The article “Three decades in Exile: Rwandan Refugees 1960 – 1990” concentrates on the experiences of Tutsi refugees after the Hutu revolution in Rwanda. Van Der Meeren provides a deep insight into the Rwandan issue by monitoring the dynamics of the ethnic conflict from its beginning to the mid-1990’s. The problem of Rwandan refugees has been much spoken of, but Van Der Meeren gives a comprehensive account of major milestones in the history of the so-called “Great Lakes” region in Africa.
The article also outlines the consequences of Tutsi mass emigration.Rwandan refugees led to the escalation of ethnic conflicts in the region, namely in the neighboring Congo and Uganda. Three decades in exile resulted in the horrific civil war and ethic cleansing at the beginning of the 1990’s. Tutsi army (Rwandan Patriotic Front) invaded Rwanda from Uganda.
Unstable peace was established in 1993, but the tragic downing of a plane with the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi on board led to a new genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda. In response, Rwandan Patriotic Front started genocide in Burundi. The situation made the smooth conflict resolution and planed democratic reform unthinkable.We all know what happened next as well as about the role of UN in the conflict and its tragic aftermath.
The basic strength of the article lies within the author’s desire and ability to set a concrete framework for his research. Van Der Meeren keeps a focus on a specific period of time (from 1960 to 1990), and this also contributes to the scholarly nature of the article – otherwise “Three decades in Exile” risked turning into a BBC factsheet. In my humble opinion, the major drawback of the article is that it analyzes specific examples rather than general trends and tendencies.For instance, specific attention is paid to the early experiences of Tutsi refugees in Tanzania. Certainly, this story of relative success in integration is worth scrutiny and attention, but I would prefer a better analysis of Tutsi refugees’ experience in Congo and Uganda, which in the longer run led to the civil war and new surge of ethnic cleansings.
Summing up, I would like to state that Van Der Meeren’s article is informative, accessible and focusing on the in-depth analysis of Tutsi refugees’ experiences during the three decades of their exodus.