Always Rwanda

This started as my on-line journal while I was living, working, and conducting my master's field research in Rwanda in 2003. I returnedto Rwanda as an Assistant Director for an educational program and decided to pick it up again.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


BURUNDI-RWANDA: Thousands more asylum seekers repatriated

BUJUMBURA, 13 June (IRIN) - Since 12 April, the Burundian government has repatriated 5,206 Rwandans from its northern provinces of Ngozi and Kirundo, an official of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Monday. "About 2,000 refugees are repatriated per week," said Catherine-Lune Grayson, UNHCR's public relations officer in the Burundian capital of Bujumbura. "There is a convoy tomorrow [Tuesday] and another one later in the week." Grayson said UNHCR organises two convoys per week, the size of which depends on the agency's capacity and the number of Rwandans willing to return home. The agency provides transport, while the UN World Food Programme (WFP) distributes a one-month ration to the returnees."All the Rwandans will have been repatriated by August," said Didace Nzikoruriho, an official in charge of refugees in Burundi's Ministry of the Interior. Between April 2005 and March 2006, some 19,000 Rwandan asylum seekers had arrived in Burundi's northern provinces. They were reportedly fleeing persecution under Rwanda's traditional 'gacaca' justice system, which the government introduced to expedite trials for thousands of suspects held in connection with the 1994 genocide. Some Rwandans grouped at Musasa and Songore camps in Ngozi, while others lived in informal sites at Rwisuri in Kirundo. In June 2005, thousands of these Rwandans were repatriated, allowing Burundi to close the transit camp in Ngozi Province where they had been staying. The repatriations followed a mutual decision by the governments of Burundi and Rwanda to re-label the asylum seekers "illegal immigrants" and speed up their return to their home countries. In spite of the measures, however, Rwandans kept re-entering Burundi.On 10 April, the Burundian government threatened to expel all Rwandan asylum seekers who failed to meet conditions for acceptance as refugees. A joint technical commission, comprising UNHCR and government experts, started in December 2005 to analyse individual cases to determine the Rwandans' eligibility for refugee status. Nzikoruriho said on Monday that of 3,500 cases analysed so far, only 87 Rwandans had been granted refugee status. Most of them have been transferred to the Giharo refugee camp in the southeastern province of Rutana.UNHCR has not recorded any returns to Burundi since the latest repatriation began in April, Grayson said, adding that the situation was different from 2005 as, this time, the asylum seekers chose to "repatriate voluntarily".Meanwhile, the repatriation of Burundians who had sought asylum in Rwanda - fleeing hunger and rumours of war - is also continuing. Grayson said that since the beginning of 2006, 449 Burundians had returned home, 417 of them in the last three weeks. UNHCR estimated there are still 2,500 Burundian asylum seekers in Rwanda.[ENDS]

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Gourmet Coffee!

A visit to Maraba Coffee testing room. Ummmm...

Never fails

Another breakdown on an African road to add to the list. This was a minibus we hired to take us to visit a literacy center in a rural area outside of Kigali. After 45 minutes and some highly amusing conversations with random people in the area, we were back on the road. Again, this confirms that things always seem to work out. I've never been stranded!

Patty-cake buddies

Hill with a View

This is a photo taken from Murambi Memorial, not far from Butare in the Southern Province (the Rwandan government has decided to combine and rename all provinces). It never ceases to amaze me to see life going on right next to a site stained with so much blood.

Road to Cyangugu

I had the pleasure of visiting Cyangugu for the first time - it was the one place I've missed the previous times I've been in Rwanda. The drive is gorgeous, though a bit windy and long for my liking. This is a view of a tea plantation.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Just can't keep up!

