Burundi + 7 more

JRS Dispatches No. 127

News and Press Release
Originally published
(Extracted from JRS Dispatches No. 127)

Twice monthly news bulletin from the Jesuit Refugee Service International Office



Instability in Burundi has grown steadily since the second week of January, JRS Great Lakes reports. The main Hutu armed group, CNDD-FDD of Pierre Nkurunziza, has officially suspended talks on the cease-fire implementation agreement, accusing the government of openly violating the accord by launching attacks and blocking humanitarian aid provided by the EU. Following this announcement, attacks by CNDD-FDD seem to have increased in many regions. Many experts believe that Hutu armed groups are showing their strength on the ground in order to see it reflected in the composition of the new national army. The challenge facing the country is to find a percentage balance between Hutu and Tutsi forces in the national army that will be acceptable to all the actors involved. Meanwhile, as the humanitarian situation worsens inside the country, the political situation also seems uncertain, as the 18-months transition period fixed by the Arusha agreements comes to an end. In accordance with this framework, the transfer of power to the current vice-president, Domitien Ndayizeye, should take place in May 2003.


By Onegi Levis, JRS Kampala Urban Programme, Uganda

A Congolese Pygmy from the thick forests of Ituri in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) recently fled to Uganda seeking asylum. He was accompanied by his 5-month pregnant wife and 4 children and is the first Pygmy beneficiary of the JRS Kampala Urban Programme. The 28 year-old man is currently sleeping outside the Old Kampala Police station waiting for registration and the protection interviews of UNHCR. His family fled in the wake of increased acts of cannibalism perpetuated by some rebel commanders against the Pygmys and other minority tribes of the Ituri region. Problems started for this individual when he compiled a report about the local rebel Commander, who was part of this heinous act of cannibalism, for international journalists who went to investigate this allegation. He narrated to us the sad story of his other family members. His mother, father, two brothers and eldest son were herded into a grass-thatched house, and then set ablaze to punish him. He is lucky to be alive as the commander ordered his pursuit. He fled, covering much of his flight on foot, and finally found himself in Kampala, Uganda. Recent media reports, both local and international, have accused one of the major rebel groups, Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) in DRC, led by Jean Pierre Bemba, of acts of cannibalism against the pygmies. Increased media reports have forced Bemba to establish a Commission of inquiry to look into the allegations.


JRS received the news that a group of 60 Congolese refugees who had been living in Kibuye camp, Rwanda, has been resettled in the USA. These refugees had suffered much from violence in Congo in 1996 due to the fact that they were of ethnic Rwandan origin. While in Rwanda they had complained that Rwandans kept telling them to go back to Congo, but in Congo they were perceived as Rwandans, making life very difficult for them in Kinshasa. After many problems and threats, they were transferred from Kinshasa to Kibuye camp, far away from their places of origin. However, these refugees came from urban backgrounds and thus it was very difficult for them to adapt to life in the camp setting.


Security issues in the Kakuma area and the refugee camp continue to concern its residents, JRS Kakuma reports. A number of deaths related to banditry attacks have been reported in this month alone. The Field Safety Section continues to reinforce its safety regulations to the staff working in the field in Kakuma and security escorts for those travelling to the neighbouring towns of Lokichoggio and Lodwar have resumed. JRS offers pastoral, education and counselling services in Kakuma, a camp in the north-west of Kenya that houses over 75,000 refugees.


Newspapers in Eastern Africa have reported that Tanzania will forcibly send 2,000 Rwandan refugees living in the camps in western Tanzania back to Rwanda. The 2,000 are those who refused to return home during the recent voluntary repatriation, citing insecurity in their home country as the reason for remaining. They are among the more than 500,000 refugees who came into Tanzania after the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The feeling in the Tanzanian government is that there is no need for the refugees to remain because the security situation in Rwanda is now stable. Earlier this month, Tanzania's Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Omar Ramadhan Mapuri warned that Tanzania might be forced to repatriate all the refugees living in the country if the international community does not intervene in the serious food crisis facing the refugees. Tanzania hosts 570,000 refugees from Burundi and 141,311 from the Democratic Republic of Congo and some Bantu-speaking Somali and Rwandan refugees. The World Food Programme (WFP) cut food rations by 50 per cent with effect from February 2003. This is on top of last year's cut of 28 per cent.


