4.1 Case studies: Aid exacerbating conflict
Militarisation of the refugee camps of those fleeing Rwanda to Eastern Zaire (1994-95) was the catalyst for development of conflict-sensitive approaches. Mass exodus of the Hutu community was a deliberate policy of those who had committed genocide against Tutsi and moderate Hutu neighbours, as they expected international aid to flow to the refugees. They subsequently took control of the camps and exploited relief to consolidate their own power and launch attacks against Rwanda. The camps became places of violence and intimidation, and subsequent fighting resulted in over 200,000 camp inhabitants being killed. Agencies prioritised relief, but sidelined the regard for human rights and international humanitarian law. For example, the obligation to separate and possibly intern combatants under international humanitarian law was ignored. By prioritising relief to these camps while initially neglecting those remaining in Rwanda (who were vulnerable due to war-related damage, food shortages and psychological trauma), aid operations caused further divisions.
Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS)
OLS is promoted as a ‘success story’ of aid, with groundbreaking negotiated access from both Sudanese Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) creating ‘corridors of tranquility’ for humanitarian access. However, OLS enabled both parties to the conflict to consolidate their hold over their respective populations and to prepare for renewed violence – war recommenced within a year. There are some fundamental problems with the notion of ‘corridors of tranquility’. Delimiting humanitarian zones implicitly legitimises the conduct of war in other places – civilians outside them become ‘fair game’(Africa Rights, 1994). OLS highlights how relief allows armies to re-equip for renewed violence, and that humanitarian access can unintentionally legitimise violence in certain circumstances.
In Somalia, following the military intervention in 1992, humanitarian assistance was drawn into a symbiotic relationship with the militias. High aid diversion rates and violence against humanitarian actors required the use of security and haulage contractors whose interest lay in maintaining violence.
South-East Asian tsunami
At the time of the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, Indonesia’s Aceh Province had been under a state of emergency after decades of conflict between Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) and the Indonesian government. Huge levels of aid subsequently flowed into the newly opened-up province to assist victims of the tsunami, but little was available to assist other areas affected primarily by the conflict. This led to a disparity in assistance and increased insecurity as former GAM fighters returned to tsunami-affected areas where others were receiving assistance.