Update on Developments in the Great Lakes Region
UPDATE ON DEVELOPMENTS IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION
1. Part II of this document provides an overview of events in the Great Lakes region, and Part III provides information on a country basis. Relevant budget and post tables, as well as a list of implementing partners and selected maps, are included as annexes.
II. REGIONAL OVERVIEW
A. Recent developments
2. The overall objective of UNHCR's strategy in the Great Lakes region throughout 1996 and the first part of 1997, was to assist the voluntary return of Rwandan refugees from Burundi, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zaire1, while providing protection and assistance to those who needed it. The return from Burundi was almost completed shortly after the change of Government in Burundi in July 1996. The large-scale return from eastern Zaire in November and December 1996 was precipitated by the outbreak of conflict there. In the United Republic of Tanzania, the repatriation movement in December 1996 followed the sudden exodus of the refugees from the camps towards the interior of the country, which was later redirected to Rwanda by the security forces.
3. The subsequent return to Rwanda of the remaining refugees from eastern Zaire was more of a life saving exercise, rather than a traditional repatriation operation, since asylum in the conflict zones of eastern Zaire became untenable. During the first part of 1997, UNHCR activities in eastern Zaire were mainly focused on locating the Rwandan refugees, providing emergency assistance and repatriating them by air and land from various locations. As the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire advanced, the refugees dispersed further west. Between January 1997 and the end of May 1997, 130,000 refugees have been repatriated to Rwanda by land and air. Many thousands of refugees remain unaccounted for or may have perished during the six month ordeal. A few Rwandans have reached the Congo (Brazzaville) and the Central African Republic, and several thousand are close to the Angolan border.
4. The presence of some 1.2 million refugees in Goma, Bukavu and Uvira, Zaire, for over two years, had a severe impact on the environment and local infrastructure. UNHCR's programme in Zaire in 1997, thus, includes the rehabilitation of refugee affected areas, with a short-term focus on intensive reforestation and minor rehabilitation of national parks, community services and the infrastructure. Similar rehabilitation activities are being implemented in refugee affected areas in the United Republic of Tanzania and Burundi, subsequent to the return of the Rwandan refugees.
5. Up to 100,000 Burundian refugees have returned spontaneously to Burundi since September 1996, after fleeing from the conflict in eastern Zaire. It is estimated that another 42,000 still remain in unknown locations in Zaire. In view of the continuing insecurity in Burundi, UNHCR does not promote or facilitate repatriation to Burundi. Access to the Burundian returnees in conflict zones in Burundi remains problematic. Other returnees have been regrouped in security zones, or are living as internally displaced persons, mainly in the western part of the country.
6. There are about 290,000 Burundian refugees in the United Republic of Tanzania, more than half of whom arrived between November 1996 and May 1997. In addition, there are some 100,000 Zairian refugees in the United Republic of Tanzania, who arrived after the outbreak of the conflict in South Kivu in eastern Zaire. The end of hostilities in Zaire should permit an early return of Zarian refugees from the United Republic of Tanzania.
7. The return of Rwandan refugees who have been located in eastern Zaire and want to return continues in reduced numbers. Monitoring and reintegration activities have been considerably reduced, due to the deterioration of the security situation in Rwanda, especially in the western part of the country. Similarly, it has also become difficult to monitor arrests and detentions of returnees.
B. Regional objectives for 1997 and 1998
8. In accordance with its mandate, UNHCR will continue to promote the repatriation of the remaining Rwandan refugees who wish to return, and provide international protection and assistance in countries of asylum to refugees who cannot yet return. An enlarged reintegration and rehabilitation programme has been established in Rwanda to help the Rwandan authorities to cope with the massive numbers of returnees. UNHCR will also undertake short-term rehabilitation of refugee affected areas through limited interventions and by acting as a catalyst for longer-term rehabilitation by development agencies. In implementing these activities, UNHCR will continue to work closely with national Governments, other humanitarian agencies and the international community as a whole.
C. Financial requirements
9. The 1996 initial budget under Special Programmes was $ 290 million. Due to a funding shortfall in 1996, the target was reduced to $ 253 million. When the crisis erupted in eastern Zaire and a flash appeal was launched, the budget was revised again to $ 290 million. The final obligation level for 1996 was $ 257.3 million.
