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Statement by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Round Table on Rwanda, Geneva, 19 January 1995

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Statement by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Round Table on Rwanda, Geneva, 19 January 1995

19 January 1995

Mr. President, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a pleasure for me to be with you today and to have this opportunity of sharing with you the preoccupations and policies of my Office toward the humanitarian challenges facing the Great Lakes region and in particular Rwanda.

The tragedy in Rwanda has left well over two million refugees in neighbouring countries, as well as hundreds of thousands of internally displaced and returnees in need of assistance in Rwanda. In addition, nearly one million people were in exile for more than twenty years due to previous eruptions of conflict and violence.

Needless to say, the only solution is the voluntary repatriation of refugees and the return of the displaced persons to their communities of origin in safety and dignity. Their prolonged stay in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, is neither a viable option for the host communities, nor for the refugee themselves, nor for Rwanda.

The return of the refugees and internally displaced and their successful reintegration are closely intertwined to the progress made on national reconciliation and rehabilitation inside Rwanda. Important steps have been taken to finalize repatriation arrangements with involved Governments through the signing of two tripartite agreements, one between Rwanda, Burundi and UNHCR, and the other between Rwanda, Zaire and UNHCR.

If repatriation is to succeed, no efforts must be spared by the international community to ensure that Rwanda has the necessary material and human resources to ensure the reintegration of the new and old refugee caseloads and internally displaced. In addition to the 200,000 new refugees which have returned, the Government of Rwanda estimates that at least 600,000 refugees who had fled in the early sixties have repatriated spontaneously in 1994. For 1995, UNHCR is planning to assist one million refugees and internally displaced to return to their local communities. My Office will participate in the DHA Consolidated Appeal which will be launched on Friday. We are seeking some $ 280 million for our activities in 1995 and I count on donors for their continued support.

I see two key elements which must be addressed with utmost urgency by the international community: first, improved security in the refugee camps in neighbouring countries and, second, the reintegration of the returnees which is linked with the rehabilitation and development of Rwanda.

Security in the camps, particularly in Zaire, remains of deep concern to my Office. The absence of law and order and the interference of former leaders and militia intimidate refugees from freely exercising their right to return. I have been in close contact with the Secretary-General to examine various options for tackling these security problems. UNHCR is endeavouring to work out arrangements with the Government of Zaire to strengthen their security capacity in the camps, as we have done in cooperation with the Government of Tanzania.

The second key element to a successful repatriation operation, besides the necessary confidence building measures, relates to the reintegration of the returnees within their communities of origin. The rapid and massive rehabilitation, reconstruction and development of Rwanda will be essential. In recent months, the Government of Rwanda has concentrated its efforts on ensuring public security, restoring the civil administration and reconstructing the country's social and economic infrastructure, despite an enormous shortage of human and material resources. These steps contribute to the normalization inside Rwanda.

International and bilateral development and financial agencies will play an essential role in channelling rehabilitation and development assistance to Rwanda. The test for the international community in Rwanda is to quickly bridge the gap between relief and rehabilitation. UNHCR, in cooperation with NGOs will continue to implement small-scale rehabilitation projects benefitting rural communes and prefectures receiving large numbers of returnees. The return of property and the preparation of new settlement sites for the old caseload are essential to ease the continuum from relief to development and avoid the aid-dependency syndrome.

As illustrated by our experiences in Cambodia and Central America, it is essential that from the outset of return these small-scale rehabilitation projects are incorporated into longer term rehabilitation and development programmes. I count on the close cooperation among UNDP, the financial institutions and my Office to achieve this. The repatriation of nearly three million old and new refugees and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced will pose enormous problems for Rwanda. I appeal to the international community to provide the Government of Rwanda with the financial and material resources necessary to rebuild its economic, social and health infrastructure, its civilian administration, and its judiciary system and civilian police. Without a massive transfer of resources by the international community, we will not reach a solution to the recurring humanitarian crises facing the Great Lakes region.

To contribute to the search for solutions, the OAU and my Office are jointly organizing a conference to take place in Bujumbura on 15 February to deal with refugees, returnees and displaced persons. A preparatory meeting was held in Addis Ababa last week. The conference will address ways to improve security within the camps, voluntary repatriation from neighbouring countries, the internally displaced, humanitarian assistance to the region, as well as the root causes of the regional crises.

Thank you Mr. President.