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close this bookThe Environmental Impact of Sudden Population Displacements - Expert Consultation on Priority Policy Issues and Humanitarian Aid (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters - European Commission Humanitarian Office, 1995, 101 p.)
close this folder4. CASE STUDIES
View the document4.1. Cooking Energy for Refugees: The Cases of Zaire and Kenya
View the document4.2. Impact of Humanitarian Crisis on Ecosystems (emphasis on vegetation)
View the document4.3. Environmental Health and Environmental Impact: Policy and Practice in Emergency Water Supply and Sanitation
View the document4.4. The environmental impact of refugees in Africa: suggestions for future actions
View the document4.5. When Refugees Stream: Environmental and Political Implications of Population Displacement

4.4. The environmental impact of refugees in Africa: suggestions for future actions

by F. Byaraguba & Oweyegha-Afunaduula1

1 University of Makerere (Kampala, Uganda), Department of Political Science and Public Administration


Perceptions of the term environment differ from one society to another. For the vast majority of Africans, particularly the very poor, it is a question of survival. In fact it is a development tool. Environment should be viewed as consisting of three dimensions: the ecological-biological; the socio-cultural; and, the socio-economic. All the problems, issues and challenges of environment and development can be assigned to these dimensions.

One of the major problems of environment and development, which is also a most glaring indication of environmental and developmental failure in our time, is the refugee malaise in Africa. To be a refugee is to experience a particularly degrading form of poverty. A refugee typically lacks economic resources, has been deprived of national identity and his very right to exist is called into question.

There are far more internal refugees than cross-border (external) refugees in Africa. Unfortunately, excessive attention has been focused on cross-border refugees and the issue of the impact of internal refugees on the environment has not received the attention it deserves. Neither has that of large concentrations of cross-border refugees upon rural resources. Yet people forced to move find themselves in complex and intricate environmental dilemmas that are increasingly threatening to squeeze them out of existence. Perhaps no people in Africa illustrate this better than the Rwandans.

Several factors are responsible for the generation of the environmental refugee malaise in Africa. These include historical and socio-political factors; huge capital-intensive development projects; disasters such as war, drought, famine and earthquakes; desertification; floods; establishment of reserves and national parks; ill-advised economic policies and despotic regimes.

New perceptions, thinking and policies that are people-centred, anticipatory and problem-oriented, and that reflect the historical and socio-political realities in Africa are required urgently. The alternative is escalating environmental and developmental crises, despite the huge inflows of resources to redress them.

This paper examines the environmental refugee malaise in Africa with specific reference to the Rwandan debacle and its impact on the environment. Problems, issues and challenges are identified including ecological stress and political conflicts, and some suggestions for action are given. It concludes that the people of Africa themselves be empowered to deal with the refugee problem, with backup assistance from the humanitarian community, as a first step towards preventing refugee impact on the environment.

1. Introduction

1.1. Environment

Today it is inconceivable to talk or think about development without reference to the environment. In fact, environment and development are now seen as two sides of the same coin leading to progress. Environmental conservation is pursued as an aspect of the development drive. However, perceptions of the term environment (and development) differ from one society to another. For the vast majority of Africans, especially for the very poorest, it is above all a question of survival. In fact it is a development tool (Diong and Allard, 1994).

To rural African women, environment actually signifies access to drinking water and health care, possessing the means of production necessary to cultivate one's land and ensure food self-sufficiency, and being involved in the management of natural resources.

Environment should be viewed as consisting of three dimensions - the ecological-biological, the socio-economic and the socio-cultural (Oweyegha-Afunaduula, 1994). All problems, issues and challenges of environment and development can be assigned to these dimensions.

If the environment is abused, both health and development suffer; people become ill from environmental diseases such as typhoid fever, tuberculosis, dysentery and cholera, and development - which depends on the wise use of resources - fails. Poverty - the greatest of all environmental pollutants - condemns people to continued diseases, debility and early death and drives them to damage their environment further. It is this interrelationship between health, the socio-economic (development) process and environment that has precipitated the need to rethink development. The new thinking is “development without destruction”; or integrating environmental and ecological considerations in the development process.

1.2. Sustainable development

Increasing emphasis of the environmental and ecological considerations of development has made it imperative that the concepts of integrated rural development, eco-development and sustainable development predominate development theory, practice and literature. In this new environmental era, it is fashionable to include in any discussion, debate or presentation the idea of sustainable development. It is not unusual to hear or read about “environmentally and ecologically sustainable development” - development which does not adversely impact the environmental and ecological foundations of survival (Moyo and Katerere, 1994).

Indicators of sustainable development can be explained in terms of social development, economic development, political development, intellectual development and environmental development (Belghis Badri, 1994).

Unfortunately, under the influence of western-style consumerism and thinking, the application of ecologically and environmentally oriented precepts to the development process is becoming extremely problematic. This necessitates a new look at the concept of sustainable development to suit African needs (Hamida, 1994). However, the environmental debate in Africa remains weak. Yet such debate should enable all actors in it to contribute to the search for consensus as to what sustainable development is and thus make an input into the continent's sustainable development strategy.

There is a degree of consensus on the broad notion of sustainability: passing on to the future generations the resources and knowledge needed for them to pursue their own development. However, there is no consensus yet on other aspects of sustainable development such as respect for pluralism of thought; ideas, practice and information; diversity of local cultures, an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach, social equity, justice and participation. Where such respect is absent, environmental and social collapse is likely; leading to absence of sustainable development. In Africa the absence of this respect is prevalent.

2. The Phenomenon of Environmental Refugees

When development fails or when environmentally unfriendly projects, programs, plans, political practices, etc. are imposed on the environment in either of its three dimensions, the security of people is threatened. The threatened security may be social, economic, political, cultural, nourishment, intellectual, environmental or a combination of all these. People may be forced to move and settle elsewhere. Such people who are compelled to leave their traditional environmental settings are these days referred to as environmental refugees. This term well describes more than one million “Hutu” refugees who sought sanctuary in Eastern Zaire following the invasion in 1994 of Rwanda by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) forces, predominantly Batutsi from Uganda (Mamdani, 1995).

As mentioned earlier, to be a refugee is to experience a particularly degrading form of poverty. A refugee typically lacks not only economic resources, but has been deprived of national identity. One's very right to exist is called into question. As far as the refugee himself/herself is concerned, survival is brought to the very limits of nature. The new attitude to life is “let nature take its own course.” Those forced to move are mainly women and children who bear the greater burden of environmental stress problems and insecurity. Unfortunately, while the problems of environmental refugees are well-documented, (e.g., Byarugaba, 1989; af Ornas, 1989; Zdenek Cervenka, 1989), the impacts of the refugees on the environment are scarcely assessed.

3. Factors Causing Environmental Refugees

As mankind continues to regard growth as the critical issue in development, the ecological and social realities in Africa are being constrained. Development practice is promoting temporary gains - political, social and economic - which is in essence “theft by one generation of the birthright of future generations.” More serious is the creation of environmental conditions that constrain the foundations of survival, triggering people to move en masse to new environmental settings.

In the past, refugees in Africa were mainly internal and were generated by tribal or ethnic conflicts, soil erosion, desertification, disease outbreaks, invasion by locusts, (and other pests), persistent floods, droughts and famines. With the introduction of new agricultural and industrial techniques, including the use of artificial fertilisers to enhance fertility of the soil and chemicals to combat pests, the habitability of the landscape progressively declined, reflecting environmental and ecological collapse.

