Rwanda

Villagisation programme failed to ensure reintegration of internally displaced Rwandans

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GENEVA, 8 July 2005 - Five years after the government and the international community took internal displacement off their agenda in Rwanda, many of the 650,000 people displaced during a Hutu-led insurgency in the northwest of the country in the late 1990s still live under squalid conditions in makeshift settlements, according to a released by the Global IDP Project of the Norwegian Refugee Council today.
"The Rwandan authorities have yet to demonstrate that its villagisation programme is suitable to provide durable solutions for those displaced in the late 1990s", said Raymond Johansen, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. "So far, there is little evidence that the government's resettlement programme has enabled the affected population to re-establish their lives, and many still live in miserable huts without sufficient access to farmable land."

Rather than allowing the displaced to return to their homes when fighting ended in the provinces of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi in 1998, the Rwandan government relocated them into newly-built settlements under an ongoing nationwide villagisation programme. The programme was designed to address poverty and land scarcity by concentrating Rwanda's scattered population in newly-constructed villages, but soon lost donor support when doubts emerged about its outcomes and the voluntary nature of the relocations.

The United Nations in 2000 ceased to consider the people uprooted in the late 1990s as "internally displaced", arguing that durable solutions had been found for them, including through the villagisation programme. However, the Global IDP Project report shows that living conditions in settlements inhabited by relocated displaced people, most of them Hutu, remain dismal. Moreover, there are allegations of land belonging to the displaced being illegally occupied and exploited by members of the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan army.

"Given the worrying conditions in the settlements inhabited by the displaced, the government and the international community should revisit their current approach and address this as a situation of humanitarian concern", said Mr. Johansen. "At the same time, we urge the government to avoid any bias disadvantaging one of the ethnic groups in its programmes, and to investigate reports of illegal land occupation by army officers."

The , titled "Ensuring durable solutions for Rwanda's displaced people: a chapter closed too early", is available at www.idpproject.org.

The Geneva-based Global IDP Project, established by the Norwegian Refugee Council, is the leading international body monitoring internal displacement worldwide.