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IRIN Emergency Update No. 107 on the Great Lakes for 24 February 1997
* Hope that talks in South Africa would lead to negotiations between Zaire's warring parties has dimmed, and fighting in eastern Zaire escalated over the weekend. After an initial promise from the rebels that fighting would be "scaled back" to give the talks a chance, new territory was taken in a fresh rebel advance on Saturday. The Zairean government on its part has refused to negotiate with rebels - saying there had "never been any question of meeting" rebel members - and resumed air-strikes.
Rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila says he will only negotiate directly with Mobutu, otherwise he will "resume hostilities which will raze the country". Rebel Radio of the People, Bukavu, claimed on Sunday that the rebels were heading for Gbadolite - President Mobutu's home retreat - and were only a few kilometres from Kisangani airport.
The rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) have taken Kalima town, the Zairean defence ministry confirmed on Sunday. About 25,000 Rwandans and Burundians, who had been given basic humanitiarian assistance at a site four kilometres outside the town, fled on Saturday when the rebels advanced. A UN plane arrived on Saturday to find the refugee site deserted; UN officials believe many of the refugees are heading southwest towards Kindu (away from the direction of the Rwandan border). Before they dispersed, people at the refugee site were described by aid workers as being in "very poor condition". Humanitarian workers say that 15 died on Friday, reports AFP.
Reports from Kisangani say that dozens of people were killed in Zairean air-raids over the last few days. Air-raids are said to be concentrated on rebel positions on the road between Kisangani - the most strategic town yet threatened by the ADFL - and Bafwasende, further north. Government forces say the bombardments will continue until the area is "cleansed", report news agencies.
* WFP reports that the death rate in Tingi-Tingi remains high despite improved food supplies. About 40 people a day die, mostly children and infants. The presence of armed Rwandan militia in the camps in Tingi-Tingi has led to growing concern about a possible attack on the camps by the rebels, despite the reassurances given by ADFL that the UN will be given time to find ways to separate the two groups.
* The South African government is now attempting "close proximity" talks after failing to arrange face-to-face talks on the Zaire conflict. Honore Ngwanda, a senior security advisor and nephew of President Mobutu Sese Seko, is representing the government and Dr Kalaha Bizima - Kabila's advisor on foreign affairs - is representing the ADFL.
South African President Nelson Mandela said today he believed progress had been made in multinational efforts towards peace in the Great Lakes region, and that the next step was to set up a meeting between Mobutu and the four African heads-of-state mandated to co-ordinate the peace process. He said the meeting would take place on March 19, but did not name the venue. Mandela said he would speak soon to Kenya's President Moi, who has led regional peace inititiatives.
The East African weekly newspaper reports that the South African diplomatic initiative in the Zaire crisis had the effect of "stealing the ball" from President Moi of Kenya. President Moi hosted two heads of state summits in Nairobi, but has since been denounced as partisan by the rebels. According to diplomatic sources, Moi rejects rebel participation in talks - in contrast to the Mandela initiative. In an editorial, the paper said that the various regional and international initiatives should not be dismissed as: "If a thread leading to a solution can be disentangled from the knotty morass of ambitions currently focussed on the central African giant, such an outcome should be welcomed, whatever the source". US involvement in the talks has "deepened", reports the East African, because of fears that Zaire may soon collapse and again raise the spectre of international military intervention - a step that Washington would want to resist.
The daily state-owned Kenya Times said in a commentary yesterday that the South African initiative "appears to have been made without due consultation with the rest of the players of the mediation efforts and perhaps without due regard to the on-going Nairobi mediation plan". It said President Mobutu was right to reject talks with rebels and insist that troops from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda "left Zaire".
