Great Lakes: IRIN Update 117, 03/05/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 117, 03/05/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

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Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 117 for 5 Mar 1997 97.3.5

* The Zairean government has issued an expulsion order for United Nations and international NGOs personnel who evacuated on March 1 from their duty station in Kisangani. Humanitarian agencies report in Kinshasa that three international personnel left by barge this morning for Brazzaville; others are on standby. The expulsion, which was ordered yesterday, is being urgently appealed by the UN and NGOs. The UN requested to be notified formally and be given at least 24 hours to leave. International staff were told that the primary reason given for the expulsion order was the UN's alleged failure to properly notify the Zairean government through "normal diplomatic channels" of its intention to relocate staff from Kisangani. The Minister of the Interior, Eboma Ejuku, said it was an irresponsible action that "sowed the seeds of panic and confusion among the Kisangani population". According to the Minister, the actions of the UN and the NGOs in recent months had the effect of destabilising local populations to such an extent that it had "encouraged anti-government elements and rebel forces to attack GOZ positions".

Senior UN officials called on the Governor of Kisangani on Friday (February 28) to explain the decision of the UN to temporarily relocate its staff. According to the UN, the decision was received "calmly" and the Ministries of Defence, Interior, Foreign Affairs and Prime Ministers Office were consequently verbally notified on March 1.

* Sources in Kinshasa said that the Governor of Kisangani had flown out to Kinshasa today. Journalists report rebels approaching Kisangani from various directions, and say they are within 40 kilometers north of the provincial capital (Bengamisa).

* UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has revived the idea of an international military force in eastern Zaire, saying that unless a ceasefire can be secured, the international community should "study the possibility of using troops to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate the refugees". Annan was speaking at a news conference during a visit to the UN war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia in The Hague. He said it was imperative to apply political pressure for a ceasefire and that "all options" should be considered. Discussions in New York on the possibility of international intervention are continuing today.

Several countries had planned to send troops to Zaire in November 1996 but military intervention was abandoned when more than a million Rwandan and Burundian refugees repatriated to Rwanda. The United States and Canada, who sent small advance units for logistical reasons, rejected using force as part of a humanitarian mandate - which many observers and aid workers saw as the lack of will to tackle the the root causes of the crisis.

* Journalists who were flown to Kindu by the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) report hundreds of people emerging from forest hideouts, days after Zairean soldiers retreated. The ADFL captured the garrison town of Kindu and its airport. According to the journalists, there were no visible signs of battle at the airport and much of the town was "scarred more by looting than by bullets". Residents of Kindu said after Zairean troops fled along with five white mercenaries, Kindu was defended by a 177-strong contingent of former Rwandan soldiers.

* Humanitarian sources in Rwanda say they are unaware of any arrivals of refugees from the dispersed Tingi-Tingi camps in eastern Zaire, some 500 kilometers from the Rwandan border. AP yesterday reported refugees "streaming home" after rebels took over Tingi-Tingi camps - which formerly held some 170,000 Rwandans. UN agencies and humanitarian sources point out the distance is too great for such an arrival from Tingi-Tingi. A column of refugees from Tingi-Tingi were seen and interviewed by journalists some 150 kilometers from Kisangani on Monday. Another group is heading for Ubundu, to the south, where local officials have directed them.

* The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) rejected a submission at the just-concluded Tripoli meeting by Burundi's foreign affairs representative, Luc Rukingana, that regional sanctions on Burundi should be lifted because there had been progress in restoring peace. It recommended that the sanctions be reviewed "in the light of progress in the peace process in Burundi", confirms OAU spokesman Ibrahim Dagash at the OAU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When asked about the issue of regional sanctions at a press conference, Secretary-General of the OAU, Salim Ahmed Salim, said that sanctions should firmly remain until progress had been made under the conditions imposed by the Regional Sanctions Committee. Regional sanctions were imposed in July 1996 when leader Pierre Buyoya took power by coup.

A record 43 ministers attended the 65th ministerial council in Tripoli. The African news agency PANA reports that despite "near-flawless organisation" it seemed that the meeting "barely managed to scratch the surface of Africa's many daunting political and socio-economic problems". The Zairean crisis was high on the agenda, which provoked angry exchanges between delegates, especially concerning the Zairean governments' fury over South African talks "legitimizing the rebellion". PANA reports that the OAU eventually "took the easy way out" by urging cessation of hostilities in the region, and calling on all foreign troops to pull out of the country.

* The Food and Agriculture Organisation report on the food supply situation and crop prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa ranks Kenya among states with the most unfavourable food conditions. According to the report serious food difficulties are anticipated in the first half of 1997 as a result of failure of the 1996/97 short rains season. In Kenya, the Kenya Red Cross Society yesterday warned that at least 100,000 people in Coast Province alone faced "starvation", reports the Daily Nation. A disaster officer with the Society told the Daily Nation that the worst-hit areas are Kinango and Samburu in Kwale District.

Nairobi, 5 March 1997, 13:40 GMT


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Date: Wed, 5 Mar 1997 13:44:52 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 117 for 5 Mar 1997 97.3.5 Message-ID: <>

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

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