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Refugees and Migration: Issue Analysis Essay

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The Rwandan Genocide and the African great lakes Refugee crisis

Historical background of the Hutu-Tutsi dichotomy

Bloodshed conflicts and refugee crises have been predominant in the great lakes region particularly in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and some parts of Uganda. Culmination of the conflicts and the crises were witnessed in Rwanda in April to mid July 1994, when genocide occurred following the assassination of the then Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana.

Just like many other African countries, the 1994 Rwandan genocide derives its originality from the typical ethnic clashes and violence usually experienced in many parts and countries in Africa. Reports suggests that most of Africa’s worst blood shed violent clashes are generated basically though ethnicity. The Rwandan civil war stands out as Africa’s worst crisis ever; where close to 800,000 people were butchered in a range of a hundred days.

Two tribes predominantly occupy the Rwandan Nation, namely the Hutu and the Tutsi. In early 1950’s the Tutsi represented the minority group, comprising 15 percent of the country’s population, while the Hutu comprised majority of the nation’s population, representing 85 percent. However, migration waves in central African countries in early 1990’s saw the declination of the Tutsi population in Rwanda, to account for about 12 percent. The background of the divisions between the two Rwandese tribes traces it roots to the socio-political and economic factors. Studies partly associate ethnicity with the Tutsi-Hutu dichotomy experienced in Rwanda. Ethnic phenomenon is by far the most significant social cleavage, in any given society, forming the lines along which a country is divided politically, as demonstrated in Rwanda.

Historically, Rwanda has been partitioned in to two nationalisms as demonstrated by Barrington (2006, p.75), the greater Rwandan Hutu nationalism and the minority Rwandan Tutsi nationalism. Rivalry between, the two nationalisms has been experienced prior to the country’s independence, when the first political crisis was experienced. Since then, Hutu and Tutsi identities have been designated frequently as ethnic, caste and more problematically as class identities, historically the pillars of the Hutu-Tutsi dichotomy (Barrington, 2006, p.75).

The legacy of the Belgian colonial rule in Rwanda

Belgian colonialism in Africa is heavily criticized for sparkling chaos in its colonies. The Belgians skillfully played ethnically motivated politics for their selfish advantages. In Rwanda they ignited ethnic rivalry, among the Hutu and the Tutsi. They used the Tutsi’s against Hutus and then vise versa. This hatred surfaced during the 1994 genocide when massive killings occurred in the country.

The colonial policies of Belgium were highly influenced by factors such as politics, religion as well as fear of communist supremacy. All these were among the factors which triggered political restiveness which was ethnically-induced in Rwanda, and also culminating to the Hutu-Tutsi uprisings in the country. Their colonial legacy was also characterized by Paternalism, an evil practice which contributed much in manufacturing the Genocide (Barrington, 2006, p.79).

Post-independence events leading to the 1994 genocide and refugee crises

Kashambuzi (2008, p.590) noted that the Belgian authorities were too reluctant to obviate the Hutu fury directed towards the Tutsi leaders, who were communists and were backed by other communists in the region. Kashambuzi (2008, p.592) went on to record that as soon as the Hutu took to power after independence in 1962, the Tutsi refugees residing in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania started to repatriate to their original homeland in Rwanda in preparations to regain power from the Hutu. The one party state dominated by the Hutu took control of the country’s politics, a move which was not welcome to.the Tutsi, who had enjoyed Favors from the colonial masters prior to independence.