People were forced to move. In recent times, however, the volume of both internal and external refugees has grown several-fold as a consequence of the interaction of several factors, including those already mentioned. It will not be possible here to explore in detail all the factors that are responsible for causing the environmental refugee malaise in Africa. However, for the purposes of this paper, we shall select a few.

3.1. Historical and socio-political factors

As we march towards the 21st century, new thinking is evolving that seeks to relate environmental degradation with political conflicts or problems. This thinking is helping to enlighten mankind about the issues which influence security (in its widest sense) for countries and individuals (af Ornas and Salih, 1989). It has, as a consequence, become fashionable in the last decade or so to link environmental or ecological stress with political problems and armed conflicts.

There is no way the environmental refugee malaise in Africa can be explained without reference to historical and socio-political factors. Indeed the overall socio-economic and environmental crisis has been considered increasingly in its historical and socio-political perspective (Byarugaba, 1989; Okwadiba Nholi, 1989). Perhaps no human disaster has attracted such consideration recently as the Rwandan refugee malaise and its origins and linkages.

Mafeje (1991) has critically summed up the entire range of literature of Rwandan pre-colonial history and has arrived at an original synthesis (see also Mamdani, 1995). He writes that in Bunyoro, “the introduction of pastoralism as an elite pursuit must be attributed to “... invaders who probably migrated from South-eastern Ethiopia and Southern Somalia with their long-horned cattle.” The local inhabitants of Bunyoro who were Bantu called their invaders Bachwezi because “they spit in the faces of people and were therefore dirty,” and Bahuma, because when they sang they produced a sound like that of a bee. Mafeje (1991) set the date of arrival of the Bahuma and the origins of Chwezi Kings somewhere in the 15th Century.

There is, however, great secrecy as to the actual origins of the Bahuma (Chwezi). It is believed that these people could have originated somewhere in the Middle East in 700 AD and were forced to move by Islamic wars (Jihads) there. They are, therefore, Semitic in origin and thus related to the Jews and Caucasians. This is why the pattern of dancing and singing in North Western India, among Arabs, in Southern Russia, Turkey Northern Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia, etc. is uniform and similar to that of the Bahuma. The “Vitambi” dress is said to have been a traditional dress for the desert peoples (Arabs). The Bedouins of Libya (such as Maumar Gaddafi), the Hausa and Fulani of Nigeria and the Barbers of Morocco are all related in dance, song and dress to the Bahuma. Interestingly all these peoples have their own Coptic language understood by all of them wherever they are, and have developed a high level intelligence system based on this language to spy on other peoples in the world successfully. Also these peoples, although transformed biologically, retain the mentality of Jews. Their expansionist tendencies connote Semitic dominance of the Bantu (Oakley, per. comm.).

The Bachwezi (Huma) dynasty did not last long in Bunyoro. Within a few generations, the Bachwezi were expelled from the Kingdom by new invaders called Babito - Luo-like people from the North, moving in a South-westerly direction where environmental and ecological conditions were ideal for cattle keeping. They reappeared as conquering Bahima herders in Ankore in present day Uganda, Batutsi herders in Rwanda and Burundi and Bahinda herders in Tanzania. The Hwanga Kingdom which was established in the Busia area of Kenya is believed to have been established by Huma-related people. Whatever their name, these people had no clans in their culture but easily identified themselves with local clans. For example the Basita clan to which the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni says be belongs is widespread in Toro, Rwanda, Burundi, Ankore and Tanzania but is identified with low-grade Bahima, in Ankore and ruling Batutsi in Rwanda do not value the Basita (Oakley, pers. comm.).

Mamdani (1995) argues that if the Bachwezi “disappeared” on their way to Ankore, reappearing there as Bahima, “then the Bahima” disappeared on the way to Rwanda, where they appeared as Batutsi. Here they conquered the local people, the Bahutu, who had numerous small kingdoms and the Batwe who sustained themselves through cultivation of the land.

Mafeje (1991) citing Maquet, writes that the Batutsi migration downwards into Rwanda was at the outset more of a peaceful than a violent affair. However, what began as a process of peaceful migration soon gave way to forcible conquests of the Bantu resulting in the creation of a Rwandan state by the Batutsi.

As the Batutsi population increased and more of them entered Rwanda, more land had to be tilled to feed them, and as cattle increased in numbers, the Bahutu were forced to move from their more fertile lands to give way to the pastoral system of the reigning Batutsi. Mafeje (1991), citing Maquet, describes the reign of the Batutsi as “a pastoral aristocracy” rather than “a Batutsi aristocracy” since the majority of the Batutsi were neither rich nor exempt from exploitation by the Rwandan state and its bureaucracy.

1. The Rwandan state: structure and function

Over time, the Kingdom of Rwanda became highly centralised, with a standing army and an official bureaucracy. The King was considered divine and was always a Mutusi. Army commanders were all Batutsi. The entire Rwandan Population (Batutsi, Bahutu, Butwa) was affiliated to the army, but only the Batutsi were the warriors. The rest were restricted to the role of herdsmen who rounded up cattle during a raid or carried supplies for the warriors. “In this case, the corpse of a Mututsi was valued more than that of a Mututu or a Mutwa ....the Bahutu were deprived (of) the right to a glorious, honourable, heroic death since the Batutsi had also social monopoly on that....and there was a conscious effort to deny non-Batutsi access to cattle in general” (Mafeje, 1991).

So in essence, the Rwandan state was a creation of the Batutsi. The Bahutu only functioned at the lowest level of organisation of the state. If the Bahutu cultivators contributed materially to the rise of the Rwandan state, their fate as a subordinate category was already sealed. (Mamdani, 1995).

2. Culture of the Rwandans

Culturally, however, the Batutsi were absorbed or assimilated by the Batutsi, except for the style of dancing, singing and dress which remained linked to Semitic traditions and practices. The Bututsi had won the military battles but not the cultural battles against the Bahutu. For example, the Abiru tradition, the Imana cult and the Kalinga drum traditions of the Bahutu became thoroughly incorporated into the Batutsi-built state apparatus of Rwanda (Mafeje, 1991).

What all this means is that even if the Batutsi and Bahutu spoke the same language and had the same culture, and even lived on the same hills, they had yet to become one people (Mamdani, 1995). As stated earlier, the Batutsi still retain a Coptic language that cannot be understood by the Bahutu but can be understood by certain Ethiopians (such as President Zenari) Somalis, Fulani, Hausa, Bedouins and Berbers to mention but a few.

Moreover, while the Batutsi had more of an identification with power and a relationship to the state and, therefore, were more privileged, the Bahutu constituted a subject population politically and socially. The Batutsi formed a distinct social category, marked by marriage and ethnic taboos (Mafeje, 1991). As a foundation of their high level intelligence system, the Batutsi could allow their women to get married to the Bahutu but not vice versa. The political and social differentiation of Rwandan society was later to be the generator of social and political conflicts, as well as environmental and ecological stress, in Rwanda that promise to spill over into the 21st Century.

3. Colonial enhancement of Batutsi - Bahutu conflicts

With the onset of colonialism in Rwanda early in the 20th century, no attempt was made to diffuse the socio-political differences between the Batutsi and the Bahutu that had developed in a historical perspective. With the imposition of German colonialism and militarism on Rwanda, the Batutsi, under their King (Mwami) were instead able to expand the geographical borders of the kingdom to the northern districts of the country. In fact the Germans ruled over the Bahutu-dominated Rwanda (in terms of numbers) through the institutional reach of the Tutsi-created state apparatus (Mamdani, 1995). They played a critical role initially in the final consolidation and ultimately in the collapse of the Batutsi-created state apparatus which occurred when the Belgians replaced the Germans as the colonial rulers.