10. The current 1997 budget under Special Programmes for eastern Zaire, Burundi, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda is $ 116 million, and $ 114 million for Rwanda. Total funding available, as at 30 April 1997, for eastern Zaire, Burundi, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda is $ 73.3 million, and $ 49.2 million for Rwanda. For 1998, the tentative budget for these Special Programmes is $ 176 million.
11. Further details concerning financial requirements for 1997 are provided in appeal documents: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Repatriation and Reintegration Operation in Rwanda in 1997, issued in March 1997; UNHCR's Response to the Great Lakes Emergency in Eastern Zaire, Burundi, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda, issued in April 1997; and UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for the Great Lakes Emergency (March 1997).
D. Study on refugee camp security in the Great Lakes region
12. A study of security in the refugee camps of the Great Lakes region was completed by UNHCR's Inspection and Evaluation Service during the reporting period. The study reflects the Office's growing involvement in situations where security cannot be ensured and where aid to, and protection of refugees are, as a result, disrupted. It demonstrates that, in the absence of clear political will on the part of both asylum countries and major donor States, a coherent response to these security problems could not be developed. As a consequence, UNHCR was compelled to devise simple and tentative measures to contain and prevent the deterioration of the situation in the camps. Basic principles relating to the protection of refugees, such as the respect for the humanitarian and non-political nature of refugee settlements, or the location of camps at a distance from borders, however, could not be applied.
13. A number of recommendations are proposed by the study, in particular the need to discuss, at appropriate levels and in appropriate fora, means of enforcing basic refugee protection principles in situations of acute violence. The need for the reaffirmation of these principles by the international community was also recommended. In parallel, it was recommended that UNHCR should draw on its experience of such situations to devise measures to be applied in future situations. These measures would aim at guaranteeing the security of refugees, of aid and protection activities, and of humanitarian personnel. Implementation of such measures could be facilitated through systematic training of staff and the use of expertise provided by the international community. Finally, it was recommended that refugees should be properly informed of their obligation to respect national laws in countries of asylum and information on local customs and law should be made available to them.
III. COUNTRY REVIEWS
14. As at 1 January 1997, up to 2,000 Rwandan urban refugees, some 20,000 Zairians, according to the Government, and 300 persons of other origins are still in Burundi. The displaced rural population was estimated at 400,000 persons and the group of reassembled civilians at 190,000. Of the overall caseload, 53 per cent are estimated to be women and 35 per cent children under five years of age.
15. Between November 1996 and March 1997, spontaneous returns of Burundian refugees were noted. From Zaire, 113,110 refugees returned to the provinces of Cibitoke and Bubanza, and 15,148 returned to the provinces of Muyinga, Kirundo and Ngozi from the United Republic of Tanzania.
(b) Recent developments and objectives
16. The armed clashes between the army and the rebels in the province of Muyinga caused 30,000 Rwandan refugees to flee to the United Republic of Tanzania in January 1996. During July and August 1996, a massive repatriation of the remaining Rwandan refugees took place. The six refugee camps in the northern provinces were closed and rehabilitation of the areas was undertaken. The 223 Rwandan refugees who remained behind in the Magara camp, repatriated after screening in April 1997, as did 32 alleged "intimidators".
17. In October 1996, at the time that the Branch Office in Burundi was scaling down its activities, staff and assets, the armed conflict in the Kivu region of Zaire forced a number of refugees, who had found asylum in the Uvira camps, to return to Burundi. Spontaneous repatriation of Burundian refugees from the United Republic of Tanzania to the northern provinces, where improved security conditions were believed to exist, started in early 1997. During the course of these returns, however, an incident occurred on 10 January 1997 at the Kobero crossing point, when the army opened fire and killed a group of returnees.
