rights Field
Operation in Rwanda improve its ability to provide more
sophisticated analysis of the causes and solutions for human
rights violations. Some 112 UN human rights field officers
scattered through the country currently provide a wealth of
raw data on human rights and security conditions. The
program's analytical capacity is weak, however, and is
therefore less useful than it could be.
Proper computer mapping and staff support would enable human
rights officials in the country to analyze whether security
incidents occur more frequently in border areas than
elsewhere; whether atrocities tend to occur immediately
after infiltrations by FAR; whether abuses tend to occur
immediately prior to RPA troop rotations; whether security
incidents rise when local repatriation reaches a certain
threshhold; whether atrocities decline when local schools
This type of correlative analysis creates opportunities for
preventive actions. The Rwandan government, the UN,
international donors, and assistance agencies all would
benefit from the insights generated by this type of
sophisticated, constructive analysis.
< Recommendation #28 > Make safer the new border
crossing between the Goma camps and the Gisenyi region,
located at Mutovu.
UNHCR and the Rwandan government have attempted to encourage
refugee repatriation by opening a new border crossing at
Mutovu, six kilometers from Zaire's Kibumbu refugee camp.
USCR visited the crossing point. Fewer than 20 refugees had
returned via the Mutovu crossing.
One problem was that refugees wishing to cross at Mutovu
could arrive there only after walking six kilometers through
the bush, where they were vulnerable to potential ambush by
Interahamwe, RPA, or bandits. In addition, RPA troops were
reportedly threatening to limit the number of returnees to
150 per day and were threatening to shoot any returnees who
strayed from the footpath. Roads from the border crossing
to a reception center 10 miles away would be almost
impassable for large vehicles in rainy season.
UNHCR/Rwanda and UNHCR/Goma should collaborate to provide
transportation or escorts for refugees wanting to repatriate
via Mutovu crossing. UNHCR/Rwanda should improve the road
to the border crossing. Rwandan authorities should ensure
that no artificial limits are placed on the number of
returnees at Mutovu and should instruct RPA troops that
returnees are not targets of war.
* The permanent resettlement of old caseload Tutsi
returnees is proceeding slowly.
The Rwandan government estimates that 750,000 old caseload
Tutsi have returned to Rwanda. Approximately half of them
are believed to inhabit towns, and half are believed to live
in rural areas. The exact number of Tutsi returnees who
have resettled permanently on their own land is unclear, but
appears to be no more than 20 percent. This means that more
than a half-million Tutsi returnees remain effectively
internally displaced, not yet settled on land they can call
The government is attempting to resettle large numbers of
Tutsi returnees in the extreme northeast (including in
Akagera Park), in the Kibungo prefecture in southeast
Rwanda, and in northwest Rwanda between Gisenyi and
Ruhengeri. The government and UNHCR offer different
assessments of the sustainable population capacities in
these areas. ...
The Rwandan government's internal bureaucracies also appear
to be slowing permanent resettlement. ...
International agencies and donors who correctly value a
multiparty government in Rwanda are encountering the
inefficiencies and competing interests inherent in
< Recommendation #29 > Permanently resettle larger
numbers of old caseload Tutsi returnees.
The government of Rwanda should resolve its internal debates
and act in a rapid, coordinated fashion to facilitate the
permanent resettlement of old caseload Tutsi returnees.
UNHCR should exhibit more willingness to install the
infrastructure for resettlement at designated sites, in
advance of families arrival.
Resettlement of Tutsi returnees should be a priority.
Resettling Tutsi returnees is crucial to encourage
repatriation by Hutu refugees and to minimize land conflicts
when they do return. Many Tutsi returnees appear to be
resisting permanent resettlement, but many other Tutsi
squatters appear to be eager to relocate to their own
property and get on with their lives.
* International donors have disbursed less than one-fourth
of the $1 billion they have pledged to Rwanda.
International donors have pledged $1.084 billion to Rwanda.
Some $252 million has been disbursed by donors as of mid-
September, according to a report by UNDP/Kigali and the
The United States has pledged $92.5 million--less than 10
percent of the total pledges to Rwanda by all donors. The
United States has disbursed $68.5 million--about three-
quarters of its pledged amount.
* International donors have provided only 12 percent of the
$205 million required for refugee resettlement.
Some $205 million is required over two years for refugee
resettlement, according to the Rwandan government and
UNDP/Kigali. International donors have thus far pledged
$82.2 million for this project and have disbursed only $25.5
million, according to the mid-September monthly report to
The report states that the Action Plan for refugee
resettlement remains largely unfunded despite the fact
that most donors have insisted on an orderly return of
refugees from abroad as part of the overall reconciliation
program.... At the same time, some $500 million [has]
reportedly been channeled...to support refugees outside
< Recommendation #30 > International donors should
continue to accelerate their disbursement of pledged monies.
Slow reaction has characterized the international
community's response to Rwanda during the past two years.
One key to Rwanda's refugee problem is to stabilize the
situation inside Rwanda, yet international financial
assistance has been painfully slow to arrive. A top
official at the U.S. Agency for International Development
noted in September that he has never witnessed a situation
whereby the international community, for all intents and
purposes, has marginalized a government to the extent it
has in Rwanda.
Only in recent months have donor disbursements accelerated.
The current disbursement total is five times larger than in
May, three times larger than in July. It is true that an
infusion of too much money too quickly can create new
problems, but that does not yet appear to be a problem in
this case. The government of Rwanda suffers from a
profound lack of capacity after the genocide and refugee
flight, according to Randolph Kent, the UN's Humanitarian
Coordinator in Kigali. International donors should honor
the financial commitments they have made in a timely manner.
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