While Germans ruled, the Batutsi and Bahutu were taken as, and came to see themselves as separate races. The Batutsi were classified as Hamitic and superior, and the Bahutu as Bantu and inferior. From 1929 to 1933 the Belgians, who ruled Rwanda on behalf of the League of Nations, turned this theory of races into the very basis of organising the administration of the colonial state and, creating demarcations amongst the colonised. The Belgians split the Rwandan population into Batutsi and Bahutu/Batwa, and introduced for the first time the idea of passes to identify each and every individual. The Belgians then introduced indirect rule based on ruling through co-operative elements in the Batutsi oligarchy - those who managed the lower rungs of the colonial administration but were at the same time also the highest rungs of the subordinate but semi-autonomous district-level state apparatus that had been the pre-colonial Rwandan state (Mamdani, 1995). This approach to the administration of Rwanda only heightened the political and social differentiation between the Batutsi and the Bahutu/Batwa, which was to play a pivotal role in the political, social and ethnic conflicts between the Batutsi and Bahutu for decades.

4. First forced migration of Rwandan out of Rwanda

The Belgians ruled Rwanda more harshly than the Germans had. They took advantage of the Batutsi chiefs to coerce the Bahutu peasantry to provide free labour, cultivate cash-crops and afforestate the landscape.

Mamdani (1995) describes the role of the Batutsi in the hard rule of the Belgians as “the indigenous mask of a brutal foreign domination” The Bahutu could not tolerate this inhumane rule, and in the hundreds of thousands migrated into Uganda in the decade after 1928, whereupon they provided migrant labour to the emerging cash economy in Uganda, particularly in Buganda. The departure of the Bahutu only helped to strengthen and polarise the antagonistic political relations between the Batutsi and the Bahutu that had been unfolding since the arrival of the Germans. Mamdani (1995) sums up these relations thus:

“....a political contest....The Batutsi identity long preceded a Bahutu identity. The Batutsi identity was forged as part or the creation of the state of Rwanda. The Batutsi consciousness was a consciousness of power: either being in power, or being near power. In contrast, the Bahutu consciousness would come to be one of lack of power, and of a struggle for power, a consciousness of a subject hood and the wilt to overcome”.

Once in their new environment in Uganda, the Bahutu took on local names, became integrated in local clans, married or got married to local spouses and in some instances even became landed!

5. Rise of Bahutu and fall of Batutsi in Rwanda

The political contest between Batutsi and Bahutu in Rwanda assumed a new dimension when, in the 1950s, the Belgian colonial state started to plot against Tutsi domination of the politics and administration of the country. The plot involved bringing the Bahutu centre stage through the dismantling of the local state hierarchy and introduction of more direct elections. Following these changes, the Bahutu became sufficiently politically agitated to force the Batutsi into exile in 1959 through a bloody revolution. Byarugaba (1989) described the events that preceded the out flux of thousands of Batutsi from Rwanda, mainly to Uganda. Then followed the coup d'etat of 25th September 1961 which ended the monarchist tendencies in Rwanda.

By 1990, the Batutsi had become so insignificant in Rwanda's civil and political society that there was only one Mututsi in President Juvenal Habyarimana's 19-member cabinet, one ambassador, two deputies in the 70-seat National Assembly and two members in the 16-member central committee of the Ruling Party (Mamdani, 1995).

6. Uganda's role in the Batutsi/Bahutu conflict

Until 1990, Uganda had just acted as the recipient of, and host to, the thousands of Rwandans forced to migrate in the mid 1920s, in 1959 and in 1961. Mamdani (1995) writes that the country had some 500,000 to 700,000 Rwandans whose ancestry could be traced to the Bahutu peasants who crossed the border in the mid-1920s and who had become assimilated culturally over time, taken local names, affiliated to the local clans, married locally and even acquired an overall identity, particularly in Buganda. The population of those who were forced to move to Uganda (the Batutsi) by the Bahutu Revolution of 1959 is estimated to have been 200,000 by 1990.

While Uganda played host to such colossal numbers of Rwandan refugees, the Hutu-dominated Government of the late President Juvenal Habyarimana maintained that Rwanda was too small to absorb its citizens back into the country. Before the invasion of Rwanda by exiles in Uganda, aided by Uganda's National Resistance Army (NRA), Rwanda was said to have a human population density of 600 people per km2. However, Rwandan refugees (herein referred to as “environmental refugees”), have officially remained so in Uganda whatever status they assumed in society. Their children were born refugees and remained refugees. This was unlike in Tanzania where the authorities there allowed them to take up citizenship. For example, one school of thought holds that Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Tanzania's former President, is a Tutsi born of Tutsi parents, a fact which the school thinks dictated the very flexible policy of his Government towards Rwandan refugees.

With the assumption of state power by the National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/A) of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in Uganda, however, the status of Rwandan refugees was set to change.

7. The rise of Rwandan Tutsi refugees in Uganda

The story of Rwandan (Tutsi) frustration in Uganda is a long one. The fact that in Uganda “once refugee, always a refugee” was reinforced to the refugees through the education system which reminded them that they were still refugees whatever status they assumed in Uganda. This reality compelled elite Tutsi refugees in Uganda to form the first organisation of refugees in the country which they called “Rwandan Alliance National Unity” (RANU) in Kampala in 1979 (Mamdani, 1995). RANU immediately set on the mission of awakening Rwandan refugees to recognise and think about their situation and organised them for this purpose. Thereafter the “Rwanda Refugee Welfare Foundation” was formed, again in Kampala. The formation of the two organisations was an important development in the socio-political dimension of Uganda's environment. By this time the Rwandan refugees, many of whom had assumed positions in the military, paramilitary and civil institutions of Uganda, were getting increasingly worried and conscious of the possibility of being expelled from Uganda as happened to the Kenyan Jaluo in 1970 and to Asians in 1972.

This was not afar-fetched concern. In 1969 President Milton Obote had ordered that all Rwandan refugees in Uganda be registered. During the 1980 General Elections all Rwandans were ordered not to participate in the choice of leader. When in 1981 Yoweri Museveni decided, after his defeat in the General Election of 1980, to pursue his political aims in the bush of Luwero (Luwero Triangle) Obote told Ugandans that Yoweri Museveni was in fact a Rwandan refugee. In 1983, over 40,000 Rwandan refugees in South Western Uganda are said to have fled subsequently to Rwanda under state harassment, before Juvenal Habyarimana's Government in Kigali closed its side of the border. Towards the end of 1983, some 19,000 Banyarwanda were evicted from Rakai and Masaka districts but with the Rwanda border closed, many fled to Tanzania while others run to security camps in Uganda.

Similar treatments were meted out to Banyarwanda in Teso and Lango in Eastern and Northern Uganda.

The counter-point to these expulsions was the spreading guerrilla war in the Luwero Triangle. Fred Rwigyema was named Commander of the NRA and Deputy Minister of Defence to Yoweri Museveni himself and Paul Kagame (Vice-President of Rwanda) was named Acting Chief of Military Intelligence. Mamdani (1995) writes that the 14 Senior Officers who, under the Command of Fred Rwigyema, formed the leadership of the Rwandan Patriotic Front/Army (RPF/A) that invaded Rwanda in 1990 were all senior NRA officers. Rwandan refugees were also believed to have been catapulted into influential positions in the economy, politics, military and paramilitary in Uganda since 1986.

