Great Lakes: IRIN Update No.149, 4/14/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update No.149, 4/14/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
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for the Great Lakes

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IRIN Emergency Update No.149 on the Great Lakes (Saturday-Monday 12-14 April 1997)

* Tension mounted in the Zairean capital Kinshasa after rebels from the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) pushed on towards the city, after taking the western Kasai capital Kananga over the weekend. On Saturday, President Mobutu Sese Seko rejected a three-day ultimatum imposed by rebel leader Laurent Kabila for the Zairean leader to negotiate his departure, prompting the rebels to announce their offensive was continuing. "I am head of state, I don't receive ultimatums from gang leaders," Mobutu told reporters at his residence at the Tshashi military camp in northwest Kinshasa. However, he said he was willing to talk to Kabila if the rebel leader "asks politely".

The prospect of face to face talks between Mobutu and Kabila rose slightly over the weekend, after the latter indicated he would visit South Africa, where peace talks between the warring sides are under way. ADFL negotiator Bizimana Karaha said Kabila would travel "very soon, probably to South Africa, to boost the negotiations and "if necessary" would meet Mobutu there. However, the rebels reiterated that Mobutu must step down before negotiations can take place. Congolese President Pascal Lissouba, speaking in Kinshasa after meeting Mobutu on Saturday, offered his services as a mediator, saying he was ready to contact Kabila with proposals from Mobutu. Analysts have predicted that direct talks between Mobutu and Kabila could halt the fighting.

Soon after Zairean Prime Minister Gen. Likulia Bolongo announced his "national salvation" government on Friday, the new cabinet warned political parties not to undermine public order after a general strike planned for today, was announced by opposition leader and ousted premier Etienne Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party. "The state of emergency will not accommodate the activities of political parties likely to threaten public order," cabinet spokesman Kin-Kiey Mulumba said. Zairean troops, deployed in advance, shot into the air to disperse a crowd of demonstrators observing the strike call. No injuries were reported, but the stay away brought Kinshasa to a standstill. The Kinshasa governor, General Amela Likima Bahati, on Saturday appealed for calm after the rebels announced they were within 300km of the capital. Today's UDPS-called strike is aimed at forcing Mobutu to quit power and a Zairean television announcer said fear had gripped Kinshasa's airport area after the UDPS urged people to evacuate ahead of a rebel attack. The Pentagon announced a warship would leave two weeks ahead of schedule to help in possible evacuations from Zaire, as the Japanese embassy urged all its nationals to quit Kinshasa. On Sunday, five Japanese women and a child crossed the Zaire river to the Congolese capital Brazzaville, the charge d'affaires Seromi Okamoto said. He said the embassy had advised the evacuation since Japan did not have troops in the region to rescue its nationals in case of an emergency. The USS Kearsage amphibious assault ship and members of a Marine Expeditionary Unit were due to leave Norfolk, Virginia, tomorrow instead of April 29 for a six-month deployment. "These forces are being relieve the USS Nassau to ensure continuous presence of forces capable of conducting non-combatant evacuation operations in Zaire," a Defence Department statement said.

Kananga, en route to Kinshasa from Mbuji-Mayi, apparently fell without any resistance. Another significant takeover was was the mining town of Kolwezi, further south in Shaba province, northwest of Lubumbashi which fell last Wednesday. The takeover of Lubumbashi was reported to be partly due to cooperation from Zambia, according to residents along the common border. Quoted by AFP, they claimed the rebels infiltrated from Zambian territory, taking the small town of Kipushi before moving on towards Zaire's second city. Zambia has refused to allow the stationing of Belgian troops at Ndola, in readiness for an evacuation from Lubumbashi. Clashes have been reported at another border town - Kasumbalesa - between Kabila's forces and youths of a Shaba party, JUFERI, which supports the pro-autonomy provincial governor Kyungu ku Mwanza. Several bodies were seen lying in the streets. The governor himself was ousted today after Kabila appointed a provisional provincial boss, Gaetan Kakudji, and announced plans to renegotiate mining deals with foreign firms.

* Kabila, who is touring the largest rebel-held towns aboard a private plane with a personal bodyguard, has claimed the Kinshasa authorities are out to kill him. He showed AFP a fax he had received which said the regime had bought weapons from France to eliminate him. "According to the information in our possession, the arms are destined for commando operations aimed at destroying planes overflying liberated territory and above all the life of the leader of the Alliance," the document from a "well-informed Zairean compatriot" said. Kabila also told AFP he believed the French government had changed its stance towards the rebels. "Before its attitude was arrogant," he said. "It no longer acts as it did at the beginning. It is becoming reasonable. There is less aggressiveness towards us." France on Saturday urged "all Zairean leaders" to hold talks to save the country and lead it towards free elections. A foreign ministry spokesman denied that France was supplying arms to the Zairean regime.

* As the Zairean regime cedes more and more mineral-rich territory to the rebels, government spokesman Kin-Kiey Mulumba admitted on Sunday that it "desperately lacks financial resources". Most of the country's gold, diamond, copper and cobalt reserves are in rebel hands, along with a high proportion of agricultural commodities such as coffee, tea and beans. Meanwhile, Switzerland's Socialist Party called for freezing Mobutu's bank accounts in the country but it was strongly believed that the embattled Zairean leader had already removed his multi-billion dollar fortune.