18. UNHCR objectives for Burundi in 1997 have been reviewed and adapted to the continuous changes, and are now targeted to assist 200,000 returnees and 100,000 internally displaced persons in the provinces and home communes of the returnees. The assistance programmes consist of monitoring the returnees, providing them with a single provision of assistance, rehabilitating the environment in the returnee areas and establishing durable solutions for those who cannot repatriate (the urban caseload). Assistance to internally displaced persons is provided through Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) in the returnee communes, which mainly target community services, such as schools, health centres and sanitation facilities. In the northern provinces, a programme to construct 500 houses for the returnees from Rwanda who have not been able to settle in their communes of origin, has already commenced.
19. Four roving teams, which conduct monitoring activities in the north-western provinces of Cibitoke, Bubanza, Bujumbura Rural and Bujumbura Mairie, are fully staffed. A further two roving teams cover the north/north-eastern provinces of Muyinga, Kirundo and Ngozi. Two new Field Offices were established in Ruyigi and Muyinga, to enhance monitoring activities in these two provinces.
(c) Implementing partners/arrangements.
20. As a consequence of non-governmental organization (NGO) criticism of the Government's policy of regrouping refugees, the Government imposed restrictive conditions on NGOs working in Burundi. As of March 1997, NGOs must obtain an agreement from Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be able to operate in the country. They then have to register with Ministry of Home Affairs, which coordinates NGO activities with other relevant technical ministries.
21. UNHCR has working arrangements with 11 NGOs, listed in Annex III, and maintains very close relations and cooperation with Governors of the provinces where assistance is delivered. Matters pertaining to the returnees are coordinated with the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Reinsertion.
22. Relevant budgetary figures are provided in Annex I. Further information may be found in the appeal documents mentioned in Part II. C of this document.
(e) Implementation of policy priorities (women, children, environment)
23. In order to partially offset the dramatic repercussions of the conflict on displaced and returning refugee women, UNHCR entered into an agreement with Collectif des Associations et ONGs féminines du Burundi (CAFOB). Funds are earmarked for income-generating activities and assistance to vulnerable women.
24. Particular attention is given to Rwandan unaccompanied minors remaining after the massive repatriation in July and August 1996. The weekly convoys organized from Ngozi and Bujumbura to Butare in Rwanda, have brought home 40 children. In Butare, UNHCR and NGOs have established specific care and tracing activities. The same attention is given to Burundian unaccompanied minors in the Uvira region. The closure of the Zairian/Burundi border, however, has greatly hampered such activities, however, it is reported that the borders have reopened.
25. The reforestation programme, started in late 1995 and continued in 1996 and 1997, enables the production of four million shoots and the rehabilitation of devastated land. Assistance to nurseries for the preparation and planting of trees, is implemented in cooperation with WFP, which extends its assistance to this programme with food-for-work projects.
(f) Post situation
26. UNHCR Burundi scaled down its activities, assets and personnel in October 1996, reducing the international staff from 30 to 15 and the local staff from 77 to 46. The spontaneous and continuous arrival of returnees as of November 1996, and the need to establish monitoring activities in half of the provinces of Burundi, however, requires additional staff. The currently foreseen staffing level for 1 January 1998 is 115 posts.
2. The United Republic of Tanzania
27. The political crisis and insecurity which engulfed eastern Zaire in October 1996, led to the internal displacement of many Zairians and forced thousands of others to seek asylum in Kigoma, the United Republic of Tanzania. Simultaneously, the escalation of military operations in Burundi engendered violence in many provinces in Burundi, resulting in the displacement civilians, and forcing some to flee and seek asylum in Kigoma.
28. Between November 1996 and April 1997, UNHCR registered 231,896 new arrivals from Burundi (135,792) and Zaire (96,104). In addition, UNHCR is also assisting a total of 50,000 Burundi refugees in the Kigoma region, who fled to the United Republic of Tanzania in the aftermath of the October 1993 hostilities. The total number of refugees in the Kigoma region, thus, stands at 281,896.
29. In the Ngara region, the bulk of refugees remaining in the Lukole and Lumasi camps are essentially of Burundian origin and are estimated to number 101,957.
