U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/04/05 TESTIMONY: T. FRIEDMAN ON RWANDA AND BURUNDI BUREAU FOR AFRICAN AFFAIRS
SPECIAL COORDINATOR FOR RWANDA
BEFORE THE JOINT HEARING OF THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON AFRICA
AND THE HOUSE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON AFRICA
ON RWANDA AND BURUNDI
April 5, 1995
Honorable Chairwomen, one year ago, genocide started in Rwanda. In a few weeks, perhaps half a million people or more were murdered solely because of their ethnic identity.
I want to thank the Senate Foreign Relations Africa Subcommittee and the House International Relations Africa Subcommittee for convoking this joint hearing, which will allow an opportunity to take stock of where we are on Rwanda one year later, where the Administration wants to go from here and how we foresee getting there. Thank you for asking me to testify at this hearing.
Because recent news from Burundi is so disturbing, I understand that this session also addresses events there. The second half of this statement is about Burundi. Arlene Render, the Director of the Department's Office of Central African Affairs, who has just returned from Burundi, and Nan Borton, director of AID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), are here with me to answer questions. Rwanda
But first Rwanda.
As you know, on April 6 last year, the President of Rwanda and the President of Burundi died when their plane crashed as it approached the airport in Kigali. There followed violence and death unmatched in the history of this region.
What took place from April 7 was a systematic massacre of the political opposition and Tutsi people of Rwanda. The genocide killed many but it was incomplete. Indeed, the targets of that attempt emerged in the leadership of the coalition that now governs Rwanda, having routed those who authored the genocide.
The genocide itself was conceived and led by a group that pretends to speak for the Hutu people of Rwanda. Their actions also targeted Hutu opposition leaders who did not agree with their analysis or plans. The instruments of the genocide were Hutu extremist militias, elements of the former Army, and often ordinary citizens.
What could have kindled the violence and murder? There is no simple fully satisfactory answer. But the elements of an explanation would include:
Ethnic Hostility: It is not necessary and it may not be possible to fix the time when the Hutu, who represent about 85% of the population, and Tutsi, who represent about 15%, started down the path of mutual fear and hatred. These two peoples have been joined in a history that has extended and deepened mutual mistrust and hatred since independence thirty years ago. But ethnic hostility is only part of the picture. As Secretary of State Christopher has said, "Conflicts with an ethnic dimension . . . do not arise from nationalism alone. Blame for their violent excesses can and should be assigned to individuals, not entire nations."
Malevolent Leadership: In Rwanda, those who were interested only in power and its privileges used and fueled ethnic distrust to maintain power at all costs. These extremists, who held influence in the Habyarimana regime, took full control after the plane crash and effectuated a plan of extermination that, judging by its efficacy, had been in preparation long before the April plane crash.
Population and Development: Rwanda was the most over-crowded country in Africa. Population overwhelmed economic growth which had been positive in the 1970s and 1980s. Ninety percent of the population farmed increasingly crowded land with little opportunity elsewhere, particularly for the young. Large numbers of idle young were easy recruits for those who had massive murder on their mind.
Fear: Fear is a reciprocal of hatred in Rwanda. The attitude of "them or us", that either you are victimizer or victim, prevailed. In many instances, we have reports of neighbor murdering neighbor. Sometimes these acts were coerced. Sometimes not. As one author wrote, there is not a Hutu or a Tutsi who does not either bear the resentment of a relative killed by the other fifteen years ago or who does not fear the fate of his children at the hands of the others within the next ten years.
The fire that these factors fueled consumed Rwandan society. By July 1994, Rwanda ceased to exist as a functioning country:
---At least 500,000 had been killed.
---Some two million Rwandans fled their country. Another million were displaced inside Rwanda. Zaire was host to over a million refugees; Tanzania to perhaps 500-600,000 and Burundi to over 200,000.
---The economy stopped as industry and farming ended.
---Most of the educated, doctors, lawyers, professionals, had been killed or fled.
---The court system had only four out of 600 judges left.
---The government was without personnel, buildings and equipment.
---Education halted in a country now bereft of teachers and school buildings.
