The exodus period: 1960-1994
During this period, refugee settlements were established in Uganda, Tanzania, Congo-Zaire, and Burundi, to house Rwandan refugees. The host governments allocated land to the refugees with the aim that the refugees would become self-sufficient, and subsequently, international and national aid and assistance would be withdrawn (Stein and Clark 1990).
Although the policy of refugee settlement was advocated in all the host states, the rights accorded to the refugees differed from state to state. For example, in Tanzania, Rwandese refugees were viewed as a permanent fixture, and rights were given to them as such. By the middle of 1985, Rwandan refugees were allowed to apply for Tanzanian citizenship (Gasarasi 1990). By contrast, in Uganda, even after thirty years, the refugees were still seen as a temporary phenomenon who would eventually return to Rwanda. Although the issue of citizenship to Rwandan refugees was discussed nationally throughout their stay in Uganda, Rwandan refugees were never given the right to own land, move outside refugee settlements without official permission from the Settlement Commandant, or given the right to citizenship (van der Meeren 1996).
Throughout their time in exile, there were various armed attacks by refugees to invade back into Rwanda. The first attacks in the 1960s reflected the refugees' belief that their life in exile was a temporary one. Between 1960 and 1963, a refugee group, referred to as the Inyenzi (meaning 'cockroaches' in the Kinyarwanda tongue) by the Hutu in Rwanda, launched a serious of unsuccessful assaults on Rwanda from Uganda and Burundi. These attacks resulted in repercussions for those Tutsi who remained in Rwanda (Prunier 1998).
Organizing a return to Rwanda
Between the 1960s and the 1980s there were limited attempts by refugees to organize an armed return to Rwanda. By the late 1980s, a new group, the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) had been formed in Uganda, and expanded itself amongst the Rwandese Diaspora from Dar-es-Salaam to Toronto.
There had been a series of events throughout this period which culminated in the creation of the RPF. The first was what is referred to as the 'expulsion of the Banyarwanda' in 1982-3 when people of Banyarwanda origin (encompassing Ugandan nationals, Rwandan immigrants prior to the 1960s, and Rwandan refugees of the 1960s) were victimized, with thousands being forced back into Rwanda from Uganda, or pushed into refugee settlements. The second event was Rwandan refugees helping Museveni win the 'bush war' by their recruitment into Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA), and then subsequently, once Museveni was in power, being sidelined from the positions which they had achieved in government and in the army (Prunier 1998, JEEAR 1997a).
On 1 October 1990, the RPF launched an invasion from Uganda into Rwanda which used approximately 2,500 RPF recruits, who had belonged to the NRA, together with large amounts of Ugandan military hardware, which had been easily taken by high-ranking members of the Ugandan army (Prunier 1998). Between 1990 and 1993, a civil war ensued in Rwanda that culminated in the Arusha Peace Agreement in 1993. Part of the agreement, forcibly encouraged by the international community, was that a multi-party system would be implemented in Rwanda, and that a 'Broad-Based Transitional Government' (BBTG) would be formed and would include the RPF (JEEAR 1997b).
Despite signing the Arusha Agreement and agreeing to a BBTG, there was an increasing reluctance by the president of Rwanda and his close inner circle to cede power. Since seizing power in a coup in 1973, President Juvénal Habyarimana had created a one-party state. Political parties had been outlawed, there was no freedom of press, and political representatives from the national to the local level were chosen from amongst Habyarimana's closest supporters.
However, during this time of political repression Habyarimana implemented a rigid development policy, which gained the support of international donors. By 1991, 22 per cent of Rwanda's GNP came from international aid, compared to fewer than 5 per cent in 1973 (Prunier 1998). It was only when political conditions were imposed on aid, and demands were made on Rwanda to become multi-party, did Habyarimana reluctantly agree to political change.
On 6 April 1994, a plane carrying President Habyarimana, and the president of Burundi, President Ntaryimira, was shot down over Kigali. Within a few hours, road blocks were set up around the city, and the killings of Tutsi and moderate Hutu took place. These included the Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and politicians who were considered 'moderate'. Within weeks, killings took on a more localized ethnic dimension, and it is estimated that between 800,000 and 850,000 people were killed (Prunier 1998). Initially the West viewed the killings as ethnic, ignoring the fact that the first killings had been planned with lists of the victims drawn up in advance. The initial organizers of the genocide were high-ranking members and Ministers of the government and the military, including the Presidential Guard. The killings in the capital were first carried out by members of the Presidential Guard, who were also assisted by the Interahamwe (the youth section of the National Revolutionary Movement for Development party). In the prefectures, outside of Kigali, the killings took on a more localized aspect, and the killers here were local peasants (Verwimp 1997).
Humanitarian response of the international community
There has been much criticism levied at the response of the international community to the Rwandan genocide. At the time the genocide began in Rwanda, there was already a UN mission in the country. The United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR I) was a monitoring force engaged after the Arusha Peace Agreement. However, the mandate of UNAMIR I was to be an observatory force, and they technically did not have the power to intervene in the killings which began to take place. After the killing of ten Belgian UNAMIR I soldiers (who had been protecting the Prime Minister), Belgium withdrew its troops from Rwanda. The French government intervened with Opération Turquoise in July 1994, and UNAMIR I's mandate was extended by the Security Council in May 1994; but these were both too little, too late. The international community stalled at responding to the unfolding crisis, and these justified criticisms have subsequently been the topic of major investigations into the inadequate response of the international community (JEEAR 1997b).
