Great Lakes: IRIN Update 147, 4/10/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 147, 4/10/97


Department of Humanitarian Affairs

Integrated Regional Information Network

for the Great Lakes

Tel: +254 2 622147

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 147 on the Great Lakes (Thursday 10 April 1997)

* After heavy fighting in Lubumbashi, rebels from the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) yesterday seized Zaire's second city, giving them control of every major city in the country except Kinshasa. Their success was greeted with jubilation by Lubumbashi residents who danced in the streets and feted the rebel forces. Troops from the crack Presidential Security Division (DSP) put up some resistance around their divisional headquarters in the south of the city, but regular soldiers fled in the direction of the airport. Rebels accused Belgian mercenaires of aiding the Zairean army, AFP reported. Kyungu ku Mwanza, the governor of Shaba province, of which Lubumbashi is the capital, announced he was staying put. "I'm not moving," he said according to AFP. "I will be the prisoner of [rebel leader] Laurent Kabila if he wants to arrest me." Rebel radio, broadcasting from Goma, said the ADFL was close to achieving its main aim of "liberating the entire country."

Skirmishes continued in the city today as rebels traded heavy and light arms fire with pockets of Zairean troops still holding out, mainly in the airport area. Residents, taking advantage of the uncertainty, were reported to be looting shops in the city centre. One resident, quoted by AFP, said young people were driving past "in vans full of stolen goods, shooting". Mobutu's residence in Lubumbashi which had served as DSP headquarters was especially targeted for plunder, as was that of his nephew Litho. However,the city generally experienced a lessening of tension, AFP reported.

* Kinshasa meanwhile was today reported to be tense, but calm. Several journalists were attacked by army troops yesterday as they observed skirmishes between police and demonstrators. Newly-appointed premier General Likulia Bolongo told a press conference yesterday that the war in the east had "suspended the normal course of the democratic process". "This is why my government has also been given the mission to finish peace negotiations currently underway, with positive results," he said. Likulia made it clear he would "not tolerate" any violations of Zairean law. Regarding the likelihood of President Mobutu stepping down, he indicated that this was not imminent but said "if the president of the republic is beaten in elections, he will leave." Kabila last night gave Mobutu three days to "negotiate his departure", otherwise the rebels will advance on Kinshasa. For the next three days, military operations will be "slowed down," Kabila told a press conference in Goma.

* A rebel radio broadcast from Bunia outlined the ADFL's political objectives, centred on two phases: the redemocratisation phase and the reconstruction and development phase... Redemocratisation would involve establishing a parliament comprising all democratic forces, the government would be created from the parliamentary majority and the president of the new Congo republic would be elected by universal suffrage.

* South African deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad, who helped mediate peace talks in his country between the Zairean conflicting sides, today called for an end to "despotic rule" in Zaire. He told BBC domestic radio that there must be "fundamental change" in the country. Mobutu should "take a decision in the interest of his country to achieve this ambition with the least amount of violence," he said. Talks between the Zairean government and the ADFL were adjourned on Tuesday with agreement on the "need for a ceasefire".

* France yesterday denied taking sides in the Zairean conflict, saying it was up to the Zairean people to decide their own fate. "We are not supporting anyone," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jacques Rummelhardt told a news briefing. "What we support is Zaire and the future of its people." He added that France recognised states, not governments. According to Reuters, the statement was the strongest sign to date that France was distancing itself from Mobutu.

* Rwandan Defence Minister Paul Kagame confirmed the long-held view that some of Zaire's neighbours were providing support to the rebels. In an interview with the Belgian daily 'Le Soir' yesterday, Kagame described the rebel advance as "positive", saying the people of Zaire and the region in general needed change. "You see the popular support for the Alliance, is that not proof that Zaireans themselves want change?" he asked. "The countries of the region have agreed to provide support in one form or another. We have never hidden that." Asked whether Rwanda was directly involved in the conflict, Kagame replied he would "recount the full story" in a year's time. "What is sure is that Rwanda was very concerned by the danger represented by military forces operating from refugee camps with the complicity of the Zairean authorities." He also warned that countries of the region would not tolerate any intervention in Zaire by western troops currently stationed in Brazzaville.

