RALLY FOR THE RETURN OF
REFUGEES AND DEMOCRACY IN
4, RUE A. CLUYSENAAR 7,RESIDENCE MONTESQUIEU
1060 BRUXELLES 49000 ANGERS
Tel: 32-2-534 80 35 Tel/Fax: 33-41489987
Fax: 32-2-534 80 53
October 29, 1996
PRESS RELEASE N'101
RWANDA: THE SITUATION IN EASTERN ZAIRE IS A
CHALLENGE TO THE INTERNATIONAL
Since late September 1996, over 1.5 million rwandese refugees in Eastern Zaire, are going
through a nightmare, never witnessed in any other area of the world, since the inception of
the UNHCR. Indeed, they are ever since targets of cross border raids from the Rwandese
Patriotic Army, and its satellite rebellions in eastern Zaire.
While in Bosnia, Liberia, Irak, Somalia, just to mention but a few, the international
community promptly responded to similar tragedies, by creating safe zones for refugees,
the plight of those hutu refugees does not seem to move the champions of human rights.
1. Early warning signals.
On June 17, 1996, tipped off by a highly placed source in a neighbouring country's security
network, RDR warned of a looming attack on rwandese refugee camps in Eastern Zaire,
by a combined force drawn from Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
Although all the evidence of rehearsal exercises was visible, no step was taken to avert let
alone dissuade this satanic plan. Instead RPF lobbies outside blew out of proportion the
ethnic strife in neighbouring Masisi, making sure that hutu refugees are dragged in as
trouble makers, so as to deny them any sympathy in the wake of the impending attacks.
This plot worked perfectly well and nobody dwelt any longer on the threat.
Even after the 21st September clash between a Zairean patrol and Banyamulenge
infiltrators from Rwanda and the subsequent tracts by Banyamurenge and Bangilima in
the north, threatening to unleash terror on Hutu refugees camps, nothing was done to
prevent it and as a result, 1.5 million refugees are now between death and life, at the
mercy of the very RPF hardliners they had fled.
2. The true nature of the problem
Since RPF took over power in Rwanda, the problem of refugees, that was yet a corner
stone of the protracted Arusha negotiations claimed by RPF has been dumped in the dust
bin. At one time, the strongman of Kigali, major general Kagame Paul declared in an
interview with a belgian paper "Le soir" that the problem of refugees had ceased to be his
But if the repatriation of refugees was indeed the least concern of RPF government, their
harassment through physical elimination, kidnapping, raids in camps, intimidation,
character assassination, blackmailing etc ..., has been a permanent feature in its foreign
policy, and the dreadly DMI and ESO were specifically assigned the duty of implementing
this battery of measures.
Faced with a growing discontent inside the country following the infamous anti-insurgency
operations throughout the country, and the refugee deadloack, RPF was advised to shift
the battle field to neighbouring countries accommodating refugees, so as to divert the
attention of the international community, from its failure to fulfil its pledge of bringing
sanity to the war thorn country.
But such a sinister adventure could have not successifuly been undertaken, without a
massive and well orchestrated campaign, demonizing refugees.
B. Smearing campaign against refugees.
Hence, throughout this year, RPF manufactured and widely circulated lies, about an
invasion of Rwanda by refugees. Even the UN fell prey to this scheme, and passed a
number of resoving giving RPF free hand in as far as stock piling arms was concerned,
while tightening the noose around the neck of refugees.
On top of threats to freeze the relief operations meant for refugees, a media campaign was
launched, blaming refugees for the stalemate in the repatriation, deporting and/or putting
behind bars imaginary scapegoats, nicknamed intimidators.
But all this yielded no tangible fruits and a final solution was worked out, consisting of
destroying simply the camps, and driving out refugees, under the gun.