Kenya's new government has said that the passage of the Refugee Bill will be a priority this year, reports JRS in Nairobi. General elections in 2002 marked the end of the 24-year rule of former President Moi and his KANU party, to be replaced by the new President, Mwai Kibaki. Kenya still doesn't have a refugee law: the bill remains to date in draft form. However, the new government has stated that it intends to establish a Department of Refugee Affairs and become more involved in registration. A joint government/UNHCR identity card for refugees has been designed and UNHCR is waiting for the government's final clearance. The new cards should be distributed soon in Kakuma camp first and then later to Dadaab and finally to the urban refugees. According to UNHCR statistics of December 2002, there were approximately 207,194 refugees living in Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps. The statistics exclude refugees living in urban areas: of the 100,000 refugees estimated to be living in Nairobi and its environs, only 15,000 are UNHCR beneficiaries.


In January, the women in Nimule and Mungali jointly presented a petition detailing conditions of severe food shortages in their areas. This was discussed by JRS and a letter appealing for food aid was drafted and circulated to CRS head office and other humanitarian organisations. The hunger situation is attributed to crop failure due to drought and excess rain in the second agricultural season. In December, CRS, the main food relief agency in the area, decreased its rations from 100% to 10%. Recently, two JRS team members had their entire crops of sweet potato and cassava stolen from their fields -an indication of the desperate shortages being faced by the local people. The situation is getting worse with no response from the international community. This has affected the work that JRS is conducting in the area, and reparation work on schools that was scheduled to take place has not yet been undertaken because people have been too hungry to work at construction sites.



A group of concerned International Non-Governmental Organisations, including JRS, sent a letter to the German Ambassador to, and current President of the UN Security Council, Gunter Pleuger, to draw attention to the humanitarian consequences of a war in Iraq. The letter, dated 4 February, protested that the public meetings of the Security Council have made no reference to the humanitarian vulnerability of millions of Iraqi civilians and stated that many humanitarian organisations are deeply concerned about the "grave humanitarian consequences of potential military intervention on civilians". This is despite the fact, the letter continues, that internal UN and NGO planning scenarios demonstrate conclusively that the children of Iraq in particular are much more vulnerable to war today than they were in 1991. Today, the almost total dependence of Iraqi civilians on government food rations makes them extremely vulnerable to military action. On 6 November 2002, the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict sent a letter to all members of the Security Council urging them to consider the urgent humanitarian situation of children in Iraq. The Secretary- General's 26 November 2002 report to the Council on civilian protection, the 10 December 2002 statement of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs on protection, and the Council's aide-memoire of 15 March 2002, all substantiate the commitment of member states and the UN Secretariat to protect civilians in armed conflict. The signatories of the letter insist that extreme vulnerability, particularly among children and women, must be part of the Council's deliberations in the coming days and weeks.


A meeting was held with the parish priest of Nimule to discuss the future of the Diocese of Torit (DOT) nursery schools in Nimule. This year, DOT has pledged to take over the running of two schools in Nimule/ Mungali and two in Loa/Pageri, in Southern Sudan. The community will run the six remaining nursery schools. Renovations are underway at the Arapi Teachers Training Institute and it is expected that the first group of student teachers will be enrolled in the middle of this year. A JRS team is monitoring developments, planning to send teachers there for training when the institute is functioning. JRS Peace Education Programme: The women leaders who attended the peace education workshop last year are showing a happy change in attitudes and behaviour. They are using conflict management skills appropriately, identifying causes of conflicts at water points, at the grinding mill and even some conflicts in marriage and in families. They note that domestic violence, drunkenness and early marriage of girls are the commonest problems in the community. JRS Pastoral activities: The pastoral co-ordinator, Tracy O'Heir, participated in the formation of the pastoral council and in drafting the Constitution for Nimule Pastoral Council. She also researched the activities of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides in Uganda and hopes to start these groups in Nimule.