--- Health care collapsed with the destruction of hospitals, the death and departure of health care workers and the absence of medical supplies;
The involvement of the United States with Rwanda did not begin last April. Prior to that explosion, we had been among several nations supporting the Arusha peace process, which aimed at halting the war between a Tutsi-led insurgent group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, and the Hutu government in Kigali. Our mission in Kigali kept up an intensive effort to keep the dialogue between and within political parties alive while pressing the government to end human riughts abuses and improve security.
Humanitarian concern and our regard for regional stability drew us to these efforts. Our political interest and our economic involvement in Rwanda were and are small. However, the carnage that began in April deepened our involvement. The massive suffering and the effects on Rwanda's neighbors of the great movements of people across their borders required action. We also have a strong interest in seeing that the perpetrators of genocide are punished.
Our effort to help alleviate the immediate suffering of Rwandans was a success. We and the international community were confronted with massive human suffering from disease and hunger in Rwanda and in the refugee camps.
The American response on the ground was most evident in Operation Support Hope. Over 2000 members of our military and our humanitarian assistance response played a distinguished role in providing the strategic lift and airport management to an international effort to transform the refugee camps from chaos, suffering, disease and death to the ordered sites that exist today. American humanitarian organizations, many of whom I understand will testify today, played a major role in this success.
We were instrumental in developing the United Nations Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) by soliciting troop contributions and providing airlift and equipment to participating African troops.
The survival of the refugees was a triumph of international cooperation and the political order that underlies that cooperation. In another era these refugees would have died. This time they were saved because the international community, official and unofficial, came to their rescue. It must be noted that this rescue operation was undertaken despite the knowledge that those who were being saved included some who were involved in the genocide. We do not accept the concept of collective guilt and the imperative of saving the innocent gave us no other choice, or no other choice that was both realistic and consistent with our values.
Having succeeded in rescuing this massive population, the international community needed to find a solution to their plight. Similarly, confronted by the crime of genocide we needed to find ways to bring about justice.
The approach to these matters involves:
---Repatriation for the refugees. The number of refugees stands at about two million. One large group of more than 600,000 has returned. These are refugees of Tutsi origin, who either fled Rwanda more than thirty years ago or the children of that wave of ethnic violence. Another 200,000 of those who fled last year have returned, according to UNHCR.
---Return for the internally displaced. The number of internally displaced was halved to about 230,000 by January. Some have since returned to the camps.
---Punishment for the genocide through reconstitution of justice in Rwanda and the establishment of an International War Crimes Tribunal. If those who are guilty of these crimes are punished in a lawful manner, the crimes are much less likely to be repeated. There can be no impunity.
---Rehabilitation for the economy, society and government.
---Reconciliation. The process of rebuilding Rwanda includes bringing together all Rwandans of good will. The process should exclude those who conceived, led, organized or knowingly stood to benefit from this crime. Reconciliation requires genuine remorse among the perpetrators, of course.
What needs to be done involves not only ourselves and the Rwandans but also other bilateral donors, and the United Nations. In order to enhance donor cooperation and with it effectiveness, the United States stimulated the organization of the Rwanda Operational Support Group. This informal body of major donors, UN entities and others (World Bank, ICRC, etc.) has met monthly and has been quite successful in molding donor cooperation and consensus.
The United Nations has also played a major role in Rwanda. The United Nations peace keeping force there has been a stabilizing and useful force. And without the coordinating role of such organizations as the World Food Program and the leadership of the UN Hign Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in caring for refugees and the diligence and creativity of NGO staffs on the ground, we and other donors would be at sea. We are greateful for these activities even as we seek to encourage greater efficiency and effectiveness.
We are only at the beginning. Indeed, while there was some moderate increase in refugee repatriation earlier this year, this movement has now slowed to a trickle and in the past month there has been some returns to the camps.
We would like to see the numbers of refugees and displaced dramatically reduced. For this to come about the refugees have to believe they will be secure to exercise freely and without intimidation the option of leaving camps for home. There is no question that potential returnees have been intimidated by those in the camps who oppose such a move.
In order to enhance the opportunity for refugees to freely choose we have supported the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees establishment of a 1500-man security force in the camps in Zaire. Begun in February of this year, this program is still developing. There were some early signs that it was having some positive effect within the camps.
