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IRIN Emergency Update No. 13 on Eastern Zaire (8 November 1996)
A caravan of an estimated 175,000 refugees who last week dispersed from Kahindo and Katale camps (total population 314,000) on the northern axis of Goma, fled westwards through lava fields. A staff member of Medecins du Monde, trapped north of the Goma area until Wednesday, says that members of aid agencies joined the massive caravan carrying radios, but there has been no contact since the signal died last week. Medecins du Monde reported three or four different caravans of people who left the camps, but the smaller groups took different routes, avoiding the widest expanse of lava fields.
The aid worker says that the refugees are dying on the lava fields, which emit dangerous gasses, have no water and no food. Other refugees avoided the widest expanse of lava and headed for bush and forest, and are reportedly heading for the Goma area. This aid worker and other eye witnesses also report a significant problem of internally displaced Zaireans. According to the trapped aid worker from Medecins du Monde, all small villages were completely empty on a 35 kilometer stretch of road between Rutshuru and Bunangana on the Ugandan border. There is "a high state of tension" reported between the Zairean displaced and the Rwandan Hutu refugees.
Refugees broke into food warehouses before leaving the Katale and Kahindo camps and took away what they were able to carry. All warehouses were emptied within four hours of Kahindo camp dispersing, including up to 3,000 tons of food from the largest WFP store in the area. Medecins du Monde report three or four different caravans of people who left the Katale and Kahindo camps. He said "we were amazed to see some of them climb up the mountains; we could see the camp fires at night".
The aid worker ended up walking barefoot for 25 kilometres at the end of a terrifying odyssey in the conflict zone. He said competing armed groups of Zairean soldiers of various divisions, Interahamwe and refugees totally looted camps and villages; he was twice threatened with execution by a group of former Rwandan soldiers. The Zairean Camp Security Contingent - Zairean soldiers paid by UNHCR to guard the camps and relief operations - also fled. Some were reported killed.
Another eye-witness from ACT (Action for Churches Together) reports from a aerial survey this week that there is a high concentration of people in the jungle area between Hombo and Walikale, who have been surviving in the jungle for about three weeks and are described as being in "very bad condition". The mass consists of both refugees and internally displaced people, who are in "a state of high tension, robbing each other". ACT also reports empty villages, empty schools, empty markets and no work going on the fields. On a 200 kilometer stretch of road from Lubutu, only one car was seen, and all villages appeared empty.
Fleeing Zairean soldiers are retreating and looting their way towards Kisangani. Some reports say soldiers arriving in Kisangani are fighting with Zairean soldiers stationed in Kisangani. All aircraft in Kisangani have reportedly been flown out, leaving concentrated numbers of soldiers with no easy escape route. Flight observations say there are no visible concentration of refugees in the Masisi area, as previously speculated.
The press have reported the recommendation of military intervention in a draft resolution presented to the Security Council, including the option of "Chapter VII" which allows for intervention without assent from the parties in conflict. Military intervention aims to establish protected zones and ensure the safe delivery of aid. The resolution recommends that a mission be limited to a period of two months.
A statement issued by the Special Meeting of European Union Development and Humanitarian Aid Ministers in Brussels yesterday (November 7 Thursday) expressed full support for the United Nations, regional leaders and the Organisation of African Unity to facilitate a resolution to the conflict, and underlined support for the regional heads of state Summit held in Nairobi on Tuesday November 5. The draft resolution given to the Security Council yesterday, prepared by France and also discussed by the Brussels meeting on Thursday, contains the proposals made by France and expresses deep concern at the humanitarian situation and the need to act quickly. Some countries - like Britian - reportedly emphasised the need for further consultations with Zaire, and stressed the needs of refugees and internally displaced people rather than focusing on military intervention.
The Security Council is expected to meet on the matter in the next two days. Despite the scale of the emergency, some countries show reservations about military intervention because of past experiences, like Somalia, which drew much international criticism and ultimately failed, in the long term, to resolve conflict and meet humanitarian needs.
British-based charity Save the Children Fund issued a statement on Thursday evening opposing military intervention. The SCF statement said military intervention would take too long and "may well compound the problems in the region". SCF said the priority was to restore stability in order to provide support for those in need of humanitarian assistance, and help with "major and rapid voluntary repatriation". Oxfam International yesterday called on the UN Security Council to endorse deployment of a force. Refugees International urged US President Clinton to "take a lead in galvanising the immediate deployment of an international force to provide life-sustaining emergency aid to the million lost refugees" in a statement issued yesterday. It also said the US should urgently provide "the best photos from satellite and other sources with complete transparency to enable the best emergency response". UNHCR and other agencies have asked donors to supply satellite images to track the whereabouts of the refugees, but no hard data has yet emerged.
Special Mediator for UN, Ambassador Raymond Chretien, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Great Lakes Sergio de Mello and Assistant Coordinator Martin Griffiths are meeting today in Kigali, Rwanda. They are expected to discuss Chretien's talks with President Mobutu in Nice, who had requested Chretien to proceed to Kigali rather than Kinshasa.
Nairobi, 8 November 1996, 09:30 GMT
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Date: Fri, 8 Nov 1996 12:23:18 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 13 on Eastern Zaire for 7-8 Nov 1996 96.11.8 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.961108121833.20912Cemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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