Great Lakes: IRIN Update 129, 3/17/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 129, 3/17/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 129 on the Great Lakes (17 March 1997)

* Zairean rebels of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL), capitalizing on their Kisangani victory, are advancing to the west and south of Zaire. Retreating FAZ troops are reported to have reached Yangambi, about 50 km west of Kisangani. ADFL spokesman Raphael Ghenda told AFP that on Friday rebels had taken Pweto, a town on Lake Moero which straddles the Zambia-Zaire border. Humanitarian sources today confirmed to IRIN the takeover. Sources also report looting soldiers passing through Luanza, south of Pweto. To the west, two disorderly soldiers were reported killed recently by the local population in Kikondjo, a riverside town southwest of Manono. Soldiers are reportedly fleeing towards Kolwezi, to the west of Lubumbashi and not far from the Zambian border. "Lubumbashi is the next big target", rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila told a news conference in Goma on Saturday. "We are still advancing," he added, reports Reuters.

* The ADFL continues to reject calls for a ceasefire, and Kabila is reported as saying that only face-to-face talks with Mobutu might "constitute some kind of pause", reports Reuters yesterday. Joint OAU/UN Special Representative Mohamed Sahnoun and UN Humanitarian Coordinator Pierce Gerety met with Kabila on Saturday in Goma, but made no statement after the meeting. The Kinshasa government has indicated its willingness to respect a ceasefire. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is reported to be adopting a "wait and see" attitude, while the European Union on Sunday appealed to all parties to "respect both the refugees and the Zairean population."

* Joseph Kabila, Laurent Desire's 25-year-old son, who described himself as "operational commander of the northern sector" for the ADFL, told Reuters that the biggest problem after capturing Kisangani was a "carpet" of mines on roads leading to the city, except the one used by the FAZ for retreat. He said demining was his priority. He denied that aircraft had been destroyed by retreating soldiers and mercenaries, saying his forces had found no airplanes at the airport. He said no mercenaries appear to have died in the battle for the city, according to CNN. The government of Zaire alleged today that the battle for Kisangani involved "heavily armed regular units of the Ugandan army equipped with sophisticated weapons."

* The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, urged the ADFL not to attack Ubundu, where up to 100,000 Rwandan and Burundian refugees have congregated. Ogata, in a statement from Geneva yesterday, said that Ubundu "is the last place where we can locate them and help them." "The refugees are at the end of their strength. Their harrowing odyssey through the wilderness has to stop now, or many more lives will be lost", the statement says. Even if security can be established, the diplomatic and logistical challenges in supplying Ubundu - still technically under Zairean government control - will be formidable.

* The hazardous crossing of the Zaire river and capsizing of boats at Ubundu had left refugees stranded on rocks in the middle of the river on Friday, several sources say. An AFP correspondent, flying overhead, reported seeing the wreckage of three rafts and a large canoe stuck on the rocks in the river. Recent reports say that about 40 canoes are taking passengers across the river for a fee, while rafts are being constructed from plastic sheeting, bamboo and empty barrels.

* Three European NGOs (ACF, MSF-France and MSF-Belgium) have attempted to investigate the feasibility of establishing a new airlift route to Ubundu using an airstrip at Bokungu, 300 km southwest of Kisangani as a base. The team left Kinshasa on Friday, but were not permitted to fly from Bokungu to Ubundu by local officials.

* Maj-Gen Paul Kagame, Rwandan vice-president and minister of defence, said that any multinational force for eastern Zaire could "contribute to the deterioration of the situation" because "those who are looking for this kind of intervention have other motives altogether". In a broadcast on Radio Rwanda, referring to the plight of Rwandan refugees in eastern Zaire, he said that the majority of Rwandan refugees had returned home, and that "these ones [still in Zaire] particularly refused to return to their country. And there is not much we can do about it. I think they will have to pay a price for not making the correct decision...The issue is just to continue urging the refugees to return".

* An emergency cabinet meeting was called by the Zairean government in Kinshasa today. Sporadic gunshots were reported overnight in Kinshasa, Reuters reported. A communique from today's meeting urged people not to give in to "unwarranted panic", according to AFP.

* While ADFL rebels declare that "the Mobutu era is over", Zairean politicians and western diplomats are re-aligning themselves in the expectation of a further decline in the health of the Mobutu regime, analysts say. President Mobutu Sese Seko's return to Zaire from France has been delayed until next week, according to aides, and he has remained in hospital since Sunday. French Foreign Minstry spokesman Jacques Rummelhardt told a news briefing that "Mobutu's health is an additional source of concern in the Zairean crisis", Reuters reports. Belgian Foreign Minister Erik Derijcke said today that "the Mobutu era came to an end some time ago" and that Kabila "cannot be ignored".

The Secretary-General of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), the party of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi on Friday said that the UDPS and ADFL were pursuing the same objectives - "the eradication of dictatorship and the establishment of a state that respects the rule of law." According to Gabonese radio, Adrien Mpongo Kunda said the UDPS took credit for weakening the government through non-violent means, thereby easing the progress of the rebellion. Adrien Mpongo further suggested that a Zairean roundtable conference be part of the Nairobi III diplomatic initiative. He further proposed a merger of the FAZ and ADFL forces as part of a future peace deal.

