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The Rwandan state is highly centralized and intensively administered. Local officials are accustomed to passing on policies decided at the national level to the people of their districts. Speaking of the habitat policy, one local official said, "The national government gave the rules. We report back on the progress. . . ."24 Prefects supervised implementation in their prefectures, but often left such decisions as the location of the imidugudu to the administrative heads of communes, known as burgomasters, who were supposed to be advised by a committee which was composed exclusively of government officials.25 Councilors (conseillers), who head sectors within the commune, and cell leaders (responsables), who head the cells that make up the sectors, carried out the policy at the grass roots level.

All these officials delivered instructions to the population during "persuasion" meetings, sessions meant both to inform local residents about the new policy and to convince them of its benefits. They said that the new sites would be provided with services, such as water supply, schools, markets, and easy access to roads. They stressed that people living together would be more secure and would find it easier to develop the local economy.

According to a written policy statement from the Ministry of Interior and Communal Development in 1997, resettlement was to be voluntary.26 And in February 1997, Christine Umutoni, Director of Cabinet at the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Social Integration, stated that "no one will be forced to go along with a program of villagization," although she did admit that "it may be discouraged to stay behind."27 Regardless of these pronouncements in Kigali, local authorities made clear to citizens out on the hills that they had no choice but to follow the policy and would be subject to fines or other punishment if they did not cooperate.28

As is usual with nationally-directed campaigns in Rwanda, the prime minister and other ministers, as well as their immediate subordinates, visited different parts of the countryto lend their authority to the campaign. More recently, President Paul Kagame too went to the hills to praise successful cases of resettlement. The national radio broadcast announcements promoting imidugudu and pressing people to cooperate with the program.29

The December 13 text gave no deadline for executing the policy, but once implementation began, some officials stated that all Rwandans were to move to imidugudu within five years and, in some regions, the deadline was set for two years.30

The East: Kibungo, Umutara, and Kigali-Rural

Although rural life was to be reorganized everywhere, officials began the effort first and carried it through most rigorously in the eastern and south-eastern prefectures of Kibungo, Umutara, Kigali-rural. It is understandable that authorities acted first in the region with the greatest need for housing, but they clearly meant to push forward rural reorganization as much as to provide new homes. In some cases, local officials even halted on-going housing repair programs that could have provided housing relatively rapidly and cheaply. According to the Ministry of Planning in early 1997, some 84,000 damaged houses nation-wide could have been made habitable by repairs.31 Making repairs was much faster than building anew and, according to housing experts, cost only one quarter to one third as much. But repairing houses, most of which were located outside imidugudu sites, would have enabled residents to continue living in dispersed homesteads in violation of the habitat policy. So officials ordered CARE-UK and several agencies funded by U.S. assistance as well as UNHCR to halt repair programs and to direct their efforts to the slower and more costly process of building houses in imidugudu. A housing rehabilitation program at Murambi, Umutara, funded by the German government also encountered official opposition, although it is unclear if the work there was actually halted. Similarly authorities discouraged NGOs from continuing to build new homes in scattered locations.32

Authorities hastened the implementation of the habitat policy as much to control land as to provide housing. As they regrouped the population rapidly, they also took land forredistribution to Tutsi returnees or permitted them to take land for themselves. Officials also appropriated land to constitute larger holdings for private exploitation, as discussed below.33

By February 1997, only weeks after the ministerial orders on habitat were issued and as international agencies were scrambling to build homes for the needy, authorities began ordering local residents to abandon their existing homes for temporary shelters in imidugudu.34

Even more than his counterparts in the other two prefectures, the prefect of Kibungo undertook to move all residents-Tutsi or Hutu, homeowner or homeless-rapidly into imidugudu. National officials praised his implementation of the habitat policy and eventually promoted him to head the more important prefecture of the city of Kigali.35 One year after the campaign began, the prefectural office issued a statement saying that "No policy in Kibungo features [as] so important as villagisation. Kibungo is at the heart of the national villagisation campaign."36