I have in no way, shape or form kept my word to keep this site updated. Things always get a little crazy when I am on the ground and this is certainly no exception. So here is a feeble attempt to post a few pics.
This is Kigali ville - growing like a weed!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The 12th Anniversary

Rwandan leader to critics: 'You kept quiet' during genocide
Ceremony to bury remains marks 12th anniversary of genocide
KIGALI, Rwanda (Reuters) --

Rwanda's president denounced on Friday critics who accuse him of using the 1994 genocide as an excuse for autocratic leadership, saying their inaction in the face of the slaughter gave them no right to condemn.
President Paul Kagame spoke at a ceremony to mark the 12th anniversary of the genocide, at which more than 100 victims were exhumed from the mass graves where their ravaged bodies were cast, to be re-buried at proper memorial sites.
"You kept quiet ... when these victims wanted your help to survive the slaughter," Kagame told a crowd of thousands gathered in the southern Nyamasheke district.
"Now you begin criticizing us when we are struggling to sort out this mess caused by divisionism and sectarianism -- your unfounded criticism is not welcome," Kagame, a Tutsi, said in a speech broadcast on state television.
Critics say Kagame has clamped down harshly on political dissenters in the name of stopping divisiveness -- which he says was a cause of genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis and their Hutu sympathisers were hacked, burned and shot to death.
In Nyamasheke and the capital Kigali, decomposed skulls and other body parts gathered from mass graves hidden in valleys, hilltop jungles and pit latrines were placed into wooden coffins and buried in concrete crypts.
Up to 45,000 bodies are believed buried in the former stronghold of Hutu militias who carried out the killings.
Survivors' stories draw tears
Survivors -- including one who hid under a pile of bodies for days and survived by drinking blood oozing from the dead and his own machete wounds -- recounted their ordeals and moved many in the crowd to tears.
The ceremonies are the beginning of a week of mourning during which bars and nightclubs will be closed, flags will fly at half-staff and radio and TV will broadcast remembrances.
Kagame led a Tutsi-dominated rebel army across the small central African country in 1994 to stop the killing, overthrowing the Hutu-led government behind the slaughter.
Human rights groups accused some of his soldiers of carrying out atrocities of their own in reprisal.
In Kigali, a survivor who had come to bury remains of her two brothers said she saw no chance for peace between the Hutu and Tutsi survivors because some 54,000 culprits have been pardoned and released from prison.
"How do you expect me to swallow that bitter pill of reconciliation when I see people who killed these two brothers of mine walking freely on the streets of Kigali?" Claire Uwineza told Reuters.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Shooting Dogs

It's been a while since I have been in blog editorial mood, so forgive me if I am rusty. I just want to quickly comment on the most recent Rwanda film to hit the big screen.

Despite having made plans to see the film Shooting Dogs with friends next week, I found that my Rwanda obsession got the better of me and I slipped into a viewing on the very first day the film was released in the UK, which was last night. There have been a number of films on the Rwandan genocide to emerge in recent years, including Hotel Rwanda and Sometimes in April (in my estimation, the best at helping outsiders understand the complicated circumstances of the genocide, avoiding many of the cliches of Hotel Rwanda), and there are more to come. Although I am pleased to see the wider world taking interest in Rwanda's story, I remain an interested critic.

While the film succeeds where others have failed (Hotel Rwanda comes to mind), I still have to wonder why the West needs a white hero(ine) to stir our outrage and sympathies. Shooting Dogs centers its story around a British priest (John Hurt) and a young British teacher (Hugh Dancy), therefore our view of events comes from their perspectives. So we are thrown into the difficult choices to be made by mzungus during the genocide, distancing us from the Rwandans. They did throw in a young beautiful Rwandan woman, a promising runner, but her story was more of an appendage, linked to her crush on the handsome young British teacher. I just have to wonder when the stories of Rwandans be enough?

The film was shot entirely in Rwanda with Rwandan crew. This is no easy undertaking in a tiny country still coming to terms with it's history, where people's wounds remain open. What I found most touching at the end, and just prior to the credit roll, there were clips of Rwandan survivors among the crew. This put the human face to today's reality for many Rwandans who were themselves hurt, raped, infected with HIV/AIDS during the genocide and who naturally lost unthinkable numbers of family and friends.

The film premiered in Kigali last week at the National Stadium- The Guardian wrote the following:,,1740443,00.html

To link to the film's website:

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Lets get started

As I am back to Rwanda-related work, I will start posting relevant articles on current issues.

