Rwanda/Burundi: InterAction Statement, 08/04/'95

Rwanda/Burundi: InterAction Statement, 08/04/'95

Rwanda/Burundi: InterAction Statement

InterAction News Release
American Council for Voluntary International Action
WASHINGTON, DC 20036 PHONE: (202) 667-8227
Contact: Mike Kiernan

July 13, 1995

U.S. Coalition Warns of Escalating Violence in Central Africa; Hundreds of Thousands More People Could Die in Burundi, Rwanda

WASHINGTON - - Hundreds of thousands more people could die in strife-torn Burundi and Rwanda in the coming months unless western nations, led by the United States and France, take immediate steps to break the cycle of violence and insecurity in the Central African region, representatives of many of the nation's most prestigious humanitarian aid, human rights and foreign policy groups warned today.

Extremists are growing more powerful in both Rwanda and Burundi while there is growing evidence that Hutu forces, defeated a year ago, are rearming themselves in Zaire for an invasion of Rwanda, the groups reported. "Both countries seem to be sliding toward another catastrophe," they said.

The warning comes one year after more than one million Rwandans, mostly Hutus, began to flee into Zaire, fearing reprisals from Tutsi rebels who defeated Hutu forces and won control of the country last summer. The huge migration, the largest in recent African history, followed three months of genocide in Rwanda in which at least 500,000 Tutsis were murdered.

In a letter to the White House, the groups recommended that President Clinton ensure that a high-level envoy seeks the implementation of a series of emergency measures in the region. These actions would include imposing tighter controls over the flow of arms in the region and providing immediate assistance for police and judicial institutions in both countries.

The coalition also demanded that western nations and international financial institutions meet their financial commitments to Rwanda by releasing more than $600 million pledged last year to help stabilize the country. "Governments and international organizations have promised much since last year's genocide. Now is the time for them to deliver," the letter noted.

The letter added: "Only a coordinated regional approach that ends impunity, disarms and disempowers the extremists, creates security for proponents of justice and reconciliation, and enables refugees and the displaced to return home can stop this region's slide toward disaster."

Representatives of 33 humanitarian aid, human rights and foreign policy groups signed the letter. These agencies are listed on the last page of the statement. A full text of the statement follows.

Statement on Urgent International Action for Rwanda and Burundi

Nowhere in the world are more people in danger of losing their lives to political violence in the coming months than in the Central African countries of Rwanda and Burundi. We have ample warnings of impending conflict -- reports that militias are rearming, that armies are committing massacres, that populations are fleeing violence, and that food shortages are multiplying these tensions. We have the examples of last year's genocide in Rwanda and the 1993 massacres in Burundi before our eyes as the consequence of failure to act.

Only decisive and swift action by major states and international organizations can avert these disasters. This crisis is political in origin and can only be solved through political means. If the international community fails, we, the humanitarian and advocacy organizations, will again be left to pick up the pieces, aided by a generous but increasingly exhausted public. Governments and international organizations have promised much since last year's genocide. Now is the time for them to deliver.

The genocide in Rwanda caught much of the world unawares, although plenty of warning was available, and it continued in full view for nearly three months. Now the Hutu extremist perpetrators are rearming in exile, Tutsi extremists are gaining ground within Rwanda, and the international community has failed to provide the resources to rebuild the country and strengthen the moderates. In Burundi, where the ethnic composition resembles Rwanda, the assassination of the country's first democratically elected president, a Hutu, by Tutsi extremist army officers in October 1993, led to massacres of tens of thousands of both groups. As in Rwanda, the perpetrators of these killings enjoy total impunity, and the process of democratization and reform is continually undermined by violence.

Both countries are spiraling downward toward another catastrophe. Fragile reconstruction efforts were set back when government forces opened indiscriminate fire on a camp for displaced people at Kibeho, among whom were a small number of armed Hutu extremists. The majority of victims were innocent unarmed internally displaced people (IDPs) who had fled violence. Reports from Zaire indicate that the forces that committed the genocide are preparing to re-invade the country. In Burundi, a cycle of indiscriminate attacks and reprisals by Hutu extremist militias and the Tutsi-dominated army is leaving a mounting death toll and destroying the fragile framework of political accommodation. The extremists of both groups have increased their cooperation across national boundaries. Hundreds of thousands more people could die in the coming months unless this cycle of violence and insecurity is stopped.

Only a coordinated regional approach that ends impunity, disarms and disempowers the extremists, creates security for proponents of justice and reconciliation, and enables refugees and the displaced to return home can stop this region's slide toward disaster. Therefore we, a group of private organizations engaged in humanitarian and advocacy work, have come together to urge the United States, the United Nations, and the world to urgently implement a set of policies -- many of them already promised -- to meet these goals. The cost will be cheap compared to the cost of failure -- a cost that will be measured not only in lives lost, investments destroyed, and vast funds squandered on relief for preventable disasters, but in our honor and humanity.

