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It is impossible to know how many Rwandans favored the habitat policy when it was established because there was no open debate or public participation in making the decision. Incomplete data indicate that attitudes towards the policy varied according to a number of circumstances. A Dutch NGO found that more than 50 percent of a group of genocide survivors in Cyangugu, the prefecture abutting the Congolese border, favored moving to imidugudu; most were widows apparently concerned with security. But the same agency found that only 7 percent of a sample group in the central prefecture of Gitarama were willing to leave their homes and move to imidugudu.48 A Rwandan government poll in the northwestern prefectures of Gisenyi and Ruhengeri in 1998 found that 41 percent wanted to remain in their own homes and not move to imidugudu.49 Special representative for Rwanda of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights Michel Moussalli sampled opinions of residents in three imidugudu in 1999: in two settlements, residents expressed no complaints, but in the third a significant number said they had been moved against their will.50

One poll of people now residing in imidugudu found that 74 percent generally favored the settlements, although many immediately qualified this response by mentioning changes that they believed were needed to make life in the imidugudu satisfactory. When asked whether they had gained or lost by the move, 55 percent of the same sample stated that they had lost-economically, in terms of quality of life, or in other ways.51

Whatever the exact range of opinion, it is clear that a significant minority of rural-dwellers in some places and a majority in others did not or do not want to live in the settlement sites.52 According to the current policy, they have no choice and if they do not now live in the settlements, they will sooner or later have to move there.

Some who are dissatisfied protest the way the policy was imposed by national officials without consulting those most affected by it. One person remarked: 

People don't see the advantages of the imidugudu although there have been a lot of
"persuasion" meetings with local and higher government authorities. It is being
imposed on us. We have nothing to say. It has been decided, that's it. . . . 
The authorities did an opinion poll [in the northwest], so they know people don't want this, 
especially with no means to build new homes. . . . They say there are
many problems here: not enough schools, poverty, sickness. Now they are creating
yet another problem. Now we will settle in plastic sheeting. . . . After all these
meetings, I don't know if I'll ever really understand why they made this policy. We 
have a tradition of living apart, having our own space. To move to imidugudu, we find that harassment.53

Others are most concerned about the economic losses connected with the relocation. Homeowners or renters who had improved their previous residences lost their investment when they abandoned these homes to move to imidugudu. Those who took mortgages to build or improve their houses are supposed to continue paying their debt although they are no longer permitted to reside in the houses. At the same time the large number of persons who received little or no assistance must find money or materials for the new construction. Some had to pay officials in order to receive what they consider to be a desirable place in the umudugudu. Some had to give up all or part of their fields to serve as sites for the new housing.54

Most residents still live primarily if not solely from the produce of their fields and worry about getting to their land, maintaining its fertility, and protecting the crops. One study concluded that imidugudu residents now must travel about 2 kilometers or over one mile further to reach their fields than when they lived in their previous homes. The time and energy needed to travel the additional distance each day must be subtracted from the resources t

hat the cultivator can devote to his or her work.55 Cultivators say that the greater distance from home to fields makes it impractical to continue the well-established practice of using household waste to fertilize the land. They worry too that being distant from their fields makes it impossible to protect the crops against animals or thieves who could come at night to steal the harvest. One poor woman widowed during the genocide said, "My field is the land where my parents lived, about thirty minutes away from here. Thieves now steal the crops I planted there."56

Many who lived from the land also raised livestock at their old homes, at least chickens and rabbits, if not the more valuable goats, sheep, pigs or cattle. Because imidugudu allot such small parcels of land, many now find it impossible to keep farm animals.57 One man from Cyangugu explained that in his previous residence, he and his family owned some small livestock which formed their reserve to deal with unexpected needs, such as repairing the house. This they no longer have.58

Some residents have expressed worries about hygiene and disease. Many imidugudu lack latrines, clean water, and health facilities.59 According to UNDP studies, the country-wide average distance from home to clean water is 1.2 kilometers while residents in some imidugudu in Byumba and Cyangugu must walk between 20 and 25 kilometers to find water. Similarly, the national average distance from home to health facility is 4.6 kilometers, but residents in some imidugudu must travel more than 8 kilometers for the most basic health assistance and more than 20 kilometers to a health center.60 With people living in such close proximity, diseases can spread rapidly. In one umudugudu in Cyangugu, twenty-seven people fell seriously ill the same day and all had to be hospitalized.61 One man who now lives in an umudugudu situated in a dry, barren stretch of the southeast commented, "Life in the umudugudu is all right, except for the sun, hunger, and sickness."62

Many who did not initially oppose the habitat policy have since become dissatisfied with the way it has been implemented. Officials promised that imidugudu residents would have greater access to basic services and would be well-placed to benefit from new efforts at economic development. Such has not been the case for most. According to a study by UNDP, 81 percent of the sites still lacked water in late 1999.63 Another study concluded that among the imidugudu residents sampled, the average person must travel some four kilometers or nearly two and a half miles further to reach fields, school, water and source of firewood than when he or she lived in his or her previous home.64

