Brussels, 9 March 1995
Food aid for some two and a half million refugees from Rwanda: that is the aim of a 12 million ECU project from the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) that Mrs. Emma BONINO, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, announces today on the eve of an official mission to Kigali and Bujumbura. The intervention is organized by ECHO in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) to try to stave off the worst of the continuing food emergency brought on by the massive movement of people who fled the violence that exploded in Rwanda last year.
Basic food aid will be a priority in camps located in Zaire, Tanzania, and elsewhere as the need arises. WPF will supply the food, and non-governmental organizations working on the spot will deliver it in close cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This particular project is scheduled to last six months starting as soon as possible.
Mrs. BONINO's visit takes place in the context of a rather difficult political scenario. "The public opinion and worldwide medias seem to be partly reconciled with the notion that some sort of post-emergency management is being developed on the ground, but the situation remains very critical in both Burundi and Rwanda", the Commissioner says.
"In Burundi - Mrs. BONINO adds - a more active involvement of the international community has long been invoked by all international agencies and NGOs, which are operating in the country, in order to prevent an explosion of ethnic tensions on a scale similar to that of Rwanda. In Rwanda, the unresolved issue of repatriation of the millions of refugees scattered in most neighbouring countries is in itself a major political problem, apart from the challenge of restoring some viable economic and social structure in many parts of the country ravaged by the ethnic war. Throughout the area, the humanitarian situation remains very serious and closely interlinked with the prospects of a durable settlement to the recent political unrest".
The Commissioner's mission will involve a thourough review on the spot of the assistance provided in Burundi, Rwanda and elsewhere (Goma) to the very large number of refugees, displaced and homeless of various origin and ethnic groups; as well as contacts with the local political authorities. Mrs BONINO will seek to assess in particular how the EU can contribute to creating the material conditions which are the prerequisite for a sound and forward looking effort of economic re-habilitation and composition of the strained political framework.
"The principal aim of the mission is to check the situation of humanitarian aid on the ground - Mrs. BONINO says - I think that a close appraisal of the working relation between ECHO, the partner agencies and the NGOs, is crucial if we want to make our action more effective".
Why Rwanda and Burundi?
Between five and six million people fled their homes in these two countries during a crisis that started during October 1993 in Burundi, and exploded in Rwanda during April 1994. Many of those fleeing took refuge in neighbouring countries, in Zaire, Tanzaniaand Uganda. At present, there are an estimated two million Rwandan refugees, and 220,000 Burundi refugees. Add to these the people who have been internally displaced: 1.8 million Rwandans, and 560,000 Burundis. About 1.2 million have returned to their countries, and need resettling.