* Joint OAU/UN Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, Mohamed Sahnoun, called on the UN Security Council on Friday to intervene urgently in Zaire, which he said could have enormous regional - and even global - consequences. He said that if the five permanent Security Council members (Britian, China, France, Russia and the United States did not apply pressure to end hostilities: "An entire belt of the African continent could be affected". He said world stock markets would be affected if the vast mineral resources in Zaire are hit. Sahnoun, who recently devised a five-point peace plan endorsed by the UN Security Council, emphasised the need for diplomacy and said armed intervention may have to be used "as a last resort", reports AFP. In Geneva, Sahnoun talked of the "humanitarian tragedy" in eastern Zaire and the politically explosive neighbouring states of Rwanda and Burundi.
* Belgian Cooperation Minister Reginald Moreels said in Brussels that the rebels were suspected of sparking "a fresh wave of indiscrimate genocide". In an interview with Het Laatste Nieuws magazine and on BRTN radio he said the rebels were killing Rwandan Hutus and displaced Zairean citizens. Moreels said it was essential to send in an armed international peace force to the Great Lakes.
* The Zairean crisis government has appointed a new commander of land forces, General Mosala Monja Ndongo, reported Zairean television on Sunday. General Mosala, a former commander of the eighth military region, in western Zaire, replaces General Malumba.
* Zairean soldiers among thousands of refugees have been rioting in Tanzania, says Home Affairs Minister Ali Ameir Mohamed. In an interview published today, the Tanzanian Home Affairs Minister said the government is looking at moving them to another country. He said the government was consulting with UNHCR and ICRC. Kigoma Regional Commissioner Yusuf Makamba said the soldiers became violent when security officials went to their camp to search for stolen goods, and had injured several civilians.
* Two vessels carrying more than 800 Zairean refugees are believed to be marooned on Lake Tanganyika after running out of fuel, reports AFP. The plight of the refugees, en route to Zambia, has been reported in the Zambian state-owned Times. The paper said the Zambian government and the UNHCR were planning a rescue mission. Missionaries in the area reportedly spotted the vessels a week ago, heading south. WFP reports the influx of Zaireans into Zambia currently stands at 7,200. UNHCR and the Government of Zambia are screening the refugees and relocating them in transit centres near Kasama, about 120 kilometres south of Mpulungu. The influx is expected to continue.
* In Burundi, the government continues to set up regroupment centres. New camps are being set up in Bujumbaura Rural and Bururi provinces, the government recently announced. On February 12, national radio announced the creation of a camp near Gitaza, 35 kilometres south of Bujumbura. According to local press reports, military authorities have told those living in surrounding hills that if they failed to voluntarily register at the regroupment centre, then they would be considered rebels and treated accordingly. Local administrators say that at least 50,000 people will be under their protection at the site. The area has been a site of several confrontations between rebels and military units recently. Other new regroupment sites announced by the government are near Buyengero and Burmbi communities in Bururi. Aid workers say conditions in the regroupment camps vary considerably; there is concern about poor sanitation and disease in some of the camps.
* DHA's Financial Tracking Service has provided the following summary of contributions to the UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Flash Appeal for eastern Zaire (November 1996): of a requirement of $217.6 million, $148.7 has been pledged or contributed. The top five donors to the UN's programmes covered by the appeal are: EU (ECHO and DG8), USA, Japan, Norway and Italy. The appeal covered the period 1 November 1996 to 31 January 1997. UN Interagency Consolidated Appeals for the countries of the Great Lakes in 1997 are due to be launched in mid-March.
* Students in Nairobi, Kenya, rioted today after student leader Solomon Muruli was burnt to death in a mysterious blast in his dormitory room at 3am Sunday morning. A political activist, Muruli told the university last week that his life was in danger; he recieved death threats after identifying last Saturday a senior police officer as one who abducted and tortured him last November. Riots started on Sunday night, and resulted in looting, stoning of cars, and disruption of traffic when police closed off one of the main highways.
Nairobi, 24 February 1997, 15:30 GMT [ENDS]
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Date: Mon, 24 Feb 1997 18:39:14 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 107 for 24 Feb 1997 97.2.24 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970224183534.20778Cemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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