One resident of Bicumbi commune, Kigali-rural prefecture, expressed his discontent:

We have been here [in the umudugudu] for seven months. . . . But for my family, the situation is not good. Our field is very far. The cows [belonging to others] come and ruin our crops. We have no water. They said that life in the umudugudu would be extraordinary-with water, school, electricity, a good road! But here we are under plastic sheeting. They promised houses but I see nothing. You find me under this sheeting with holes in it that the rain comes through.65

In August 1999 the Catholic bishops wrote the Rwandan president to protest against the use of force in moving people to the sites, but this criticism was not made public.66 Although the press occasionally published information about individuals who have suffered from the policy, it rarely aired more general opposition. When rural-dwellers spoke against forced movement to imidugudu in their own communities, they were sometimes punished, as described below. In an exceptional case in August 2000, people in Kibungo profited from the rare visit of President Kagame to their area to complain about the habitat policy. Their comments were heard on national radio, perhaps encouraging further criticism. In October, the radio broadcast a meeting during which one person took to task members of the national commission on unity and reconciliation and the national human rights commission. He remarked that people in Kibungo were forced to leave comfortable homes and to go live under plastic sheeting in imidugudu and asked if these national human rights defenders found this "normal," meaning acceptable. A commission member replied that they had no legal powers to halt abuses and could act only by denouncing abuses. He did not explain why the commission had not yet publicly denounced abuses related to rural reorganization.67

Small numbers of insurgents who appeared again in the northwest in 2000 tried in one case to increase popular resentment and fear of the imidugudu. When they attacked in Rwerere commune, Gisenyi prefecture, in May 2000, they launched a mortar at an umudugudu and they left tracts accusing the Rwandan government of regrouping Hutu in "concentration camps" in order to "eliminate" them.68

Rather than openly opposing the habitat policy, most Rwandans who found it unjust treated it as one more burden to be endured. "You can't expect us to sleep with an empty stomach and then have the strength to complain," said a Tutsi widow whose husband was slaughtered in 1994. "We need to deal with living in the umudugudu just like we deal with losing members of our family."69

48 Anonymous, "Imidugudu," pp. 15, 24.
49 United Nations. Economic and Social Council. Commission on Human Rights. "Report on the situation of human rights in Rwanda submitted by the Special Representative, Mr. Michel Moussalli, pursuant to Commission resolution 1999/20," E/CN.4/2000/41, February 25, 2000, p. 32. It is not specified if all the remaining 59 percent favored a move or if they expressed other views.
50 Ibid, pp. 32-33.
51 Association Rwandaise pour la Défense des Droits de la Personne et des Libertés Publiques (ADL), Etude sur la Situation des Droits Humains dans les Villages Imidugudu (Kigali, 2000), pp. 37, 42. Hereafter cited as ADL, Etude.
52 In addition to data presented below, see Hilhorst and van Leeuwen, "Villagisation in Rwanda,"pp. 35, 43 and Rwandan Initiative for Sustainable Development (RISD), "Land Use and Villagisation in Rwanda," September 1999, paragraph 3.3.1. Hereafter cited as RISD, "Land Use."
53 Human Rights Watch interview, Ruhengeri, December 3, 1999
.54 Human Rights Watch interviews, Karago, Gisenyi, October 30, 1999; RISD, "Land Use," paragraph For the issue of land appropriated for housing sites, see below.
55 ADL, Etude, p. 32.
56 Human Rights Watch interview, Muhazi, Kibungo, November 30, 1999; also interviews at Nkumba commune, Ruhengeri, November 18, 1999; Mutura commune, Gisenyi, November 22, 1999; Umutara, March 16, 2000; Bicumbi, Kigali-rural, March 17,2000; and Cyimbogo, Cyangugu, May 16, 2000.
57 ADL, Etude, p. 37.
58 Human Rights Watch interview, Cyimbogo, Cyangugu, May 16, 2000.
59 Human Rights Watch interviews, Rutonde, Kibungo, April 15, 1999. 
60 Common Country Assessment, Working Paper no. 3, Resettlement and Reintegration, January 2000, p. 12. (Hereafter cited as CCA Working Paper.) 
61 Human Rights Watch interview, Cyimbogo, Cyangugu, May 16, 2000. 
62 Human Rights Watch interview, Nyarubuye, Kibungo, June 23, 2000
.63 PNUD, Rapport, p. 18; Human Rights Watch interviews, Nyamugali, Ruhengeri, November 18, 1999.
64 ADL, Etude, p. 32.
65 Human Rights Watch interview, Bicumbi, Kigali-rural, March 17, 2000.
66 Human Rights Watch interview, Gisenyi, December 8, 1999.
67 Radio Rwanda, "Kubaza Bitera Kumenya," October 8, 2000
.68 Human Rights Watch interviews, Gisenyi, June 5, 6, and 7, 2000.
69 Human Rights Watch interview, Muhazi, Kibungo, November 25, 1999.

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