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Update on developments in the Great Lakes region of Africa

Executive Committee Meetings

Update on developments in the Great Lakes region of Africa

25 May 1998



1. UNHCR's Great Lakes Operation covers all activities in Burundi, Rwanda and in the United Republic of Tanzania, as well as activities in favour of refugees from Burundi, Rwanda and the Republic of Congo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; refugees from Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the Republic of Congo; and refugees from Burundi, Rwanda, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in all other countries in Central, East, West and Southern Africa.

2. Part II of this document provides a regional overview. Part III provides an overview of developments and objectives by country. Part IV provides information on regional activities and issues. Relevant budget, post and statistical tables, and selected maps are included as annexes.


3. Following the mass repatriation of refugees from the former Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the United Republic of Tanzania at the end of 1996 and early 1997, UNHCR is now confronted by the challenges of reintegrating the great majority of them as returnees in Rwanda as well as in Burundi, along with ensuring protection and finding solutions for the remaining tens of thousands who have so far chosen not to repatriate. The region's largest single refugee group is now the some 260,000 Burundis in the United Republic of Tanzania. The largest current repatriation operation in the region is in respect to some 70,000 refugees of the Democratic Republic of the Congo returning from the United Republic of Tanzania.

4. The challenges confronting UNHCR in the Great Lakes region of Africa, for which the support of the international community is urgently needed, include the tasks of ensuring protection for the refugees remaining outside their countries, the reintegration of those who have returned home, and the rehabilitation of areas affected by the presence of refugees.

5. While the challenge of protection is a familiar theme for UNHCR worldwide, the flight of Rwandan refugees from their country in 1994 in the aftermath of genocide gave rise to protection and security problems of exceptional gravity. The fact that the camps in the then Zaire and the United Republic of Tanzania harboured not only genuine refugees, but also many of the perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, including the remnants of the former Rwandan Government and armed forces, close to the borders of their country of origin, was a violation of international refugee law and a threat to regional peace and security. The inability or failure of the international community, as well as host Governments, despite the High Commissioner's repeated calls for action, to effect the separation of criminals and armed elements from refugees, contributed to regional instability and to the outbreak of the civil war in the former Zaire in late 1996. It also led some military units to identify refugees with perpetrators of genocide, and to treat them accordingly. In addition to the tragic consequences for tens of thousands of refugees, the failure to make a clear distinction between refugees and criminal elements continues to hinder the exercise of the High Commissioner's protection mandate in the region.

6. During her February 1998 mission to Africa, the High Commissioner emphasized that it was necessary and feasible to reconcile the protection of refugees with the interests of the countries concerned, including their national security. In her meetings with the leaders of the region, they discussed actions that could be taken to address these concerns, including measures to ensure the purely civilian character of refugee camps and to exclude persons who do not qualify for refugee status. They also discussed the need for UNHCR to have access to refugees and returnees, and for Governments to ensure the security of UNHCR and other humanitarian agency staff. These issues were taken up at a ministerial level workshop among the countries of the region in Kampala, Uganda, in May 1998.

7. The reintegration of returnees presents a special challenge in the Great Lakes region of Africa, owing to the legacy of genocide in Rwanda and to the persistence of conflict in Rwanda, Burundi and in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In this context, successful reintegration requires not only material assistance but also measures to promote justice and, eventually, the reconciliation of former refugees with the other members of their home communities. Indeed, material assistance, for example in the rehabilitation or construction of rural housing, health centres and education facilities, combined with support for the justice system and measures for the restoration of livelihoods, can play a vital role in reducing the possibilities for conflict between the members of different groups and, hence, foster reconciliation. While it is recognized that reconciliation following the horrors of genocide is a long-term goal that will require decades, if not generations, to attain, a resurgence of violence and further refugee flows will be unavoidable unless members of the different groups can find ways to live side by side without fear. Reconciliation is a task that will require concerted and long-term support from the whole of the international community for initiatives that must come from the Governments and people of the countries themselves. While this task goes far beyond the mandate and capacity of UNHCR, UNHCR's re-integration programmes are intended to contribute to this healing process.

8. The rehabilitation of areas affected by the presence of refugees is necessary to mitigate the social and environmental impact of refugees on the communities that host them and to help redress the perceived disparities in the levels of international assistance provided to refugees as compared to the local population. In the Great Lakes region of Africa, UNHCR's rehabilitation programmes in countries of asylum have also been of vital importance in maintaining access to refugees and in enabling UNHCR to perform its protection function.

9. Both reintegration and rehabilitation are tasks which require the participation of other agencies of the United Nations and other humanitarian and development organizations, in close collaboration with Governments concerned. In the Great Lakes Operation, UNHCR has primarily undertaken projects that could be implemented quickly and which were designed to meet the most immediate needs of returnee or refugee-impacted communities, needs which UNHCR staff, given their presence in the field and familiarity with local conditions, are well placed to evaluate and address. It is necessary to combine these immediate requirements with longer term rehabilitation projects that converge with development objectives. In order to ensure that the various actors bring the necessary expertise to the rehabilitation process in a coordinated and consistent manner, UNHCR, in addition to participating in the normal interagency coordination mechanisms, has established a partnership with UNDP in Rwanda and, more recently, WFP, to form a Joint Re-Integration Planning Unit to plan and manage re-integration activities.


