MSF Speaking Out

The violence of the new Rwandan regime 1994-1995

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Constraints and dilemmas under the new Rwandan regime

The ‘Violence of the new Rwandan regime’ case study is describing the difficulties and dilemmas that Médecins Sans Frontières faced in 1994 and 1995 when confronted with the abuses and crimes of the new regime that had taken over in Rwanda in July 1994. From the moment the new regime took control, Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) teams witnessed abuses and brutalities committed by the administration and armed forces, particularly against displaced populations and the hundreds of thousands of detainees crammed into prisons. Prisoners were dying at an alarming rate while awaiting trials that were endlessly delayed by the paralysis of the judiciary system.

MSF spoke out, publicly criticising the inhuman conditions in which detainees were being held and calling for improvements, resulting in the expulsion of the French section of MSF from Rwanda in December 1995. 

Internal debates preceding MSF's expulsion:

  • Should MSF keep silent in order to continue caring for detainees who might otherwise die in the appalling prison conditions?
  • Was it acceptable for MSF, having denounced the génocidaires’ control over the Rwandan refugees in Zaire and Tanzania, to encourage the return of these refugees to Rwanda, given the insecurity that potentially awaited them?
  • Did MSF have a responsibility to alert them to what was occurring in Rwanda?
  • Could MSF – after having issued a call for an international armed intervention to put an end to the genocide – now criticise the regime that had effectively done so, thereby risking accusations of favouring the génocidaires and supporting the revisionists?

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Additional materials

MAP MSF Programmes in Rwanda 1994-1995
MSF Programmes in Rwanda 1994-1995