It is for reasons like these that a school of thought persists in Uganda that Yoweri Museveni pushed the National Resistance Council (NRC) - the quasi-legislature of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) - to suspend articles of the 1967 Constitution spelling out that no non-citizen of Uganda should become President of Uganda and to pass what he called the Sectarian Bill - forbidding Ugandans from discrimination against anyone or any segment of Uganda's population.

The same school seeks to explain why the Odoki Draft Constitution, which was the basis of discussion on a new constitution for Uganda in the Constituent Assembly (CA August 1994 to August 1995), was so equivocal about the issues of citizenship, dual citizenship and land. The school of thought was strengthened in its belief by events in 1990 when, in January of that year, NRM tried to introduce a land bill aimed at repossessing ranches originally distributed to influential bureaucrats in the 1960s, each measuring 5-10 sq. miles, subdividing them into smaller plots and redistributing them to squatters (New Vision, July 25, 1990).

Many of the squatters were Rwandan pastoralists. At the time of the Bill, there was an escalating conflict between ranchers and squatters, the former having turned over time into landlords who rented out grazing land to the land-less squatters as rent-paying tenants. However, the ranchers, some of whom were in the NRC, portrayed the Bill as an instrument of refugee Banyarwanda interests backed by governmental and particularly military power (Mamdani, 1995).

The debate was one of the most heated debates in independent Uganda in the press, in the NRC, on the streets, and in the villages. Mamdani (1995) cites the Exposure Magazine of October, 1990 summarising the feelings of Ugandans thus:

“Most Ugandans have vowed not to allow Rwandan non-citizens to be given their land.”

The decision that came out of the NRC forbade non-citizens from owning land in Uganda; Banyarwanda refugees (and their children) were expressly mentioned as non-citizens, and a certain Minister was mentioned as influencing the plot to give land to non-citizens from Rwanda. As a consequence of this debate, Major General Fred Rwigyema was removed from his position as Deputy Minister of Defence by the Chairman NRA High Command (Yoweri Museveni).

8. Exodus of Rwandan refugees from Uganda

It is not clear whether the Rwandan refugees who joined Yoweri Museveni's NRA did so to gather skills and weapons or to build an organisation so that they might move to Rwanda at the first available opportunity (Mamdani, 1995). Neither was it clear whether the move to Kigali was a result of developments that took place in Uganda after NRA assumed power in Kampala. What is clear, however, is that once the refugees emerged from the bush of the Luwero Triangle, they found that the world outside had not changed; it remained the world of citizens and refugees, and the dictum “once refugee always refugee” still held. The discrimination against refugees still continued.

One line of thought is that it was out of this discrimination and predicament of the refugees that the RPF/A was born in 1987. The leadership of the Banyarwanda refugee struggle would only come from the Rwandans in the NRA and the method of return to Rwanda would be military not political (Mamdani, 1995). However, the question whether the future of the Rwandan (Batutsi) refugees would lie on return to Rwanda or being naturalised in Uganda remained unanswered until 1990 when Batutsi refugees under the command of Fred Rwigyema attempted in October, 1990 to invade Rwanda, and in 1994 actually succeeded in overrunning the defences of Rwanda from Uganda and subsequently capturing power in Kigali.

With the fall of Kigali followed one the greatest exoduses of people in Uganda's history when thousands of Banyarwanda Batutsi trekked out from virtually every part of Uganda, with hundreds of thousands of heads of cattle, into Rwanda almost undisturbed by the Government of Uganda. The laws regarding movement of animals were not evoked against the Banyarwanda although Ugandans moving one or a few animals within their country faced stern punishment during that time (Ochen, op. cit.).

According to Katenta-Apuuli, Uganda's Ambassador to the United States, in his letter to Human Rights Watch of August 1993, the decision of the NRC to forbid non-citizens from owning land and to expressly mention Banyarwanda refugees (and their children) as non-citizens, and Yoweri Museveni's decision to relieve Fred Rwigyema of his duties as Deputy Minister of Defence combined to convince the Banyarwanda refugees that they did not have a bright future in Uganda, hence the invasion of Rwanda in 1990, and later in 1994. However, according to Katenta-Apuuli “the invaders were declared NRA deserters (not Rwandan refugees) who had left NRA to invade Rwanda as deserters, under the operational Code of Conduct and this meant that they would be punishable by death....” (Mamdani, 1995). The rest of Banyarwanda, many of whom had posed as Ugandans, were considered to be Rwandans returning to their country.

3.2. Unwise economic/environmental policies

Economic development in Africa has for many years been driven by policies of exogenous origin. As a result, more development failures than successes have been recorded. Huge capital-intensive schemes such as large plantations based on single crops and large irrigation schemes have led to environmental and ecological collapse which in turn has initiated forced human migration. When land has become very unproductive and water-borne diseases such as malaria, bilharzia and dysentery have multiplied, people have logically moved away to areas where they hoped that their food and environmental health security needs would be satisfied.

The numerous development failures in Africa and the accompanying decline in environmental health have ignited enormous concern about the environmental impacts of development.

This notwithstanding, new policies of economic development promoted by such economically powerful institutions as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), through the idea of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs), have been implemented in Africa and these have complicated the environmental and ecological situation in the continent even further. Prescriptions such as privatisation, cost-sharing in schools and hospitals, retrenchment of workers, enhanced taxation and the primacy of the market have been responsible for much poverty and misery in the rural areas.

One of the aspects of the African socio-cultural fabric to suffer insults from the SAPs has been the Extended Family System (EFS). This used to impart enormous social, cultural and economic security to peasant families and communities, but now it is crumbling. Much of the misery and poverty of the people of Africa is due to this calamity. People have been forced to move to other areas, mostly urban ones, in the hope that their livelihoods would improve.

People are also being retrenched to their ancestral lands where they turn out to be human pollutants (refugees) and unproductive in the environment. Ugandans believe that as many of their kinsmen are being retrenched, foreigners including Rwandan refugees still in the service of the NRM/A Government, are gaining. Rubagumya in charge of Uganda Investment Authority, Ruzindana in charge of the IGG and Mbonye - the Secretary for Defence, are often cited as Rwandan refugees in sensitive positions in the socio-political fabric of Uganda. This has caused a lot of discontent which is now expressed in various forms of rebel activity in the country.

The pursuit of industrialisation and modernisation, on the premise that traditional practices are primitive and anti-development, has also had its adverse effects on the people. For example, the construction of huge hydro-electric power plants and dams has displaced hundreds of thousands of people over the last four decades. Almost without question, the displaced have not been compensated but have been left entirely to the mercy of nature. In Uganda, known Rwandan refugees, such as Nzei and Majambele are actively involved in ensuring that SAP succeeds. Many buildings and enterprises formally publicly owned have been bought at rock bottom prices by such refugees. Others have had easy access to land. Many Ugandans claim that Museveni's Government wanted the Constituent Assembly to grant it authority to give land to such people ostensibly for industrialisation and modernisation.

Environmental policies in Africa have also taken their toll on the people. These have been based on the “exclusion principle” whereby the indigenous people have been excluded from their traditional resources in the name of conservation. Usually the conserved areas have included some of the most fertile lands, dry season feeding and watering points and most of the medicinal resources while the people have been condemned to less hospitable, ecologically inferior and resource-poor areas. Concentration of people in such areas has led to the degradation of the agro-ecosystems. In Rwanda, a country which before its invasion by RPF/A forces had a population density of 600 people per km2, two National Parks (Akagera and Des Virunga) and the Mutara Forest Reserve were established by the Belgians, thereby confining the population to the less resource-rich areas. This action was bound to sharpen competition for resources among the people with dire consequences for the environment and political stability.

