Rwanda/Burundi: Recent Documents, 04/04/'96

Rwanda/Burundi: Recent Documents, 04/04/'96

Rwanda/Burundi: Recent Documents, 1
Date Distributed (ymd): 960404

Amnesty International


20 FEBRUARY 1996

GENEVA: A mass return of refugees to Rwanda and Burundi could lead to further large-scale human rights abuses, Amnesty International warned at a press conference in Geneva today.

A mass return, especially if forced, could lead to a significant increase in arbitrary arrests, detention without trial, disappearances' and extrajudicial executions,' Amnesty International said.

More than 200,000 Burundi refugees and about 1.7 million Rwandese are still in camps in Zaire and Tanzania; other Rwandese are in camps in Burundi.

According to recent reports, the Zairian authorities are planning the progressive closure of refugee camps. These refugees should not be forced to return unless their safety is guaranteed, the human rights organization said in a report released today.

The governments of the Great Lakes region and the international community should act now to solve this refugee crisis,' Amnesty International said. All the signs of a further human rights catastrophe are present in the region.'

Measures by Zaire to step up repatriation are creating intense pressure on refugees to return. Under these conditions, there are no guarantees that the resulting return would be truly voluntary in all cases.

The tragic reality is that these refugees often have nowhere to go,' Amnesty International said. Six months after the forcible return of around 15,000 Rwandese and Burundi refugees from Zaire, very little has been done to seek a long-term solution to the crisis.'

Amnesty International stressed that respect for human rights is the key to any resolution of the refugee crisis. The organization called on all states to respect their international obligations to protect refugees from human rights abuses

Amnesty International recognizes that the refugee crisis has led to a difficult situation for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations. However, the priorities of these organizations and the host countries should be the voluntary nature of any return and the human rights situation in the country of destination.

Amnesty International is appealing to the governments of Zaire and Tanzania to keep their borders open to those fleeing from human rights violations, and called on the international community to make available adequate human and material resources to enable host countries to shoulder the burden.

In its report, 'Rwanda and Burundi - the return home; rumours and reality', Amnesty International highlights the three main factors which are preventing most refugees from returning voluntarily: the absence of security, the absence of justice, and manipulation of information about the real situation in the two countries.

The human rights situation remains critical, especially in Burundi, where refugees are caught in the middle of the violence,' the organization said. Survival has become a question of luck.'

In Burundi, increasing violence continues to cause thousands to flee, while Rwandese refugees in the country are threatened by Burundi government security forces and armed groups.

Since October 1993, more than 100,000 people have been killed in Burundi by security forces or armed opposition groups, at a rate of around 1,500 each month during 1995. Violence has become a daily phenomenon in the capital Bujumbura and in the rest of the country.

The country has become divided along ethnic lines and fear prevents people from one ethnic group or political affiliation from transgressing into areas dominated by the other. The justice system is paralysed and the government is unable to control the security forces, who continue to carry out massacres with impunity.

In Rwanda, approximately 66,000 people held in connection with the genocide are detained in grossly overcrowded prisons without charge or trial. Around 2,300 have died since 1994 as a direct result of inhumane conditions and detention and ill-treatment have become a substitute for justice, the organization said.

Members of the former Rwandese government army and militia known as interahamwe still control refugee camps, using intimidation and propaganda to discourage refugees from returning.

Amnesty international believes that an essential pre-condition for a voluntary return must be the establishment of a fair system of justice, at the national and international levels.

The organization is calling for the deployment of a sufficient number of independent and competent human rights observers in Rwanda and Burundi as an important contribution to the creation of a climate of security for returnees.


The mass movement of populations linked to widespread human rights abuses is not a new phenomenon in the Great Lakes region, but it has reached unprecedented proportions since the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, which claimed as many as one million lives. In its aftermath, two million Rwandese fled their country for Zaire, Tanzania and Burundi.

As a result of the massive human rights abuses in Burundi since 1993, around 200,000 Burundi refugees are still living outside their country. Around the same number are internally displaced within Burundi. Thousands of people continue to seek refuge in neighbouring Zaire and Tanzania.