(b) Recent developments and objectives
30. The Kigoma region continues to receive new arrivals from Burundi and Zaire. While the influx from Zaire has significantly reduced, the influx from Burundi is expected to again increase, with an anticipated 1600 new arrivals in May 1997. The arrival of large numbers of refugees spread over a large geographical area, coupled with poor infrastructure in the region, has complicated the movement of refugees, food and non-food items. Measures, such as stockpiling of non-food items close to refugee camps, repair of poor sections of the main road network and strengthening of field offices, are being undertaken to ensure the timely provision of assistance to the eight camps in the Kigoma region. Two holding centres in Kigoma town have been closed, but the Lake Tanganyika Stadium holding centre remains open and hosts mainly Zairian soldiers and combatants and their families. The Government has indicated that the soldiers should be transferred to Mwisa camp in the Kagera region, once the Rwandan residual caseload has vacated it.
31. Up to 1,234 Burundi refugees have also registered for voluntary repatriation in the Mtendeli camp in Kigoma. The majority are from Gisuru Commune, Ruyigi Province. Refugees state that their willingness to repatriate has been motivated by the improved security situation in their home areas. UNHCR's policy, however, is not to promote voluntary repatriation to Burundi for the moment. Spontaneous repatriation of Burundian refugees from Lukole camp in Ngara has also been reported.
32. In Kigoma, the number of refugees from Zaire expressing their wish to voluntarily return has increased to 5,000. It appears that some of them in the Lugufu camp may be leaving spontaneously, as they are closer to the border/lake (approximately 90 kilometres), unlike those in Nyarugusu who are much further away from the border (approximately 130 kilometres) and will rely on UNHCR for transportation. The UNHCR Sub-Office in Kigoma has been in communication with the UNHCR Sub-Office in Uvira to verify the security situation there and has proposed a joint mission to the returnee areas. The UNHCR Sub-Office in Kigoma is preparing a repatriation plan for a possible return of 50,000 refugees within the next three months.
33. UNHCR continues its care and maintenance programme for the mainly Zairian refugees in Nyarugusu and Lugufu. The latter camp, located south of Kigoma, hosts some 45,000 refugees. Serious difficulties have recently been experienced when heavy rains worsened the already poor road conditions, making the delivery of water to the camp from the main water source, the Malagarasi River, nearly impossible. There was, however, no interruption in food distribution. UNHCR and the local authorities are presently looking at ways to improve the potable water supply and pre-emptive measures are been taken in order to address this issue.
34. After the unprecedented departure of more than 500,000 Rwandan refugees from Ngara at the end of 1996, all but two of the camps have been closed. The Government reassembled the remaining Burundi refugees into the Lukole and Lumasi camps. There was also a gathering of Burundian nationals from the local villages, who were then transferred to the camps. The Sub-Office reported that this practice has since stopped and that the caseload has stabilized.
35. Although the two camps are adjacent to each other, the Government has insisted that all Burundians should be located in Lukole camp, citing security concerns as the main reason. In order to ensure an orderly regrouping, a committee has been requested to design a strategy, which will include assessing the remaining capacity in Lukole from a health and environmental point of view.
36. The tension between the two Burundian political parties strongly represented in the camps, is still present. The arrangement for the provision of security by police, which continues with UNHCR funding, however, is contributing greatly to the stable security situation in the camp.
37. The earlier reported spontaneous repatriations through unofficial entry points are still occurring. Those repatriating, however, leave their families behind with food ration cards and the effect on the refugee population is still not apparent.
38. Following the departure of some 125,000 Rwandan refugees at the end of 1996, no refugees of concern to UNHCR remain in Karagwe area. All the camps have been closed and the Sub-Office, which is expected to close by June 1997, has been handing over most of the refugee affected area projects to the Government.
(c) Implementing partners/arrangements
39. list of implementing partners is provided in Annex III. In addition, UNHCR implements a number of projects directly.
40. Relevant budgetary figures are provided in Annex I. Further information may be found in the appeal documents mentioned in Part II. C of this document.
(e) Post situation
41. During the Regional Operations Review of March 1997, the total number of posts in the United Republic of Tanzania was reduced by 92. Sub-Office Karagwe is scheduled to close in June 1997 and the staffing levels in Sub-Office Ngara have been significantly reduced. The Sub-Office Kigoma, however, has expanded and three new Field Offices have been established (Kasulu, Kibondo and Uvinza). There are currently 40 international and 134 local posts in the United Republic of Tanzania. In addition, 11 United Nations volunteers are employed. A total of 166 posts are currently foreseen for 1 January 1998.
