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RWANDA, Landmine Monitor Report 2001
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Key developments since May 2000: There are serious allegations of antipersonnel mine use by Rwandan troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly in June 2000. Rwanda denies the allegations. Mine clearance operations resumed in Rwanda in June 2000. As a result by January 2001, 2,966 mines and UXO were removed and 11,337 square meters of land were cleared for resettlement.

Mine Ban Policy

Rwanda signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997 and ratified it on 13 June 2000. The treaty entered into force for Rwanda on 1 December 2000. A presidential order of 24 December 1998 confirms the incorporation of the ban treaty into domestic law, but implementation legislation is not yet in place.[1] Rwanda’s initial Article 7 transparency report was due on 30 May 2001, but has not yet been submitted.

Rwanda did not participate in the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty held in September 2000 nor did it attend the intersessional Standing Committee meetings in December 2000 and May 2001. However, it did send representatives to the Bamako Seminar on Universalization and Implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty in Africa, held on 15-16 February 2001. Rwanda was absent from the vote on the November 2000 UN General Assembly resolution in support of the Mine Ban Treaty. Rwanda is not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons and did not attend the Second Annual Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II held in Geneva in December 2000.


Since 1998, there has been no reported new use of mines in Rwanda. However, there have been ongoing allegations of mine use in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by various fighting forces, including by Rwanda and opposition forces it supports. Rwandan officials have repeatedly denied allegations of mine use in the DRC and said Rwanda is committed to the 1999 Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement.

Landmine Monitor Report 2000 cited allegations that Rwandan forces had used antipersonnel mines during the fighting around Kisangani in the DRC in June 2000.[2] Since that time, a United Nations assessment mission and aid workers in Kisangani have confirmed the presence of large numbers of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). In July 2000, a United Nations official in Kisangani told Landmine Monitor that Rwanda and Uganda had both used mines in the fighting over Kisangani.[3] Rebels claimed that Rwandan and Ugandan troops left more than 4,000 landmines in the town.[4] In its human rights report on Rwanda for 2000, the US State Department noted, “There were unconfirmed reports that Rwandan and Ugandan forces used landmines during the fighting in Kisangani.”[5]

A United Nations assessment mission in August 2000, tasked with assessing the damage to the civilian population of the fighting between Rwanda and Uganda in Kisangani in June 2000, reported that: “Landmines and unexploded ordnance are still a major impediment to the return of displaced people to their homes and to the resumption of daily life in the city. Mines were laid in strategic locations to prevent the advance of troops and to protect retreating forces.... Reports indicated that some mines were laid after the ceasefire.”[6]

In June 2000, Uganda had accused Rwanda of mining the Tshopo bridge in Kisangani.[7] In its report, the UN states, “Landmines were also laid by retreating forces on the [Tshopo] bridge and along major routes.... Around 18 mines were placed on the Tshopo bridge, the major link in the city.”[8]

Congolese refugees told Landmine Monitor that Rwandan soldiers planted mines in the roads leading to Kisangani from Basoko and Bafwasende, and that four mine incidents had occurred in February and March 2001. Landmine Monitor was not in a position to verify these claims.[9]

It should be noted that Rwanda, which signed the Mine Ban Treaty in December 1997, formally submitted its ratification of the treaty to the United Nations on 13 June 2000 – just two days after the intense fighting in Kisingani ended. The treaty entered into force for Rwanda on 1 December 2000. Though Rwanda was not a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty during the June 2000 battle, the use of mines by a signatory can be judged a breach of its international obligations. Under Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, “A state is obliged to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty when...it has signed the treaty....” Clearly, use of mines defeats the object and purpose of the Mine Ban Treaty.

In 2001, the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement finally began to take hold, and Congolese government, rebel and foreign troops began the process of disengagement and redeployment. However, there are reports and allegations that landmines continued to be used even into this disengagement phase. Congolese diplomats have alleged that foreign forces and rebels have laid mines in Orientale Province following the cessation of hostilities, in order to mark off areas of occupation.[10]

The UN Secretary General’s April 2001 report on the DRC stated, “During the disengagement phase, MONUC [United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] received information indicating the presence of minefields laid by the belligerent forces to protect their front-line positions....” The report also referred to “both the increased number of new defensive positions and the danger of mines....”[11] The UN report language is not clear about when the mines were laid. Landmine Monitor has not been able to confirm recent use, and does not know to which “belligerent forces” the United Nations report refers, be it FAC, rebels, Uganda, Rwanda, or others.