* Details have emerged of assistance to the rebels from another front. A report in today's 'East African' weekly cited western diplomats as saying Zimbabwe had been providing weapons and uniforms to Kabila's men. The Zimbabawe and South African-based diplomats said the ADFL had signed a commercial deal with the state-owned Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) for the supplies and that consignments had been flown to Zaire "for several months". The allegations come after Kenya's President Daniel arap Moi, at the COMESA summit in Zambia on Thursday, demanded to know "on behalf of Africa" who had been supplying the rebels.

* The World Health Organisation has formally declared a cholera epidemic among Rwandan Hutu refugees in camps near Kisangani, which is certain to delay plans to repatriate some 80,000 refugees, WHO officials said. Over the last week, more than 600 people are reported to have died from disease and malnutrition in the Kasese and Biaro camps. On Sunday, more displaced Zaireans were flown from Kisangani to Goma in a continuation of the UNHCR's test run for airlifting the Rwandans back to their country. Although some reports said 300 Zaireans were airlifted by UNHCR, the rotation actually involved 207 people in a WFP Ilyushin-76 cargo plane. Some 200 were flown back to Goma on Friday.

* While plans are underway to repatriate the remaining Rwandan refugees in eastern Zaire, some of those who recently returned from Tanzania are said to be coming back to the Kagera region. According to the Regional Police Commissioner, cited by the Tanzanian 'Daily News', police in the region had arrested 645 Rwandans in the past three months. He said some of them were armed. The Rwandan Hutus were quoted as saying they had fled their country because of ethnic clashes and for fear of implication in the 1994 genocide leading to their arrest.

* The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) opened its third trial on Friday, with the appearance of the former prefect of Kibuye, Clement Kayishema and a businessman Obed Ruzindana, both accused of playing an active role in the massacre of thousands of Tutsis during the genocide. Both men have denied the charges against them. About 50 people are expected to testify.

* Burundi is looking increasingly isolated in the region, as relations with Rwanda become more and more strained and Kigali tightens the noose regarding sanctions. Although it officially supported the embargo, Rwanda had been fairly lax about allowing commercial traffic across the border into Burundi. It appears the Rwandan government is becoming increasingly disillusioned with Burundi's military leader Pierre Buyoya and local press reports indicate officials are now stricter in enforcing the sanctions. Rwandan officials complain that police at roadblocks in Bujumbura have violated conventions by searching cars belonging to Rwandan diplomats.

Burundi's Foreign Minister Luc Rukingama lashed out at neighbouring countries on Friday, accusing them of profiting from the embargo through illegal trade. "Unfortunately for certain countries, it has become a foundation of commerce," he told a news conference. "The rich are getting richer with the embargo because they have the means of circumventing it." Countries of the region are due to hold a summit in Arusha, Tanzania, on Wednesday to discuss the sanctions, but Rukingama expressed pessimism over whether they would be lifted. "All imports, all exports which were done by the Burundi government, today are done by whom?", he asked. "These are the same countries that have imposed the embargo against Burundi." For the first time, Buyoya has been invited to attend a regional summit, although government spokesmen said the issue was being studied in Bujumbura as his status had not been settled.

Ahead of the regional summit, Burundi's political parties held talks in Arusha over the weekend, chaired by former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere. Both the major parties - UPRONA and FRODEBU - attended the talks although few details were available. A report in the 'East African' weekly today said the opposition parties had called for tightening the sanctions. The start of the meeting was delayed when the plane carrying the UPRONA delegation was detained by immigration officials at Mwanza airport on Friday "for no apparent reason", according to a Burundian foreign ministry official.

Heavy fighting continued in Burundi's southern Makamba province, with an announcement by the defence ministry that 140 rebels were killed in separate clashes with the military last week. In a statement issued on Sunday, the ministry added that three government soldiers were killed in the fighting. There are indications that Hutu rebels, who had been forced to flee to Tanzania from eastern Zaire have now returned to the region and are launching attacks against communities in southern Burundi by boat. They are thought to be in the Moba area, which is largely bereft of Zairean rebels who have moved on to fight in other areas of Zaire.

* Uganda and Sudan have been trying to iron out their problems with the mediation of Libya. Sudanese President Omar Bashir on Sunday met Ugandan Foreign Minister Eriya Kategaya and Ugandan Defence Minister Amama Mbabazi at the town of Ra's Ajdir. According to the Libyan news agency Jana, President Museveni was due to attend in person but was unable to because of other commitments. In a statement, reported by Libyan radio, Kategaya hailed Libya's efforts to mediate between the two countries. However, according to today's 'New Vision', Museveni warned Sudan that if it attacked Uganda, "it will be given a blow from which the government of Lt. General Omar Bashir will never recover". On Saturday, SPLA rebels destroyed a base belonging to Ugandan insurgents near the southern Sudanese town of Aru, Ugandan Defence Minister Mbabazi said. A report in the state-owned 'New Vision' on Saturday claimed a total of 153 Lord's Resistance Army rebels and Sudanese government troops were killed in the fighting.

Nairobi, 14 April 1997, 15:30 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: Mon, 14 Apr 1997 18:27:51 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update No.149 for 12-14 Apr 1997 97.4.14 Message-ID: <>

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

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