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close this bookICRC Activities in Rwanda: 1993 - 6 April 2000 (International Committee of the Red Cross , 230 p.)
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ICRC - SPECIAL REPORT - 29 March 1995


INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS

Rwanda

Rwandan prisons brimming over

As a result of recent developments in Rwanda the ICRC has had to adapt its operation accordingly. The delegation in Kigali is now implementing a large-scale programme aimed at protecting over 30,000 detainees and improving conditions in the country’s severely overpopulated prisons.

Although plans to build more prisons are being discussed, progress is painfully slow, and the authorities have not yet given the go-ahead to the creation of vast prison camps. One such possibility currently being explored, a camp at Nzinda, would hold around 5,000 detainees, but even this would not suffice: the country’s 13 prisons contain at least ten times more inmates than they were intended for, while new arrests average 1,300 per week and this figure is climbing. It would take between five and six weeks to construct a camp such as the Nzinda one. It is evident that at least five such camps are urgently required, for within the next five weeks there will almost certainly be at least another 9,000 inmates to accommodate. Immediate action by the Rwandan government, with the support of the international community, is crucial.

ICRC adapts operation to new context

The return to normal of Rwandan society is advancing much more slowly than expected. Although peace prevails, there are certain tensions within the government and a growing incidence of infiltration by troops of the previous government has been noted in the south-west of the country, resulting in isolated violent incidents.

The ICRC’s delegation in Kigali has had to adapt its initial programme for 1995, as presented in the ICRC 1995 Emergency Appeal, in response to the ever-changing situation in the country. The number of civilians requiring regular food rations and other aid during the first six months of the year has turned out to be less than the estimated half-million, with only 300,000 displaced people receiving food and non-food assistance from the ICRC in camps situated south of Gikongoro. More people than expected have returned to their places of origin, where the ICRC provided them with seed, tools and plastic sheeting to construct shelters.

Nevertheless, the food pipeline foreseen for relief distributions is being put to good use, as the ICRC now regularly provides the nation’s 13 prisons with dry rations for a growing number of detainees. The institution’s logistical infrastructure has therefore not been reduced, and staff requirements have remained the same.

The ICRC currently has 158 expatriates working on the operation, including 20 seconded by the National Red Cross Societies of Australia (1), Denmark (1), France (2), Germany (2), Iceland (1), Italy (1), the Netherlands (2), New Zealand (1), Switzerland (3) and the United Kingdom (6). A further 12 expatriates from the National Societies of Australia, France, Germany, Sweden and the United States are working on project-delegation programmes with the ICRC (see Health activities below).

Protection of detainees

In July 1994 the ICRC was visiting 38 detainees in Rwanda. Today, on 29 March 1995, the number has risen to over 30,000 and is still growing by over 1,300 per week. Among the 135 places of detention where all these detainees are held are the country’s 13 main prisons, which are filled to bursting point. Detainees are unable to lie down in cramped conditions, and access to clean water, food, latrines and health care is very difficult. The risk of an epidemic breaking out is obviously extremely high and the death toll from such an eventuality does not bear thinking about.

The ICRC has therefore been improving conditions for prisoners until such time as new places of detention are constructed to relieve the overcrowding in the jails. So far the ICRC has managed to rehabilitate the water supply systems of the 13 prisons and has been providing medical care and supplies, food, wood for fuel, cooking pots and high-protein biscuits. On a monthly basis 250 tonnes of food, 100 tonnes of biscuits and 5 tonnes of soap are being distributed.

At the same time the delegation has been making repeated representations to the authorities to speed up the process of building new detention centres.


Number of detainees visited

Tracing - over 55,000 unaccompanied children now registered

The vast tracing network set up in Rwanda and neighbouring countries has given unaccompanied children separated from their parents some hope of finding their families again. In conjunction with UNICEF and Save the Children Fund (SCF)-UK, the ICRC has been registering children in camps for displaced people and refugees. Estimates regarding the total number of children concerned vary between 80,000 and 100,000.

By end-March 1995 1,035 families had been reunited by the ICRC. Many others were able to get back together again by their own means or with the help of UNICEF or SCF-UK. As regards Red Cross messages, over 270,000 have been exchanged so far this year. Over 400 local staff and 18 expatriates work on the Rwandan tracing programme, including staff in Nairobi who work in shifts around the clock to centralize the data.

Health activities

The ICRC’s water and sanitation service has restored the water supply to the country’s main towns, with particular emphasis on hospitals and prisons. To do this the nation’s main water stations had to be renovated, over 900 tonnes of chemicals for water treatment were provided, spare parts, generators and fuel were supplied, and the electricity lines between Kigali and Gitarama were repaired. Water supply systems were installed in six camps for displaced people south of Gikongoro.

As part of the ICRC’s project-delegation programme, expatriates from the American (2). Australian (2) and Swedish (2) National Red Cross Societies are working on the repair and rehabilitation of rural water supply systems in the prefectures of Kibuye, Gisenyi and Ruhengeri, respectively.

The repair and rehabilitation of health centres has been delegated to the French and German National Societies. Three expatriates from the French Red Cross are working on this project in Gitarama prefecture and three more from the German Red Cross are working in Byumba prefecture and in Kigali. The health facilities in question are in the process of being renovated and are provided regularly with medical supplies, local staff are given health care training, and vaccination campaigns are getting under way.

The ICRC is also supporting Rwanda’s main psychiatric hospital at Ndera by carrying out sanitation improvements and distributing medical supplies, and is looking for National Societies willing to take on parts of this programme.

Relief activities

A programme involving the distribution of seed and tools to some 70,000 families has just been completed in the home regions of people returning from camps in the Gikongoro area, namely Butare, Bugesera and Cyangugu. These distributions, which also included plastic sheeting for constructing shelters, undoubtedly helped encourage them to return to their homes, where they had otherwise no certain livelihood to look forward to.

The fact that these 70,000 families have gone back has meant that the number remaining in ‘ camps is greatly reduced, making the ICRC’s food and non-food distributions programme much smaller than planned in the ICRC 1995 Emergency Appeal. Regular food and non-food distributions are now being carried out for 270,000 displaced people living in camps in Gikongoro and south of the town.


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