(f) Implementation of policy priorities (women, children, environment)
42. Priority has been given to the special protection and assistance needs of vulnerable groups. Self-help activities will be initiated for single female headed families, unaccompanied minors, the disabled and the elderly. Funds have been made available for the purchase of chickens, rabbits, knitting materials, seeds and carpentry wood or timber for distribution to these groups. In addition, particular attention is paid to their needs during the distribution of food, clothing, domestic items and shelter materials.
43. Refugee social workers employed to assist the vulnerable refugees are being trained in ways to care for handicapped refugees, and will, in turn, train other refugees, especially mothers of handicapped children.
44. As at 1 January 1997, UNHCR assisted some 24,500 refugees in Rwanda, mostly Zairians (15,400) and Burundians (8,900). From 1 January 1997 to 30 April 1997, some 100,000 refugees from eastern Zaire, 18,150 from the United Republic of Tanzania and 447 from Burundi have returned to Rwanda. It is expected that the airlift will repatriate a further 40,000 by the end of May 1997. During the course of 1996, the total number of returnees assisted by UNHCR and its implementing partners was 1,300,582. Since 1994, the total number of returnees to Rwanda is more than 2.8 million.
(b) Recent developments and objectives
45. Rwanda continues to receive returnees, particularly from Zaire. Procedures for the arrivals continue to cover security screening, searching of belongings and medical screening. The returnees are then transported by UNHCR trucks to one of the 10 transit centres established by UNHCR throughout the country and are later brought to their communes of origin, where a repatriation package is provided.
46. Throughout 1996 and January 1997, UNHCR had unrestricted access to returnees in their communes of origin. Individual and confidential interviews were conducted and, with the agreement of those interviewed, problems raised by the returnees were conveyed to local authorities by UNHCR, in order to help find appropriate solutions. After the killings of the Human Rights monitors in February 1997, individual monitoring was suspended. General monitoring, however, continues to be conducted in all prefectures. UNHCR, together with local authorities, meets returnees, either in general meetings, in small groups or individually. The behaviour of beneficiaries in such meetings generally gives an indication of their mood and sense of security.
47. One of the consequences of not conducting individual monitoring is that UNHCR cannot obtain reliable information on the recovery of property by returnees. UNHCR believes that efforts to recover this property have been severely inhibited and, in many cases, the returnees have been asked to share property with a new occupant. This development is a likely consequence of the new policy on housing and "villagization", promulgated by the Ministry of Public Works in February 1997. This policy states that the repair of destroyed houses in the rural areas is no longer permitted. Instead, persons are required to construct new houses in rural villages. For a primarily rural population, "villagization" requires adaptation to a completely new lifestyle, which may cause serious and fundamental cultural, economic, legal, and psycho-social changes in Rwandan society.
48. With respect to assistance to the judiciary, UNHCR's objective is to contribute to the creation of an independent, fair and efficient judicial system, and the adherence, by the Government, to its own codified regulations of criminal law and procedures. Assistance to the judiciary and security sectors in 1995, 1996 and 1997, in support of national reconciliation, elimination of the culture of impunity, and returnee reintegration efforts, is comprised of training seminars for judicial personnel, distribution of office material and equipment, rehabilitation of judiciary buildings, reconciliation seminars, and research and training in the area of women's rights, particularly in regard to inheritance and property rights.
49. During 1996, UNHCR funded the creation of a detainee database for the Government of Rwanda and the Human Rights Field Office for Rwanda (HRFOR). This database project will permit the Government to review its adherence to its criminal laws and procedures. In addition, through material, training and transport assistance, UNHCR is strengthening the gendarmerie, the law enforcement institution responsible for the protection of human and civil rights. UNHCR has continued its distribution of books and manuals related to the judiciary, and has also provided funding to local authorities to organize seminars on reconciliation at the prefecture and communal levels. In addition, the UNHCR Judiciary Awareness Campaign Programme involves organizing training seminars on Rwandan legislation and a country-wide awareness campaign via radio and newspapers, for the Rwandan population, on the judicial system. UNHCR is supplying office stationery and equipment to the tribunals of first instance, the court of appeals, the prosecutors offices, the gendarmerie school, the military tribunal and the faculty of law. In addition, and in order to assist the judicial structures at the field level, UNHCR has provided $ 10,000 to each of the 12 prefectures in Rwanda, to be managed in cooperation with the working justice committee, comprised of prefecture representatives from the judicial community, UNHCR and HRFOR.