To spearhead this campaign just a few days before the raids two newspapers close to RPF,
the Express of Tanzania, and the Uganda government owned paper, the New
Vision,published article calling openly on the international community to attack Goma
For three days, (19th, 20th, and 21st October 1996) the New Vision ran a series of articles
published in the Express of Tanzania by a well known RPF propagandist Mr Karim Essack
shamelessly, calling upon the international community to"squeeze GOMA to solve the
central Africa warfare". He went on to advocate for the" cleansing" of the camps, so as to
stop the blood letting. The author, who could not hide his bias towards tutsi
internationalism, stretched his imagination to artificial bounds, by stating that the CNDD,
which waged a war after the assassination by the Burundi tutsi army of a democratically
elected hutu president, is a wing of MRND, the late HABYARIMANA's party.
He arrogantly wound up his article by declaring that"peace will be restored in Central
Africa, only if the source of pollution(i.e refugee camps), is cleaned up"
Far from being a slip of tongue, by a fanatic journalist, this has been a message spread all
over the world, by a powerful lobby. Yet, everybody knows that the chaos in Rwanda
started way back in october 1990, with the invasion of Rwanda by Ugandan backed RPF
and not after the exodus of 1994. The displacement of people started at that time and by
February 1993, there was a million refugees, in the outskirts of Kigali town, fleeing RPF
atrocities. Consequently, what is the source of pollution ? Is it Goma that accommodated
victims of RPF war, or RPF that engeneered the exodus and is still manufacturing
3. The current situation
A cross section of the media has persistently published that rwandese refugees are fleeing
clashes between the Banyamurenge insurgents, and zairean troops. But this is not exactly
the case. Some have even attributed the raid on Kibumba camps to the same
Banyamulenge, who are operating 270 km far away. Rwandese refugees are fleeing
because of being direct targets of RPA and RPA sponsored rebels of Banyamurenge in
the South and Bangilima and their tutsi allies in the North.
- Early October 1996, a combined force of RPA, and Banyamurenge attacked the
camps of RUNINGO in UVIRA, and sprayed it with bullets. A number of refugees
were killed or wounded, while others run in disarray in the surrounding hills, where
they were pursued by Banyamurenge.
- A few days later, a neighbouring was also attacked sending all its residents in
- At the same time, a local hospital, Remera, was attacked. Rebels selectively killed
all refugees who were admitted at that hospital.
- While heading further north, a column of fleeing refugees was intercepted by an
RPF force from BUGARAMA-CYANGUGU at KAMANYOLA, after the bridge. A
number of them were shot dead, while others run further West.
- On 27th Oct 1996, the camp of Kibumba was besieged by RPA gangs. On 25th, the
camp was intensively shelled by RPA troops stationed across the border, in Mutura
commune, Gisenyi district, before the final assault it. This prompted all the residents
to abandon the camps. Some of the fleeing refugees were intercepted by RPA and
herded like cattle back to Rwanda.
On 27th Oct 1996, the camp of Katale was attacked by elements from Uganda, supported
by local Bangilima rebels. A few days earlier, the camp of Kahindo had been attacked.
From this account, it is clear that since the out break of the insurgency, rwandese refugee
camps have been hit more than any military target in Zaire. One would therefore conclude
that the hidden agenda of all cross border incursions is aimed at emptying refugees camps,
to avoid the use of the embarrassing "cessation clause" of the UNHCR statute suggested
by the USA delegation during the just concluded UNHCR 47th session.
4. Response of the international community.
So far the response of the international community has been disappointingly lukewarm.
Soon after the first incursion of Banyamurenge in late September 96, the WFP announced
that it was re-routing its relief food from Dar-Es-Salaam via Kigoma and Uvira, to
Mombasa via Uganda and then Goma. No sooner had it been announced that the border
entry of Bunagana was attacked from Uganda. The remaining option was to airlift relief
using GOMA or BUKAVU airports. After the very first attack on Nyangezi 30 km south
of the airport by Banyamurenge rebels and the intoxication that ensued, WFP dropped the
idea without offering any other option .
Chap 1 of the UNHCR statute states among others that the latter"shall assume the
function of providing international protection to refugees"
In the current tragedy in Eastern Zaire, even if the UNHCR may have been perturbed by
the magnitude of the violence meted against refugees, evidence suggests that it may be
pulling the strings from behind.
