Great Lakes: IRIN Update 121, 3/7/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 121, 3/7/97

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Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 121 for 7 Mar 1997 97.3.7

* The Zairean Ministry of Defence said there had been violent clashes with rebels on Thursday, near Panga, some 80 kilometers northeast of Kisangani. A statement said 114 rebels from the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) had been killed. The government said its soldiers had repelled another attack in the area, killing seven rebels. It is the first time the defense ministry has acknowledged the presence of rebels close to Kisangani, reports AFP.

* UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan favours a political solution for the Zairean crisis, including a ceasefire, with protection for aid workers and refugees. UN Spokesman Fred Eckhard said the Secretary-General met with Joint OAU/UN Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region Mohamed Sahnoun on Thursday. Sahnoun is expected to attend the briefing of the UN Security Council today, with Martin Griffiths, Humanitarian Coordiator for the Great Lakes Region.

* Punia, eastern Zaire, is reported by Reuters to be under the armed occupation of Hutu soldiers of the former Rwandan army. Half the estimated 100,000 civilian polulation of the town and its surroundings have fled from harassment and stealing by the ex-FAR, says a correspondent in Punia. Rwandans fear the arrival of the ADFL, which has made rapid gains in the area. Rwandan refugees in Punia said they were planning to leave soon, as the rebels "have been killing refugees". Local gendarmarie have disarmed and disappeared, according to the report.

* Only a few dozen sick and dying Rwandans remain in Tingi-Tingi camps, eastern Zaire, reports AP. Rebels distributed small amounts of food, and said the UN should help repatriate those left in the camp. Journalists were barred from entering the camp by rebel commander Jonathan Ndironsonga, who refused to discuss what happened during the takeover. AP quotes a refugee - whose circumstances are not explained - as saying the camp was empty when rebels arrived, but that fleeing refugees were pursued for four miles to the town of Lubutu "where we were stopped". The refugee alledged "more than 100" were then killed. There was no sign of the bodies of 25,000 refugees the Zairean government says were killed when the ADFL took the camp last Saturday, report AP, and "no stench of death".

* The outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jose Ayala Lasso, appealed to donors on Thursday to fund the deployment of observers to eastern Zaire to investigate reports of alleged massacres of Rwandan refugees by rebels. In a United Nations statement Lasso said he was deeply concerned by reports from human rights groups alleging the existence of mass graves in east Zaire, near former refugee camps for Rwandans and Burundians. Lasso has asked the UN's Special Human Rights Investigator for Zaire, Roberto Garreton, to investigate the massacre allegations.

* The Kenyan government will host a summit on the conflict on eastern Zaire, on March 19, but will not invite rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila, the Minstry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. Spokesman David Kikaya told Reuters that the purpose of the summit was to "advance the search for peace and a lasting solution". He said Kabila had not been invited because it was a head of state summit. Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko has been invited to attend, with President Mandela and five other heads of state.

Reuters says that Kabila's search for international recognition was "crowned in Johannesburg on February 29 when he had an hour of talks with Mandela", Africa's most respected statesman. On Thursday, President Moi was reported in the local press as expressing concern "over the sincerity of leaders involved in the Great Lakes region conflict talks". He said he would make his position clear at a regional meeting on March 19. Moi's announcement of the March 19 summit is seen to be an attempt to regain the diplomatic initiative in the eastern Zaire crisis.

* French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette on Thursday accused Uganda of supporting Zairean rebels. The Foreign Minister indicated that France would not intervene alone in Zaire, but feels that the key to halting the conflict may lie with the US which has close ties with Uganda and Rwanda. French analysts said the government believed the United States was trying to edge it out of the last region where France still wielded influence from a colonial past, reports Reuters.

* Former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere says Zaire and its people should be looking to life beyond their sick president Mobutu Sese Seko, saying "the poor man is going". He said that the days of the "big man" in African politics were over. He was giving his views in a television interview, while attending celebrations in Accra, marking 40 years of Ghana's independence.

