Great Lakes: IRIN Update 113, 03/03/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 113, 03/03/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
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Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 113 for 3 Mar 1997 97.3.3

Rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila claimed in Goma, eastern Zaire, yesterday that his troops had captured Tingi-Tingi and its airport, and the strategically important town of Lubutu, 200 kilometers southeast of Kisangani. Tingi-Tingi camps in eastern Zaire held some 170,000 Rwandans. Kabila said he had ordered troops of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) not to hurt refugees, and invited UNHCR and humanitarian agencies to come back to Tingi-Tingi to give assistance. Today, the ADFL issued an ultimatum for senior army officers to join the ADFL by March 13 or "be considered rebels, with all the consequences that this carries", rebel spokesman Giles Ingala Gwamona announced in Goma.

There has been no independent confirmation of rebel victories or refugee movements; the evacuation of international staff from UN and NGOs on Saturday, from Kisangani and Tingi-Tingi, has effectively severed independent information to the outside world. 57 international staff were evacuated from Kisangani to Kinshasa on Saturday morning.

On Saturday, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees appealed to all concerned in the conflict to allow unimpeded humanitarian access to refugees caught in the fighting. The refugees were in poor condition before they left the camps, with more than thirty dying daily, mostly infants and children.

On Sunday, thousands of refugees were reported on the move by foot and by truck towards Kisangani, reports AFP, quoting sources from Kisangani. Zairean truck drivers said they saw a 15-kilometer column of refugees, moving out of Lubutu on the road to Kisangani. A humanitarian source told IRIN that a plane overflying Tingi-Tingi on Sunday reported that the camps appeared empty. There are also many local Zaireans displaced by the conflict; but humanitarian agencies have no figures regarding the size of the internally displaced population.

Kabila, however, claimed thousands of refugees had returned when rebels moved in. At his rebel headquarters in Goma, he was quoted by news agencies as saying he wanted those in the camp "to be repatriated to their own country and we will give a secure corridor for their evacuation". Kabila had only last week promised he would "hold back" his troops from Tingi-Tingi camps.

The latest claims come as South African mediated talks continue to try to find a solution to the conflict and implement a ceasefire. Kabila refused last week to sign a ceasefire proposal in South Africa, in the "close proximity talks" mediated by South African, UN and US officials. He told journalists that he would only negotiate directly with Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko, saying the ADFL "waits for an invitation from Mobutu to say that he personally will negotiate".

President Mobutu, now in France recovering from treatment of prostrate cancer, has decided to delay his return home for a few days. An aide told journalists that the decision was unrelated to his health, and was to pursue his search for a solution to the eastern Zaire crisis.

The French NGO Cepza Celpa said today that Kisangani was calm, and that no refugees had been seen arriving from the Tingi-Tingi/Lubutu area. Kisangani is the last significant stronghold of the Zairean army in eastern Zaire. A journalist who recently returned from Kisangani said the Zairean army, with the assistance of mercenaries, were mounting air attacks out of Kisangani two or three times a day.

Observers express surprise that Tingi-Tingi camps fell so quickly, as Rwandan militia, including former Rwandan soldiers, were known to be vigorously defending the area. However, previous events have demonstrated that the dispersal of refugees significantly undermines the military position of the Rwandan fighters.

A group of international journalists have been invited today by General Mahele, Chief of Staff, to fly to Kisangani. Sources say the General has promised to take journalists by helicopter to survey the Kisangani area.

Nairobi, 3 March 1997, 13:10 GMT


[Via the UN DHA Integrated Regional Information Network. The material contained in this communication may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN DHA IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]

Date: Mon, 3 Mar 1997 13:22:41 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 113 for 3 Mar 1997 97.3.3 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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