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Country Reports
RWANDA, Landmine Monitor Report 1999


Mine Ban Policy

Rwanda signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997, but has not yet ratified. Rwanda attended, as an observer, the international strategy meeting in October 1996 which launched the Ottawa Process. It also participated in the Bonn preparatory meeting and endorsed the Brussels Declaration, but it did not attend the Oslo treaty negotiations. Rwanda supported the pro-ban 1996 and 1997 UN General Assembly resolutions on landmines.

Rwanda military forces have been supporting opposition forces fighting against the government of Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). (See country report on DRC). The Namibian Defense Ministry, among others, has accused Rwanda of laying mines in the conflict. When two Namibian soldiers (fighting in support of Kabila) were killed by a landmine in November 1998, the Defense Ministry said that it and its allies “hold Rwanda and Uganda responsible for using antipersonnel landmines, weapons which the international community has banned.”[1] However, there is no conclusive evidence that Rwandan forces have used AP mines.

Production, Transfer and Stockpiling

Rwanda is not believed to have ever produced or exported antipersonnel mines. In the early 1990s, thousands of Ugandan National Resistance Army (NRA) allegedly defected en masse to the Rwandan Patriotic Front, bringing weapons with them, including antipersonnel mines.[2] Rwanda has also imported mines in the past through the former government of the late President Habyarimana, via the FAR.[3] Rwanda received two thousand MAT-79 antipersonnel mines from Egypt.[4] These plastic blast mines are copies of the Italian VS-50. Belgian antipersonnel mines are also believed to have been supplied to Rwanda.[5] The United Nations records thirty-nine types of mines being found in Rwanda from Belgium, China, former Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Italy, Pakistan, former Soviet Union, and the U.S. Italian and Russian mines are the most common.[6] Details on the size and composition of Rwanda’s current stockpile of AP mines are not available.


The most populous ethnic groups in Rwanda are the majority Hutu and the minority Tutsi. In 1990 exiled Tutsi rebels, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), launched an insurgency war against the Hutu-dominated Rwandan government. The RPF closed in on the capital Kigali in 1993 but a cease-fire for arranged through international mediation efforts. The presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were set to sign a peace settlement when their aircraft was shot down on 6 April 1994, allegedly by Hutu hard liners. The assassinations marked the start of a genocide in Rwanda in which at least half a million minority Tutsi were killed and thousands of Hutu moderates were slaughtered by Hutu extremists. The RPF meanwhile moved into Kigali on 4 July 1994 ousting the new Hutu leadership and an estimated 1 million Hutu fled the Tutsi take-over to neighboring states.

At the onset of the RPF incursion from Uganda, in September 1990, landmines were placed by the former government forces of Armed Forces of Rwanda (FAR) especially within the RPF entry areas from Uganda, around Ruhengeri and Byumba. Minefields were laid in the north of the country along the border with Uganda. The heaviest concentration of known landmines is in north and northeastern portion of the country in the rural farmlands where government soldiers mined roads, footpaths and fields to impeded the advance of the RPF forces. Tea plantations north of Kigali and parts of the Kagera National Park were also mined.[7]

Because of the fierce battle for the control of Kigali in 1994 which lasted about three months, "areas near infrastructures like schools, hospitals, factories, military barracks were heavily mined" reported the Head of the National Demining Office, Maj. Joshua Mbaraga.[8] For example, four children were killed and nine other people injured in a mine blast in Gikondo suburb of Kigali in October 1995. The explosion occurred when a group of children were playing.[9] The FAR forces laid mines in several towns during their retreat in 1994. All the main military barracks were also heavily mined in 1994 by the FAR to prevent rebel (RPF) attack.