50. To alleviate the severe shortage of housing, UNHCR has allocated some $ 40 million of the 1997 programme to shelter related activities. Some 10,000 housing kits have been distributed to returnees since January 1997. This programme has experienced some delays, however, because of the new policy of "villagization". In addition, UNHCR continues its support to the existing resettlement programme of the Government of Rwanda. Throughout the country, some 48 new villages and sites are under construction, and UNHCR has committed itself to providing housing kits for some 14,400 returnee families (70,000 persons).
51. UNHCR interventions in the health, water and sanitation sectors are focusing on the rehabilitation of existing systems in areas where significant numbers of returnees settle. In addition, the 48 new villages and sites in which returnees have been granted the right to build new communities, are also being equipped with health and water systems, and sanitation facilities. Training also continues to be provided to national health care professionals and UNHCR is funding 10 NGO health projects throughout the country. Direct assistance to support the national health service, in the form of drugs, medical supplies and equipment, is also provided to the Rwandan Ministry of Health.
52. UNHCR is providing initial funding for the rehabilitation, expansion, and equipping of 12 secondary schools in returnee areas. In addition, new primary schools are being constructed at selected settlement villages and sites.
53. Given that an estimated 90 per cent of returnees are farmers and keeping in mind the objective of achieving self-sufficiency as quickly as possible, UNHCR contributes jointly with FAO and the European Union to a general distribution of tools and seeds to returnee families, upon arrival in their communes of origin in Rwanda.
54. Links have been established with banques populaires and cooperatives in areas with significant numbers of returnees, and special efforts have been made to target women and adolescent males. Seven NGOs have been identified to implement income-generation programmes with UNHCR funds. Emphasis is placed on accompanying income-generating projects with vocational training.
55. In order to reinforce the capacity of the Rwandan authorities to deal with the consequences of the massive return of refugees, financial and material support is being provided by UNHCR to all Rwandan ministries directly involved with refugee and returnee issues, with primary support going to the former Ministry of Rehabilitation and Social Integration, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and the Ministry of Family and the Promotion of Women. Other ministries supported include the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Youth.
(c) Implementing partners/arrangements
56. A list of implementing partners is provided in Annex III. In addition, UNHCR implements a number of projects directly.
57. Relevant budgetary figures are provided in Annex I. Further information may be found in the appeal documents mentioned in Part II. C of this document.
(e) Post situation
58. During 1996, UNHCR was present in all the prefectures of Rwanda, with 65 international staff members (including United Nations Volunteers, Junior Professional Officers and consultants). In order to cope with the substantial increase in activities, 36 international posts (including United Nations Volunteers) have been created in 1997. The total number of posts foreseen for 1 January 1998 is 288.
(f) Implementation of policy priorities (women, children, environment)
59. Women and young girls constitute 70 per cent of Rwanda's current population, and a 1996 UNHCR study highlighted the vulnerability of the female population. Through the Rwanda Women's Initiative, UNHCR will greatly expand its existing women's programmes and introduce new measures aimed at the economic empowerment of the female population. Specific programmes will be developed to provide legal assistance, particularly with regard to property rights, specialized shelter assistance, educational and vocational training, counselling services to address the trauma suffered by survivors of the genocide and income-generating projects. To the extent possible, programmes will be channelled through the Rwandan Ministry for Family and Promotion of Women. UNHCR has allocated $ 7 million for its activities in favour of women in Rwanda
60. Together with the situation of women, the situation of Rwanda's youth requires special consideration. In the absence of any meaningful educational, vocational, or employment opportunities, it will be difficult to direct Rwanda's youth towards constructive activities to help rebuild the country. Failure to adequately educate and train youth in similar situations has had negative results. Emphasis will, therefore, be placed on ensuring the involvement of teenagers, wherever possible, in UNHCR programmes, particularly with regard to shelter projects and income-generating activities. Attempts will also be made to develop vocational training programmes with links to employment opportunities. Special attention will also be provided to households headed by children, where children have been orphaned, abandoned, or separated from their parents accidentally.