The guerrilla attacks by the Tutsi refugees from Burundi made the Hutu government to take revenge, where close to 14,000 people lost their lives in 1963. The continued Hutu supremacy in the Rwandan politics and waves of migrations aggravated hatred between the two tribes, with the Tutsi feeling marginalized by the Hutu government. Successive invasions by Tutsi outside Rwanda culminated on April 1994 when the then Hutu president Habyarimana was assassinated. This was the major cause of mass killings of the pro-peace Hutus and Tutsis (Barrington, 2006, p.79)

Failure of the UN council to act prior to & after the genocide

According to the BBC news online on 15 April 2000, the UN Security Council admitted that it failed in preventing the Rwandan genocide of 1994. UN council members admitted that their governments lacked a political will to avert the political massacres which took place in Rwanda. Reports indicate that more than 2500 UN peacekeepers had been withdrawn from Rwanda prior to the genocide after the deaths of Belgian soldiers in Rwanda. Dr. Kofi Annan who was by then the UN secretary General and the leader in peacekeeping mission in Rwanda in 1994 was criticized for not passing out warnings on the impending massacre (special report, 1995).

The UN council also failed in preventing the militarization of the Rwandan Hutu refugee camps in Eastern Zaire, a factor which aggravated the continuation of the crises in Rwanda and in the central African region generally. Years after the genocide, Rwandan Hutu refugees who took part in the killings in Rwanda walked free in camps. In camps in eastern DRC, it was alleged that the Hutu refugees continued to acquire military materials in preparations for renewed attacks, with a political support from the then president of the Democratic republic of Congo, Laurent Kabila. The UN was still reluctant in controlling the activities taking place in the refugee camps, bearing in mind that the Hutu killers had fled in to such camps (special report, 1995).

Humanitarian agencies dilemmas in Rwanda and their roles

Several difficulties were being experienced by humanitarian agencies such as the UNHCR in moves to repatriate and control refugee activities as well as restoration of peace in the crisis torn country after the genocide. Instability and insecurity has engulfed the central African region for more than a decade, making the operation of humanitarian agencies a nightmare.

Resource constraints were the major obstacle on the way towards UNHCR operation in Rwanda, in the provision of adequate protection as well as programme assistance to more than 27,000 refugees in camps around Rwanda. Overcrowding in camps, motivating refugees to work voluntarily, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, food rationing, early marriages and absence of legal documentations among the refugees poses major threats to their operations.

The role of the humanitarian agencies in the final phase of the Rwandan crisis in 1996 and 1997 was to address the gaps in the provision of basic needs to the Rwandan refugees as well as the provision of education programmes to enlighten the population on the importance on national unity. Repatriation of the refugees was also another role which was to be undertaken by the humanitarian agencies such as the UNHCR.

The agencies were also mandated to assist, monitor, and support the returnees, while helping them in recovery of their property, overseeing and supporting the judicial system and helping the Rwandan government win back trust among its peoples (UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 – Rwanda)

The soviet-Afghan war and the afghan refugee crisis (1979-1989)

The emergence of the modern Afghanistan in the 18th century

Afghanistan is a landlocked country geographically located in southern Asia. The state is a mixture of various ethnic groups, with different languages. The country was formed as a result of historic trade routes as well as invasion routes into south and south west Asia from central Asia. The largest ethnic group in the country is the Pashtun, with several smaller groups. Prior to the 18th Century, the afghan state history was full of cleavages regionally, and it was not until mid 18th century from the rise of the Durrani Empire when the Afghanistan nation was founded. Though the modern afghan state comprised of diverse ethnic groups, before the 18th century the Pashtun was the predominant ethnic group, which was commonly referred to as the Afghans.

The modern Afghanistan owes its creation to the assassination of the then ruler of the Afghanistan and Persia, Nadir Shah. Durrani Ahmed shah proclaimed the state back to the Durrani dynasty in the beginning of 1749, to establish the united afghan state.

According to the Afghanistan foundation (n.d), Durrani monarchy reigned up to 1823 under the leadership of Ahmad, when the Afghanistan state began taking a different shape as a result of fragmentations and exploitations over the centuries. Ahmad shah through the Durrani Empire had conquered larger parts of Pakistan, and some parts of India and Iran, creating a large Muslim empire in Afghanistan in the late 18th century. The continued expansion of the Durrani rule by the descendants of Ahmad shah received a lot of resistance from various tribes, invasion by the Persians which eventually led to chaos.

