Cease and Desist in Rwanda? (Part 2)

Law and Order Border Crossings

[read Part 1 here]

Fundamental change must also be found to be “stable and durable,” in countries affected by conflict, UNHCR guidelines state that there must be a “sufficiently long period of time” with “brief periods of peace insufficient.” Given Rwanda’s violent history (and the spillover effects of its conflict and volatility of the region), it may be too soon to tell. A draft UN Mapping Report cataloguing serious incidents of human rights and international law violations in the DRC from 1993-2003 documented 104 incidents of killings of Hutu refugees by Rwandan forces. Many of the findings from the report were suppressed by Rwanda at the UN and inside a broader public dialogue inside the country.

A recent report by the Centre on Strategic and International Studies stated that “There is a real risk that, if left unaddressed, shortcomings could exacerbate tensions and ultimately drive broader instability. Given the country’s violent past, instability could escalate very quickly and could potentially be very violent.”

Lastly, ethnic divides remain very real. A Refugee Law Project/International Refugee Rights Initiative report on Rwandan refugees in Uganda claimed that “our findings point to the fact that the history of the genocide appears to have become a smokescreen for the government to carry out repressive measures against any opposition, with ethnicity being used – directly or implicitly – as a functional and tangible means of creating polarisation within communities and as an instrument of control.”  Many legitimate grievances by Hutus remain unaddressed, with Hutu members of government often having very little in the way of real power. The propensity to conflate Hutus with involvement in the genocide, 16 years later, is also very real. The gacaca courts, a method of local community justice to try alleged genocidaires, only try Hutus and have at times failed to meet fair trial standards. Countries hosting ICTR suspects have refused to extradite them to Rwanda over fair trial concerns. They have also been accused of being secondarily intended to “keep Hutus off balance, unwilling to serve in high places (for fear they will be accused of genocide) and generally out of office.” A  Wikileaks released US State Department cable from 2008 documented an address by Minister of Education to secondary school principals, where he told the group that 80 percent of them were “masterminds of genocide ideology.” If the ethnic parity of the group matches that of the general population, the Minister accused all Hutus present of being genocide ideologists.

Ending the Refugee Experience

There are over 129,000 Rwandan refugees in at least 72 countries, with 86% hosted by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Zambia, Uganda, and Kenya. There are a myriad of motives for why they fled the country; and many of their host countries likely don’t have the resources to assess individual claims. The GoR’s lobbying for its invocation also appears to be motivated by several political factors and has in the past been hostile to those who have left, perhaps due to suspicions of motives of those who left to potentially elude prosecution for involvement in the genocide, shifting perceptions of identity in the Great Lakes region and Rwanda’s involvement in the region’s conflicts, external relationships with the West, and the party’s own future existence.

The cessation clause and refugee status is based on perceptions of fear. Changes to an individual status must then be assessed on the basis of the fear that prompted the flight, but there will often be new and unfamiliar challenges in place. Application of the cessation clauses for Rwandan refugees is premature given the current human rights situation inside the country. 

Human Rights, Rwanda, Wikileaks