61. Of the estimated 1,254,000 refugees benefiting from UNHCR care and maintenance programmes in October 1996, it is estimated that 815,000 Rwandans and 100,000 Burundians have repatriated since the rebellion began in the Kivu region in September 1996. Refugees, mainly of Hutu origin, remain scattered in the forested, remote and inaccessible areas of the eastern part of Zaire. Of the estimated 270,000 Rwandan and 40,000 Burundi refugees who may remain in Zaire, only some 50,000 have been located. Up to 15,000 of these are in the Kisangani area (Biaro and Kilometre 82), 15,000 in the area around Mbandaka and another 17,000 along the southern border with Angola.
62. The plight of the refugees who remained in Zaire after November 1996 has been tragic. An example of this is the history of the nearly 200,000 refugees whom UNHCR was assisting in January 1997, who had gathered in the makeshift sites of Tingi Tingi (120,000), Amisi (40,000) and Shabunda (40,000). With the advance of the forces of the Alliance, all three groups were dispersed into the countryside by the end of February 1997. In mid-March 1997, UNHCR re-established access to some 80,000 of the 200,000 refugees south of Kisangani along the Kisangani/Ubundu axis. This group fled when a military operation was launched mid-April 1997, in the midst of a spate of killings of villagers and refugees. Only some 50,000 refugees have since re-emerged at the Biaro site and at Kilometre 82. As of 15 May 1997, 34,918 had been repatriated by air. The fate of the majority of the balance of 150,000 refugees remains uncertain.
(b) Recent developments and objectives
63. The fighting which broke out in South Kivu between the Zairian army and the Alliance, prompted a massive repatriation of Rwandan refugees from Goma, in eastern Zaire, in November 1996, and the subsequent flight of the remaining caseload towards the west. UNHCR operations for 1997 in Zaire continue to depend on the evolution of the political situation. Efforts to locate the refugees and provide immediate assistance continue to be logistically difficult and dependant on the authorities giving access to UNHCR to possible collection points.
64. On 15 April 1997, UNHCR submitted a repatriation operation plan to the Alliance, requesting permission to begin the airlift from Kisangani, where a reported 80,000 to 100,000 refugees had gathered in the forests immediately to the south. One of the main objectives of the plan was to stabilize and assist the remaining refugees in the Kisangani area and those emerging from the surrounding forested areas. Once the population was stabilized, repatriation to Rwanda by air and by road was proposed. The Alliance agreed to the plan and the airlift operation from Kisangani commenced on 27 April 1997, after a series of delays, including the requisitioning of UNHCR procured fuel by the Alliance, fear that refugees would spread cholera to local populations, denial of access to the makeshift camps by the authorities and the disappearance of the refugees from the makeshift camps, following an attack on the camps by the local population and military elements. Between 1,100 to 2,600 Rwandans are repatriated daily by air from Kisangani, in spite of the obstacles. In addition to movements by air, UNHCR undertakes repatriation to Rwanda by road from nearly twenty collection points throughout Zaire.
65. The repatriation operation, however, continues to pose difficulties for UNHCR. On 1 May 1997, the Government of Rwanda publicly criticized UNHCR's handling of the operation. In addition, from 2 to 4 May 1997, there was a regional shortage of aviation fuel.91 refugees were tragically crushed or smothered to death on 4 May 1997 on a train that became overloaded at Biaro, cancelling scheduled trips the following day. On 7 May 1997, a relief train broke down.
66. Given the conditions in Burundi, which have been largely unfavourable to the promotion of the repatriation of Burundian refugees, UNHCR continues to request the prolonged asylum of these persons in Zaire. As conditions for asylum are unsure, however, UNHCR is considering assisting those Burundians who wish to return home to do so. To date, all those who have returned have done so spontaneously, mainly from the Uvira area. Upon their return to Burundi, they receive assistance from UNHCR.