The Afghans were opposed to the presence of the British and the Russian in their state, which led to continuous fights throughout the 19th century. The latter two were trying to control the south and the central Asia. Dost Muhammad who led the great Afghanistan state was significantly a very strong leader, who posed a great challenge to the British. Both the Russians and the British were divided on whom to conquer central Asia and both were opposed to the leadership of the king, as they proffered a weaker ruler who they could manipulate and take control of. They saw the new strong leader in the newly established Afghanistan as a stumbling block on their interests to control the newly established state and the entire central Asia region (Afghanistan foundation, n.d).

Attempts by the British to dethrone Dost from power led to an Anglo-Afghan war inm1838, lasting for four years. Even though the campaign was successful to the British military, the Afghans successfully restored Dost to the throne. Disagreements between the Afghans and the British over the borders of Afghanistan led to the second Anglo-Afghan war in 1978, where the Afghans surrendered the control over their foreign affairs to the British (Afghanistan foundation, n.d).

Prior to the establishment of the Afghan state, the Russians were also concerned on border issue between the USSR and Afghanistan, which in some places was uncertain, increasing a probability of disputes and conflicts between the two states. The British on the other hand considered the northern border regions between Afghanistan and USSR volatile hence a concern to defend their Afghanistan territory from their rivals Russia.

The position of Afghanistan during the World War 1 & 2 and the cold war until 1978

During World War 1, the Afghanistan nation under the leadership of Amir Habibullah Khan had remained neutral till his death from assassins’ bullet in 1919. His successor Amir Amanullah was a pro-soviet who supported the pan-Islamism and anti-British protagonist. Amir’s exile to Italy saw the reign of Nadir Shah who dismissed the Russians and established an alliance with the British (Afghanistan foundation (n.d).

Later on in early 1940’s the Afghanistan nation’s leader allowed the presence of both the British and the Russian’s presence in the country, but neither of the two were prepared to allow the other rival to take advantage of the state. Since then throughout the Second World War and the cold war, Afghanistan remained neutral to both side.

The weaknesses of Afghanistan and abandonment of its traditional neutrality and the soviet invasion

Since the death of the Amin, the Afghan leader, the nation became weak in politically leading the subsequent Erosion of the traditional neutrality which had existed in the state throughout the wars. The soviet advisors had influenced the administrations of Amin and Taraki, while they were in power. The Russian communist take took invasion of Afghanistan in 1978, and by 1983 almost discarded its traditional neutrality, in favor for the soviets had completely taken control over Afghanistan (Afghanistan foundation (n.d).

After the invasion of Russia in to Afghanistan in 1978, a conflict broke out between the Russian forces who were in support for the government of the Marxist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) and the Mujahedeen resistance. The disparity between the groups in support for the PDPA, the soviet forces and the Mujahedeen led to a nine year conflict leading to deaths of numerous Afghans, while displacing huge numbers of Afghans who sought refuge in the neighboring Pakistan and Iran. Since the soviet invasion in to Afghanistan in 1978, massive numbers of refugees fled in to Pakistan and Iran. The UNHCR estimated that close to 3.6 million refugees had migrated in to Iran and Pakistan (International Peace Research Institute, 2004).

Human conditions were quite hard and pathetic for Afghan refugee’s who fled to Pakistan and Iran. Factional fighting was still on the borders of the two countries with Afghanistan, a condition which to more refugee deaths in exile. Violence was eminent at the borders where refugee camps were situated, which held the refugees and hampered programmes for repatriation of the Afghan refugees (Violence halts Afghan refugee flow, 2002).

However, refugee conditions in the two hosting countries were affected by their economic developments as well as perceptions towards refugees. Iran had better economic ties with Afghanistan as compared to Pakistan. This led to labor migration of refugees to Iran. The fact that many Afghanistan shared language and religion with the Iranian made more refugees to opt for Iran. Refugee conditions in Iran were made easier as the government was highly supportive and took full responsibility to the refugees. Iran never restrained refugees in camps, but allowed them to intermingle with the rest of the population, as opposed to Pakistan. However, negative stereotyping by the Iranians never made life simple for the refugees (International Peace Research Institute, 2004).