Recently, financial institutions, which have in the past been blamed for their role in environmental destruction, have included environmental considerations in their philosophy of development and operations. The World Bank, for example, directed, in 1993, the International Development Association (IDA)-borrowing countries to identify key environmental problems, set priorities for dealing with them and come out with a comprehensive national environmental policy (Yao Graham, 1993). Each country was expected to put in place a National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP). NEAPs were also expected to describe the financial and technical assistance the countries needed to address priority environmental problems.

NEAPs are most advanced in Africa which has most of the IDA-borrowing countries. However, the real aim of the NEAP-strategy seems to be to integrate the development efforts in these countries into the World Banks' vision of “development” In particular this includes the centrality of SAPs, including privatisation, and the primacy of the market (Yao Graham, 1993).

One dangerous type of thinking at the World Bank is that environmental degradation is due to market failure, which would be resolved if all resources were privately owned and prices were competitive. Flowing from this, traditional land tenure systems in Africa are condemned as primitive and anti-development, and a proposal is made for the creation of more private property (privatisation). In countries like Uganda privatisation has become like a religion. The argument is that “property rights are a necessary condition for successful environmental management.” However, there is now a growing fear that NEAPs are just another strategy of imposing the North's notion of sustainable development - using unsuspecting African leaders.

There is also growing concern that all the World Bank wants from NEAPs is early warning that its programmes do not create major environmental scandals over environmental damage (e.g., Yao Graham, 1993). Already some areas of conservation interest in Uganda have been passed into private hands. Chambura Game Reserve and Kabalega National Park stand out as good examples. Should privatisation of land be pursued even in environmental terms in a country like Rwanda with, until recently, the highest human population density in Africa the likely thing to happen is that more and more people will be impoverished. The impoverished will then do more damage to their environment.

Unaware of this plot, the Government of Yoweri Museveni in Uganda is keen on implementing NEAPs to the letter along with pursuing industrialisation and modernisation. Although the Government has already established the National Environmental Management Agency (NEMA), it is clear that the broad masses of Ugandans have not even heard of NEAP several years since the idea reverberated in the Uganda environment. Frantic efforts were underway in the Constituent Assembly (CA) to constitutionalise the possession of all land by the state. What this pointed to was that once government became the undisputed custodian of all land, the government would have the licence to do anything with any piece of land anywhere in the country in pursuit of its World Bank-initiated NEAP, industrialisation and modernisation strategies.

The end result would most surely be further pauperisation of the indigenous people and hence a generation of even more internal refugees with dire consequences for the environment. Fortunately, for the time being, the idea of placing all land in the hands of the Ugandan Government has been rejected in the CA. However, if the future parliament is dominated by forces calling for “all land to Government” the CA rejection of the idea will be short-lived, unless what befell the NRM/A Land Bill of 1990 repeats itself.

3.3. Despotism

Despotic regimes are those whose political manifestation is geared towards monolithisation of society through encroaching on the inalienable rights of people to associate, express themselves in organised groups or otherwise, and choose their leaders without coercion or manipulation. The end result is reduced pluralism of politics, society, ideas and information, and depletion of the human population either through state-inspired murders and terrorism or migration. For example, the refugee crisis that led to the October 1990 invasion of Rwanda by elements in the NRM/A who called themselves RPF/A was a question of despotism in both Rwanda and Uganda (Mamdani, 1995).

Quite often despotic regimes may use the poverty and illiteracy of the population as tools for social and political control. Where such control is the rule rather than the exception, political development which equips the people with the capacity to demand accountability and transparency of their leaders or rulers, and intellectual development which empowers the people to question what is happening or to resist oppression, deceit and brainwashing by leaders or rulers, is a remote possibility. People's fundamental rights of association and choice of leadership will be systematically abused. With declining intellectual development, people will be easily oppressed, brainwashed and deceived.

Rwanda is perhaps the best example of a country where despotism, ethnic animosity, insurrection and political change in another country (Uganda) have recently combined to produce one of the greatest environmental refugee problems and instances of social collapse in Africa in modern times. As pointed out earlier, one million people belonging to the Hutu ethnic group, which composed 80% of the population of Rwanda, were forced to leave their country in 1994 by the invasion of the country by a well-trained Tutsi-dominated politico-military organisation from Uganda called Rwandan Patriotic Front/Army (RPF/A), whose members were determined to return to their country by force.

Interestingly many of the top leaders of RPF/A such as Fred Rwigyema and Paul Kagame had also been top leaders in the related politico-military organisation - the National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/A) - which had captured the instruments of power in Uganda nine years earlier by force of arms. Events prior to the invasion have been reviewed earlier on in this paper. Much environmental damage was inflicted on the Rwandan environment when the RPF/A succeeded in overrunning the country following the assassination of President Habyarimana. One of the most visible indicators of environmental abuse during the RPF/A invasion were the thousands of bodies of Rwandans which were dumped in River Kagera, subsequently ending up in Lake Victoria. Ugandans abandoned eating fish and became threatened by environmental diseases such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid fever.

Despotism does not only enhance the militaristic instincts of the leaders and the beneficiaries of it, but it equally enhances the militarism of the politically, economically and socially discontented. Conflict is inevitable, and this sets up a vicious cycle of violence and environmental disruption and collapse.

The likely scenario is that as discontent rises in the country's environment, government will tend to respond to purely environmental crises with a show of force in the belief that it is doing so in the national interest to ensure national security. However, the adversaries of Government will also be responding militarily to the militarism-cum-terrorism of the Government upon the people in the belief that the national interest should be the broader environmental security whereby the ecological, social, food economic, cultural, political intellectual and psycho-social security of the people is guaranteed; not just military security.

As the conflicts between the despots and those struggling for justice, democracy and human right grows, environmental and ecological security risks also increase. The result is that the frequency of natural disasters grows and the ecological and environmental refugee problem becomes a pollutant of the environment. Ultimately, social collapse and exploding settlements become a characteristic feature of the environmental landscape. New environmental crises emerge, further decline in peace is inevitable, government response becomes even more militaristic and a further generation of refugees is the logical consequence. This scenario manifested itself perfectly in Rwanda prior to the 1990 invasion.

There is no doubt that despotism is a serious cancer in the body politic of Africa. Many of Africa's rulers have seized power by the gun, are kept in power by the gun, and can only be removed from power by the gun. Recognition of this fact has helped to make these rulers despotic in their governance of the countries with dire consequences for the national and regional environments.

4. Environmental Impacts of Refugees

Although the problem of refugees in the African environment has been a perennial one for most of the post-independence period, very little is known about the environmental impacts of forced migration of large populations in humanitarian crises. What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is that a relationship exists between environmental degradation, the refugee problem and socio-political conflicts.

The impact of refugees on the environment should be apparent in all dimensions - the ecological-biological, the socio-economic and the socio-cultural. These impacts must be adequately assessed if any future responses to human disasters such as the Rwandan debacle are to be effective both in the short and long term.

The influx of millions of Rwandan (Bahutu) refugees into Zaire in 1994 offered a crisis opportunity for such an assessment to be made (e.g. Biswas and Tortajada, 1995). The gravity of the crisis was recently under-scored by Zaire's attempt to expel the refugees from her territory, and the broadening of the political dimension of the crisis by Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni in August 1995 when he issued a stern warning, accompanied by threats of extermination, to any refugees attempting to invade Rwanda from Zaire while he was on a state visit to Kigali in Rwanda. The regional nature of the Rwandan crises was emphasised recently at an Arusha conference on Academic Freedom and Conflict resolution.