Sometimes, the only place these refugees feel safe is in a refugee camp. Amnesty International delegates spoke to a plumber from Bubanza (who cannot be named for security reasons) in northwestern Burundi, who fled to Zaire in May 1995 after his village was attacked by militia. In August 1995, he was among those forcibly returned to Burundi by the Zairian army. One month after his return, he still preferred to remain in the relative security of the transit camp set up at the border. He could not return to his village as his house had been destroyed, but he was prepared to go anywhere he could live in peace. He felt abandoned on all sides; unable to go home, forcibly returned from Zaire, and unable to go to Tanzania because the border had been closed since March 1995.

On 17 January 1996, 15,000 Rwandese refugees fled the camp of Mugano in northeastern Burundi and entered Tanzania, following clashes between the Burundi security forces and armed groups. Several refugees who crossed the border reportedly had gunshot wounds. On 20 and 21 January, a further 16,000 also tried to flee Burundi. They were initially turned back at the Tanzanian border. Some were eventually let in; others began making their way back to Rwanda; others remain in Burundi.

In Rwanda, Amnesty International delegates interviewed returnees who had not been specifically targeted by the authorities. However, there are still no reliable mechanisms to ensure that human rights are protected in the event of a mass return. Despite statements by the Rwandese authorities that refugees are welcome to return, very few refugees who fled in 1994 have chosen to do so.

Rwanda remains the scene of serious human rights violations, even though these are not on the scale of those committed during the genocide of 1994. The massacres by the Rwandese Patriotic Army at Kibeho in April 1995 and Kanama in September 1995 claimed several hundreds, if not thousands, of civilian lives. Extrajudicial executions and disappearances' continue. On 27 July 1995, Placide Koloni, former administrator of Ruhango, and several members of his family were assassinated. He had just been released from Gitarama prison on the recommendation of a screening committee which found that there was insufficient evidence against him. Disputes over property and personal vendettas are also common.

Armed groups from the refugee camps in Zaire, Tanzania and Burundi have killed unarmed civilians during cross border attacks, in villages close to the border. Some of these incursions appear aimed at eliminating witnesses of massacres during 1994 for fear that they might denounce those responsible.

Amnesty International welcomes the efforts to set up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, but said that the international community should intensify initiatives to bring to justice individuals suspected of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

For more information on Amnesty International, visit Amnesty's International Secretariat Web site at: or send an e-mail message for an automatic reply to

Other recent documents:

(1) Refugees International (e-mail publishes periodic brief reports entitled Rwandan Repatriation. The series is available on-line at

The URL of the most recent report is:

(2) A two-day summit in Tunis, organized by the Carter Center and including the presidents of Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania, and former presidents Jimmy Carter (U.S.), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania) and Amadou Toure (Mali), was held from March 16-18. The summit issued the Tunis Declaration on the Great Lakes Region. The declaration is available on-line at the Africa News web site in the atlarge directory:

It is also available by e-mail from the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network Nairobi. Send an e-mail message to, containing the text: GET CC0318.96




Geneva, Nairobi, New York, 12 March 1996

RWANDA: International Response to Conflict and Genocide

The killing of 500,000 - 800,000 Rwandese men, women, and children in about 3 months in 1994 was the 4th genocide this century following the slaughter of Armenians, Jews and Cambodians. And it was the second during the life of the United Nations which was created to avoid exactly this happening. The tragedy in Rwanda shook the world by its brutality and speed and by the sheer number of people killed and feeing as well as by the large number of people participating in the genocide.

The international response to the conflict and genocide in Rwanda has been subject to an unprecedented, self-critical evaluation sponsored and financed jointly by a Steering Committee comprising 37 countries, bilateral, international, multilateral and non-governmental organizations led by Danida, the development wing of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The report is titled:

The International Response to Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda Experience

The report was written by a team of 52 independent experts (principal authors mentioned at end). The agencies and organizations commissioning the evaluation have commented extensively on drafts of the report, but the responsibility for the content is solely that of the evaluation teams.