67. In addition, UNHCR has led an expanded humanitarian programme for refugee affected areas in eastern Zaire. The programme consists of numerous medium-size projects, covering a wide variety of sectors. Projects include the reconstruction of bridges along major routes; improvement and building of markets and other communal facilities in towns and villages bordering former refugee camps; rehabilitation of forests and national park lands destroyed during the presence of the refugees; reconstruction of local hospitals, schools and technical institutions destroyed during fighting or damaged by the presence of refugees; provision of local villages with new income-generating possibilities; and the installation of improved water and sanitation systems in towns and cities. UNHCR restored electricity to Goma town, following the events of October and November 1996, replaced the entire medical drug supply of the hospital and will provide Kisangani town with an additional ferry to cross the Zaire (Congo) River. This programme is implemented in conjunction with other United Nations agencies and will encourage a transition from humanitarian relief assistance to more traditional development oriented assistance. In addition, the primary implementing partners for these activities are local NGOs, thereby further increasing local capacity to address residual difficulties and cope with future emergencies.
68. UNHCR is currently preparing for the repatriation to Zaire of some 90,000 refugees, primarily from southern Kivu, who fled to the United Republic of Tanzania during the fighting of October and November 1996. There are ethnic considerations, however, for some members of this group, which will warrant close monitoring.
(c) Implementing partners/arrangements
69. A list of implementing partners is provided in Annex III. Whenever feasible, national NGOs are chosen as implementing partners. In addition, UNHCR implements a number of projects directly. Close collaboration with United Nations agencies, NGOs and the ICRC, particularly for repatriation operations, ensures the maximum use of both human and material resources. UNHCR, in collaboration with WFP, UNICEF, ICRC and NGOs, operates a movement control centre for all air operations out of the eastern part of Zaire. Regional stockpiles allow for the rapid deployment of non-food items and specialized food to areas where refugees are located. Fact-finding missions to determine the presence of refugees are undertaken with the inclusion of all relevant agencies.
70. Relevant budgetary figures are provided in Annex I. Further information may be found in the appeal documents mentioned in Part II. C of this document. Given the rapid evolution of events in Zaire, however, requirements for operations in 1997 are still being revised.
(e) Post situation
71. The international staffing levels of the three offices in the eastern part of Zaire have been greatly reduced, as a result of the departure of the majority of the refugees from the large camps formerly in this area. The currently planned staffing level for mid-1997 comprises 28 international posts, four national officer posts and 100 general service posts. Operations in Kisangani and other repatriation locations are covered by staff on mission and no posts exist for these emergency operations.
(f) Implementation of policy priorities (women, children, environment)
72. Repatriation activities focus on providing women, children and the elderly with the additional assistance they require to safely return to their homes in Rwanda. The extremely weak physical condition of many of these persons requires that they be transported under special conditions and receive additional assistance prior to repatriation. Unaccompanied minors are given specific care prior to repatriation and all are registered in order to enhance the possibilities for potential family reunification upon their return to Rwanda.
73. The needs of women and elderly are also taken into account in the activities of the expanded humanitarian programme. Many projects focus on women within the community, including encouraging the development of local NGOs run by women. This provides a unique opportunity to reach out to the local community and foster programmes which can be self-sustaining after the departure of UNHCR.
(g) Oversight reports
74. As noted in Part II. C, UNHCR's Inspection and Evaluation Service undertook a review of the Camp Security Operation during mid-1996. This operation, which resulted in the break up of the large refugee camps in eastern Zaire, was the first of its kind implemented by UNHCR. Although a difficult and sometimes controversial operation, its overall benefit for the security of humanitarian workers, refugees and the local community has been recognized. The establishment of law and order within the large camps allowed for a more controlled and equitable distribution of assistance, radically reduced the threats to the safety of humanitarian workers and protected those refugees who did wish to repatriate prior to the events of October and November 1996.
(Note: Tabular annexes not included in this online version. See your nearest UN Depository Library.)
1 Because of the time-frame for preparation of this document, the designation 'Zaire' is used throughout the text. The change of name to 'the Democratic Republic of the Congo' has, however, been reflected in the annexed maps.