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31 December 2008
In 1998 and 1999 around 650,000 people, most of them Hutus, were displaced into makeshift camps in the north-western prefectures of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi, when an insurgency there was put down by the Tutsi-dominated government. In 2000, the UN considered that “governmental and international efforts to stabilise the situation through durable solutions have advanced beyond the threshold of what still could be called internal displacement”. These efforts consisted largely of the implementation of the 1996 “villagisation” policy to relocate all Rwandans from scattered homesteads into new villages.
However, difficult conditions in the villages subsequently called into question whether the resettled IDPs had really achieved durable solutions. IDMC observed in 2005 that many of them still lived in inadequate conditions.
In late 2008, the return of refugees from DRC created new reintegration challenges and the risk of their renewed displacement in Burundi. In eastern DRC, joint operations from November between the governments of the two countries weakened the Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) and presented a new chance for thousands of refugees to return to Rwanda.
Some refugees had been prevented from returning home by the FDLR, but they had also been reluctant to return because did not trust the Rwandan Gacaca courts and did not think they would be able to reintegrate. The prospects of returnees and those resettled depends on continuing reconciliation and the equitable distribution and management of scarce land.
Despite ongoing ethnic mistrust and regional instability, their prospects appear fair. The Rwandan government encourages returns and considers returnees as a vulnerable group, at least in the context of economic development.