The evaluation report draws a number of important lessons for the international community. Unfortunately few of these lessons are new, many should have been learned in Somalia and in former Yugoslavia. But the Rwandese tragedy, by its swiftness, brutality and magnitude put the weakness - and strengths of the international community in relief.

If the world community cannot learn from Rwanda, it cannot learn at all.

The major conclusions of the report are:

When the extent of the flight of people from Rwanda became clear, the international humanitarian assistance system launched an impressive and, on the whole, effective relief operation. In spite of the extreme difficulties the international response saved many lives and mitigated large scale suffering.

However, just as war is the extension of failed diplomatic efforts, Humanitarian Aid was a substitute for political action in Rwanda. There were significant signs that Hutu extremist forces in Rwanda were preparing the climate and structures for a genocide of Tutsi and moderate Hutus, but the states, international organizations and other parties who, following the Arusha Peace Accord ofn 1993, had assumed some responsibility for regulating the Rwandese conflict ignored, discounted or misinterpreted these signs, thereby indicating an inability or unwillingness to intervene.

The international community hardly reacted to the genocide: most of UN peace keeping forces in Rwanda were pulled out by the Security Council two weeks after the killings started on the 7th April 1994, the media stayed aways, and the few humanitarian aid agencies who remained in Rwanda were not heard. When the UN Secretary General finally made it clear that forceful action was needed (on 29 April - only one week after the peace keeping force had been withdrawn) the members of the Security Council - in particular the major western powers - were unwilling to commit troops or funds to finance troops offered from several African countries. Through this vacillation the international community failed to prevent, stop or stem the genocide and thus shares responsibility for the extent of it.

Only when the television screens showed the massive influx of Hutu refugees to Tanzania in late April 1994 and, in particular, to Zaire in mid-July 1994, was the international donor community galvanized into action. UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movements, military logistic and medical contingents, civil defence and disaster response agencies, and more than 200 NGOs poured into the area; over the period April to December 1994 approximately US$ 1.4 billion was allocated by the international community to assist refugees and internally displaced. By now more than US$ 2.5 billion have been spent.

The response was extraordinary and contained highly commendable efforts and was marked by the courage and commitment shown by personnel from all agencies in extremely difficult and often dangerous situations.

The key messages from evaluation are that:

Humanitarian action cannot substitute for political action. The failure to recognize the genocide; conflicting interests and/or relative lack of interest among Security Council members; inadequate strategy formulation within the Secretariat and inadequate communication with the Security Council concerning options; and disjointed relationships between UN Headquarters and field, in short a lack of policy and operational coherence, all contributed to the failure to stern the genocide.

In this policy vacuum there was an impressive overall performance of humanitarian agencies in assisting the unprecedented flow of refugees however, there are problem areas that need to be addressed:

Coordination among UN agencies and between UN, bilateral and NGO agencies was inadequate. Collaboration and coordination between UN agencies was affected by overlapping mandates, unclear division of responsibilities, and a regrettable rivalry. The report puts forward several options intended to reform the international humanitarian system and address the weaknesses of the system. (Synth. C-3, p.57 and Sty. III, p.122).

The performance of NGOs was very mixed. A number delivered high quality services and behaved professionally. But others performed in an unprofessional and irresponsible manner that resulted not only in duplication and wasted resources but, in a few egregious cases, in unnecessary loss of lives. The NGO community - and the donors who fund most - of it must establish a Code of Conduct - and ensure adherence to it. (Synth. C-4, p.59 and Sty III, p.152).

Preparedness and contingency planning was weak and there is a need for a integrated humanitarian early warning system as well as willingness of donors to provide up-front funding for preparedness. (Synth. A-6, p.51).

Accountability to the taxpayers who foot the bill, and to the beneficiaries, whose voice is seldom heard, is inadequate. The availability and quality of data and reporting from donors, UN agencies and NGOs is highly variable and a tendency to emphasize or inflate positive accomplishments and play down or ignore problems result in distorted information (Synth. C-6, p.60).

