UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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IRIN Emergency Update No. 140 on the Great Lakes (Tuesday 1 April 1997)
* UNHCR field workers today described the situation of about 100,000 refugees between Ubundu and Kisangani in eastern Zaire as "catastrophic". A UNHCR spokeswoman said in Geneva that further re-location of refugees by forces of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) would be "inhumane".
Refugees in very poor physical shape are being pushed away from Kisangani at the insistence of rebel authorities, UNHCR reports. "We are working to prevent the refugees being pushed further back", spokeswoman Pamela O'Toole told a press briefing today. As an indication of the poor condition of the refugees, she said that UNHCR workers, clearing up the remains of the temporary site at Lula, 7 kms south of Kisangani, UNHCR workers found 50 bodies. Only about 700 of the weakest refugees remain at Lula. To push the refugees all the way back to Ubundu, as rebel authorities reportedly have demanded, is "not only inhumane, it will also make it logistically impractical to reach them," O'Toole said. "If the Alliance does not allow us to stabilize the health situation now, there may be very few refugees to return to Rwanda," she continued. UNHCR is flying trucks to Kisangani to assist in relief and repatriation efforts.
UN agencies delivered over 100 MTs of food aid, blankets and soap to the refugees yesterday. Most of the refugees are spread between 19 and 42 kms from Kisangani in different sites. Reuters, quoting Zairean Red Cross sources, reports that 500 refugees have died since March 16, and that 100 armed Rwandans among the refugees had been killed in clashes with the ADFL. UNHCR said today it was "worried" about the deaths of three refugees who, according to one report, were allegedly executed by ADFL soldiers.
* The remnants of large refugee populations at Amisi and Tingi-Tingi are being flown out by UN flights to Goma and from there being repatriated to Rwanda. The camps are expected to be emptied within the next few days.
* UNHCR today reported that 20-30,000 Rwandan refugees have emerged at a village called Karuba, 13 kms west of Sake, at the northern end of Lake Kivu. According to UNHCR, the refugees, who mainly came through the troubled Masisi area, are in resonable health and were uprooted from Katale and Kahindo camps north of Goma in November. It is not clear why they have chosen to emerge now. UNHCR expects these refugees to begin returning to Rwanda soon, and will provide assistance along the route. The Rwandan authorities have indicated that only 1,000 per day will be allowed to cross the border. Another group of 2,500 refugees have also emerged at Tongo, to the west of the old Katale and Kahindo camps.
* The Zairean defence ministry announced today that government forces re-took the Lake Tanganyika port of Moba from ADFL rebels on Sunday, reports AFP. The ministry claimed that navy troops and members of the 13th brigade had engaged in fierce fighting for the town. If confirmed, the recapture of Moba would be the first victory of note in the Zairean Armed Forces' counter-offensive launched late last year. The ADFL say they took Moba on 9 March.
ADFL forces are reported by some sources to have taken Kamina yesterday, but the Zairean defence ministry denies the claims. Kamina is located in Shaba province, southeast of Mbuji Mayi and northwest of Lubumbashi. It is known for its military base and rail junction with tracks leading to the north, west and east. The Zairean defence ministry today denied rebel claims, saying no fighting had taken place at the town and that the nearby military base is "intact", reports AFP. On Friday, news agencies reported that government troops had fled Kasenga, 200 kms northeast of Lubumbashi.
* Delegations from Kinshasa and the ADFL are both expected to arrive in South Africa on Thursday for talks, various sources report. Joint UN/OAU Special Representative Mohamed Sahnoun, currently in Stellenbosch, South Africa, is to take a leading role in mediating talks later this week, a UN spokesman in New York announced yesterday. Rebel spokesman Kongolo Mwenze told AFP yesterday that the talks would be setting the basis and pre-conditions for further talks and would prepare for a meeting between Mobutu and Kabila.
* No replacement has been named as Zairean prime minister to replace Kengo wa Dondo. Diplomatic sources say that opposition leaders may be less than willing to take up the appointment. Rebel ADFL radio on Sunday, broadcasting from Bukavu, announced that "the ADFL has warned anyone thinking of accepting the post under the Mobutu regime against doing so."
* Fighting in Burundi between security forces and rebels at Mitonto village in Rumonge commune in southwest Burundi on Thursday, 27 March has left over 140 people dead, reports state. Burundi radio reported the clashes yesterday, but put no figure on the casualties. AFP today, quoting an army officer, said that 147 were killed. Air forces were employed by the army while the rebels used boats on Lake Tanganyika during the confrontation, AFP reports.
* Diplomatic sources confirmed to IRIN today that "Arusha IV", planned for April 8 as the latest in a series of regional heads of state meetings on Burundi, which have imposed sanctions on the Buyoya regime, has been postponed indefinitely. A Tanzanian Foreign Ministry spokesman told AFP that the date clashed with a summit of the Common Marklet of East and Southern Africa in Lusaka.
* The national Ugandan People's Defence Forces (UPDF), are attempting to block attacks by Lord's Resistance Army rebels and has deployed troops around Aswa ranch along the Aswa river between Gulu and Kitgum districts, reports the state-owned New Vision newspaper.
* The weekly East African newspaper yesterday claimed that the US military has established a high-tech post at Fort Portal in western Uganda. The article alleges that two other similar sites have been established in Kigali and Brazzaville. Their purpose is to protect American interests, especially the lives of US citizens caught up in the Zairean conflict.
* A court in Gikongoro, Rwanda, sentenced three people to death, after convicting them of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in 1994, Radio Rwanda reported on Friday.
Nairobi, 31 March 1997, 16:05 GMT
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Date: Tue, 1 Apr 1997 19:23:55 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <email@example.com> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 140 for 1 Apr 1997 97.4.1 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.95.970401191342.27932Y-ength: 7064
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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