We recommend:

All donors should immediately release the more than $600 million in funding that has already been pledged to Rwanda. The U.S. and France must assume international leadership to transform the "Rwanda Operation Support Group" into a consortium that will unblock the pledged funds and vigorously monitor well-defined timetables, effective judicial action, and implementation of the human rights guarantees. This donor group should develop a regional strategy and become a consortium for the entire Great Lakes region of Central Africa.

The President should ensure that a high-level special envoy is empowered to oversee the implementation of these recommendations. The U.S. must take the lead to see that international organizations work effectively and that our government and other major states collaborate fully.

The UN, in consultation with the Organization of African Unity, must expedite launching of a "Regional Consultative Mission," to be led by an eminent statesman and supported by a small team of experts familiar with recent peace, humanitarian, and technical assistance operations in the region, that could shuttle for no more than 90 days among Central African capitals to help prepare a regional summit on security and cooperation by the end of 1995. Such a mission would be consistent with the Secretary General's intention, stated in his most recent report to the Security Council on Rwanda, to appoint a regional special envoy and convene a regional conference. Developing a plan for collective action to control the flow of arms int the region, particularly the de-militarization of refugee and insurgent groups, must be a top priority for this regional summit. This summit should be supported by an additional conference, with full participation by local and international non- governmental organizations .

The UN should immediately deploy military observers at the airports and camps in eastern Zaire to curb the arms which are reportedly being supplied to exiled Rwandan genocidal forces. This action was recommended by UN Security Council Resolution 997, implementation of which was the goal of the recent trip to the region by Under Secretary General Aldo Ajello. In addition, we urge the following actions which could minimize the possibility of an invasion of Rwanda by genocidal forces in Zaire:

All states to share intelligence information on the rearming of extremists and the sources of the arms and money;

Immediate activation of the UN Sanctions Committee established to monitor compliance with the arms embargo declared in UN Security Council Resolution 918 and clarified in Resolution 997;

Enhanced UN coordination of humanitarian aid in the entire region to assure that it promotes security and peace.

The international community must fully support measures to establish institutions of legal accountability for crimes against humanity, including:

Full funding and support for the Rwandan War Crimes Tribunal, including the swift arrest and delivery of suspects named by the Tribunal;

Immediate and long-term assistance toward the establishment of police and judicial institutions in both countries, including secondment of Francophone police and judicial officers, training, penal and prison reform, and long-term support, regardless of any embargoes on aid in other areas;

Swift formation of an International Commission of Inquiry into the Burundi massacres of late 1993, as repeatedly requested by the government of Burundi;

Full funding and deployment of human rights monitors in Rwanda and Burundi.

Restriction of access to visas and foreign bank accounts by extremists and by those who support or participate in act of violence in both countries, whose names are well known to governments and international organizations;

Preparations of measures to disable any radios that broadcast calls inciting genocide or massacre, accompanied by support for genuine pluralism in the media and public sphere.

These measures can only be accomplished through full partnership among North American, European, and African governments, among international organizations, and the private sector. The United States government and public, in particular, showed themselves willing last year to provide generously for the victims of conflict in Rwanda. Despite understandable concern with our domestic problems, we cannot ignore vast threats to humanity such as loom today over Central Africa. To do so would make a mockery of the international community's commitment against genocide.

Representatives of these agencies signed the statement above: Adventist Development and Relief Agency International, African American Institute, Africare, Air Serve International, American Friends Service Committee, American Refugee Committee, Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team (AMURT), Bread for the World, Center for Migration Studies, Center for Preventive Action of the Council on Foreign Relations, Church World Service, Congressional Hunger Center, Food for the Hungry, International Global Development Associates, Human Rights Watch, Institute for Policy Studies, InterAction, International Action Against Hunger (AICF), International Foundation for Agathe Uwilinjiyinana, International Human Rights Law Group, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Islamic African Relief Agency, Lutheran World Relief, MAP International, Medecins Sans Frontieres USA, Missionaries of Africa, Operation USA, OXFAM America, Refugees International, Save the Children, US Committee for Refugees, World Concern Development Organization, World Vision Relief and Development

InterAction, a membership association of more than 150 U.S. non-profit organizations, is the nation's leading advocate for international humanitarian efforts including relief, development, refugee assistance, environment, population, and global education.


From: "APIC"
Date: Fri, 4 Aug 1995 11:22:35 +0000
Subject: Rwanda/Burundi: InterAction Statement