Great Lakes: IRIN Update 127, 3/14/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 127, 3/14/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 127 on the Great Lakes (Friday 14 March 1997)

* A "terrible storm" hit the Ubundu area yesterday afternoon and the Federation estimates that large numbers of Rwandan refugees caught while crossing the river may have drowned. Zairean Red Cross volunteers were unable to help the refugees as the "waves were too big". Diplomatic sources in Kisangani confirmed that a makeshift raft carrying 76 people was washed away in the river yesterday. Atlas Logistiques, a French NGO, is attempting to repair a boat which is out of action in Ubundu to help refugees cross the river. At one point near Ubundu, humanitarian sources indicate that the river is shallow enough for refugees to attempt to wade across.

Diplomatic sources told IRIN that Rwandan refugees are paying as much as $2 per person to cross the Zaire river at Ubundu. Local canoe owners are ferrying refugees to the western shore of the Zaire river. As of last night, the Federation reported that around 10 canoes were taking "a few hundred an hour" across and 7,000 had arrived as of Friday morning.

Typhoid, diarrhoea, skin diseases and malaria are reported to be the most prevalent health problems amongst refugees who have so far arrived. Weaker refugees may be lagging behind, humanitarian sources say. The new refugee site on the west of the river has now moved to "Kilometre 82". Plastic sheeting, Rubb-Hall storage tents and kitchen sets are on the way, a Federation spokesman told IRIN today. Red Cross volunteers are repairing the airstrip near to the refugee site with the aim of making the strip accessible to Hercules C-130 cargo planes.

* The death toll from landmine explosions in Bujumbura on Wednesday night has risen to seven, according to Burundi state radio. The station also reported that a reward of two million Burundian francs is being offered by the gendarmerie for information on the "terrorists" who planted the mines. AFP reports military spokesman Isaie Nibizi saying "we have reason to believe that the mines were planted by PARENA", but ex-president and PARENA leader Jean Baptiste Bagaza is reported to have said "Bagaza's people have neither the interest nor the means to plant anti-tank mines." Nibizi also alleged, according to AFP, that PARENA was helped by the National Council for the Defence of Democracy, the banned Hutu-dominated rebel movement. The Tutsi-dominated PARENA - Parti de la Reconciliation Nationale - was formed by Bagaza in August 1994.

* Laurent Desire Kabila, leader of the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire arrived back in Goma and announced to AFP he had met with Mohamed Sahnoun, Joint OAU/UN Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region in Uganda on Thursday. Reuters had earlier reported on the low-key meeting in Gulu. Sahnoun arrived in Kigali, Rwanda today.

Rebel official Gaetan Kakudji, returning to Goma from Europe spoke to AFP yesterday of his meetings with French and Belgian officials and said that he detected a difference between the older and younger generations - "the old guard is always going on about the Anglophone world absorbing the Francophone world. It's not our problem. They are talking about culture and keeping control of their former territories."

The rebel administration in Goma is requisitioning houses from local residents in order to accomodate members of the ADFL. In a dispatch from Goma, AFP reports that letters have been sent to a number of homeowners asking them to vacate their houses. The letters say the houses will be returned at a later date.

* Armed forces from Angola are being accused of fighting on both sides in the Zairean conflict. The general staff of the Zairean army alleged today that a battalion of Angolan government troops were supporting ADFL rebels. In a statement reported by AFP the FAZ claimed to have killed two Angolan officers of the Luanda government's Popular Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola on the Bafwasende front line. The Christian Science Monitor today alleged that 1,600 troops from Angola's former rebel UNITA movement are deployed to support FAZ troops in Shaba and towards Kisangani. Zaire supported UNITA during the years of civil war in Angola, which is now in a shaky transition to a government of national unity to include UNITA.

An AFP photographer close to the front line 60 km from Kisangani along the Bafwasende road reported heavy fighting yesterday. AFP quotes General Numbi Kalume, the Zairean commander, saying that the rebels had lost 50 men and that their field headquarters had been destroyed. Arms and material captured by government forces included weapons of North Korean and "Arab" origin, the report states.

Retuers reports clashes between rebel forces and Zairean government troops on lake Tanganyika, with the apparent target of the rebels being Moliro, the southernmost town on Zaire's lakeshore. The Zairean defence ministry claimed that on Wednesday its "naval force intercepted the enemy boats. In the clashes that ensued, 11 rebels were killed and eight captured."

* A joint UN/NGO mission (WFP, UNICEF, UNHCR, MSF, OXFAM and OMNIS, a local NGO) went to Tingi-Tingi and Amisi from Goma on 12 March. They found a total of about 1,700 Rwandan refugees in poor condition. The mission estimated that there are some 500 to 600 refugees in Tingi-Tingi. The refugees, most of whom show signs of serious malnutrition, claimed to have been surviving on roots and leaves collected in the dense rainforest. Many were too weak to walk over to the food distribution sites. Water is collected from a nearby pond which is believed to be unsanitary. Some refugees claim they wandered in circles in the forest before finding their way out and back to the camps. They say there are many more refugees in the forest.

In Amisi, about 1,200 refugees have emerged out of the forest. Food aid is being transported by foot and by bicycle to the refugee site which is located some 7 km from Amisi town.

Some 33 unaccompanied children in Tingi-Tingi and another 47 in Amisi have already been identified and UNICEF has initiated a programme to locate their families.

* The heads of state meeting in Nairobi next week will not be a full-blown summit, the Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka announced yesterday. He said it would be a preparatory meeting for a later Nairobi III meeting. The Nairobi series of meetings has been somewhat overshadowed by South African-hosted talks between the Zairean parties and the OAU's planned summit in Lome towards the end of the month.. Nonetheless, the heads of state of South Africa, Cameroon, Zimbabwe and Kenya will attend the mini-summit, and the presidents of Zaire, Congo and Tanzania have also been invited, KTN TV reported yesterday. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, widely believed to have been involved in brokering contacts between the rebels and Zairean government in Cape Town earlier this month, has not been invited.

* UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Zaire, Roberto Garreton, has requested approval from the Zairean government for a visit to eastern Zaire to investigate allegations of "extremely grave human rights violations" in the area. In a statement from Geneva, he also expressed the hope that ADFL rebels will permit him to visit areas under their control.

* In his presentation to the UN Commission on Human Rights on Thursday the Special Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries, Enrique Bernales Ballesteros, said new legislation should make the "recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries" illegal, as such activities violate human rights, sovereignty and self-determination of peoples. Referring specifically to mercenaries employed by FAZ forces in Zaire, he called for urgent steps to remove mercenaries from the region.

Nairobi, 14 March 1997, 16:00 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. Quotations or extracts from this report should include attribution to the original sources mentioned, not simply "DHA".]

Date: Fri, 14 Mar 1997 18:57:46 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 127 for 14 Mar 1997 97.03.14 Message-ID: <>

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

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