Pressured to relocate everyone by the end of 1998, local officials in Kibungo hurried the construction programs. In one area, people were given only one week to move to the designated site.37 As Rwandans previously resident in their own homes were forced into imidugudu, the demand for housing far exceeded the capacity of the various agencies, which in any case focused largely on building houses for homeless Tutsi returnees and genocide

survivors. Local authorities permitted ever shoddier houses to be built. As the resouces which had paid salaried workers were exhausted, the new residents-many of them Hutu- received no help and were told to build their own houses. Many lacked the time and resources to build solid, mud-brick homes and they settled instead for wood-and-mud daub structures.38 The weakest and poorest of the new residents could manage to build only fragile shelters of wood, leaves, and pieces of plastic. Rwandans call such a make-shift shelter a blindé, from the French word meaning tank or armored personnel carrier. The term, which ironically contrasts the fragility of the shelter to the solidity of a military vehicle, apparently refers to the shape of the shelter-something like a small hangar-or to the blue plastic sheeting sometimes used to cover it. Some Rwandans first saw the sheeting used to covermilitary tanks of U.N. peacekeeping troops which arrived in Rwanda in 1994. Some residents of imidugudu have inhabited blindés for two years or more.

The Northwest: Ruhengeri and Gisenyi

Officials expected the northwestern prefectures of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi to be among the last where the habitat policy would be implemented. Largely Hutu in population, this area constituted the power base of the former regime. It was suspected of continuing hostility to the RPF-run government and its residents were thought likely to resist the order to move to settlements.39 Relatively few Tutsi returnees had settled there so the need for housing and land was limited and it seemed unlikely that the powerful would seek to establish large landholdings in the area.

The situation changed during 1997 and 1998 as insurgents, known as abacengezi, led a serious uprising against the government. Using bases in the DRC, they took control of some parts of the northwest and raided into central Rwanda. In the course of suppressing the insurgency, soldiers and officials displaced more than 650,000 people into camps, more to keep them from supporting the insurgents than to protect them from attack. By mid-1998, the government forces were largely in control of the area and officials were preparing to disband the camps. Authorities saw this as an "opportunity" to hasten the creation of imidugudu and ordered the displaced to move to newly designated settlement sites rather than return to their own homes.40

Officials had started citing security needs as a reason for imidugudu in early 1997 and they referred to them frequently, often in situations where no actual threat existed (see below). In the northwest, however, they had real concerns for security and apparently saw establishing imidugudu as one way to reduce the likelihood of any recurrence of the insurgency. An official document of November 1998 stressed that resettlement in imidugudu would be a "key factor" in assuring security as well as development.41

The process continued throughout 1999 and early 2000 as more and more people of the northwest, including those who had not been displaced in the conflict, were obliged to move into imidugudu.

Elsewhere in Rwanda

In other prefectures local officials carried out the habitat policy in a more relaxed fashion. With fewer returnees in these areas, they had both less demand for housing and, often, fewer resources available to build settlements. They may also have anticipated-and in some cases actually encountered-substantial resistance to imidugudu in parts of centralRwanda.42 Authorities in these other prefectures, such as Byumba and Gitarama, sometimes permitted the construction of houses outside imidugudu or, at least, the repair of existing structures.43

During 2000 officials delayed rural reorganization in some areas, including the northwest. In some communities residents who had been told to prepare to move before the next growing season were allowed to remain in their homes and cultivate as usual. In others, settlement sites were laid out but construction was postponed. In the southwestern prefecture of Cyangugu, however, officials in such communes as Cyimbogo and Gisuma continued moving people into imidugudu, reportedly pressing to meet a deadline of the end of the year.44

Variations in speed and strictness aside, the overall success in moving large numbers of people to imidugudu was remarkable. By the end of 1999, three years after the policy was announced, some 90 percent of the population of Kibungo and some 60 percent of the population of Umutara resided in the new settlements.45 In Ruhengeri, virtually all the people from half the communes as well as many others had been resettled at the new sites.46

Information gathered by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) together with Rwandan government officials in late 1999 suggests that some 1,080,000 or approximately 14 percent of Rwandans have moved to imidugudu.47 Even if somewhat exaggerated by official sources, this figure still represents an extraordinary restructuring of rural life in a very short time. For many the move to imidugudu was voluntary and presumably to their advantage, but for tens of thousands of others, the move was made under coercion and apparently to their detriment.