1. Burundi

(a) Recent developments and objectives

10. The security situation during 1997 prevented access to returnees in several provinces for extended periods and made returns organized by UNHCR impossible. Nevertheless, large numbers of spontaneous returnees were registered and assisted by UNHCR in the course of the year. Several thousand involuntary returns, especially from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also occurred. By mid-year, the situation in certain provinces had improved considerably. The Government also proceeded to dismantle "regroupement" sites in these affected provinces, where most of the local population had been forced to stay, and allowed the rural population to return to their "collines". Given these developments, and in view of the risks associated with unassisted return, UNHCR adopted a policy of facilitating voluntary repatriation to provinces that appeared safe for return, provided that UNHCR had free access to the returnees. In addition to helping returnees, UNHCR also assisted in the rebuilding community facilities and the construction of shelter in areas where large numbers of returns had occurred or were expected. Emergency assistance was also given in some cases where new internal displacement had occurred as a result of fighting.

11. UNHCR thus continues to provide reception and reintegration assistance to new returnees. As noted above, a particular concern is that, in 1997, many of the some 90,000 spontaneous returnees came back to insecure areas where UNHCR does not have regular access. Some could not return to their villages and had to be assisted in transit centres. Others who returned after a long period in exile have no access to houses and land. Discussions with the Government to identify long-term solutions to these problems are ongoing. Provided that the relative stability and security holds in the north-eastern provinces of the country and depending upon the progress of the "internal" and "external" peace processes, UNHCR and its partners may expect returns to continue in 1998. There is, therefore, a need to prepare for the return of those who could repatriate from the United Republic of Tanzania in the near future. Such returns are expected to be largely spontaneous, although UNHCR is also facilitating repatriation on both sides of the border, in particular by making transport available. To prepare for these returns, UNHCR's presence in eastern Burundi is being strengthened. As in previous years, UNHCR will also assist the communities to which refugees are returning, thus benefiting inhabitants of these villages, as well as returnees.

12. UNHCR will continue to monitor reintegration in communes of origin. The Government of Burundi has indicated that it remains committed to negotiations. If the peace process moves on and the security situation improves, it is expected that between 50,000 to 100,000 Burundi refugees currently in the United Republic of Tanzania may opt for voluntary repatriation.

13. UNHCR is thus focusing on the following activities in Burundi in 1998:

(i) Assisting the current 90,000 returnees and those who may return in 1998, and facilitate their reintegration into the communes of origin;

(ii) Monitoring the return movement, as well as the smooth reintegration of populations in their communes of origin;

(iii) Increasing the absorption capacity for returnees in the areas of origin by assisting the Government in the rehabilitation of communal services;

(iv) As the safe and permanent return of refugees is linked with the return of internally displaced persons, UNHCR is providing limited assistance to the internally displaced persons who are mixed with returnees;

(v) Identifying durable solutions for the remaining refugee caseload in Burundi and assisting a residual caseload of approximately 600 (as at 1 January 1998) needy urban refugees; and

(vi) Supporting family reunification, particularly for the Rwandan unaccompanied minors left behind during the massive repatriation, as well as for the Burundi unaccompanied minors remaining in Uvira in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

14. The 1999 programme in Burundi will pursue similar objectives, depending on the rate of implementation and level of success achieved in 1998.

(b) Implementing partners/arrangements

15. UNHCR Burundi will continue to fund NGOs, specifically OXFAM-Quebec, German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Equilibre, IRC, International Medical Corps (IMC), Collectif des associations et ONG féminines du Burundi (CAFOB), Austrian Relief Project (ARP), CONCERN, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and MSF-Belgium to implement projects during 1998. An agreement will also be signed with FAO on a joint agricultural programme. In addition, UNHCR will conclude an agreement with the Ministry of Rehabilitation (MRRDR) to develop the necessary capacity to supervise and coordinate projects. UNHCR will also explore ways to share the costs of an aircraft with WFP to transport staff and equipment.

(c) Implementation of policy priorities (women, children, environment)


16. A notable achievement in Burundi has been the reforestation programme covering areas formerly hosting Rwandan refugees. This project aimed to compensate for the environmental damage resulting from the prolonged presence of large groups of refugees. UNHCR has, through provincial agriculture and forestry authorities, planted over 4,400,000 trees covering an area of more than 2,200 hectares in the Kirundo, Muyinga, Kayanza and Ngozi provinces. In addition, UNHCR provided the necessary inputs for the production of 2,000,000 fruit plants to be distributed in the same provinces. Following a request made by local authorities, and in coordination with the relevant ministries in Burundi, UNHCR will continue its reforestation programme during the first six months of 1998 in the provinces most directly affected by the presence of refugees.

Unaccompanied Children

17. During 1999, UNHCR will identify, register and trace unaccompanied children arriving either through transit centres or spontaneously in provinces in the border areas. If the families of unaccompanied minors cannot be found, UNHCR, together with implementing partners, will place the children with foster families. UNHCR will also support initiatives taken by the local authorities to solve the problems of vulnerable persons among returnees. In this respect, income-generating activities will be developed essentially in Bujumbura to enable vulnerable persons to become self-sufficient.

2. Democratic Republic of the Congo

(a) Recent developments and objectives

18. Despite the repatriation of more than one million Rwandan refugees from the former Zaire and the United Republic of Tanzania at the end of 1996, several hundred thousand Rwandans and smaller numbers of Burundi refugees remained in the eastern part of the country. Most of these refugees moved westward, often accompanied by armed elements of the former Rwandan army and militia, fleeing the advancing troops of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo/Zaire (ADFL) which, by mid-May 1997, took control of Kinshasa and installed President Laurent-Désiré Kabila as Chief of State of the renamed Democratic Republic of the Congo. As the civil war progressed towards this conclusion, large numbers of refugees emerged from the forest after trekking for months over hundreds of kilometres. They were assisted by UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies in makeshift camps near Lubutu, Shabunda, Kisangani, Mbandaka and other locations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, often to be dispersed again as victorious

ADFL forces advanced. Many refugees died from hunger, disease or violence in the course of these events. The vast majority of the survivors welcomed an opportunity to return to Rwanda and, in the period from December 1996 (after the mass return through Goma) to the end of 1997, more than 190,000 Rwandans were repatriated by air and by land from various locations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their return to Rwanda from areas that were often still affected by armed conflict was organized by UNHCR and its partners in circumstances more akin to an emergency evacuation from a life-threatening situation than to a normal voluntary repatriation.