Unfortunately, events within Rwanda that discourage the return of refugees and displaced have intervened. Of particular concern has been the continued arrest of up to 1500 Hutus a week in Rwanda and their detention in conditions that induce a high rate of mortality. The Government in Kigali states that these arrests respond to real security concerns or reports of involvement in genocidal crimes. It also points out that it has no judicial system to review these arrests, asking that the international community accelerate and increase its aid in these areas. We have expressed our concern about these detentions and offered some suggestions on how they might be relieved. We are also seeking to help re-establish the judicial system. Yet the most pressing immediate need is to end the overcrowding that produces the high incidence of death. Once again, international assistance is required.
Reconciliation has yet to begin. We have made it clear to the government that the kind of reconciliation we seek would exclude discussion with those who organized, incited or knowingly stood to benefit from the genocide. Reconciliation has been made more difficult by elements of the former regime who have begun military destabilization efforts against Rwanda, including terrorist attacks. We see no prospect that they can bring down the government.
For there to be reconciliation there must also be accountability for those who perpetrated genocide. Impunity for these crimes cannot be allowed, but the Rwandan justice system must be reconstituted of the courts and the Ministry of Justice. Along with other donors we have made this objective a central priority. Our first delivery of equipment and vehicles to the Ministry of Justice took place earlier this month. A U.S. team is now in Rwanda assessing how we might help in reconstituting the system of justice.
The crime of genocide is so terrible and the need for justice so imperative, we led the effort in the United Nations to create an International War Crimes Tribunal. International law has been violated. This forum, like the one established for the former Yugoslav republic, is just getting underway. We are committed to making it a success both because it is right for Rwanda -- critical to reconciliation between the Hutu and the Tutsi -- and it is right for the United States. Only the international community can determine if this Court will succeed or fail. We will do all we can to make it succeed.
Many states -- including the United States -- will need implementing legislation to authorize them to turn over defendants. We hope that draft legislation will reach the Congress soon and we will be grateful for your quick action on that legislation.
In the meantime, Rwanda, its economy and its society must be restored. Earlier this year, the international community pledged some $588 million to help in this effort. The first fruits of these pledges are beginning to arrive in Kigali. Our own pledge amounted to about $60 million, including development assistance at about $12.5 million and $47.5 million of humanitarian relief, including $17.5 million of food aid.
We have a very ambitious agenda before us: return, reconciliation, justice, rehabilitation. Each of these elements is dependent on the others. Any one of them would be dauntingly difficult to accomplish alone. Bringing them all more or less together is excruciatingly hard. Yet we know of no other approach that has a chance of succeeding. Other courses of action, however attractive they might seem at first glance, seem only to offer the promise of increased suffering for the innocent and frequently are not realistic alternatives or offer no gain towards our objectives.
One course that we have ruled out is to abandon the struggle -- an option that would be inconsistent with both our values and our humanitarian interest.
We will persist, testing always if our hopes are based in reality.
We do not blink at the obstacles. But we do not believe that reconciliation must remain a chimera. Men and women everywhere can respond to their "better angels."
We are encouraged by the existence of a government in Kigali which is publicly committed to this objective. The multi-party, multi-ethnic government has stated its clear commitment to the principles of the Arusha Accord, principles that were rooted in cooperation and power sharing across ethnic lines. Over 2000 troops from the former regime have returned to Rwanda to join the new Army; punishment is promised for those who are accused of crimes and brutality against refugees and returnees. Rwandans in the past have reached across the ethnic divide at the risk of their lives to offer shelter from machete wielding extremists. This spirit, adopted by private citizens, encouraged by the government, and supported by the international community, can prevail.
Our Rwandan effort is premised on the continued emergence of the conditions that were are seeking to support. We will be patient but we also resist illusions. We know that in the end we must be able to say that we did all that we could. But we also know that the prospects for peace, reconciliation and recovery will be determined by Rwandans.
Some are now asking: Will Burundi be another Rwanda?