According to BBC news online on 9 April 2002, the UNHCR had put in place programmes for repatriation of the refugees through an agreement which was first signed by the Iranian government. Pakistan followed the suit, where it signed a similar agreement barely a month after. According to reports by the UNHCR, conflict events of the 1989 and the successive year led to 1.5 million and 2.2 million refugees being dislocated in to Iran and Pakistan respectively. By 2002, the UNHCR estimates 400,000 refugees from both countries to be repatriated in to Afghanistan.

Disintegration of Yugoslavia and the Bosnia Refugee Crisis (1992-1995)

Rise and fall of the Yugoslav state in the 20th century

Yugoslavia was formed shortly after the world war one, in1929, initially being known as the kingdom of Yugoslavia. Later in that year it came to be known as the kingdom of the Serbs, Slovenes and Croats. By the end of the world war two, more constituent socialist republic provinces such as Bosnia, Macedonia, and Montenegro among others were integrated to form the Yugoslav state.

The states’ rise was as a result of the Serbian elite expansionist policy, which included all the Serbian ethnic groups. Motivations for unifications among the Serbian, Slovenians and Croatian elites were a great pillar which held the newly created state firmly. Prior to 1980’s, the Yugoslavian political system was characterized by legitimacy of its constructional rules, which got a lot of support from the United States, east Europe and the Soviet Union. Tito’s regime strengthened the bond between the states comprising the Yugoslav state until the start of the cold war in the late 1980’s, which was the major cause of the disintegration of the Yugoslav state.

Tito had established a firm set of federal bodies, for instance the collective presidency which was highly successful in maintaining stability in the federal state of Yugoslavia. Following the death of Tito, the inter-communal trust which had existed in the federal state was now eroding at a fast rate, and the Serbs began to overlook other republics and overruling the states in decision making. Slovenes as well as the Croats resulted in acting outside the set constitutional frameworks, a move which hastened the detoriation of the existing rules, leading to disintegration the state (Badredine, 2000).

Politics in the 20th century in Yugoslavia were highly characterized by interethnic violence, whereby several civil wars, particularly the 1991-1995 war of the Yugoslav succession, all which took place as a result of hatred between the different ethnic groups in the state.

Moreover, the political instability among the Yugoslav states consisting of Montenegro and Serbia is attributable to the failure of the governments to have in place a rule of law to govern their endeavors politically. The fall of the Yugoslav state surfaced after the explosion of the war of the Yugoslav succession in 1991 to 1995. The fall is also attributed to the absence of political legitimacy as well as failures in the process of the state building project (Ramet, 2006).

The delicate situation in Bosnia leading to bloodshed and population displacements

The attempts by internally displaced Bosnian refugees to return to their ancestral homeland, specifically in northern Bosnia was met with a lot of resistance from the Serbs, after the ethnic cleansing of 1992. The resistance was escalated as the returnees tried to reclaim their homes,. Present residents mainly the Serbs pelted stones to the returnees, provoking which ignited fresh clashes and conflicts in Bosnia.

The Serbs were also other displaced refugees who feared displacement once again, a situation which led to a blood shedding clash. Later on a committe4e between the Serbians and the Bosnians was formed. Through the committee, the Serbians willingly decided to vacate Bosnian houses, which they had occupied, and helped the Bosnians in returning to their houses (Michael & Sambanis, 2006, p. 235).

The situation was more problematic in Bosnia than in Slovenia and Croatia, as the latter two were only interested in gaining independence from the Serbs’ manipulation, while the former had land issues with the Serbs in addition, to the failing federal and legitimacy in the state (Michael & Sambanis, 2006, p.236).