In May 2001, President Kagame told the UN that the presence of Rwandan rebels in the DRC “prevent his forces from withdrawing from the war....”[12]

Assisting Mine Use

Even if allegations of use of antipersonnel mines by Rwandan forces involved in the conflict in the DRC proved to be false, Landmine Monitor is concerned that Rwanda could be at risk of violating the Mine Ban Treaty by virtue of close military cooperation, including joint combat operations, with rebel armed forces that may use antipersonnel mines.[13] Under Article 1 of the Mine Ban Treaty, a State Party may not “under any circumstance...assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity that is prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.”

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling

Rwanda is not believed to have ever produced or exported antipersonnel mines. It has imported mines,[14] but the size and composition of its stockpile are unknown. Rwanda’s Article 7 report, due 20 May 2001, should provide the first details of Rwanda’s stockpile and plans for destruction.

Landmine Problem, Survey and Assessment

Rwanda’s mine problem is the result of the civil war ending in 1998. The worst hit areas are Kigali (rural), Byumba, Ruhengeri, Gisenyi and Umutara. Some 90% of the northeast region has been cleared. The northwestern region (Gisenyi and Ruhengeri) is the most mine-affected. The National Demining Office (NDO) has opened branches in Ruhengeri and Gisenyi. The NDO says that the area affected is farming land, and as such, contends it cannot be fenced or marked.[15] The war has also left behind large numbers of unexploded ordnance, especially in eastern and northern districts where heavy battles took place. This poses a serious threat to women and children, who collect fuel, wood and water, and look after cattle and farms.

The NDO has a survey team that moves around the country to identify mine-affected areas; this helps prioritize NDO activities and set a target date for the completion of clearance.[16] Minefields are identified based on war history (areas of heavy fighting) and on reports from the communities who have benefited from the mine awareness campaign.

Mine Action Funding

The US government, which has been the only external source of support for mine action in Rwanda, has supported the NDO with funds as well as with equipment, logistical support, explosives, and training. The funding is scheduled to end in June 2001. The US has provided support to NDO to build local capacity; NDO is capable of training its own deminers, dog handlers and dogs used in the demining activities. The United States has asked Rwanda to allocate a certain percentage of its annual budget to mine action related activities. Rwanda paid the salaries of 152 trained mine action experts employed by NDO, but has not budgeted for mine action activities in FY 2001.[17]

The US provided a total of $14.2 million in mine action assistance to Rwanda for fiscal years 1995-2000. That includes $1.8 million in FY 1999 and $291,999 in FY 2000.[18] Negotiations are going on between Rwanda and the US about new funding, but the US has said that it is not going to fund the next phase of a mine awareness campaign starting in July 2001.[19]

Mine Clearance and Mine Awareness

The NDO is the sole coordinating body of mine action activities in the country. The NDO is concentrating its efforts in the northwest with a view to opening up the area for resettlement, development and tourism.[20]

Mine clearance that had been suspended due to lack of explosives since December 1999 resumed in June 2000. By January 2001, 2,966 mines and UXO had been cleared.[21] In November 2000, Rwanda officials reported that 22,154 landmines had been neutralized countrywide from an estimated total of 50,000.[22] From October 2000 to January 2001, the total area cleared was 11,337 square meters.[23]

Since July 2000, NDO has focused its action in the following minefields: Mpfunda in Gisenyi (North West), Nyabishambi in Byumba (North), Nkana in Mutara (North East), Kanombe and Nyamirambo (Kigali Rural urban), and Jali (Kigali Rural). Areas like Nyabarongo valley have been cleared and handed over to the owners after a technical survey by KIST.[24]

By 31 December 2001, NDO plans to have carried out mine awareness in at least 80 new schools, and to have cleared at least 60,000 square meters of land (clearing 250 square meters per day).[25]

According to the director of the National Demining Office, the positive impact of the mine awareness campaign has resulted in decreased casualties and an increasing number of reports from communities on locations of mines and/or UXO.[26]

Landmine Casualties

Complete details of people killed or injured by landmines is Rwanda is difficult to obtain. The only information available is from records of casualties registered in medical centers. The NDO reports 24 landmine casualties in 2000 and four in the first month of 2001. All but two of the casualties were men; they are the ones who most frequently ventured into the bush.[27]