* Following his visit to Goma, Mohamed Sahnoun met with Pierre Buyoya, Burundi's military ruler yesterday, but no details of the meeting have emerged. The Burundi regime now claims that the anti-tank mines which killed seven people in Bujumbura were part of last week's coup attempt. Five people have so far been arrested on charges of plotting to assassinate the regime's leader, Pierre Buyoya. A number of western embassies and aid agencies in Bujumbura have recommended their expatriates observe an informal curfew from about 7 pm onward. The official curfew - from midnight until dawn - is unchanged.

* The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Yasushi Akashi, has announced the appointment of Pierce Gerety as UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region. Gerety succeeds Martin Griffiths, who has resumed his functions as Director the Geneva Office of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs. Gerety, who most recently served as UNICEF's Emergency Coordinator for the Great Lakes, will be based in Nairobi.

* Independent Belgrade-based radio B92, monitored by BBC, reported yesterday that a mercenary, known only as "V.N." revealed that 60 mercenaries from southern Serbia are to leave this week to join others already in Zaire fighting on the government side. "V.N." said that a three-month contract would earn him $6,000, while his family would receive $100,000 if he dies during the mission.

An international Convention against mercenaries adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989 has been ratified by only 11 countries. The Convention can enter into force only after 22 states have ratified or acceded to it.

* The trial of Georges Rutaganda is to start tomorrow at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. Rutaganda, allegedly a leader of the notorious Interahamwe militia, was charged last May with eight counts of genocide and crimes against humanity. The Tribunal ruled on March 6 that 16 witnesses for the defence in the trial of Rutaganda were being sought. The witnesses were last known to be in Tingi-Tingi refugee site in eastern Zaire, and the Tribunal ruled that they should be located and placed under the protection of the Tribunal.

* Honore Rakotomanana, the deputy prosecutor the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda who resigned last month, will return to his native Madagascar, reports AFP. Rakotomanana and registrar Andronico Adede of Kenya both handed in their resignations to UN Secretary-General kofi Annan after an UN investigation into the Arusha operation accused Adede of mismanagement and said that Rakotamanana had failed to persue masterminds of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In a statement, Rakotamana said that he had resigned "because of divergences of views between my hierarchial superiors and myself and in the superior interests of the population of Rwanda". Twenty-one people accused of masterminding or being involved in the genocide have been indicted by the Tribunal.

In Rwanda, 128 new judges were sworn in at the National Assembly on Friday. The cases of four suspects accused of crimes against humanity in Kibungu prefecture are expected to resume tomorrow, according to Rwandan radio.

* The latest round of talks between Uganda and Sudan are reported to have ended in failure after intensive discussions in Entebbe which concluded on Saturday. The Ugandan Sunday Vision reported that the two sides failed to agree on the wording of a proposed communique, with Uganda seeking to condemn abductions of children in northern Uganda and Sudan refusing mention of this in the communique. On Friday Ugandan radio reported President Museveni condemning `Sudanese-sponsored terrorists who mutilate Ugandan civilians and kidnap schoolchildren.'

The talks, chaired by Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Akhbar Velayati and also involving Malawi's Foreign Minister, Dr A.G. Nga Mtafu, sought to improve relations between Uganda and Sudan, under growing strain over Sudanese accusations of Ugandan support for the SPLA offensive in southern Sudan and Ugandan claims of Sudanese support for the LRA and WNBF. Iran's minister of Foreign Affairs announced on Sunday that the next round of talks will take place in June in Tehran, at foreign ministers' level. Uganda's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eriya Kategaya, had criticized Sudan the previous day for sending a civil servant, Under Secretary Ali Elnimari, to represent them in the recent talks. Earlier talks had either involved heads of state or ministers.

The SPLA offensive continued over the weekend, with the SPLA reportedly capturing Lainya on Saturday afternoon. Lainya, a former Sudanese army garrison town, lies about halfway along the main road between Yei and Juba. The capture of Yei by the SPLA was confirmed over the weekend, after initial denials from the Sudanese Government. On Sunday, the Sudanese Government reported that it had recaptured the eastern town of Chali el-Fil from the SPLA, which took the town in January. Chali el-Fil lies is in Blue Nile state about 30 km from the border with Ethiopia.

The Ugandan Sunday Monitor reported yesterday that Colonel Juma Oris, commander of the WNBF, was killed on Saturday during fighting near the Uganda-Sudan border between the WNBF and the UPDF. The report cited `military sources' in Kampala but gave no further details. Juma Oris was previously a minister in Idi Amin's Government. The New Vision reported last Thursday that Morobo, a town close to Sudan's border with Zaire, which was taken by the SPLA on Wednesday, had since 1985 been the operational and training headquarters of the WNBF.

Nairobi, Monday 17 March 1997, 14:05 GMT [ENDS]

[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: Mon, 17 Mar 1997 19:18:16 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 129 for 17 Mar 1997 97.3.17 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.95.970317190818.9682X-ength: 12536

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

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