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The Rwandan Refugee Crisis: Before the Genocide: Part III

Document 9

Date: January 1994 To: [Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations Kofi] Annan, [Under Secretary General for Political Affairs James] Jonah, [State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Jan] Eliasson, United Nations, New York From: [UN Special Representative Jacques-Roger] Booh-Booh, UNAMIR, Kigali Subject: Visit to Camp for Internally Displaced Persons at Nyacyonga on January 26, 1994 Cable #: MIR-211

After visiting a camp for Burundian refugees in southern Rwanda, UN Special Representative Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh reports that the “humanitarian emergency” in the country is reaching “catastrophic proportions.” He states that the refugees are becoming  “increasingly restive” and concerned that nobody is paying attention to their plight.

Burundian refugees in Butare Prefecture in southern Rwanda, December 1993. —M. El Khoury/UNHCR

Document 10

Date: February 2, 1994 To: [US] Secretary of State, Washington, DC From: American Embassy Kigali [Rwanda] Subject: Burundi Refugees: Too Many Problems; Rwandan Returnees: How to Help? Cable #: Kigali 00454

The newly arrived US ambassador to Rwanda, David Rawson, reports that the Rwandan government is “totally unprepared” to begin receiving returnees—predominantly Tutsis— from Uganda. He adds that planning for the refugee returns “has been stalled for nearly two years,” with the exception of the Arusha refugee protocol, which exists only “on paper.” He reports that the UNHCR is reluctant to help Tutsi returnees in northern Rwanda for fear of being swamped by more refugees.  

Document 11

Date: February 10,  1994 To: American Embassy Kampala [Uganda] From: American Embassy Kigali [Rwanda] Subject: GOR, RPF, UNHCR, ICRC Plan for Rwandan Returnees from Uganda Cable #: Kigali 00606

The US embassy in Kigali reports that the failure to form a new transitional government is delaying a resolution to the refugee problem. Some exiles are returning spontaneously. International agencies are wary of providing assistance to long-term exiles to Uganda for fear of creating a “pull factor” that will overwhelm their technical abilities.

Document 12

Date: March 14, 1994 Subject: Burundi Refugees and Displaced Persons Fact Sheet

According to a fact sheet prepared by the US State Department, an estimated 580,000 Burundians fled to neighboring countries after the October 1993 coup attempt, of whom approximately 200,000 returned home. The UNHCR reported high death rates (six per 10,000 people, every day) among Burundian refugees in Rwanda.

Document 13

Date: March 15, 1994 Subject: Rwanda—Refugee Fact Sheet

A State Department fact sheet traces the history of the refugee problem in Rwanda back to the overthrow of the Tutsi monarchy in Rwanda in 1959 and the forced exodus of the former Tutsi elite.

Document 14

Date: March 22, 1994 To: All African Diplomatic Posts From: [US] Secretary of State, Washington, DC Subject: INR [Bureau of Intelligence and Research] Analysis Cable #: State 073815

An analysis by the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) for the US State Department notes that nearly three million Rwandans and Burundians—out of a total population of 14 million—have fled their homes since 1990. It predicts the “centuries-old” friction between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups is “unlikely to fan violence” beyond the immediate region but will “impede development and fuel demands for international humanitarian assistance.”

Document 15

Date: March 29, 1994 To: [US] Secretary of State, Washington, DC From: American Embassy Kigali [Rwanda] Subject: AF/DAS [Deputy Assistant Secretary for Africa] and AF/C [Office of Central African Affairs] Director Discuss Rwanda’s Humanitarian Issues Cable #: Kigali 01373

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Prudence Bushnell visits Rwanda in March 1994, two weeks before the onset of the genocide. She is briefed by UNHCR Special Envoy Michel Moussalli, who stresses the need to form a new Rwandan government to address refugee issues.

Next: A Map of the Crisis