Donors have been largely unmoved by Rwandan government appeals for aid to build more imidugudu and resistant to the suggestion that the current misery of the homeless results from an untimely end to previous international assistance. In November 2000, however, the Special Representative for Rwanda of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights told the General Assembly that 350,000 displaced persons in Rwanda lived "in very precarious conditions under plastic sheeting" and needed assistance. He did not explain the figure, which approximated the 370,000 cited by the Rwandan government, nor did he elaborate on how the affected persons had been displaced, a point of major importance107
107 United Nations, 55th Session of the General Assembly, (Third Committee), Statement of the Special Representative for Rwanda of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Michel Moussalli, November 1, 2000.
Hundreds of thousands of persons suffer on the hills of Rwanda but insufficient international aid is only a tangential and not a fundamental cause of their misery. They suffer from the anguish and disruption of genocide and war, from poverty, hunger, disease, and despair. Tens of thousands of them suffer also from the changes caused by the imposition of the rural resettlement policy: the forced displacement from their homes, the waste of resources entailed by the destruction of houses, the reduction in productivity which has resulted from having to live far from their fields, and the loss of land given over to imidugudu. Many suffer also from having been obliged to "share" their land with or "return" it to those who have come back to Rwanda after a generation in exile.
The imidugudu program, generally understood by international actors to address the housing crisis, encapsulated also an effort to deal with the broader issues of economic development. Whether rural reorganization offers an effective solution to this major problem is debatable. What is not debatable is that the implementation of this program resulted in human rights abuses for tens of thousands of Rwandans.
With support for further imidugudu not forthcoming, the Rwandan government and the donors have moved from discussing resettlement to considering draft proposals on the larger issue of land-holding. Both in designing and in implementing a land policy, the Rwandan government should respect basic human rights, including the rights to choice of residence, to secure enjoyment of one's home, and to property. In those complex cases where there are competing rights, such as the conflicting claims to property, it must at least establish an equitable procedure for resolving these disputes and appropriate remedies for those who believe their rights have been abused. Donors and international agencies called upon to assist programs to house Rwandans or to change the system of land tenure must ensure that the policies they support not render homeless those now secure in their houses and lands nor otherwise violate the rights of Rwandans.