* A Rwandan delegation, led by Dr Ephraim Kabaija, the president of the Rwandan Repatriation Commission, is continuing its visit to Kisangani to discuss the repatriation of some 80,000 Hutu refugees gathered in the area after leaving the town of Ubundu further south. UNHCR said it was waiting to see whether the Rwandans would allow a repatriation air bridge between Kisangani and Kigali. The rebel authorities in Kisangani have already given the go-ahead for the use of Kisangani airport to fly out the refugees. Relief agencies were hopeful that the repatriation could begin in about a week. Many of the refugees, the majority of whom are awaiting repatriation in the Kasese and Biaro camps near Kisangani, are suffering from malnutrition and disease. UNHCR said a further 108 refugees had died yesterday. UNHCR also said 10,000 refugees had gone to Goma from Karuba, west of Sake, and that a similar number remained in the area.

* Four people were arrested in Burundi after police discovered arms and ammunition, including anti-tank and anti-personnel mines in the Buyenzi area of Bujumbura. Army spokesman Lt-Col Isaie Nibizi said an investigation was underway and thanked the public for a tip-off. "The information at our disposal is incomplete," he told reporters, according to Reuters. "Burundi has many criminals and ethnic groups. But if the conclusions of our investigation implicate ex-president Bagaza, we will tell you." Last month, the Burundi authorities said they had arrested eight members of Jean-Baptiste Bagaza's PARENA party who were plotting to kill military leader, Pierre Buyoya.

Tanzania is leading a diplomatic offensive to discuss regional sanctions on Burundi with a series of meetings planned next week. President Benjamin Mkapa left for Zambia yesterday to attend a meeting of the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and diplomats said he would probably use the occasion to gain approval for Buyoya to attend a regional summit in Arusha next Wednesday. Meanwhile, Burundi mediator - the former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere - was organising a meeting in Dar es Salaam to which Burundi rebel leader Leonard Nyangoma would be invited. He is also due to chair talks between Burundi's factions in Arusha on Friday and Saturday, Reuters reported.

* UN human rights monitors in Rwanda have expressed concern over the increasing number of killings and attacks on Tutsis. In a report issued earlier this week, the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda (HRFOR) said 45 genocide survivors or people linked to them had been killed in the first three months of this year. The report highlighted an incident last month, in which some 15 armed men wearing ex-FAR uniforms attacked a school in Nyange, Kivumu commune, Kibuye prefecture. Six students of Tutsi origin were killed along with a watchman, and 20 wounded.

* FAO points out that lack of pledges by donor countries means the coverage rate of important crop seeds for the March-June/July cropping season in Rwanda remains low. These include sweet potato cuttings, maize, soyabeans, garden peas, sorghum, wheat and peanut seeds. However, it says the coverage rate of bean seeds at 99 percent and vegetable seeds at 63 percent is satisfactory. Belgium and the European Union have already pledged funds for purchasing seeds.

* Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa has appealed for international help for four million people in the country at risk from famine. A State House statement issued today said Tanzania's strategic grain reserve stocks were totally depleted. During a meeting with foreign ambassadors and UN officials yesterday, Mkapa called for assistance in raising 1.3 million dollars to buy food for the victims of drought.

* The independent Ugandan daily 'Monitor' today reported increasing fear in the northern Gulu and Kitgum areas after claims that some 1,200 rebels from the Lord's Resistance Army had entered the region. Quoting LRA "escapees", the paper said the rebels entered Uganda between March 20 and April 1, "armed and ready to block major routes in the north by laying ambushes". They said 5,000 more rebels were currently undergoing "training" in Khartoum. Senior Ugandan military officials earlier this week however said that the LRA had only 600 members left.

Nairobi, 10 April 1997, 15:30 GMT


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Date: Thu, 10 Apr 1997 18:41:35 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 147 for 10 Apr 1997 97.4.10 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.95.970410184346.1649A-Length: 10078

Editor: Ali Dinar,