Landmine Casualties in 2000 and January 2001

Kigali Ngali
Kigali Town



Survivor Assistance

The NDO does not offer any medical or rehabilitation assistance to mine victims because it has no funds for this activity.[28] However, Handicap International and Mulindi Japan One Love Project (MJOLP) offer some assistance.[29]

Handicap International is setting up rehabilitation units in hospitals, primarily in the main hospital in Kigali, where people with leg amputations can be fitted with prostheses. Fourteen units in the country are providing physiotherapy, five of which are also providing orthopedic appliances. Between January 2000 and March 2001, HI provided assistance to 1,152 people, 225 of which were landmine victims. Ninety-eight patients were landmine amputees. Not all patients were new victims in 2000. Twenty-three prostheses were provided and 73 old prostheses were repaired.[30]

MJOLP is a joint Rwandan/Japanese NGO that supports people with disability in Rwanda. The MJOLP makes prostheses and orthoses free of charge for people who are suffering from mines, polio and other diseases. The MJOLP is constructing a Center for people with disability in Kigali. Between June 2000 and June 2001, MJOLP provided prostheses to 116 people injured by landmines.[31]

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[1] Order of the President, no. 38/01, 24 December 1998.
[2] Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 115.
[3] Landmine Monitor/Human Rights Watch telephone interview with UN official in Kisangani, 28 July 2000. The official said that mines were planted around Bangoka International airport and on a section of the Kisangani-Buta road known as Km 31, and that a number of areas had been declared off-limits because of landmines. Another source indicated mines were laid at Simi Simi and Bunia airport and Ikela. Landmine Monitor/Human Rights Watch interview with BRZ International Ltd., Johannesburg, June 2000. BRZ is a South African mine clearance firm which conducted a survey in DRC in 2000 and described it as “badly contaminated.”
[4] “Rebels say more than 4,000 Mines Left in Kisangani,” Agence France Presse (Kisangani), 21 July 2000, in FBIS.
[5] US Department of State, Country Report on Human Rights Practices: Rwanda, February 2001.
[6] UN Security Council, S/2000/1153, “Letter dated 4 December 2000 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council,” and “Annex: Report of the inter-agency assessment mission to Kisangani,” 4 December 2000, p. 9.
[7] Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp. 90-91; “Tchopo Bridge Mines,” New Vision, 19 June 2000.
[8] UN Security Council, S/2000/1153, “Letter dated 4 December 2000 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council,” and “Annex: Report of the inter-agency assessment mission to Kisangani,” 4 December 2000, pp. 3 and 9.
[9] Landmine Monitor researcher for the DRC interviews with Congolese refugees, Kampala, Uganda, 2 April 2001.
[10] Landmine Monitor researcher for the DRC interviews with DRC diplomats in Kampala, Uganda, 2 April 2001, and in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, 9 April 2001.
[11] “Seventh report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” UN Security Council, S/2001/373, 17 April 2001, p. 9.
[12] “Rwanda wants DRC rebels neutralized,” SAPA, Kigali, 25 May 2001, (see http://news24.co.za).
[13] See the Democratic Republic of Congo report in this edition of Landmine Monitor, and Landmine Monitor Report 2000, for allegations of rebel use of mines in the DRC.
[14] See Landmine Monitor Report 1999, p. 162 for details.
[15] Interview with the NDO acting director, Lt. Vincent Haguma, Kigali, 30 January 2001.
[16] Ibid.
[17] All of the information in this paragraph comes from an interview with Lt. Vincent Haguma, NDO, Kigali, 30 January 2001.
[18] US Department of State, “Demining Program Financing History,” dated 24 October 2000.
[19] Interview with Lt. Vincent Haguma, 30 January 2001.
[20] National Demining Office Plan of Action 2001, p. 2.
[21] National Demining Office, Database Department.
[22] “Rwanda Neutralizes more than 22,000 landmines,” PANA, quoting Lt. Vincent Haguma, 18 November 2000.
[23] National Demining Office, Database Department.
[24] NDO Report July 2000 to January 2001.
[25] NDO Plan of Action 2001, p. 2.
[26] Interview with Lt. Vincent Haguma, 30 January 2001.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Ibid.
[29] For more detail see Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp. 94-95.
[30] Email from Florence Thune, Program Officer, Handicap International France, 4 July 2001.
[31] Information received from Japan Campaign to Ban Landmines in an email on 16 July 2001.