How can we help people to maintain their dignity? One way is simply to assist them to preserve their cultural and religious activities. This effort also ensures that the traditions are kept alive and survive, even though people have been displaced. The Acehnese people are well known for keeping their Islamic traditions. In the past, even though the security situation was fragile and threats were existent, the displaced people would try to return to their villages and celebrate their traditional festivals. JRS Aceh contemplated providing materials to make dodol or other traditional dishes for a recent occasion - an addition to the usual support of rice and green beans for the 1,107 displaced people in Politeknik site and Lhoksumawe. It was a good idea but not an easy task. The IDPs' preferred to receive money, saying "the children are demanding and so spoilt. They will cry if we don't give them uang jajan (pocket money), especially for Lebaran". Then they asked JRS to provide one package for each family. This was impossible since we would need a big amount of money to buy cookies or other dishes for all 220 families. Besides, by providing the raw materials we could expect the IDPs to work and prepare together; a very worthwhile activity. Unable to find agreement, it was decided that instead of providing ingredients for the dishes, JRS would just add more rice and the IDPs could arrange the money they receive from street donations for other things. However, when we talked to the women separately, they said that although they prefer to receive money, they would appreciate if JRS gave the ingredients so they could prepare the dishes as they used to do in the villages. One woman, in a low voice that reflected her hopelessness, said "I can't stand anymore how difficult it is to live in the displacement. We couldn't even enjoy dodol as we used to do".


By JRS in Atambua: When I first saw her picture, I was really shocked, in disbelief, as if seeing a ghost or unsure of my own sight. At the same time, I was shivering at seeing the picture of such poverty in my society. Born on 6 May 2001, Merry Americo was a premature baby: her mother, Marcelina Hoar, had carried her in her womb for only seven months. Merry was at first chubby and healthy like her elder sister, but when her younger sister was born, she was given less attention. Bit by bit she lost weight, and grew very slowly, unlike her sisters. CARE International began to take care of her and with one-month intensive treatment, Merry gained weight, was back to normal, and returned to her parents. But, it didn't last long - she began to lose weight again. Unfortunately, CARE finished its programme in the camp, unable any longer to hospitalise Merry. CARE then informed JRS, which regularly serves people in the camp. JRS took Merry to Halilulik hospital, and sought intensive treatment for the young child. Her mother, Marcelina will also be given a course to instruct her and help her to be able to nurse her children and give them the special care they require. From January 2003, JRS as implementing partner of UNHCR has handled a number of cases of separated children in West Timor. JRS has set up a team to re-establish contact between parents, children and caretakers and also to find durable solution for the separated children. In early February 2003, UNHCR, JRS, and East Timor Red Cross had several meetings with prominent official leaders in Kupang, Soe, and Atambua, as well as with some caretakers and children. During February the JRS team traced 47 separated children cases.


By Butoyi Dieudonne: Most people think that anthropology is the study of human origins and past populations. That an anthropologist digs up bones and excavates extinct settlements and some of them study primitive people. Beyond that, they do obscure studies that appear to be either useless or hopelesslyesoteric. Others think some of them mount elaborate expeditions to try and prove that something in the past might have happened. One should understand that Anthropology brings to any work situation a set of special perspectives and is characterised by a wide and comprehensive view of humankind. Anthropologists attempt to make cross-cultural comparisons seeking the common principles of human existence. CULTURE is its guiding principle. Anthropologists try to understand different socio-cultural systems in their contexts and their own merits. This sensitivity for culture and recognition of socio-cultural relativism implies that an anthropologist considers human behaviour in terms of its own particular set of circumstances and historical development. The application is very wide including problem solving. As a teacher of Mathematics, I could solve a maths problem mathematically, but the insight gained in Anthropology training helps me to solve some of these problems. Anthropologists are proud of their cross-culture perspective, holistic approach, contextual analyses and fieldwork techniques, understanding sympathy and empathy with a great diversity and similarity. It pushes me to undertake in my research project in criminology a topic, which has not enough academic attention, 'The prevention of crime against children'. My training in Anthropology contributes so much in doing quantitative and qualitative research. As I complete my majors, I thank JRS for its sponsorships in current courses like anthropology and criminology. The author is a student at the JRS Distance Learning Programme in Kakuma camp, Kenya, which collaborates with the University of South Africa to offer degrees to the refugees.

JRS DISPATCHES is from the International Office of Jesuit Refugee Service, CP
6139, 00195 Roma Prati, Italy. Tel: +39-06 689.77.390; Fax: +39-06 688 06 418;
Email: dispatches@jrs.net; JRS on-line: http://www.jrs.net;

Publisher: Lluís Magriñà SJ; Editor: Hugh Delaney;
Translation: Ignacio Echaniz (Spanish), Edith Castel (French), Centro Astalli/JRS Italy (Italian).