Ethnic cleansing, its rationale and the outcomes

In 1992, Bosnian got its independence from the Yugoslav state, after Slovenia and Croatia had declared their sovereignty in 1991. The state had officially fallen apart. Intense fighting began which is significantly Europe’s bloodiest war after the world war two. The notion behind the fighting was the traditional hatred between the Yugoslav ethnic groups. European and western allies as well as ethnic armies were advanced to expel civilians from other ethnic groups out of town which they conquered with the aim of creating ethnically pure regions for each ethnic group in Yugoslavia. Sometimes the Hague war crimes tribunal issued specific rationales in the cleansing process. Refugees from a certain ethnic group were “cleansed” from the homes they had acquired and made to live in another “cleansed” fresh territory. Danner (1992) pointed out five steps which were involved in the ethnic cleansing process in Yugoslavia, namely concentration, decapitation, separation, evacuation and liquidation.

The aftermath of the cleansing process was evidenced by the creation of more than two million refugees as well as displaced people in Yugoslavia. The expulsion of Serbs from Croatia was escalated and more ferocious atrocities by the Serbs emerging in Kosovo (Michael & Sambanis, 2006, p.239).

Difficulties and dilemmas facing humanitarian agencies

Working in areas and situation of armed conflicts was a major dilemma and difficult facing humanitarian agencies. In Yugoslavia reports suggests that the UNHCR was perceived to undertake political roles, a move which jeopardized their operations. Lack of international political will, the operational environment as well as its response to the ethnic cleansing comprised of the difficulties and dilemmas they faced in their operations in Yugoslavia.

Limitations of security in eastern Bosnia and UNPROFOR’s mandate

Active involvement of the UN came in 1991 in Yugoslavia when its security council adopted resolution 713(1991), calling for cease of military equipment in all states in Yugoslavia. Limitation on safe areas in eastern Bosnia emerged as a result of impending opposition to the peacekeeping mission in the area; hence the then UN secretary general recommended the establishment of UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR). The force’s mandate was to reinforce the UN peace keeping operations, a factor to enhance restoration of peace and security, in the process of resettling the Yugoslavia crisis. Giving protection to the humanitarian convoys was its mandate also (Michael & Sambanis, 2006, p.240).

Causes of inaction by part of Europe and the west

Several reasons made part of Europe and the west to be reluctant in getting involved in the crisis in Yugoslavia. The USA coupled by other western allies were not much involved in quelling the conflict as they assumed that policing of the world troubled spots was much costly and a heavy burden, following the a global economic crisis after the cold war.

The west reacted insignificantly to reports of the ethnic cleansing, and as a result of criticism from the public, the west, through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) decided to act at last, following proof of civilian massacres in Kosovo, the first ever military operation on a sovereignty state with its citizens (Ramet, 2006).

Works Cited

  1. (n.d) Web.
  2. “Afghan Refugees in Iran and Pakistan: From Refugee Emergency to Migration Management.”
  3. International Peace Research Institute- Oslo. 2004.
  4. Badredine, Arfi. “International change and the stability of multiethnic states.” Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2000.
  5. Barrington L., W. After independence-Rwanda. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2006.
  6. Danner, Mark. “” 1992. Web.
  7. “Explaining Rwanda’s Genocide and the Conflict in the Congo.” 2000.
  8. Kashambuzi, Eric. Uganda’s Development Agenda in the 21st Century And Related Regional Issue Bloomington, IN: Jones Harvest Publishing, 2008.
  9. Michael, Doyle & Nicholas Sambanis. Making war and building peace. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006
  10. Ramet, S., P. “The Three Yugoslavia’s: State-Building and legitimating”. 1918-2005 BBC News Saturday, 2006.
  11. Special Report. “Deadlock in the Rwandan Refugee Crisis: Repatriation Virtually at a Standstill.” 1995.
  12. ” UNHCR Fundraising Reports. 1998. Web.
  13. ” UK BBC News. 2002. Web.
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