Case of Rwandan Lawyer Revives Tensions Between Kigali And the ICTR

Hirondelle News Agency (Lausanne) NEWS
March 7, 2006 Posted to the web March 8, 2006 Arusha

In normal circumstances, the news that a Rwandan lawyer had been appointed to represent one of the accused at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) would have been received with a round of applause and an outpouring of national pride.
The long-awaited announcement however provoked an unexpected spark from Rwanda, which risks rekindling the tensions between Kigali and the tribunal that have in the past come under regular strain.
The first alarm bells sounded through the Rwandan newspaper The New Times which quoted a Rwandan official in charge of hunting down genocide suspects as saying that a Rwandan lawyer, Callixte Gakwaya, was one of their targets.
Gakwaya is a member of the Mozambican bar association and has been appointed to defend a former Rwandan businessman and genocide suspect held by the tribunal, Yussuf Munyakazi.
It would be a strange situation indeed if a lawyer accused of the same crimes as his client was allowed to defend him at an international court.
The information was confirmed by Rwanda's special representative to the ICTR, Aloys Mutabingwa, who revealed that a warrant of Gakwaya's arrest had already been passed to Interpol.
"We were very surprised because the ICTR was aware of the arrest warrant against Gakwaya", said the Rwandan diplomat commenting on the suspect's appointment.
Warning signs
Though Mutabingwa described the situation as grave, he also seemed to extend an olive branch.
"I hope this does not become an issue between us and the tribunal. It is in its interests to cooperate with us by giving us suspects [to try in Rwandan courts] who are not on its list", he said.
For the initiated, these were clear warning signs that the tensions were again approaching fever pitch.
The ICTR reacted irritably ten days later. A statement quoted the acting deputy registrar, Everard O'Donnell as saying that he had on many occasions requested Rwanda's opinion before Callixte Gakwaya's appointment but that Kigali had kept silent.
O'Donnell went on to add that the accused person had previously served as a defence assistant in a trial that is already completed and that Rwanda had raised no objections.
The deputy registrar challenged the Rwandan authorities to prove Gakwaya's guilt as the ICTR did "not feel able to take any action in respect of his appointment in the absence of sensible information form the Rwandan government".
Mutabingwa came back with guns blazing and described the registry's communiqué as "pure rhetoric" and that it did not reduce the gravity of the accusations against the lawyer.
According to him, the ICTR was adopting a defensive stance and accused it of being "adamant" when discussing the issue of "recruiting genocide suspects or their accomplices".
Kigali maintains that the ICTR has employed several genocide suspects and the Rwandan envoy threatened to make their dossiers public if a diplomatic solution was not arrived at soon.
As regards Gakwaya, Mutabingwa pointed out that he would give the ICTR a copy of his warrant of arrest and would demand that it cooperates in his arrest and extradition.
"If the ICTR wants, it can prosecute him but not employ him" he said ironically.
Mutabingwa went on to say that he would not furnish the registry with further proof against Gakwaya as it would prejudice the case against him.
An old axe to grind
The antagonism between Kigali and the tribunal is not new matter - it has its roots in the very beginnings of the tribunal.
In November 1994 - with Rwanda as one of the members of the UN Security Council at that time- Kigali voted against the establishment of the court, citing among other issues the fact that there would be no death penalty for anyone found guilty.
The criticisms emanating from Kigali were to increase as time went by.
At first, the main focus was on the slow pace of the trials. But the real big crisis broke out in November 1999 when the tribunal released, on procedural grounds, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, a former politician and media official.
This angered Rwanda and it severed relations with the tribunal, which were only later re-established when the prosecutor rescinded her position.
The truce however did not last long. The following year, the then Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, announced that she would open investigations into alleged war crimes committed by members of the current government army.
It was the beginning of a merciless protracted game of chess, between the Rwandan authorities and Del Ponte that only ended with her departure in August 2003.
In the meantime, the tribunal was hit by another crisis - that of Rwandan witnesses coming to testify in Arusha - which lasted the better part of 2002. Genocide survivors' associations forbade their members from testifying at the ICTR, citing harassment at the hands of defence lawyers during cross-examination.
Even though the current crisis might appear to be less severe than the previous ones, it risks affecting the tribunal which at this crucial moment is trying to avoid anything that might interfere with its image and hamper its completing its task and finishing all trials and appeals by 2010.
To make matters worse, Rwanda has now demanded that the ICTR arrest Emmanuel Bagambiki, a former Préfet (Provincial Governor) who was recently acquitted by the tribunal, on the basis of new charges brought against him by Kigali. Things do not look pretty at all.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Land of a Thousand Hills... Posted by Hello