8 July 2005 |

Ensuring durable solutions for Rwanda's displaced: A chapter closed too early

Executive summary

More than four years after the issue of internal displacement was taken off the agenda in Rwanda, conditions in the villages inhabited by the resettled IDPs call for renewed attention to the question of whether internal displacement has ended with the implementation of durable solutions, as required by the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The relevance of this question is underlined by the Rwandan government’s call for continued international support for the ongoing villagisation programme, arguing that the programme would help address poverty and land scarcity. Its request for assistance to improve housing conditions for 180,000 households living in inadequate shelter, out of which more than 100,000 are located in Ruhengeri and Gisenyi, is a clear indication that durable solutions have not been found during the more than six years which have elapsed since the IDPs were resettled to their current homes. 

Indeed, housing conditions in Ruhengeri and Gisenyi – once strongholds of the Hutu-dominated regime that orchestrated the genocide of 1994 – have deteriorated drastically since the displaced people were moved into the new settlements. The rest of the country received considerably more assistance from the government and the international community to construct villages. Moreover, the villagisation policy appears to have reduced access to land for many of the affected people and thus increased land scarcity, a problem that is widely considered as one of the decisive causes of the 1994 genocide. Several villagers in Ruhengeri and Gisenyi in communes bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo claimed in May 2005 that high-ranking military officers were illegally occupying land they had abandoned. This may further exacerbate the historical animosity between the people in these two Hutu-dominated provinces and the central authorities. 

The government as well as Rwanda’s donors should address the current misery in the settlement sites as a humanitarian issue. The government should be asked to make a convincing case for its claim that the villagisation policy increases productivity before renewed funding is considered. Efforts should also be made by the government to remove any bias in government policies nurturing perceptions that one group is favoured by the authorities at the expense of another, and to investigate reports of land belonging to displaced people being illegally occupied by members of the Rwandan army(Updated July 2005).