Military contingents from OECD countries have played increasingly significant roles in support of humanitarian operations. The report raises questions about the predictability, effectiveness, costs and ability of the military to participate collaboratively in humanitarian operations. The role of the military needs to be thoroughly assessed. (Synth. C-5, p.60 and Sty III, p.57-62).

Reconciliation and Repatriation will be a long term process with many reversals along the way. An initial misunderstanding of the implications and effects of the genocide led to unrealistic pressure from the international community (with the notable exception of UNHCR) for immediate repatriation of the over 2 million refugees camped on Rwanda's borders. Today, over 18 months after the genocide, almost 2 million refugees remain, despite attempts by international agencies and asylum countries to encourage them to return.

Among the main barriers to repatriation have been intimidation from extremist leadership in the camps; refugees concerns about retaliation against them inside Rwanda and over their inability to reclaim property. The report identifies the lack of functioning system of justice in Rwanda as a critical barrier both to repatriation and to the beginning of reconciliation and healing. Particularly important is the need to formulate clearly degrees of guilt and punishment of those who participated in the genocide and to accelerate due process to law for determining the fate of the over 65,000 detainees held under harsh conditions in Rwandese jails. The report identifies actions donors should support to promote justice, repatriation and reconciliation. Women's groups are singled out as deserving further support in order to assist a particularly vulnerable group severally affected by the genocide, but which also has the potential for the healing process. (Synth. D1-2-3, p.63-66).

The international media played a mixed role in the Rwanda crisis. While the media were a major factor in generating worldwide humanitarian relief support for refugees, distorted reporting on events leading to the genocide itself was a contributing factor to the failure of the international community to take more effective action to stem the genocide. The distorted reporting reflected inadequate knowledge of Rwandese culture and politics as well as low editorial priority. The report recommends that the media conducts its own self critical evaluation of the adequacy and impartiality of its reporting of complex emergencies in the developing world and draw lessons for more responsible reporting. (Synth. E, p.66).

The regional dimension and Burundi: The regional dimension will be a crucial element in any sustainable solution to the Rwanda crisis. Moreover, the current crisis in neighbouring Burundi shares many of the same features and causes as in Rwanda. Recurring violent conflict in one or the other of these two countries over the last several decades has often triggered violence in the other country. The two major ethnic groups in Rwanda are also found in Burundi and neighbouring regions of Zaire, Uganda, and, to a lesser extent, Tanzania.

The report identifies a number of recommendations that are also applicable to the Burundi crisis, including strengthening the OAU and other measures to put pressure on the perpetrators of the violence, strengthen the justice system and alleviate the suffering of innocent victims. Recognizing that sustained economic development of the region, accompanied by human and civil rights for all population groups, offers a main hope for stability and the end to the cycles of violence, the report recommends several elements leading to the formulation and implementation of an internationally supported long-term development effort for the Great Lakes Region. (Synth. p.67-69).

A precondition for any solution to the crisis - in the entire region - is that the international community shows resolve and willingness to stop the killings, to halt the supply of weapons to the region and bring the killers to justice. The lessons from Rwanda shows that such actions are crucial. BUT, the recent (5 march, 1996) decisions by the Security Council indicate that even the horror of Rwanda is not sufficient to teach the lessons. Again the international community sidestepped action and requested the UN to prepare for a "rapid humanitarian response in the event of a serious deterioration in the situation and wide spread violence".

As we prepared for another genocide?

Chairman of the Steering Committee for the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda: Niels Dabelstein, Danida Evaluation Unit Tel: +453392 0917

This document was distributed via the UN Department Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN). Tel: +254 2 444338; fax: +254 2 448816; e-mail: The IRIN provides both a daily mailing list and a less frequent digest mailing list concerning the current situation in the Great Lakes region. For information on how to subscribe, send an e-mail message to

Message-Id: <> From: "APIC" <> Date: Thu, 4 Apr 1996 11:25:08 -0500 Subject: Rwanda/Burundi: Recent Doc's, 1

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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