The enormous Rwandan refugee crisis in Zaire was unfortunately seen at the international level almost exclusively in humanitarian terms. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the unexpected influx of the Bahutu refugees in such large numbers in the North and South Kivu provinces of the country is contributing to serious problems of environmental degradation as a consequence of socio-political conflicts in the Central African Region. The challenge facing mankind is to determine the extent and magnitude of the environmental impacts caused by the Rwandan (Bahutu) refugees in Zaire and the steps that should be taken to reduce such impacts to a minimum acceptable level (e.g., Biswas and Tortajada, 1995). This will not be easy but estimates can be made.

4.1. Ecological-biological impacts

It is a matter of course that with the involuntary movement of people en masse, many environmental impacts are likely in the ecological-biological dimension of the environment. Soils, water, flora and fauna will all be affected in various ways. In extreme cases the refugees may arrive in a new environment in form of dead bodies. At the start of the Rwandan genocidal war in Rwanda, some 40,000 dead bodies were estimated to have arrived in Lake Victoria via River Kagera. For a long time many Ugandans stopped eating fish. This greatly affected the socio-economic status of peasants who earned a living by fishing. The impacts of the dead bodies on biological forms and the food chains of which they were a part must have been enormous.

As people move, they may not follow existing roads or paths but may move anywhere in the landscape. In this way they compact the soil with their feet and those of their animals. This interferes with the filtration of water into the soil, leading to soil erosion by water and to reduction in the productivity of the ecosystems through which the people are moving. Therefore, resources along the route may be over-stressed, threatening the food security of the resident people.

Quite often the vegetation may be impacted because the people need to put up makeshift shelters and get energy in the form of firewood for their temporary shelters. Destruction of vegetation may mean destruction of the habitats of the various fauna which inhabit them or of the food resources on which they depend. Or else the animals may be scared away from their habitats by the huge moving population. The mountain Gorilla, for example was greatly affected by the Hutu refugees settling in their habitats.

The refugees may affect the habitats in other ways as they move. Their faeces and urine, once introduced into the landscape, can become pollutants of the soils. Where these contain disease organisms, the environmental health of the area may be drastically reduced. Both refugees and residents will become heavily infested by parasites leading to serious environmental diseases. If it rains the human-based pollutants may be washed into lakes, wells or river water, polluting it or leading to eutrophication.

Disease micro-organisms that thrive in dirty (polluted) water such as those responsible for typhoid fever, tuberculosis, dysentery and anthrax, become part of the environment. Even food remains may eventually be located in the waters where upon disease-causing micro-organisms may subsist and reduce the environmental health of an area further.

Unquestionably, the most serious environmental problem created by the Rwandan (Bahutu) refugees in North and South Kive provinces of Zaire, where camps were established, is deforestation within and around camps (Biswas and Toirtajada, 1995). A study team of the United Nations Development programme (UNDP) which visited Eastern Zaire to assess the damage done to the environment by the enormous refugee influx found that in South Kivu, deforestation and associated environmental costs have been significant.

The Zairean Government has estimated that the South Kivu province lost some 3,758 hectares of forest land during the first 3 weeks of the arrival of the refugees. On a long-term basis, however, these losses do not appear to be as serious as in North Kivu; the refugee camps of South Kivu appear to have been better planned in terms of site selection. In North Kivu, the most severely affected parts are in Goma (about 300 ha. affected) and its surrounding areas and in the Des Virunga National Park.

Des Virunga National park is one of the areas of conservation interest in the ecological-biological dimension of Zaire's environment that was gazetted as National park (the others are Garamba National Park, Kahunzi Biega National Park, Kudenlugus National park, Mailco National park, Salonga National Park and Upemba National Park). Interestingly the refugees avoided Kahuzi Biege just to the West of Rwanda and proceeded to Des Virunga which is to the North West of Rwanda and just to the Southwest of Uganda. Des Virunga National Park, which has been a World Heritage site since 1979, has an exceptionally rich flora, high diversity and a multitude of endemic species of plants.

As far as the fauna is concerned, Des Virunga represents the protected zone with the highest number of mammalian species in Zaire, and no less than 23 species are in the 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animal. Apparently the Park is also Africa's richest bird sanctuary with 698 species, 25 of which are endemic and 65 are considered to be endangered species (Biswas and Tortajada, 1995). The environmental concern is that, since the arrival of the Rwandan refugees, the Park is losing an estimated 7000 to 10,000 m3 of wood per day.

Initially, refugees collected wood primarily for their own cooking and lighting, and cut poles for the construction of their makeshift houses. However, the UNDP team found that the refugees had already started a full scale commercial activity of selling charcoal, fuel wood and other forest products, including poached meat These activities are most pronounced in the Kibumba Camp, where the affected area is estimated to be 5 km long and 4 km wide in some places. There are fears in the political and conservation circles in Zaire, and globally, that if these activities continue unchecked they will have long-term adverse implications for the natural resources and the total environment of Des Virunga National Park.

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of refugees located within the Des Virunga National Park on 6th October, 1994 were: Kibumba Camp, 135,000; Mugunga Camp; 125,000 and Kitale Camp, 110,000.

It is not surprising that soon after the arrival of Rwandan refugees in Zaire, many were reported to be dying/have died from environmental disease such as cholera, typhoid, and dysentery. Disposal of human and solid waste in all the refugee camps in North and South Kivu was a serious problem. The situation in Des Virunga worsened. Extensive deforestation, including uprooting of plants is resulting in accelerated soil erosion in most refuge camps and all their surroundings areas. Gullies, deepening with each heavy rainfall, are now a constant part of the landscape.

At the same time, many land-use changes due to the presence of the refugees are evident. With the onset of the rains in March 1995, the refugees were expected to begin sowing. The agricultural activities they initiate are likely to have long-term impact. Even if the refugees leave, reclamation of the land for afforestation is unlikely. Instead the Zairians may take over the deforested land to continue the agricultural practices initiated by the Rwandan refugees. Already portions of the buffer zone of Des Virunga National Park and even the Park itself have undergone land use changes. There are defecation areas for the Kibumba Camp, administrative quarters of the UNHCR, medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), Oxfam and other organisations.

These facts go a long way to show that once refugees are in a new environment, they automatically become a pollutant and, therefore, begin degrading the environment. When the refugees are finally resettled, their impact will be similar to those exerted while moving but they will tend to be far more pronounced and environmentally-destructive. As the new settlement continues it will tend to expand and explode and social collapse is inevitable.

4.2. Socio-economic impact

One consequence of forced movement is that the right of refugees to development is denied. They become marginalised from the socio-economic (development) process. Integration into social institutions is virtually absent. The refugees' economic base is completely eroded, and in essence the refugees are at the mercy of nature. The only way they can be integrated is through humanitarian/emergency programmes. Unfortunately such programmes tend to be reactionary, welfare-oriented and focused on symptoms, ignoring the real causes of the refugee malaise.

1) In Rwanda following the 1994 RPF/A invasion, the population may now be divided into four categories:- The returnees, the victims, the survivors, and the perpetrators. The returnees are mainly Batutsi and some Bahutu exiles and refugees who returned with RPF/A. Victims are both Batutsi and Bahutu. The term survivor has been applied to only Batutsi but should also apply to Bahutu as well because the genocide in Rwanda involved both Batutsi and Bahutu. 'Perpetrators' is a term applied to the Bahutu by those in power in Rwanda. In Rwanda to be a Muhutu is to be presumed the latter (Mamdani, 1995). One may even say that the whole population of Rwanda is more or less a refugee population. The socio-economic impacts of such a population on the Rwanda environment remains to be assessed.