In 1995 and 1996, the Rwandan government fought a growing threat from soldiers (ex-FAR) and militia of the former government, who had been leading incursions from refugee camps in Zaire. The infiltrators, part of the force that carried out a genocide, remained committed to returning Rwanda by force and to completing the extermination of the Tutsi.[10] At first the infiltrators used bombs and mines to target electricity pylons, vehicles, and buildings and increasingly witnesses to the genocide and local officials.[11] In April 1996, U.N. human rights observers were unable to secure first hand accounts of killings during a gun battle which took place in Rutsiro village of the lakeside town of Kibuye because the village was off-limits due to landmines.[12] A patrolling Rwandan army officer complained in May that "the infiltrators are around us. Its dangerous here. They lay mines, they fire at us. We don't see them."[13] Due to the rebel and government military operations in these areas there is a high level of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees, normal agricultural and pastoral activities are severely curtailed, some due to landmines.

Landmine Problem

According to the U.N. and U.S. data bases there are between 100,000 and 250,000 mines in Rwanda.[14] Rwanda's National Demining Office estimated in December 1997 the figure to be 100,000.

Mine Action Funding

In January and February 1995, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) sent a team to Kigali to undertake a site assessment to determine the parameters, scope and extent of a humanitarian demining program. This was followed in July and August when thirty-five U.S. military personnel helped to establish a National Demining Office (NDO) and train 120 Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) personnel for the NDO at a cost of US$1.2 million. In support of this program the U.S DoD provided demining equipment, medical supplies and communications equipment. The U.S. Department of Defense also funded the operations of a U.S. contractor, RONCO, for a demining dog training program including equipment and services at a cost of $1.4 million.[15]

Some military maps exist of the mined areas. In September 1995, the Rwandan government opened its National Office of Demining. The office keeps a data base and a country map on mined areas and updates this data base every month, including the casualty incidences.

Between September and October 1996, twelve U.S. military conducted a refresher demining training course for seventy-two RPA personnel at a cost of US$160,000. This training focused on mine clearance, minefield survey techniques, mine marking and medical training. This training team also assisted in integrating the eighteen RONCO-trained demining dogs into the Rwandan demining operations. Nine other U.S. military personnel conducted specialized training for the National Demining Office in mine awareness and an assessment of earlier humanitarian demining training at a cost of $38,000.[16] Follow-up training occurred between March and May 1997 when ten U.S. military personnel conducted a train-the-trainer course in the NDO. The team also established a computer training program in the NDO, revitalizing the NDO's data collection center. Between May and July a second team of eleven U.S. personnel conducted training on humanitarian demining for ninety-three RPA deminers and EOD personnel at the NDO in Kigali and at the Rebero training site in eastern Rwanda.[17] Canada also provided demining experts after the 1994 genocide within the United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR) forces that came to Rwanda. UNAMIR withdrew in March 1996.

Destruction of the cleared mines is through explosions against a wall of sand bags. The British and U.S. governments assisted with this.[18] According to Paul Brown of RONCO,'clearing of mines is concentrated on former defensive positions of the former government, including terraces and areas surrounding defensive positions.' Brown further stated that the major problem in demining was that many mines were ' indiscriminately laid.'[19]

The humanitarian demining/mine clearance by the military is said to be very effective, at ninety to ninety five percent success level. According to the government sources the total area cleared is 75 percent, comprising of 65 per cent clearance of agricultural/grazing land; 95 per cent transportation areas; 100 per cent of infrastructure area; 95 per cent of population area; and 35 per cent in others (national parks). Most of the clearance has been in the Mutara, Byumba and Kigali prefectures. According to the government the national priorities for demining are: one, socio-economic areas; two, schools and hospitals; and three, resettlement areas. The records of areas cleared are accessible and maintained at the NDO.[20]

Mine Awareness

The need for mine awareness education was long recognized by the Rwandese government, and the NDO is charged with mine awareness education and indeed runs an aggressive mine awareness program which comprises radio programs, TV adverts, t-shirts and banners. According to the NDO, twelve people have been trained as mine awareness educators[21].

