Cablegate: Refugee Issues in Rwanda

DE RUEHLGB #0749/01 3171213
P 131213Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A


KIGALI 00000749 001.2 OF 003

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Rwanda hosts 53,000 Congolese refugees in
three refugee camps and 2,000 urban refugees from various
nearby countries. Standards of living in the camps are high,
although land and sanitation issues are sometimes
problematic. Although relations between Rwanda and the DRC
have improved significantly (reflected by the arrival this
week in Kigali of the DRC Ambassador, Ref A), refugees in
Rwanda have not returned to eastern Congo in significant
numbers and are unlikely to do so until the security
situation there improves. There are an estimated 61,000
Rwandan refugees in host countries throughout the region.
UNHCR and the Government of Rwanda have agreed to a framework
that, if followed, will result in the invoking of the
cessation clause for Rwandan refugees in December 2011. END

2. (SBU) On October 17-19, PRM Program Officer Wendy Henning
and Embassy Kampala Refugee Program Assistant Annie Gacukuzi
visited Rwanda to monitor UNHCR and American Refugee
Committee's refugee camp activities. The following report is
based on the visit.

3. (SBU) Rwanda hosts 53,000 Congolese refugees in three
refugee camps and 2,000 urban refugees from various nearby
countries. UNHCR/Rwanda has two main objectives - to provide
protection and assistance to refugees in Rwanda and to
promote repatriation of Rwandan refugees. Assistance partners
include the World Food Program, the Government of Rwanda
(GOR), UNICEF, the Forum for African Women Educationists,
African Humanitarian Action (AHA), American Refugee Committee
(ARC), German Technical Service (GTZ), and Jesuit Refugee
Service (JRS). There are an estimated 61,000 Rwandan refugees
in host countries throughout the region. (Note: This is an
estimate because many Rwandan refugees, such as those in DRC,
are not registered. End Note.) Over three million Rwandans
have returned since the 1994 genocide, including over 14,000
in 2009.

Care and Maintenance
4. (SBU) Standards of assistance in the refugee camps in
Rwanda are high. Refugees receive regular food rations,
health services are superior to the national standard,
primary education is available to all school-aged children
and sanitary/hygiene conditions are decent. (Note: Available
land is scarce in heavily populated Rwanda. The GOR allocates
limited space for refugee camps, making it a challenge to
maintain hygiene standards. End Note.) In addition to a basic
assistance package, refugees have access to a range of
community services, secondary education for high-caliber
students, HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence prevention and
response programs, and vocational training. Kitchen gardens
supplement diets and fuel-efficient cook stoves reduce
environmental damage. Although implementing partners argue
that they need more funds, overall services in the camps are
an example of what can and should be possible with adequate

5. (SBU) Water and sanitation are subject to factors beyond
UNHCR and partner control. Water systems in all three camps
have the capacity to provide over 20 liters of water per
person per day. In Gihembe camp, however, the water system is
dependent on the national electricity company to function.
Nevertheless, the average supply is at or above 15 liters per
person per day and refugees are not complaining about water.
Qperson per day and refugees are not complaining about water.
Lines at tap stands are short and people are bathing and
washing clothes without difficulty. Hygiene is a challenge
because of limited space to build new latrines when the old
are "retired," and this year funds were not adequate to keep
up with the turnover. For example, in Gihembe camp the ratio
of latrines to refugees is 1:27. UNHCR recently made funds
available to partner ARC to help improve the ratio to 1:20 by
the end of December. In addition, camp residents have taken
sheeting used to shelter shower facilities, leaving them
exposed and in some cases unusable. ARC has begun
construction of mud brick showers to get around this issue,
but it will take time to meet the need.

6. (SBU) The lack of land is beyond UNHCR and partner control
and is an ongoing concern in Nyabiheke camp, which received

KIGALI 00000749 002.2 OF 003

many new arrivals in 2008. Per UNHCR, the GOR promised four
plots of additional land to absorb the new arrivals, but only
provided two. Some not so recently-arrived individuals are
still residing in hangars. Fortunately, there have not been
any new waves of arrivals in recent months, so the situation
is stable. UNHCR is worried that the situation in the Kivus
could result in a new influx and the transit centers will
once again become temporary camps as the camps cannot
accommodate additional people at their current sizes.

