Rwandan authorities organized "solidarity camps," now known as ingando, to convey political lessons to refugees who had followed the genocidal government into exile and who returned en masse in late 1996 and 1997. The camps were meant to promote ideas of nationalism, to erase the ethnically-charged lessons taught by the previous government, and to spur loyalty to the RPF. Salaried employees who wished to return to public or private employment and young people who wanted to return to school ordinarily had first to complete a training session at such a camp.
With the increasing focus on national security, the authorities have once more begun requiring groups of people to attend the camps. Although all the camps are known by the same term and all are apparently funded by the National Commission on Unity and Reconciliation, those attended by people from most regions of Rwanda differ from those attended by people from the northwestern prefectures Ruhengeri and Gisenyi.
At camps of the first kind, officials, community leaders, students, and the general population ordinarily learn to shoot, wear military uniforms, and are subject to a quasi-military discipline. They are taught to accept RPF lessons about the past and the future of Rwanda. These camps generally last for one month. Local administrative officials and students preparing to enter the National University of Rwanda have attended the camps, as will soon officials of the judicial system and even staff of non-governmental organizations.
Camps of the second kind are meant to provide political education for people from regions in which the insurgency was strong or for people who have returned recently from the Congo. One camp was said to house "infiltrators who had been taken from Masisi" and other regions of the Congo, suggesting that the camp participants had actually been captured in the Congo and then brought back to Rwanda, whether willingly or not. In one such camp held at the end of 1999 and in early 2000, people detained by soldiers in the illegal MILPOC facility were transferred for education at the camp. In these camps, participants do not learn to shoot. More than forty of the participants in a recent camp in Ruhengeri were, however, pressed to join forces departing to fight in the Congo. These camps last longer than those for the official elite, generally three months. During this time those who are cultivators are unable to attend to their crops. A substantial number of participants attend because they feel obliged to do so or because they have been told by authorities that they must. There is no law requiring attendance.70
When some 2,000 participants in a camp that had lasted three months at Cyuve were dismissed, they were sent home with a warning not to talk about the king. They were informed that some forty people had been arrested on charges of supporting the king in Ndusu and that they should take care not to make a similarmistake.71
A number of Rwandans have commented upon the different nature of the two camps. Some of those from the northwest fear that the military training given to elites and students elsewhere in the country is meant to prepare them for eventual war with people from the northwest, a contest which will be unequal because the people of the northwest will not have been trained in how to shoot. Regardless of how baseless others may judge these fears to be, people of the northwest take them seriously.70 Human Rights Watch interviews, Gisenyi, January 31, 2000; Ruhengeri, February 24, March 2,3 and 4, 2000; Kigali, February 11, 2000. 71 Human Rights Watch interviews, Ruhengeri, March 4, 2000.