- Journal of Humanitarian Assistance
- Tobias Vogel, 'The Politics of Humanitarian Intervention' http://www.jha.ac/articles/a011.htm
- Cedric Thornberry, 'Peacekeepers, Humanitarian Aid, and Civil Conflicts' http://www.jha.ac/articles/a002.htm
Failure to respond to the genocide
In December 1999, Kofi Annan publicly stated the UN's commitment 'never to fail' to protect people from genocide in the same way as they had failed in Rwanda (UN Press Release 1999). Since 1994, many reports have been published on the failure of the international community to respond to the genocide, from sources such as the European Union (Eurostep 1996), UNAMIR (UNAMIR 1996), the Belgian parliament, and the French National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale 1998).
Ignoring early warning signs
Since the genocide, evidence has emerged which shows that the international community did know that genocidal killings were being planned in Rwanda long before Habyarimana died in April 1994. The National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book at George Washington University contains documents, accessible online, which clearly show the warnings which were given in advance, and much evidence of the inaction of the international community. Two other sources are particularly useful. The first, by Samantha Power, considers why the United States did not act to stop the genocide, and the second is an interview with General Roméo Dallaire, who was in charge of the United Nations mission, UNAMIR.
- George Washington University, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB53/press.html
- The Atlantic Monthly
- Samantha Power, 'Bystanders to Genocide: Why the United States Let the Rwandan Tragedy Happen', September 2001 http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2001/09/power.htm
- ABC News television interview of General Romeo d'Allaire by Ted Koppel 'Broken Soldier: A Peacekeeper's Nightmare', 7 February 2001 http://abcnews.go.com/sections/nightline/nightline/transcripts/nl010207_trans.html
The refugee exodus
On 18 July 1994, the RPF gained control of Gisenyi, and in Kigali, a new government under the RPF was formed (Prunier 1998). This political change, together with the impact of the genocide, forced more than 2 million Rwandans to leave the country and seek asylum in the neighbouring countries of Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, and Burundi. In Congo alone, it is suggested that more than 1.2 million Rwandans entered in the space of four days in 1994 (Halvorsen 1999). It is also estimated that between 28-29 April, 250,000 refugees entered Tanzania alone (Rutinwa 1996). Whilst the response of the international community to the genocide had been limited, the response to the unfolding refugee crisis was very different. Large numbers of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), Oxfam, and Care International responded quickly. It is estimated that in Tanzania alone there were more than 500 NGOs in operation.
One of the major problems facing the NGOs responding to the crisis was that the refugee camps were housing ex-members of the Forces Armée Rwandaises (FAR) and the Interahamwe, who had been so heavily involved in the Rwanda genocide. The arming and training of the ex-FAR and Interahamwe within the camps in Congo caused organizations such as MSF and Care International, in 1995, to withdraw their humanitarian support. These organizations faced the dilemma of helping refugees whilst knowing that the camps were also being used as recruitment grounds for Hutu militia who were benefiting significantly from the assistance being given to the refugees.
The refugee influx also had a significant impact on the host countries. In Congo, the presence of the Hutu militia posed a security threat to Rwanda. By 1996, the government of Rwanda warned the Congolese government to close the camps housing them, or Rwanda would forcibly do it themselves. This is said to be one of the major reasons why Rwanda gave its support to Laurent Kabila and the rebel group, the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Zaire (AFDL) in 1996. Research has shown that the refugees had both a positive and negative impact. In December 1996 the Rwandan army (the RPA) and the AFDL forcibly closed the refugee camps in Goma and Bukavu which were housing members of the ex-FAR and Interahamwe (Adelman n.d.).
The closure of Rwandan refugee camps also occurred in Tanzania. On 6 December 1996, the government of Tanzania, along with UNHCR, issued a directive that all Rwandan refugees must leave Tanzania by 31 December 1996. This directive received condemnation from groups such as Amnesty International, as it was seen as a forcible repatriation of refugees. The closure of the camps had three effects. It either compelled the refugees further into the Tanzanian interior, into third countries such as Malawi and Uganda, or it forced them to return to Rwanda, where their security could not be guaranteed.
- The State of the World's Refugees, 'The Rwandan genocide and its aftermath' http://www.unhcr.org/pubs/sowr2000/ch10.pdf
- Beth Elise Whitaker, 'Changing priorities in refugee protection: the Rwandan repatriation from Tanzania', February 2002 http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home/opendoc.pdf?tbl=RESEARCH&id=3c7528ea4&page=research
- Beth Elise Whitaker, 'Changing opportunities: refugees and host communities in western Tanzania,' June 1999 http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home/opendoc.pdf?tbl=RESEARCH&id=3ae6a0c70&page=research
- Bonaventure Rutinwa, 'The end of asylum? The changing nature of refugee policies in Africa', May 1999 http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home/opendoc.pdf?tbl=RESEARCH&id=3ae6a0c34&page=research
- Journal of Humanitarian Assistance
- Tony Waters, 'The Coming Rwandan Demographic Crisis, or Why Current Repatriation Policies Will Not solve Tanzania's (or Zaire's) Refugee Problems' June 2000 http://www.jha.ac/articles/a013.htm