UNESCO and UNICEF working with teachers and health authorities, launched a campaign to sensitize people on the presence of mines and other UXOs. More than 2000 teachers have been trained. The campaign has its own song, which is played on national radio. In November 1994, 500,000 posters and booklets in Kinyarwanda were distributed to school teachers. Mine awareness materials were linked to UNESCO-Program for Education for Emergencies and Reconstruction (UNESCO-PEER) school in a box, which aims to teach children about the dangers of landmines, while at the same time providing basic literacy and numeracy.[22]

Landmine Survivor Assistance

Incidences of casualties of AT mines as well as AP mines still continue to rise due to insurgency and counter insurgency operations in Rwanda. Up to last year (1998) 500 people were recorded by the NDO has having been killed by mines. The death rate has been reduced to an average of one per month. Both civilians and military personnel are affected. Most of the civilian casualties are women and children.

Rwanda's health infrastructure is being steadily rebuilt but regaining former levels of health cover is proving difficult. The NPA started its relief efforts in Rwanda after the genocide that took place in 1994. NPA is engaged in rehabilitation and running of two regional hospitals in Nyagatare and Cyangugu.[23] There are several centers for prosthetics run by the ICRC South of Kigali. The ICRC opened a hospital in Kigali in 1994 and from 1995 to 1997 seconded Swiss and German Red Cross teams to Kibue Hospital. This has now become an ICRC-run project. The ICRC has run a rehabilitation program in Gatagara since 1996.[24]


[1]Namibian Ministry of Defense Media Release, “NDF members wounded in the DRC,” 26 November 1998.

[2]Ibid, p. 19.

[3]In 1993 the South African arms manufacturer Armscor refused to issue Denel any further export permits to Rwanda and it had to dishonor an order worth US$45 million. This order included 5,000 antipersonnel mines. See, Jacklyn Cock, "A Sociological Account of Light Weapons Proliferation in Southern Africa,"in Jasjit Singh, Light Weapons and International Security (Delhi: Indian Pugwash Society and British American Security International Council, 1995) footnote eight, p.123.

[4]Human Rights Watch Arms Project, Arming Rwanda: The Arms Trade and Human Rights Abuses in the Rwandan War, Vol. 6, Issue 1, January 1994, p. 15.

[5]Ibid, p. 30.

[6]UNDHA, Landmine Data Base, Country Report: Rwanda: NR 409, NR 413, PRB 409, PRB M35 (Belgium); Type 72a, Type 72b (China); PP-MI-SR-II (Czech Republic); M-78, T 79 (Egypt); PPM-2 (Germany); TS 50, VS-50, Valmara 59, Valmara 69 (Italy); P2 Mk2, P4 Mk1 (Pakistan); MON-50, PMD7s, PMN, PMN-1, POMZ-2, POMZ-2M (Russia); M-14, M-2A4, M16-A2, M18A1 "Claymore", M2A1, M2A3 (U.S.).

[7]UN, Landmine Database. Country Report: Rwanda, http://www.un.org/depts/


[8]Inter Press Service, 15 May 1996.

[9]Agence France Presse, 2 October 1995.

[10]Human Rights Watch, 'Rwanda,' Human Rights Watch World Report 1997 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1996) p.46.

[11]Reuters, 5 February 1996.

[12]Reuters, 11 April 1996.

[13]Reuters, 24 May 1996.

[14]UNDHA, Landmine Database. Country Report: Rwanda, http://www.un.org/depts/landmine/country/rwanda.html; and U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers: The Global Landmine Crisis (Washington DC: U.S. Department of State, 1998) p.A-2.

[15]'Summary - Report to Congress on U.S. Military Activities in Rwanda, 1994 - August 1997,' p.1. Available at: www.eucom.mil/africa/rw/index.htm.

[16]Ibid, p.2.

[17]Ibid, p.5.

[18]Paul Brown of RONCO talking about mine clearance in Rwanda in Kigali in 1998 on Reuters film footage by Patrick Kariuki Muiruri, Reuters cameraman, Nairobi.


[20]LM Researcher interview with Patrick Kariuki Muiruri, Reuters cameraman, Nairobi, 4 January 1999.


[22]UNESCO, Mine Awareness Education: a country review and curriculum for Bosnia.

[23]NPA, NPA Annual Report 1996 (Oslo: NPA, 1996)

[24]ICRC, 'Landmines in Africa,' ICRC Fact Sheet, May 1997.