* Martin Griffiths, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Great Lakes region has said the policy of regroupment in Burundi is one of "deep concern to which the international community should be fundamentally opposed". Regroupment represents a military strategy by the Burundian authorities against rebel insurgency, and will affect up to 500,000 civilians, according to the authorities. 200,000 people are in camps in provinces where there is conflict. Griffiths reported seeing degrees of malnutrition in children he described as "disgraceful".

The policy is not based on voluntary movement by the regrouped, as those who do not comply may be considered as rebels or supporters of rebels. The Burundian authorities, however, say it is voluntary and temporary measure, and that the security of people cannot be otherwise assured by the State in areas of conflict. The authorities say most of the camps are expected to be closed by June, and have requested humanitarian assistance. Griffiths said humanitarian agencies "face the dilema of how to meet the needs of those in the camp without having the effect of encouraging or supporting the military policy". While donors and agencies agree that the policy is to be deplored, there are differing opinions on how to meet the humanitarian needs.

Today, Griffiths called on behalf of aid agencies to exempt humanitarian assistance from sanctions imposed on Burundi by its neighbouring states. Asking that regional and local sanctions committees act expediently on UN requests for fuel and assistance, Griffiths said the supplies "are indispensable simply to continue delivering aid". Despite requests made by the UN on 18 November, no fuel has yet reached agencies in Burundi. A press statement issued by the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator has been circulated through IRIN today.

* Burundi's Radio Umwizero (Radio Hope), which broadcasts a message of ethnic tolerance and reconciliation, has been threatened by extremists. Pierre Pradier, general secretary of the Paris-based Association for Humanitarian Action, said Radio Umwizero had been told to sack the radio's franchise holder for his alleged sympathies with Hutu rebels. The radio station employs about 20 local journalists, and is funded by the European Union. There is a proposal by UNESCO to create a Great Lakes regional radio.

* UNICEF Director Carol Bellamy yesterday condemned the abduction of up to 10,000 children by the Lords Resistance Army in northern Uganda, and called for their immediate release. In a statement issued from New York, Bellamy said that captives were often tortured, and those caught trying escape were killed. Girls are sexually abused by soldiers and are given as "wives" in lieu of other forms of payment. The statement called for concerted international pressure, and said the problem was "neither to big nor too complex to solve".

* Radio Rwanda said yesterday more than 50 people, alledgedly implicated in the murder of five UN Human Rights field officers, had surrendered to the authorities in southwest Rwanda. It said Gahutu - said to have masterminded the murders - and his accomplices were an important factor in insecurity in Bugumya sub-prefecture and Cyangugu Prefecture. They operated from the Nyungwe forest and retreating to Burundi to reorganise. Those who had surrendered had also handed over military equipment.

* The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda agreed on Thursday to take steps to locate and protect defence witnesses thought to have fled the Tingi-Tingi camps in eastern Zaire last week. The decision follows a request by the lawyer of Georges Rutaganda, former Interahamwe leader, to get "special protection" for 16 defence witnesses. Tirbunal president Laity Kama ordered the court clerk to seek the help of the countries and humanitarian organisations concerned, notably UNHCR, to track down and protect the witnesses. The decision was broadcast by independent Agatashya radio in Arusha, Tanzania, where the Tribunal sits.

* Ethiopia - which has suffered major famines for decades - is for the first time exporting maize for relief purposes. A convoy of 32 lorries carrying 1,246 metric tons has been purchased by the World Food Programme to feed about 40,000 people in Kenya for one month. The majority of relief food under WFP's drought operation for Kenya will go to an estimated 207,000 people in drought-stricken areas of Garissa, Mandera, Wajir, Isiolo and Marsabit in North Eastern and Eastern Provinces.

We would like to remind you that IRIN updates are now translated into French on a trial basis. If you wish to recieve updates in French you can subscribe at <>. Thank you.

Nous souhaiterions vous rappeler que les "IRIN Updates" sont maintenant traduits en francais, pour une periode test, ceux qui le desirent peuvent s'abonner en contactant <>. Merci

Nairobi, 7 March 1997, 18:40 GMT


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From: Date: Fri, 7 Mar 1997 18:49:03 +0300 Message-Id: <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 121 for 7 Mar 1997 97.3.7

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

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