19. Some Rwandans, again accompanied by smaller numbers of Burundi refugees, continued their trek through the Democratic Republic of the Congo to neighbouring countries, including the Republic of Congo (11,000), Angola (2,500), the Central African Republic (at least 1,400) and Malawi. A group of 1,290 that had reached Gabon by way of the Republic of Congo, was summarily returned to Rwanda by the Gabonese authorities in July and August 1997. In September 1997, 775 persons (457 Rwandans and 318 Burundi) who were staying in a transit centre in Kisangani pending the determination of their refugee status were expelled from Kisangani to Kigali. This led to the decision of the High Commissioner to suspend most UNHCR activities on behalf of Rwandan refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In October 1997, the authorities requested UNHCR to cease activities in North Kivu and to close its office in Goma.

20. The fate of many thousands of Rwandan and Burundi refugees who had fled westward from the camps in North and South Kivu in late 1996 and early 1997, however, remains unknown. Small numbers of refugees, most in dire need of protection and life saving assistance, continued to appear out of dense forest areas throughout 1997 and the first months of 1998. To assist these groups, particularly with voluntary repatriation, UNHCR has requested the approval of the Government to maintain or re-establish a presence in key locations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

21. Throughout 1997, UNHCR continued rehabilitation projects in areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as in the United Republic of Tanzania, which had accommodated large numbers of refugees during the period from 1994 to 1997. These activities included assistance for the reconstruction of community facilities such as schools, health centres and water supply systems, repairs to key roads, and measures to protect and restore the environment. UNHCR also assisted the local population in improving crop production and animal husbandry, and promoted measures to enhance income-generation.

22. Despite precarious security conditions, by the latter half of 1997 the situation in southern South Kivu was sufficiently stable to allow for the voluntary return of refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who had fled, mostly at the end of 1996, to the United Republic of Tanzania and other neighbouring countries. The first ferries taking returnees across Lake Tanganyika from Kigoma to Uvira sailed in December 1997. By the end of March 1998, over 30,000 refugees had returned home. In addition, some 15,000 refugees returned on their own.

23. While the care and maintenance programme for refugees from the Republic of Congo came to an end in February 1998 with the return of all but a few hundred to their country, the voluntary repatriation and reintegration of refugees of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from the United Republic of Tanzania to the Uvira area continues at a steady pace. This programme, which also comprises assistance to the returnees and the rehabilitation of their home communities, will probably continue throughout 1998, although it is expected that the initial 50,000 candidates will have returned by the middle of the year. UNHCR will also continue to assist in the voluntary repatriation of refugees of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from a number of other neighbouring countries.

24. As noted above, UNHCR maintains presences in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (in Bukavu, Mbandaka and Mbuji-Mayi) to protect and assist Rwandan and Burundi refugees who continue to come out of the forests in small numbers, often in deplorable conditions. Rwandan refugees are only offered the option of voluntary repatriation, as the Government has not agreed to allow them to remain in the country. Under the terms of a tripartite MOU signed between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and UNHCR on 26 April 1998, Burundi refugees are, in principle, allowed to remain, although refoulement by the military authorities has occured in the past. The protection of Rwandan and Burundi refugees, including the need for safe access to all groups of refugees and asylum-seekers, continues to be the subject of discussions with the Government. UNHCR also recognizes the importance of continuing its programme of rehabilitation of refugee affected areas, both to repair and mitigate the damage done during the refugees' presence and to promote a more favourable policy towards refugees in these areas.

25. Due to the current volatility in many regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UNHCR's programme for 1998 will allow for a maximum degree of flexibility. Primary activities in 1998 include:

(i) Ongoing voluntary repatriation of approximately 50,000 Congolese from the United Republic of Tanzania to South Kivu; the refugees will be transported to their places of origin, receive assistance and benefit from community rehabilitation activities;

(ii) Rehabilitation activities, begun in 1997, will be pursued in areas that have been significantly affected by the presence of refugees;

(iii) Assistance to Burundi refugees housed at Mbuji-Mayi, pending their voluntary repatriation;

(iv) Repatriation assistance to Rwandan refugees who come forward and express a wish to return home;

(v) Support to unaccompanied minors for family reunification; and

(vi) Continuing efforts to secure the agreement of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the exercise of the High Commissioner's international protection mandate on behalf of Rwandan and Burundi refugees.

26. The 1999 programme in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will pursue similar objectives, depending on the level of success achieved in 1998, as well as the evolving situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a review of UNHCR's policy in the country.

(b) Implementing partners/arrangements

27. With the reshuffling of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in early 1998, the responsible ministry for refugee matters has yet to be defined. In the South Kivu, discussions on the handover of rehabilitation activities to other United Nations organizations are planned. UNHCR will use both domestic and international agencies to implement projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the year.

(c) Implementation of Policy Priorities (women, children, environment)


28. In the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the principal focus of infrastructure projects was the reforestation of 2,500 hectares of refugee camp sites and surrounding affected areas. Approximately three million seedlings were raised and planted with the support of 100 small local nurseries. An agro-forestry project was also financed for production of seeds and environmental education.

