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IRIN Emergency Update No. 109 on the Great Lakes for 26 February 1997
* Laurent-Desire Kabila, rebel leader of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL), held talks in Pretoria, South Africa, with South African, US and UN officials. Joint OAU/UN Special Representative for the Great Lakes region, Mohamed Sahnoun, arrived in South Africa on Tuesday. The South African news agency SAPA reported that Sahnoun; US secretary of State for African Affairs George Moose; and South African deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad were present at the first round of "close proximity" talks. The South African government continues to stress that the talks would take time. One diplomat present at the talks said that the presence of UN/OAU and US officials aimed at reconciling all the international and regional initiatives for eastern Zaire (see IRIN Update 105).
The Zairean government representative, Honore Nzambo Ngbanda - senior security advisor and nephew to President Mobutu Sese Seko - is reported to have left South Africa. He participated in last weeks exploratory talks in Cape Town.
* Rebel spokesman Raphael Ghenda told AFP today in Goma that Kindu garrison town "is about to fall". He said that looting by soldiers and flight of the population "has become a classic scenario - our forces are on the point of capturing the town". Kindu has a major airport, is a railhead for the mineral-rich Shaba province, and was a major military base for the government counter-offensive. The Zairean government denies there has been looting.
* World Food Programme sent in its first airlift of emergency food supplies to Punia yesterday - an outpost about 170 kilometers south of Tingi-Tingi camps, eastern Zaire - where 4,000 Rwandans have arrived in poor nutritional condition. An estimated 160 refugees are arriving daily. A WFP/UNHCR mission visited Punia on Sunday. WFP said it completed its largest food distribution to date in Tingi-Tingi on Monday, where some 170,000 Rwandans received a seven-day food package containing maize, beans, corn-soya blend and vegetable oil. WFP said it now had "ample stocks" in Tingi-Tingi camps but was concerned about the impact of insecurity and the onset of the rainy season.
Humanitarian sources from Tingi-Tingi camps confirmed today that a commercial air operation has been flying Rwandans out of Tingi-Tingi camp to Kisangani, and on to Nairobi. The flight costs around $800. Well-placed sources say a few hundred Rwandans, including ex-FAR, have left Tingi-Tingi by air recently. Sources say the exodus of ex-FAR could facilitate repatriation attempts of refugees to Rwanda, and assist the on-going negotiations for the opening of safe corridors. Unconfirmed reports say ex-FAR have requested that lower-ranking former-FAR from Tingi-Tingi be re-integrated into the Rwandan army.
In Punia, an AFP reporter says refugees arriving fearful of the rapid rebel advance. The reporter, who interviewed refugees in Punia, says most of then hid in thick forest and scrub for weeks and are fearful of being caught in fighting. Refugees are arriving from the north and south, and feel trapped; AFP say the refugees are hoping the international community will open a new camp to provide them with a safe haven.
* Speculation continues about the security situation in Kindu and Kisangani. The Governor of Maniema, based in Kindu, left the garrison town yesterday for Kisangani, and went on to Kinshasa by a private airline last night. In an interview with AP, a group of senior Zairean officers said dissension and chaos within the army leadership, as well as low morale, years of low wages and dismal living conditions, had driven them to defect to the rebel ADFL. Nine senior officers have fled to Brazzaville, Congo, and say they are in "transit" to join the front in eastern Zaire. Speaking to AP, a former colonel who gave his name only as "Anti" said the other officers included three other colonels, two majors and two captains, as well as one other officer. Anti claimed hundreds of other officers and rank-and-file soldiers had already switched sides and were in eastern Zaire to aid the rebels.
* An article in Le Monde today said a Western eyewitness, who has lived in the region for four years, claims that rebels in eastern Zaire have massacred civilians in the Goma region. The eye witness says he saw mass graves and gave nine examples, with their location. Two of the examples he gave were mass graves outside Katale camp, one containing more than a hundred people killed by machine gun, and the other containing 300 people wrapped in plastic sheeting. To-date, there have been no independent human rights monitors in eastern Zaire to investigate various claims relating to killings by the fleeing Zairean army and the rebels.
* A statement today from the Belgian government emphasised it was concerned about human rights violations committed by all parties in Zaire, and was trying to verify any information regarding genocide in the region. The statement, by a spokesman from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, follows a published interview with Belgian Development Minister Reginald Moreels, who said rebels were committing genocide in eastern Zaire.
* A meeting of the Organsiation of African Unity in Tripoli, Libiya, is preoccupied with the crisis in Zaire, reports AFP. OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim in a report prepared for the meeting stressed the need for a ceasefire as soon as possible. Rwandan Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana called for an "African solution" to the conflict. In his report Salim Salim underlined the urgency for an international conference on peace, security and stability in the Great Lakes region. Other items on the agenda include Burundi and Somalia. Burundi's representative at the OAU, Luc Rukingama, is trying to get regional sanctions lifted, report AFP. 53 Foreign Ministers are meeting in Tripoli at the OAU conference.
* President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya said yesterday he was "hopeful" of an imminent solution to the conflict in Africa's Great Lakes region, and said he had made "concerted efforts in finding a solution". Moi complained African leaders had recieved little international support in imposing sanctions on Burundi's military regime. Moi said Kenya had been thrown into turmoil because of regional conflicts, resulting in "influx of refugees, illegal possession of firearms and the disruption of economic activities". The Kenyan president made the remarks in Gaborone at a banquet held at a Commonwealth conference on democracy. About three thousand Kenyan students and other protestors marched through Nairobi in a another day of demonstrations over the death of a student leader.
* President Mobutu Sese Seko has postponed his return to Zaire from his villa on the French Riviera, aides said on Tuesday. Mobutu arrived in France on Friday and underwent medical tests at the weekend. He had planned to leave for Zaire on Tuesday, but aides said he would leave on Wednesday at the earliest, report AFP.
* A five-day conference on the River Nile basin opened yesterday in Addis Ababa. At least 250 government representatives and researchers are attending from Burundi, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zaire. The ten states are expected to spell out their positions on the use of the Nile resources. Also taking part are representatives of international orgnaisations such as the World Bank, UNDP, the European Union and donor countries. Opening the conference, the Ethiopian Minister for Water Resources said Ethiopia contributed 86% of the Nile's waters and had the right to equitable share.
* Hutu rebel leaders in Burundi have announced they had set up their own "courts" to try those they deem responsible for political and other killings in Burundi, reports AFP. Rebel leader Leonard Nyangoma said several trials in Burundi had convicted Hutus of genocide against Tutsis in the massacres that took place after the 1993 coup; the rebel "courts" would now try Tutsis suspected in involvement in the military coup, said a statement released to the press. Leonard Nyangoma - head of the National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD) - said roving tribunals had been set up in all the country's provinces. He also denounced the United Nations, charging that it was indifferent to the unrest in Burundi and was failing to set up an international criminal tribunal similar to the one set up for Rwanda.
* Deposed Burundi president Sylvestre Ntibantunganya is reportedly ready to leave the US ambassador's residence in Bujumbura after talks with his successor, Major Pierre Buyoya. In a statement yesterday, the opposition Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU) said Ntibantunganya was ready to leave after hiding since July 1996 in the US residence. The announcement has not been confirmed.
Nairobi, 26 February 1997, 15:35 GMT [ENDS]
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Date: Wed, 26 Feb 1997 18:51:58 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 109 for 26 Feb 1997 97.2.26 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.95.970226184341.3120Gemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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