2) In Uganda's Luwero Triangle where significant numbers of refugee soldiers participated in Museveni's bush war, the socio-economy of the area was greatly disrupted by displacement of the local peasantry. Later the same area suffered depletion of cattle herds when the Rwandan herders left the area for Rwanda following the 1994 July invasion of Rwanda.

3) In Zaire, the sheer size of the population of refugees has affected the socio-economy of the country, either through pressure on the environment and resources or by sharing the fragile infrastructure of the country.

We have already shown the linkage between economic/environment policies and the destruction of the socio-economic basis of survival of the local people. With the increasing individualisation of society (i.e., focusing development efforts on the individual), it is difficult to see how aid agencies will re-orientate themselves to focus on the needs of the whole community of refugees. Yet if progress is to be made, there must be a focus on reducing the negative socio-economic impact of refugees on their new areas of abode by enhancing their socio-economic status in more sustainable ways. The real problem that must be tackled is the tendency of refugees to constrain the food resources, social resources and space resources of their new surroundings.

4.3. Socio-cultural impact

Forced migration has perhaps its greatest impact in the socio-cultural dimension of the environment. In fact, in any human situation the rate of change in the environment is greatest in this dimension. When people are forced to move an important effect is that the socio-cultural fabric of these people is broken. Their lifestyles, dreams, aspirations, myths, totems and other culturally-based practices are constrained. Their cultural integrity is also threatened since they are made to leave the environment in which they were nurtured. The refugee status of the Bahutu in Zaire illustrated this point very well. The refugees were not only worried about the loss of nationhood or belonging; they are also worried about socio-economic, political and cultural survival.

Matters were made worse by new arrivals finding themselves in a completely alien socio-cultural environment. They had either to adapt, adopt or perish. This reality has caused a lot of strain on the refugees. However, because of the large number of refugees that invaded Zaire's socio-cultural environment in the North and South Kivu provinces, the resident culture was also adversely affected by the new culture of these arriving.

5. Long Term Consequences of Refugee Malaise

Environmentally-speaking, the long-term consequences of a refugee problem on the source area and the destination area of refugees are enormous and require serious assessment.

Citing Rwanda as an example, the outflow of the Hutu ethnic group from the country where they were the majority, and the influx into the country of the small population of Tutsi mainly from Uganda, who forced them (the Bahutu) to move, may in time lead to the sprouting of bushes both in Uganda's and Rwanda's Savannah. With the sprouting of bushes in Rwanda's Savannah, the scourge of trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) which has periodically struck neighbouring Uganda may become serious. The Tsetse fly, which is the vector of the causative organism of trypanosomiasis, thrives in the thick bushes. The Tutsi are mainly cattle-keepers. They, together with their cattle, will be exposed to the debilitating disease if the habitats of Tsetse fly are recreated in Rwanda with dire consequences for both animals and people. The situation is not helped by the departure of millions of Bahutu for Zaire.

It is understood that when the Hutu trekked out of Rwanda, their houses and other properties were taken over by the Batutsi arriving mainly from Uganda. It is also understood that there is a lot of military activity in the refugee camps in Zaire where the Bahutu are kept. The Bahutu are bitter that their right to property, even in their absence, is not being respected by those in power - the Batutsi. They determined to return and take over their property. What this means in the long term is that the environmental security of Rwanda is still threatened. We should expect further damage to the environment of Rwanda as the majority Bahutu dispute with the minority Batutsi.

Uganda was greatly affected by the departure of the cattle-keeping Batutsi. Virtually everywhere in Uganda, it was Batutsi refugees who looked after the cattle of Ugandans. At the time of their departure for Rwanda, the Batutsi took most of the cattle. Areas like Teso and Lango were completely depopulated of their cows. The social system of these people, which depended on cattle, collapsed. However, the long-term socio-economic and socio-cultural impacts of the departing Batutsi on Uganda remain to be assessed.

6. Environmental Stabilisation and Reconstruction

Meanwhile, however, mankind must look for ways of stabilising the environmental situation in Rwanda. There can be no reconstruction of the Rwandan environmental setting in the long-term unless mankind comes to grips with the real problems and issues behind the Rwanda crisis. Progress will only come if effort is focused in the socio-cultural dimension of the Rwandan environment, particularly in the political sphere.

It is true that behind every failure or success is the issue of leadership. In Rwanda political leadership has been based on fear-either fear of the Tutsi by the Hutu or vice versa. All institutional and infrastructure arrangements of governance have been geared towards one ethnic group keeping the other from political leadership. Resolving this problem and its environmental consequences requires political action by the Rwandans themselves.

So long as animosity continues to dominate between the Tutsi and the Hutu; so long as suspicions continue to characterise social, economic, political and cultural interactions between the two communities, we should expect further, perhaps worse, environmental disruptions in future.

We must convince the Hutu and the Tutsi that Rwanda belongs to them all; that together they swim or sink. Unless this is realised, no amount of regional or global effort - (humanitarian or political) will succeed in saving the environment of Rwanda from continuing collapse through repeated political or armed conflicts, which produce more refugees.

The current leadership in Rwanda must realise that there is no tension between justice and reconciliation (Mamdani, 1995). Moreover justice delayed is justice denied. The political cost of delayed justice can be extremely high. It could be as high as sending Rwanda into another cycle of revenge and attrition.

There is wide-spread demand for justice within Rwanda itself. This is not a demand confined to the Batutsi who survived genocide. It is also a demand of important sections of the Bahutu who either protected Batutsi friends, wives, husbands and neighbours, did not participate in the genocide or were forced to do so under threat of losing their own lives.

Delayed justice is eroding political support for reconciliation, and with that, whatever moral and political basis for the present government in Kigali. During a visit (August 1995) to Rwanda President Museveni of Uganda “ordered” the Government of Rwanda to quickly punish the perpetuators of genocide in Rwanda with death. This is not a solution. The solution is in solving the cause of their actions.

If the problem of Rwanda is largely political requiring political solutions in the first place, then failure to take this course of action on the global scale will only produce solutions which will themselves be the problems. Future generations of Rwandans will blame the present generation for its failure to help solve the crisis in Rwanda. By this token, the idea of a global early warning device, though attractive, will only be geared towards dealing with symptoms, and not the cause of the problem; it will be still a reactionary and not an anticipatory strategy. Nevertheless, such a devise could be useful in predicting the resilience of the environment following the outflow or influx of refugees for other purposes if not for solving the crisis. It cannot prevent the crisis.

7. New Policies and Programmes Needed

What is suggested here is that in order to deal with the refugee problem in Africa in general and Rwanda in particular - we need new policies and programmes bred in the continent by the Africans themselves. All that the global community would then be required to do would be to extend backup support, mainly financial, without taking everything in hand.

The current policies and programmes of the humanitarian community remain essentially exogenous in origin and outward-looking. The people of Africa who are often the cause and the victims of environmental refugee malaise are not participating in the conception, design, implementation, evaluation and monitoring of the success of these policies and programmes. More often than not, they are simply mobilised, so that without the opportunity to participate at every stage in the policy cycle, they are not empowered to deal with the crisis. The result is that environmental problems are on the increase in spite of having beautiful environmental blue prints in place.