Unaccompanied Minors

29. In the confusion of late 1996, when large numbers of Rwandans either returned home or fled westward into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UNHCR lost track of many unaccompanied children. An even greater number became separated from their families during flight or saw their parents die of hunger, disease or violence.

30. Search operations around Kisangani and other areas where refugees were concentrated revealed a large number of separated children. On several occasions children and aid workers included in these searches became targets of armed attacks. UNHCR's efforts, together with partner agencies, such as UNICEF, SCF/UK, the Red Cross, Concern, MSF, Orbis and others, to find, care for and evacuate this most vulnerable group were hampered by factors, including security concerns, difficulty of access and the continuation of hostilities which often forced the children into hiding.

31. When UNHCR scaled down its evacuation operation, its protection of children remained both a priority and a problem. In some areas, UNHCR and partner agency staff were unable to identify families "fostering" refugee children, either because foster families feared reprisals or wished to keep the children. Sizeable numbers of refugee children were located among Congolese (of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) families, in places such as in Goma, Bukavu and Uvira, where the authorities maintained a policy requiring their repatriation. This policy, which was often echoed by the local population, raised difficult questions about the best interests of those children for whom family tracing was impossible.

32. Burundi refugee children separated from their families were also in an extremely delicate situation. For most of the year, security in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in their country of origin seemed equally precarious. Again, aid staff had difficulty in locating and monitoring these children, especially those in Congolese (of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) foster families. By July 1998, the decision was taken to assemble Burundi children separated from their families in Uvira for security reasons. Several were transferred to Burundi following successful advance tracing. Efforts to transport more of them to Bujumbura while tracing was being carried out were aborted after security conditions declined in Burundi. Several hundred separated children from Burundi remain in Uvira and its environs, while efforts continue to register them and trace their families.

33. In 1999, a focus on the tracing and family reunification of unaccompanied children will continue, subject to government approval of safe access for UNHCR to refugees. Unaccompanied minors will be placed with foster families or in centres for unaccompanied minors, pending their reunification with families or repatriation.

3. Republic of Congo

34. As a result of the outbreak of civil war in the Republic of Congo in June 1997, over 30,000 refugees arrived from Brazzaville in Kinshasa. Some 15,000 of them were assisted in a refugee camp, while others were accommodated by the population of Kinshasa. Repatriation to the Republic of Congo became possible towards the end of 1997. A tripartite memorandum of understanding was signed in December 1997, and organized repatriation started the same month. All but a few hundred refugees have now returned either with UNHCR assistance or by their own means. The Kinkole refugee camp near Kinshasa was subsequently closed at the end of February 1998.

35. UNHCR is also facilitating the repatriation of those Rwandans in the Republic of Congo who agree to return and is considering alternative solutions for those not wishing to do so. A demographic profile has been established (registration of refugees, names, identification, etc.) and consultations are taking place with the Government on a future categorization exercise and local settlement possibilities for those who are not excluded from refugee status.

4. Rwanda

(a) Recent developments and objectives

36. The massive return of refugees to Rwanda in late 1996 and early 1997 required an immense effort on the part of the international community and, in particular, UNHCR to assist the Government with the reception and reintegration of an additional 1.3 million of its citizens who returned in a matter of months. Urgent rehabilitation activities, in particular with respect to rural housing, water systems, and health and education facilities, were carried out in returnees' home communities. UNHCR implemented a comprehensive programme to assist returnees immediately upon their arrival with the distribution of basic food and non-food items and to monitor the situation of returnees in their communes of origin. It also developed activities at the community level on behalf of vulnerable groups, such as female heads of households, and implemented programmes intended to restore the capacity of the central and regional Governments in sectors such as local administration and the judiciary. The construction of houses was important not only to provide shelter to families still living under plastic sheeting, but also to reduce conflicts between recent returnees and those who had occupied their houses and land after their departure to exile.

37. Unfortunately, very serious security incidents in the north and west of the country, including killings of aid workers and United Nations human rights monitors, terrorist attacks on survivors of genocide and other civilians, and extensive counter-insurgency operations, severely limited the access of United Nations and non-governmental organization (NGO) staff to monitor returnees, provide assistance and implement reintegration projects, particularly in the first half of 1997. Access to the north-western prefectures continues to be curtailed. As a consequence, some of the activities planned for 1997 had to be postponed.

38. Furthermore, some 27,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, primarily from North Kivu, remain in Rwanda, where they are assisted by UNHCR in two camps in Byumba and Kibuye. Refugees were moved to Byumba after two attacks on Mudende refugee camp near Gisenyi. Besides the refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, some 2,300 Burundi refugees are also assisted by UNHCR in Rwanda.

39. UNHCR's overall objectives in Rwanda in 1998 and 1999 are to ensure protection and assistance for some 34,000 refugees and to continue to promote and monitor the reintegration of more than two million returnees, thereby supporting efforts to achieve national reconciliation in the aftermath of genocide, while preparing a smooth transition from emergency relief through rehabilitation and towards development.

40. In close cooperation with the Government, and with the support and cooperation of the donor community, other United Nations agencies and NGOs, UNHCR is engaged in the following key activities:

(i) Continued monitoring of returns, with an emphasis on full social and economic integration, and on the respect for human rights, as well as the recovery of property and support to the judicial system;

(ii) Support to the Government's efforts to instil a climate of trust amongst the population at the grass-root level through open discussion of problems and a common search for solutions, thereby creating conditions for co-existence and eventual reconciliation;

(iii) Assistance to returnees (both the old and the new caseloads) in building and completing their shelters in existing locations and new sites throughout Rwanda, as well as completion of the construction of health centres, schools, and water systems undertaken in 1997;

(iv) Care and maintenance of refugees in camps and continuing efforts to ensure asylum and protection, and to achieve solutions for all refugees in Rwanda, with an emphasis on the need to relocate camps in the western prefectures to safe areas away from the border; and

(v) Support to the Rwandan Women's Initiative (RWI), in order to contribute to reconciliation and to sustainable rehabilitation and development in a society recovering from genocide (further information is provided below).