1.In as early as September 1995, UNHCR worked out a plan of forced repatriation of
Rwandese refugees. The ten page document referenced RWA/GEN, listed a number
of action, to be undertaken, in order to force refugees back home by February 1996,
all the actions listed had been implemented without any modification.
2.During the 47 th session of the UNHCR in Geneva the US delegation tabled a
resolution calling for the use of "the cessation clause" against rwandese refugees.
Although UNHCR did not endorse fully the proposal, it declared however that it had
in pipeline an alternative plan.
3.When skirmishes between Banyamurenge and Zairean troops spread to UVIRA
town, UNHCR was the first humanitarian agency to evacuate its staff, leaving ICRC
to battle it alone.
4.When the fighting reached Nyangezi and Kamanyola, UNHCR declared that it had
run short of relief because of the closure of BUKAVU-UVIRA road and advised
refugees to cross back home and be assisted there, claiming that there was enough
logistics there. Since the nearest UNHCR reception centre was just accross the
Rusizi river, what could have stopped UNHCR from bringing some relief food from
those stocks since there was no fighting between Cyangugu and Bukavu ?
5.Later on, on Saturaday 26th October 1996 UNHCR claiming an imminent assault on
the town of Bukavu, evacuated all its staff from Bukavu area, leaving nearly
500.000 refugees agonising with fear, thus sowing panic among other aid workers.
Surely, was UVIRA and let alone BUKAVU more risky that SOMALIA and Bosinia
at the height of their civil strives, where UNHCR never pulled out ?
6.After the attack on Kahindo camp and the siege of Katale, UNHCR broke its
silence and openly encouraged refugees to go home. Even after the attacks on
Katale and Kibumba on 27th and 26th october respectively by none other than RPA
from MUTURA-GISENYI, UNHCR intensified its efforts to drive refugees out of
Zaire. More so, the attacks on Kibumba was sarcastically exploited, UNHCR
claiming that between 5000 and 10.000 refugees had "voluntarily" crossed into
Rwanda through Mutura commune. Yet, those poor refugees were herded at gun
point by RPA from their camps. Besides they crossed with zairean nationals
mistaken for hutu refugees. How could over 1.000 zairean nationals including a local
administration officer have volunteered to cross into Rwanda instead of going to
(c) UNITED NATIONS
Although the Zairean government filed a case against Burundi and Rwanda in the security
council, no condemnation, let alone a warning to Burundi and Rwanda was issued. All was
done as if Burundi and Rwanda were implementing a wide conspiracy. The only step
forward suggested by the UN Secretariat is the convening of an international conference
on the Great Lakes Region. But the idea is likely not to materialise, given the fact that the
countries that blocked the previous similar initiative i.e Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda will
not just sit on the fence. Besides, given the magnitude of the tragedy, the conference
would be too late and perhaps too little in averting the disaster. What is needed now is an
emergency plan to save the refugees from starving and beeing thrown in Rwanda at gun
(d) EUROPEAN UNION
The EU is the only body that took a bold stand, not only against the invasion of Zaire, but
also against the slaughter of innocent refugees. In this connection, refugees are very
grateful for the EU Commissioner for humanitarian affairs, who boldly warned of a
disaster if raids on camps are not stopped.
5. What could be the way out?
(a) Refugees will never willingly return at gun point. If the international community has
failed to put pressure on RPF government so as to create a conducive atmosphere for the
peacefull return of refugees, let it be clear that it is a war on refugees and not a voluntary
(b) Rwanda is no haven of peace for hutu refugees. UNHCR should therefore not bury the
head in the sand. There are still a lot of obstacles to the voluntary repatriation of refugees,
and unless they are addressed the deadlock will persist.
(c) Cross-border raids from Rwanda on camps should be condemned without any
reservation. So should be the annexionist policy of RPF towards Zaire.
(d) Rwandese refugees need first and foremost security and food. Safe corridors to and
around camps should be immediately created, to safeguard their lives in Zaire. Luring
them in RPF nets using a food bait is bound to fail.
Director of Information
Comments to RDR, by Rafael Pla