24 Human Rights Watch interview, Cyimbogo, Cyangugu, May 16, 2000. 25 One of the seven members was the councilor from the sector concerned. When the committee was set up, councilors, like other committee members, were government appointees, but in March 1999 councilors were elected. 26 Dorothea Hilhorst and Mathijs van Leeuwen, "Villagisation in Rwanda," Wageningen Disaster Studies, no. 2, 1999, Rural Development Sociology Group, Wageningen University, The Netherlands, p. 16. 27 Minutes, Meeting of diplomats regarding housing policies of the Rwandan Government, February 12, 1997, p. 3. Hereafter cited as Minutes, Meeting of diplomats regarding housing policies, February 12, 1997. Minutes provided by one of several diplomatic representatives in attendance. 28 Human Rights Watch, field notes, Cyeru commune, Ruhengeri, July 1999; see below for other examples. 29 Radio Rwanda news program, May 18, 1999, at 8 p.m., reported a visit by the prime minister and other dignitaries to the northwest; on February 17, 2000 it reported a similar visit by officials to Kibuye. Short features, like one heard on national radio at 7:30 a.m. on December 27, 1999, advertised the benefits of life in imidugudu. See also "Life Has Returned Everywhere in Ruhengeri Prefecture," Imvaho, no. 1272, February 22-28, 1999. 30 Anonymous, "Imidugudu," p. 1; Hilhorst and van Leeuwen, "Villagisation in Rwanda," p. 34.

31 Omar Bakhet, UNDP Resident Representative and U.N. Resident Coordinator, Memo to Ambassadors, Charge d'Affaires and Heads of U.N. Agencies, January 23, 1997.

32 Human Rights Watch interview, by telephone, Washington, September 14, 2000; Anonymous, "Imidugudu," pp. 5, 7, 8, note, p. 27; Hilhorst and van Leeuwen, "Villagisation in Rwanda," pp. 34, 37; Minutes, Meeting of diplomats regarding housing policies of the Rwandan Government, February 21, 1997, p. 2. Hereafter cited as Minutes, Meeting of diplomats regarding housing policies, February 21, 1997.

33 Republic of Rwanda and United Nations Population Fund, Socio-Demographic Survey 1996, pp. 28-29; Juvénal Nkusi, "Problématique du Régime foncier," pp. 26-27; Human Rights Watch interview, by telephone, Washington, September 14, 2000.

34 Minutes, Meeting of diplomats regading housing policies, February 12, 1997; Minutes, Meeting of diplomats regarding housing policies, February 21, 1997; and European Community Humanitarian Office-Rwanda, Note for the File, Shelter funding criteria, February 5, 1997.

35 Hilhorst and van Leeuwen, "Villagisation in Rwanda," p. 37.

36 Ibid., p. 37.

37 Ibid., p. 42.

38 Ibid., p. 34.

39 Anonymous, "Imidugudu," p. 10.

40 Republic of Rwanda, Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Affairs, "Guidelines on the Settlement of IDPS in Northwest," November, 1998, pp. 1.

41 Ibid., pp. 1-2.

42 Anonymous, "Imidugudu," p. 10; Minutes , Meeting of diplomats regarding housing policies,, February 12, 1997, pp. 2-3 Human Rights Watch interview, Kigali, May 23, 2000.

43 Human Rights Watch interview, by telephone, Washington, September 14, 2000.

44 Human Rights Watch interview, Kigali, October 23, 2000.

45 Human Rights Watch interview with the Minister of Lands, Human Resettlement, and Environment, Kigali, December 18, 1999.

46 Human Rights Watch interview, Prefect of Ruhengeri, Ruhengeri, February 25, 2000.

47 Nations Unies. Programme des Nations Unies pour le Développement (PNUD), Rapport d'Etude sur les Sites de Reinstallation au Rwanda, September-November 1999, pp. 6-8. Hereafter cited as PNUD, Rapport. See below for further discussion of statistics.

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