(b) Implementing partners/arrangements

41. UNHCR's planned reintegration activities in Rwanda in 1998 follow the broad objectives outlined by the Government and address the needs identified by the authorities. UNHCR will work closely with all relevant branches of the Government in implementing its protection and assistance programmes for returnees. The main partners at the Government level will be the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Affairs (MIGEFASO) and the Ministry of Justice. Other line ministries (Health, Education and Youth) will also implement some activities.

42. Following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNHCR, it was decided that the reintegration component of UNHCR's activities would be jointly managed by the Joint Reintegration Programming Unit (JRPU). The MOU has since been amended to incorporate the World Food Programme (WFP) and discussions are ongoing to enlist the participation of other development agencies. The JRPU is responsible for the planning and programme activities of reintegration projects in Rwanda and, in cooperation with the Government, has embarked on establishing Area Development Plans (ADPs) for all accessible prefectures. These ADPs are aimed at identifying gaps in the reintegration process and detailing the basic services required to attain sustainability. It is envisaged that, by the end of June 1998, the ADPs for eight prefectures will be available to donors. The JRPU will also organize the phasing out and handing over of all reintegration activities from UNHCR to the Rwandan Government and/or to UNDP, or other relevant developmental agencies.

43. UNHCR is also intensifying its coordination mechanisms with the Human Rights Field Office for Rwanda (HRFOR) and UNICEF, and will coordinate activities with the World Bank, the European Union and other bilateral donors through the JRPU. Projects will be implemented through a combination of bipartite agreements between the Government and UNHCR, or through tripartite agreements which will include NGOs as implementing partners.

44. WFP will continue to provide food for refugees, while UNICEF will continue to support education for refugee children in coordination with UNESCO. The American Refugee Committee (ARC), the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), CONCERN, African Humanitarian Action (AHA), Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), Disaster Relief Agency (DRA) and Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) are the major implementing partners of UNHCR for assistance to refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi in Rwanda.

(c) Implementation of policy priorities (women, children, environment)

The Rwanda Women's Initiative (RWI)

45. Extending reconciliation assistance to the survivors of the genocide, the majority of whom are women, is a priority, inter alia, to provide a sense of hope for the future. It is estimated that 54 per cent of the population are women and 34 per cent of all households are headed by women. The central objective of the RWI is to promote and achieve the individual and collective empowerment of women through activities which afford them greater economic independence and increase their sense of self-worth. In order to achieve this objective, the RWI will continue to address the problems resulting from discriminatory cultural practices, homelessness, inadequate health care and post-genocide trauma faced by most female survivors of the genocide. The RWI is implemented in collaboration with MIGEFASO and complements activities undertaken by bilateral donors through the same Ministry.

46. Specific objectives for 1998 are:

(i) To enhance integration and active participation of women in the economic, social, health and cultural development of the country;

(ii) To promote women's rights and their role in the administrative, political, legislative, and justice areas; and

(iii) To combat impunity and violence against women.

47. Working in close cooperation with MIGEFASO, UNHCR will finance activities to be implemented by MIGEFASO itself, Profemme (a women's umbrella organization) and the local NGO Hagaruka. These activities include the implementation of a database on the status of women in Rwanda, the promotion of women's rights and the implementation of a network promoting law and legislative issues by Rwandan women in Parliament.

Unaccompanied children

48. Despite tremendous efforts made by the Government of Rwanda, United Nations agencies, ICRC and NGOs, some 6,000 children who have lost or been separated from their families remain in 48 centres, waiting to be reunited with their families or for an alternative durable solution. Many left Rwanda when they were very young, or were born in exile. They are unable to provide information to assist in family tracing. However, creative efforts by some NGO staff have resulted in some progress in reuniting a number of these "sans adresse" children with their families. The Government's strategy is to try to promote care in families rather than in "orphanages". It has thus developed a foster family programme for children for whom no family member can be traced. In close cooperation with the Government and in constant dialogue with UNICEF, ICRC and NGOs involved in this programme, UNHCR contributes to the tracing activities and to the medium and long-term plans for these children. UNHCR's objective for 1998 is to alleviate current problems by assisting some of the children who remain in transit centres, through support for tracing activities being carried out by implementing partners and by participating in the elaboration of a long-term plan to address the special needs of unaccompanied minors in Rwanda.

49. NGO partners will continue to coordinate and implement the national programme of mass tracing in Rwanda, as well as assuming responsibility for the registration of all unaccompanied minors identified at the UNHCR transit centres. Identification, documentation, tracing and reunification activities are carried out by social workers employed by Save the Children Fund (UK) (SCF/UK) (operating with partial UNHCR funding). World Vision, CONCERN, International Rescue Committee (IRC), Red Barnet, Food for the Hungry International (FHI) and MSF are also UNHCR's implementing partners for activities in favour of unaccompanied children. UNHCR will allocate funds to FHI, Red Barnet and other implementing partners for the development and management of community initiatives. It is expected that NGOs, in conjunction with prefectural and communal entities, will select adolescents who come from extremely difficult circumstances and will assist them to become economically and socially integrated into Rwandan society.


