Lucretia Gaurwa writing in the Daily News (January 28) described what happened at the famous Benaco (Ngara) camp for 700,000 Rwandan refugees when they all suddenly went home last year. First, a month after they had gone, there was what was called the ‘Green harvest’ when people came from all sides to enjoy a free harvest of thousands of tons of beans, maize, potatoes, sorghum and millet the refugees had been cultivating.
The refugees had originally arrived in April 1994. Some small traders made a fortune by acquiring (often illegally) low-priced handouts like corn oil, flow, blankets and cement which had been received from donor agencies and then selling them to markets in distant districts at high prices. Local citizens benefited from the establishment of clean water supplies, health centres and other improved infrastructure.
But when they all left, the writer of the article said that Oxfam removed water installations and the price of clean water quickly jumped from Shs30 for a 20 litre can to Shs 700. The German-aided hospital was removed to new Burundi/Zaire refugee camps in Kigoma regon, leaving residents of Benaco to travel 32 kms to the hospital in Ngara town. A large number of people had been employed during the residence of the refugees but when the refugees left some of these people became criminals. On July 25 1996 the authorities decided to expel all them; all temporary structures covered by UN sheetings suspected to be harbouring bandits were demolished; unlicensed kiosks were closed; mud houses without doors were demolished; and Benaco returned to its condition before the refugees came. But now many of these people have come back again. Some are putting up permanent houses.