Burundi is tense. We have evacuated our dependents and recommended that unofficial Americans leave. Predictions are very risky, but our current assessment is that an explosion into anarchy may not be imminent. We are in daily contact with our allies comparing notes and discussing possible courses of action. The international community is doing everything it can to help Burundians avoid another Central African tragedy.
History and Current Dynamics
Burundi has long been troubled by deep divisions between the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis, who governed Burundi until 1993. Indeed, until the events in Rwanda last year, Burundi's history was far bloodier than that of its neighbor to the north. Ethnic violence over the past three decades has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and large refugee outflows.
There was great hope in June 1993, when the country held its first free and fair elections. Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, and his FRODEBU party won those elections handily. Tragically, Ndadaye was slain by members of the Tutsi-dominated military in a failed coup attempt only four months later. This set off ethnic bloodletting that killed as many as 50,000 or more and drove another 600,000 into neighboring countries.
Since that time, ethnic divisions between majority Hutus and minority Tutsis have deepened. The tragedy in Rwanda has only heightened these tensions.
Extremists in Burundi are seeking to manipulate these divisions in order to reverse progress toward democracy, in the hopes of profiting from the resulting instability. Political divisions have hobbled the fragile coalition government formed last year following the death of Ndadaye's successor, Cyprien Ntaryamira, in the April 1994 plane crash.
Hardliners in the Tutsi-led opposition, playing on sympathies in the ranks of the largely Tutsi military, have fomented violence against Hutu civilians. Meanwhile, Hutu extremists arm themselves in order to make raids on the military and on Tutsi civilian targets. Political assassinations have become gruesomely commonplace, and death lists have circulated, intimidating moderates into silence. The recently assassinated Minister of Energy, I understand, was on such a list.
The result is a climate of deep fear, where trust is the first victim.
Differences from Rwanda
Those who followed the Rwanda story will undoubtedly see the similiarities in Burundi. However, there are important differences. In Rwanda, unelected Hutu extremists controlled both the government and the security forces at the time of the genocide. Moderate Hutus and Tutsis were largely defenseless against the extremists' genocidal campaign.
In Burundi, the current government is a coalition of forces, the product of lengthy political negotiations which produced a comprehensive powersharing agreement in September of last year. While Tutsis are an equally small minority in Burundi, they make up the bulk of the Burundi security forces.
Finally, both ethnic groups in Burundi suffered enormous casualties in the horrendous violence in 1993. This tragedy and that of Rwanda in 1994 are still very fresh in the minds of Burundians. These painful memories can serve in some sense as a deterrent to drastic actions on either side.
These distinctions, while instructive, certainly do not preclude a serious deterioration in Burundi. The atmosphere is extremely tense, and the fragility of the situation combined with the pervasive fear make the situation dangerously susceptible to a downward spiral into widespread violence.
The vast majority of the Burundi people want desperately to avoid this, and the administration, working closely with the UN and the international community, is doing everything it can to help.
Pre-1994 U.S. Involvement
It should be remembered that the United States was positively engaged in Burundi long before the Rwanda crisis. We helped Burundi make the transition from single-party minority rule to democratic elections, providing both diplomatic support and electoral assistance.
While the October 1993 coup attempt and subsequent widescale massacres may have received relatively little press coverage, Burundi's friends in the international community were quick to react in her defense. The U.S. government and its allies immediately condemned the attempted coup and suspended both economic and military assistance. According to Burundians, the quick and strong reaction by the United States and other key donors, along with the resistance of the Burundi population, was crucial to ensuring the failure of this brutal attempt to reverse historic democratic gains.
Current Efforts at Preventive Diplomacy
Since that time, the administration has undertaken a series of preventive diplomacy measures, which have been intensified since the events in Rwanda. Our initiatives are designed to bolster moderate forces and deter extremists from fomenting violence or overturning the current fragile powersharing arrangement. We have carefully calibrated our efforts to avoid destabilizing the situation further, and we have closely coordinated our efforts with those of our allies.
The focus of international efforts has been centered on the mission of the UN Secretary General's very able special representative in Burundi, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. Mr. Abdallah has been instrumental in facilitating dialogue among the major groups. He has helped Burundi's leaders through two separate rounds of presidential succession negotiations. He also served to facilitate the multiparty talks that produced the September 1994 powersharing arrangement.