Rwandan Refugee Return and Reintegration
7. (SBU) The return of Rwandan refugees increased markedly in
2009. An unassisted caseload of about 14,000 returned,
mostly from DRC. Some 10,000 were believed to have been
living among (and, in some cases, were married to) members of
the FDLR (Note: The FDLR is an armed, Rwandan Hutu rebel
group operating in the Eastern Congo. It leaders include
former genocidaires and many of its rank-and-file were
members of the former Rwandan Armed Forces and genocidal
Interahamwe militia who fled to the Congo after the 1994
genocide. End Note.) The number of returnees from Uganda,
around 5,000, did not meet GOR expectations of 20,000 and
observers suspect that many among the 5,000 were Rwandan
residents who went to Uganda in order to return and receive
the assistance package or individuals who returned from
Uganda, received the package, and recycled back to Uganda.
While UNHCR facilitates repatriation, it does not have a
reintegration program in place and the GOR has limited
capacity in this regard. UNHCR provides transportation to the
home of origin, a standard repatriation package (three
months' food rations and non-food items), and limited routine
follow-up. Returnees are not guaranteed access to land and
shelter, though the GOR reportedly works with local officials
to ensure they are well-received. UNHCR follow-up visits
reveal that land is the number one challenge for returnees.
UNHCR is also concerned that women heads of household and
vulnerable individuals do not have access to adequate
services and it would like to establish a fund to address
this group's needs. Additionally, UNHCR would like the One UN
system to address returnee needs, but this is an ongoing

Recent Rwandan Flight to Burundi
8. (SBU) Several hundred Rwandans reportedly crossed into
Burundi in August seeking asylum and claiming to be fleeing
insecurity and persecution. Government of Rwanda officials
countered that many in the group left to avoid prosecution in
Rwanda for genocide related offenses. After drawing
criticism for its initial response, which included returning
many asylum-seekers to Rwanda, the Government of Burundi is
now reportedly permitting the UNHCR to investigate the claims
of those who remain (Ref B).

Cessation Clause 2011
9. (SBU) At the EXCOM meeting in October, UNHCR and the GOR
agreed to invoke the cessation clause for Rwandan refugees on
December 31, 2011 if the GOR reaches certain benchmarks
throughout the next two years. The four-step process
includes: enhancing voluntary repatriation; pursuing other
options such as local integration, granting migrant status,
or third-country resettlement; conducting individual status
determination for those who do not want to return or have
Qdetermination for those who do not want to return or have
other options; and conducting a review to determine if it is
appropriate to invoke cessation.

Congolese Repatriation
10. (SBU) UNHCR/Goma claims busloads of Tutsi refugees with
"zipped lips" have been spotted crossing the border from
Rwanda into the DRC, while others herded their cattle across
rural border areas. UNHCR/Rwanda and the GOR assert that no
Congolese refugees have returned home, besides the usual
handful that regularly goes back and forth to assess the
situation. This year, according to one source (protect),
there were also reports of eight adult refugees being
recruited from the camps, perhaps by a rump faction of the
CNDP to be trained in Uganda. (Note: Many Congolese
refugees in camps in Rwanda had supported ousted CNDP leader
Laurent Nkunda, who is now under house arrest in Rwanda. End

11. (SBU) At Gihembe camp, however, NGO staff members

KIGALI 00000749 003.2 OF 003

(protect) report that there have been noticeable refugee
departures. They reported that some refugee program staff
(mainly adult males, but including some male youths) had left
the camp, the latter to go to secondary school in Goma. The
youths, departure raised fears of possible recruitment.

12. (SBU) Most refugees in Rwanda want to go home, but not
until there adequate security in the Kivus. UNHCR has no
plans for a facilitated return at this time. There is a
tripartite meeting scheduled for November to discuss the
framework for the return of refugees. Program Officer
expressed concern that this meeting will give the green light
to the GOR to push Congolese refugees home, but UNHCR assured
her that the High Commissioner has made it clear to the GOR
that the situation in the Kivus is not conducive to durable
and dignified return and the GOR must continue to respect its
commitments to hosting refugees. (Note: The High Commissioner
was visiting Rwanda, after a visit to the DRC, at the same
time as Program Officer. End Note.) Some local Rwandan media
report an imminent return for Congolese refugees, suggesting
a lack of understanding of the gravity of the humanitarian
and security conditions in eastern DRC that belies the
widespread belief in Rwanda that the political rapprochement
between Rwanda and the DRC has greatly improved the situation
throughout the Kivus.

13. (SBU) UNHCR, the GOR, and the international community
should continue to monitor the situation closely and
communicate regularly accurate information about the
conditions in the DRC and the prospects for Congolese
repatriation. That will prevent misunderstandings and false

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