50. The primary objective of UNHCR's environmental activities in Rwanda is to continue the forestry programme designed to address the damage caused during 1995, 1996 and 1997. The environmental protection activities involve the establishment of more nursery beds and wood lots for the planting of a greater quantity of fast growing trees to reduce further environmental degradation caused by the large number of returnees.

51. Other important environmental protection activities for 1998 consist of the production of energy saving stoves, soil conservation and termite control. It is anticipated that the planting of fast growing trees will further reduce the demand on wood fuel by the local population and lead to an improved forest management system.

52. UNHCR is targeting these activities in the major returnee settlement areas. In this regard, the major beneficiaries are returnees (particularly women) who regularly cut trees for cooking purposes. A termite control programme will be undertaken in the most affected areas such as in Kibungo, Umutara, and Cyangugu, because damage from termites severely impacts the reforestation programme. UNHCR continues to work very closely with the Government of Rwanda, United Nations agencies and operational partners in this regard.

(d) Oversight reports

53. In March 1998, a team of five persons, including the Inspector and a senior member of the Division of International Protection, carried out an inspection of UNHCR's operation in Rwanda. The inspection focused on the role played by UNHCR in the mass repatriation of refugees in 1996 and their reintegration, on the Office's links with other United Nations agencies and on the living and working conditions of its staff. A report on the mission is currently being prepared.

5. United Republic of Tanzania

(a) Recent developments and objectives

54. The only large scale refugee care and maintenance programme in the region involves the some 330,000 refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the United Republic of Tanzania. In the United Republic of Tanzania, UNHCR was called upon to provide international protection and assistance to some 75,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who had started to arrive in the country at the end of 1996. Operations are currently underway to repatriate this group to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

55. The 260,000 UNHCR-assisted Burundi refugees in the United Republic of Tanzania constitute the largest single group of refugees in the region. While 1997 saw the spontaneous repatriation of some 60,000 of them to provinces of Burundi where a degree of stability had been restored, over 100,000 arrived in the United Republic of Tanzania, many from provinces where new outbreaks of fighting had occurred. In the Burundi camps, UNHCR and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania have continued to face the challenge of maintaining the strictly civilian character of refugee camps. The High Commissioner and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania have agreed that, given the "co-responsibility" of UNHCR and Governments for the maintenance of refugee camps in accordance with humanitarian principles, it is critically important that UNHCR and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania work together to ensure the purely civilian character of refugee camps. The Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and UNHCR have agreed on a significant strengthening of security in and around the refugee camps which would involve UNHCR support for training, equipping and maintaining an increased police presence, with clear guidelines to ensure that refugees refrain from subversive activities against their home country. Discussions on the implementation of these measures were held during the High Commissioner's recent mission to the United Republic of Tanzania.

56. In the latter part of 1997, the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania undertook a large scale round-up of refugees and other foreigners living in towns and villages in the western part of the United Republic of Tanzania. While some of the persons concerned were sent back to their home countries as illegal immigrants, over 30,000 refugees who had been living in Tanzanian villages, often for many years, were brought to the refugee camps. In the case of refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, their number offset departures by voluntary repatriation during the first few months of the operation. Following protracted discussions, the operation was halted at the end of 1997.

57. As a particular challenge at the beginning of 1998, UNHCR and its partners are trying to cope with the adverse effects of the extended rains in the country, which have caused serious damage to roads and bridges, many of which had only just been repaired. As noted above, another priority for 1998 will be to continue ensuring that the camps for Burundi refugees only accommodate refugees and that no militant activities take place in the camps, in accordance with the commitment made by the High Commissioner to strengthen camp security in cooperation with the Tanzanian police.

58. The voluntary repatriation of refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo is expected to continue on schedule, hopefully resulting in the return of the more than 50,000 registered candidates by the end of June 1998. Voluntary repatriation of Burundi refugees will be facilitated to safe provinces of Burundi. A pilot project has been started to facilitate returns from Kibondo to Ruyigi. If successful, additional means will be made available for such returns, which could number from between 50,000 to 100,000 refugees in 1998. It is also anticipated that a significant portion of the Burundi refugees may return spontaneously to their country without UNHCR assistance.

59. Pending further improvement in the security situation in Burundi and progress towards a political solution to the conflict, UNHCR is continuing its assistance to Burundi refugees and new arrivals.

60. UNHCR's 1998 programme thus consists of the following main activities:

(i) International protection and multi-sectoral care and maintenance assistance to some 330, 000 refugees currently living in the Kigoma and Kagera regions;

(ii) Provision of assistance to small numbers of newly arriving refugees;

(iii) Repatriation of refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi; and

(iv) Institutional support to the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and rehabilitation of refugee affected areas.

61. In the Kagera and Kigoma refugee camps, UNHCR will continue to provide non-food assistance (blankets, plastic sheets, jerry cans and kitchen sets). UNHCR is ensuring the cost-effective delivery of health, education and community services, and the maintenance of essential infrastructure where necessary. Significant resources will be allocated to the logistics operation to ensure timely and effective distribution of assistance.

62. To emphasize protection measures, UNHCR will continue to negotiate respect for international protection principles and obligations for the treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers. A main focus will be put on respect for the principle of non-refoulement, refugee status determination, rights of recognized refugees and revision to the 1965 Refugee Control Act. UNHCR is also taking measures to combat sexual violence, maintain law and order in and around the refugee camps, and to ensure that the purely civilian and humanitarian nature of the camps is maintained.

63. It is planned that the 1999 programme will pursue similar objectives, with adjustments made accordingly, depending on the rate of implementation and level of success achieved in 1998.