We have supported Mr. Abdallah's excellent work in our diplomatic discussions with Burundi's leaders and through direct assistance to the special representative's programs designed to promote dialogue and reconciliation. We supported the Security Council's March 9 statement calling for a reinforcing of Mr. Abdallah's office. As a result, we understand the Secretary General has ordered an increase in personnel on the ground.
In addition, the Organization of African Unity has deployed 46 military observers to Burundi to monitor the situation and help restore confidence. The United States and other donor governments have assisted the OAU in this critical effort and support its expansion. We understand that efforts are currently underway to increase this force modestly to 60 observers.
Our aid program in Burundi has been reoriented to support programs aimed at promoting peace and national reconciliation. The United States is providing $5 million in development assistance this fiscal year, including grants to promote dialogue, civic education, reconciliation, and human rights. The U.S. has also been an active supporter of greater NGO involvement in conflict resolution and peace-promotion activities in Burundi.
A key element of our policy is to heighten awareness and international attention to Burundi. Experience shows that regular high-level visits and extensive international engagement in Burundi serve to reassure and bolster Burundi moderates. It can have the effect of deterring the activities of extremists on both sides.
The United States was a strong supporter of holding the recent OAU/UNHCR regional refugee conference in Bujumbura. This conference produced a useful action plan for beginning to resolve the problem of Rwandan and Burundian refugees and displaced persons in the subregion.
American officials have made regular visits to Burundi to show support for the country's fragile democracy and reassure moderate elements that the world is watching. These visits also warn everyone, including the extremists, that the world is watching. The U.S. has sent several key officials on missions to Burundi, including:
-- National Security Advisor Anthony Lake -- Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott -- Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Timothy Wirth -- USAID Administrator Brian Atwood, and -- the Assistant Secretaries of State for Africa, for Population, Refugees and Migration, and for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
We have also issued regular public statements and appeals. Most notably, President Clinton taped a radio message in mid-February urging the Burundi people to reject the efforts of extremists to reverse progress toward peace and democracy. This message was played over VOA in Burundi and was very well received by moderate forces looking for additional outside support.
Key to the success of any effort to lessen tensions in Burundi is progress on human rights. Past atrocities -- including the assassination of President Ndadaye and subsequent ethnic massacres -- have gone unpunished while killings and lawlessness continue. This condition of impunity only emboldens the extremists and serves to feed the cycle of violence.
To help address these problems, a substantial portion of our U.S. aid funds this year will be devoted to helping the Burundi government strengthen its judicial system. In addition, the UN Human Rights Center has developed a comprehensive plan for human rights technical advisory services. We have contributed to this worthy effort and joined the Security Council in calling for a reinforcement of this office. We understand that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights plans to add several additional field officers to the Center.
Most recently, the U.S. co-authored a March 29 Security Council statement stressing the need for accountability. The statement:
-- strongly condemned the recent assassinations and violence, -- endorsed the Burundi Government's request for an International Commission of Inquiry into the October 1993 assassinations, coup attempt, and subsequent massacres, and -- warned that if acts of genocide occur in Burundi, the Council will consider prosecutions under international law, as with Rwanda. We are pressing to see that the International Commission is quickly established.
The United States has provided over $77 million in relief aid to Burundi since October 1993. We do not wish to see the suffering of the people of Central Africa continue. For these reasons, we believe the current program of preventive diplomacy is a very worthy investment, which we intend to continue and intensify. Indeed, it is clearly better to make this relatively small investment now, than wait for a larger crisis that would require a far costlier response.
In the end, however, the future of Burundi, like the future of Rwanda, lies in the hands of its people. The international community can help Burundi to make a better society. However, we cannot save Burundi from itself.
The Glimmer of Hope
Despite the painful history and deep seated mistrust, Burundi has somehow managed -- so far at least -- to weather the storm that has raged in the subregion. After months of difficult negotiations and repeated episodes of violence, the main political forces reached a delicate powersharing agreement in September 1994. This is a testament to what Burundians can achieve if they choose dialogue and compromise over violence and intimidation. The situation, however, remains extremely precarious. In the end, only the Burundians can make the choice of which route they take.
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