The humanitarian community should combine efforts with the democratic forces in countries where despotism and governance, based on ethnic considerations is the main cause of the millions of internal or external refugees, so that a human rights approach to political life can begin to take root in those countries. The humanitarian community must have, among its priorities, aiding the forces of pluralism and the diversity of political thought and practice so that monolithic tendencies which are the raw material for despotism may be eroded. This is important. Whatever good programmes of refugee redress may be in place, if there is no unity between national forces of pluralism and diversity and the humanitarian community, the work of the latter will always be made hopeless by new political and military conflicts. The environment will continue to be harmed and to collapse, and poverty will continue to degrade the environment, thereby compromising the environmental basis of survival even further. What the humanitarian community can do is to make political accountability and transparency, as well as participation in decision-making of all people at all levels of society, tools in the struggle against human rights violations. These tools should be a component of every new policy or programme designed to address the refugee problem.

In the majority of cases, how people are led or ruled is an attitude of the mind. The mind may be narrow in perception and manifestation as a consequence of failure of the leader or ruler to see problems, issues and challenges in a multidimensional manner. Perhaps there are no people in the world who are as narrow-minded and as parochial as politicians. Yet these are the real decision-makers. They make the decision to go to war or to have peace; to kill and to save life; to work for peace or against peace. Quite often their objective in political leadership is short-term political, economic and social gains for themselves and their families/dependants. Because of this predisposition, the politicians are environmentally - illiterate and socio-culturally deficient. They are, therefore, ill-equipped to deal with issues of global effects such as environmental refugee malaise. It would be wishful thinking to expect such politicians to be credible partners in the search for environmentally - sound solutions - solutions which will not become the problems themselves.

Educational programmes are needed to reoriented the thinking and attitudes of all those who must necessarily be involved in the struggle for justice, human rights and decent living for a refugee. In particular, programmes are needed to retrain political leaders with a view to turning them into environmental leaders as well. Funds are required to support such programmes.

For example at Makerere University's Department of Political Science, a new programme of Master of Arts in Public Administration and Management (MPA) includes a strong component of environmental management. Practising politicians are encouraged to attend such a course so that they may be sufficiently environmentally literate to appreciate the linkage between politics, environment, the socio-economic (development process) and the environmental refugee problem. We believe that introducing practising politicians to such a course would enable them to be equipped with the creativity, innovation, initiative and imagination necessary to deal with the daunting problem of refugees. The course has the added advantage of being multi-disciplinary.

8. The Future

All indications are that environmental refugee problems will continue to get worse if the status quo continues. The continent of Africa cannot hope to enjoy sustainable development when its environment is polluted with millions of refugees. Indeed the more refugees that populate the continent, the more it should be realised that environmental and development failure is the rule rather than the exception.

We propose that all national and international agencies that are interested in ushering in an era of environmental sanity and all-inclusive development for the people of Africa be committed to environmental policies that do not dispossess the indigenous people of their resources. The people of Africa will have to participate in their development and not be mobilised for the development of others. Participation means empowerment. Therefore, all national and international agencies claiming to be involved in efforts to develop the people of Africa need to resolve to be agents of empowerment of the people of Africa. This should be on top of the list of priorities, because empowering the people also means that they can now have their own destiny in their own hands and in their own environment. This is the way forward to environmental security towards the year 2000 and beyond.

We have shown that many of the environmental impacts of the Rwandan refugees are significant. Corrective measures must be taken in the short, medium and long term, but within the context advanced here. A regional approach to the assessment of the environmental impacts of Rwandan refugees in Zaire must be pursued urgently, again in the context suggested herein. It cannot wait any longer.

Nobody is really secure - politically, economically, socially, culturally, intellectually or environmentally - if his/her security is in the hands of others. Such a person will sooner than later become a refugee internally and externally if not perpetually hooked to others for sustenance. Environmental security, which is greater than national security as perceived by governments will, if so ensured, impart the feeling of belonging and sovereignty to a people who will then stay on their ancestral lands with no crisis of confidence in the future.

There is need, as we enter the 21st century, for the humanitarian community to cease perceiving the Rwandan debacle as an ethnic conflict between Bahutu and Batutsi; that the issue is now to make the two ethnic groups share power on the basis of majority/minority. The debacle should be viewed in political terms, with historical explanations thoroughly grasped and incorporated in any solution. For example, the political developments in Uganda since Museveni decided to include large numbers of refugees in his NRA must not be ignored. Neither can the economic and social trends pitting Ugandans against foreigners, some of whom are Rwandan refugees, that are now dominating the country's socio-economic and socio-cultural fabric to the annoyance of Ugandans. How can we pacify forces in Uganda that believe that Rwandans have had an advantage over Ugandans during the reign of the NRM/A? What can the humanitarian agencies do to prevent another cycle of violence in Uganda that will pit the Ugandans against the Rwandans?

There is need to raise the capacity of Zaire's Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the implementation of projects geared towards redressing environmental refugee malaise in the country. At the same time, major international environmental NGOs should be sensitised to the environmental debacle in the North and South Kivu as soon as possible so that they can appreciate the critical environmental impacts already created by Rwandan refugees. It will also be necessary to sensitise the humanitarian agencies to the potential environmental impact of their decisions and actions. In particular, relief workers will have to be made aware that the urgency of their relief measures and proper environmental planning need to proceed side by side to ensure that there are no long-term adverse impacts to the host country.

How far we succeed in the war against environmental refugee malaise will depend partly on information. It will, therefore, be important to sensitise the media on the environmental impact of refugees. This will be necessary to mobilise international, regional and national opinion to remove the existing environmental damage and prevent its recurrence.

The time has come to shift the emphasis from environmental damage, which may force people to become refugees and seek better living conditions elsewhere, to assessment of the impact of refugees on the environment. As Biswas and Trotajada (1995) suggested recently, future success demands that several comprehensive case studies are initiated to ensure that the different environmental impacts due to the refugees can be identified and then their magnitude estimated. This knowledge base will be necessary before environmental concerns can be properly incorporated in refugee camp site planning.

As Mamdani (1995) suggests, Rwandans need to build a political community based on consent, not conquest. In Uganda, the NRM/A has been busy building a political community based on conquest. Failure seems to be outstripping success. Since 1986, the country has never had such a large number of internal refugees resulting from political and military conflicts. Rwanda should be encouraged to choose consent. This is important because Rwanda must begin to democratise and consent is a necessary ingredient in the link between democratisation and political order. Without political order, how can we hope to curtail a new generation of refugees?

Political order requires that there is acceptance of rules, rules applicable to all and acceptable to all, whether the minority or majority. The future of Rwanda will be dim without a minimum political consensus. Those interested in the Rwandan debacle may recommend that the Rwandans institutionalise broad-based politics as spelt out in the Arusha Accord of 1992, so that there is power-sharing between Bahutu and Batutsi. This broad base, includes three types of representations: the winning tendency from the civil war (the RPF/A), representation of political parties that did not participate in the genocide (even if some individuals in these parties did) and individuals outside the RPF/A invited to join the broad base by RPF/A. What seems true is that the genocide in Rwanda created more suspicions amongst the people than the broad base can contain (Mamdani, 1995). The people of Rwanda must, therefore, be encouraged to go beyond mere power-sharing at the top - and build a consensus from the bottom up. As Mamdani rightly puts it, “power-sharing can at best be curative; preventive measures require the building of a minimum consensus” (Mamdani 1995).

We are convinced that the problem of environmental refugees is not insurmountable. We can overcome it by the means in this paper. We think that the people of Africa should be members of the global community of mankind in the 21st century, but refugees should not be part of that community. The challenge in making Africa a suitable home for all is to work tirelessly, within the next four years, to ensure that environmental conditions are promoted that encourage people to stay on their ancestral lands. Without these conditions, then we cannot talk of sustainable development.


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