(b) Implementing partners/arrangements

64. The National Coordination Committee (NCC), based in Dar-es-Salaam, is the coordinating body for all refugee related issues. The NCC consists of Tanzanian line ministries, United Nations agencies and NGOs. Coordination meetings are conducted regularly at the national, regional, and district levels. In Kigoma, UNHCR implements its programme through twelve implementing agencies and, in Ngara, through four agencies.

(c) Implementation of policy priorities (women, children, environment)


65. The issue of equal participation of female refugees in the management and life of the camp has been a constant concern of UNHCR. Some progress has been achieved in the participation of women in food distribution in the camps, provision of sanitary material and appropriate clothing. The problem of sexual violence continues to be addressed and it is hoped that with staff devoted specifically to this issue and strengthened security in the camps, there will be a reduction in the incidents of rape and other violence against refugee women. Reduced resources, however, continue to hamper efforts in areas such as education for women where their participation continue to be low with drop-out rates for school girls being as much as 75% of total drop-outs.


66. UNHCR continues to collaborate with ICRC in tracing activities for unaccompanied minors in all camps. There are approximately 1,400 unaccompanied minors in the camps. During 1997, approximately 80,000 children attended primary school in the camps. UNHCR continues to adopt the concept of "Education for Repatriation" using the home country curriculum aimed at preparing the children for reintegration upon repatriation.


67. During 1997, the Kagera Environment Programme, implemented by CARE International in cooperation with many camp management and community services agencies, continued with environmental rehabilitation and mitigation activities, such as environmental education, energy conservation, protection of trees, production and distribution of tree seedlings to both refugee and local populations, erosion control, promotion of agro-forestry practices, fuel-wood harvesting, clean up and rehabilitation (five camps in Karagwe), and monitoring of natural resources used (Muyovosi camp). The lack of firewood and the application of strict enforcement measures of the four kilometre restriction of movement necessitated an urgent review of UNHCR's policy regarding fuel-wood supply and procurement. Fuel-wood distribution for vulnerable groups started in Ngara towards the end of 1997. Environment Liaison Officers (former forest guards) in Nyarugusu, were trained in tree-planting and agro-forestry techniques, and given the task of disseminating information to the cultivators, mainly to allow natural regeneration where trees have been cut.

68. Energy conservation measures included the continued promotion of improved stoves. In addition, there were campaigns to raise community awareness of energy efficient cooking methods such as the soaking of grains, using pot lids, etc. Studies were carried out on grass burning stoves and alternative fuels, and refugees were trained in the construction and use of the "hay basket" or fireless cooker, a new energy-saving cooking technology.

69. The natural vegetation in Kigoma has not suffered the same degree of damage experienced in the Kagera region, and UNHCR is taking early protective and compensatory measures, such as forest protection, tree planting, tree nurseries and erosion control in critical areas. To mitigate the damage created by uncontrolled tree cutting, tree planting activities will be initiated and programmes for fuel efficient stoves will be expanded. A Forestry Officer will provide the required technical support. An Environment Coordinator is overseeing all environmental activities in the Kigoma region.

(d) Oversight reports

70. An inspection mission to the United Republic of Tanzania was carried out in July 1997, visiting all UNHCR field office locations and all major refugee camps. The mission applied the standard inspection terms of reference, with particular attention to the overall management of the operation. A number of recommendations were made relating to office strategy, international protection, programme and field operations, and administration. In reply to a recommendation on protection strategy, protection training for UNHCR staff was organized in September 1997, and protection objectives and activities have been reviewed. Some of the serious infrastructural problems affecting refugee camps identified during the mission, such as access roads, water systems, and camp decongestion, were addressed. The main administrative recommendation was for a complete staffing review, which was undertaken and the results of which were submitted to Headquarters. Other recommendations have been followed up, including a security mission from Headquarters, the preparation of procedures on the utilization of UNHCR aircraft, and organization of staff premises and accommodation at some field office locations.

6.Other countries

71. In other countries where refugees from the Great Lakes region of Africa have arrived, UNHCR will continue to provide international protection and life-sustaining assistance, pending the identification of durable solutions, as well as repatriation assistance for those expressing the desire to return to their countries of origin.

72. In Uganda, approximately 12,000 Rwandan and 14,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are being assisted in early 1998, while efforts to identify durable solutions and repatriation opportunities will continue.

73. In Zambia, some 2,000 Rwandan and 7,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to receive assistance, pending repatriation to their countries of origin.

74. An estimated 6,000 Rwandan refugees currently reside in Kenya. Only a small group (some 300) receive assistance, because most reside with families in Nairobi.

75. In the Sudan, if conditions permit, UNHCR plans to repatriate approximately 3,650 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This group consists of 1,000 refugees who arrived in Juba as a result of the recent conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and another 2,650 persons, the majority of whom have been living in the Sudan since the 1960s. Due to the distances involved, the repatriation will be conducted by air, which will make it a costly operation.


(a) Regional projects

76. Throughout 1997, UNHCR endeavoured to ensure that stockpiles of non-food items needed for emergencies remained at a level sufficient to accommodate the needs of 500,000 persons. These items included blankets, shelter materials (plastic sheeting), kitchen utensils, water containers and portable warehouses. The stocks were maintained in four strategic locations (Kampala, Ngara, Copenhagen and Amsterdam) to permit rapid deployment as necessary. WFP sought to maintain similar buffer stocks of food. Moreover, in view of the absence of road and regular commercial air lines in areas where UNHCR operates, arrangements were maintained for a number of chartered aircraft to carry returning refugees, UNHCR and other agency staff, and supplies.

77. Another regional undertaking involves efforts to determine whether the Rwandans who have sought asylum in at least 10 African countries qualify as refugees under UNHCR's mandate. In order to avoid the problems that were experienced in the camps of the former Zaire and in the United Republic of Tanzania during the period from 1994 to 1996, and since the number of Rwandans who chose not to repatriate had reached more manageable proportions, UNHCR decided that the continued protection and asylum for this group would be contingent on an examination of their claims to refugee status. To avoid tacitly condoning immunity for persons who may have participated in crimes against humanity, UNHCR decided to undertake status determination of this group. This "screening", which includes excluding from refugee status those found to have been involved in the 1994 genocide or subsequent war crimes, was carried out in the Central African Republic and Malawi, and had been organized for the residual group in Kisangani before the operation was cut short by the Government's refoulement of the Rwandans and the remaining Burundi refugees residing there. Screening operations are currently under way or in an advanced stage of preparation in Angola, Benin, Togo, Kenya and the Republic of Congo.

78. UNHCR's Mass Information Programme in 1997 continued to provide neutral and objective information to refugees and the local population on conditions in their home countries. This programme, using a variety of communication media, including videos and the BBC Kinyarwanda service, also aimed at promoting reconciliation and peace.

79. During 1998, UNHCR will continue its regional activities entailing, inter alia, the following:

(i) The maintenance of regional stockpiles of non-food items in order to remain prepared for possible large scale population movements;

(ii) Operation of a regional aircraft to transport refugees from outlying locations to Rwanda and Burundi, and to respond to logistical needs for the more geographically isolated locations; and

(iii) Keep refugees adequately informed about the conditions in their countries of origin, as well as efforts made towards reconciliation.

(b) Budget

80. During 1997, UNHCR's Rwanda Programme received contributions and other income of $ 73,426,397, with total expenditures of $ 69,335,647 and a carry-over into 1998 of $ 4,090,750. For the Great Lakes Operation (excluding Rwanda), 1997 contributions and other income amounted to $ 156,875,036, with total expenditures of $ 145,282,187 and a carry-over into 1998 of $ 11,592,849. The 1998 budget for Rwanda (as presented in the recently launched Appeal) is $ 58,922,007. For the Great Lakes Operation (excluding Rwanda), the 1998 budget is $ 100,337,443 (all figures include Headquarters support costs).

81. The projected 1999 budgets amount to a total of $ 105,738,067 ($ 20,740,399 for Rwanda and $ 84,997,668 for the Great Lakes), thus reflecting a reduction from the current 1998 budgets.

(c) Post situation

82. The post levels in the region have been continuously reduced in line with lower levels of activities (814 posts as at 1 January 1998 as compared to 869 posts as at 1 January 1997; annex 2 provides further information by country).

(d) Oversight reports

Review of UNHCR rehabilitation activities in refugee-affected areas of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United Republic of Tanzania

83. As the importance of UNHCR rehabilitation activities in refugee-affected areas is expected to decrease during 1998, a review of such programmes was started in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Evaluators are examining with particular attention the Expanded Humanitarian Programme (EHP) fielded in the Kivu. The overall objectives of the review are to assess the impact of rehabilitation activities in refugee-affected areas, examine the linkages with the long-term programmes of development agencies and draw general as well as important specific lessons from the experience in the region. The evaluation should be completed by late spring 1998.

Review of UNHCR Mass Information Activities

84. In order to gain a clearer understanding of the objectives, methodology, criteria for evaluation and adequate staff expertise of mass information, a review of the use of mass information in UNHCR has been undertaken. A number of case studies have been prepared, including assessments of mass information activities in the Great Lakes region of Africa and in Sierra Leone. The review noted that flexible formats were indispensable for adapting mass information messages to changed circumstances. Moreover, it was considered important that UNHCR and national partners, including NGOs, be in full agreement on the content of the messages. The case studies also showed the difficulty of reconciling protection principles and concerns with political considerations affecting peace and stability in a whole region.

Access to, and ownership of, land in repatriation operations

85. The problem of access to agricultural land for rural returnees has been one of the most difficult issues facing UNHCR in its efforts to organize the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of refugees to their countries of origin. A review of the problem was carried out during 1997, which sought to identify the typical obstacles to land access for returnees, whether physical, legal, political or economic, encountered in a number of recent repatriation operations. Case studies were developed and included the Mozambican repatriation and the return of Rwandan refugees.

UNICEF, UNHCR and WFP Tripartite Lessons Learned Study of the Great Lakes Emergency Operations (September 1996 to September 1997)

86. A tripartite evaluation of the operational aspects of humanitarian assistance coordination in the Great Lakes region of Africa was undertaken, aimed primarily at contributing to a shared regional inter-institutional process of self-evaluation in the context of prioritizing and shaping inter-agency coordination of humanitarian assistance in a changing operational context. The joint evaluation mission visited the Great Lakes region of Africa where it held extensive discussions with NGOs and government officials. Consultations with resource persons in the three agencies, as well as with other major players, also took place.

87. The main findings of the evaluation were that the extent and quality of informal inter-agency cooperation in the field were more remarkable than anticipated. Agreements in the form of operation plans, memoranda of understanding and technical agreements were often concluded in a pragmatic spirit of cooperation and have proven useful. Nonetheless, it was noted that individual agency interests, either stemming from specific mandates or from constituency expectations, often hamper cooperation and operational coordination.

(Note: Tabular annex not included in this online version. See your nearest UN Depository Library.)

1 All posts (Professional and General Service), including those projected for less than a full year, but excluding Junior Professional Officers (JPOs) working in the following countries as at 1 January 1998: Democratic Republic of the Congo (1), Rwanda (1) and the United Republic of Tanzania (3).