Great Lakes: IRIN Update 150, 4/15/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 150, 4/15/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for the Great Lakes

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Fax: +254 2 622129

IRIN Emergency Update No.150 on the Great Lakes (Tuesday 15 April 1997)

* The presence of Burundi leader, Pierre Buyoya, at tomorrow's regional summit in Arusha was yesterday confirmed by an aide, Evode Danzubaze. He told AFP Buyoya would leave for Arusha today. The summit will discuss whether to lift regional economic sanctions against the country which have been in place since Buyoya took power last July. This is the first time Buyoya has been invited to attend a regional summit. OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim meanwhile, called for lifting some of the sanctions, saying the civilian population was at risk. "There is a need to review and ensure that those sanctions, which hurt civilians ... are lifted," he told journalists in Dar es Salaam, ahead of the meeting. "The objective of the sanctions is not to hurt innocent civilians." Salim's comments represent a shift in the stance of the OAU, which earlier this year was firmly in favour of maintaining sanctions due to a "multiplication of human rights violations" in Burundi.

The extremist Hutu rebel organisation, National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD) said it "regretted" Buyoya's invitation to Arusha. "We cannot find the right words to express our feelings of regret," spokesman Jerome Ndiho told AFP by phone. He also denied that 140 rebels had been killed in Makamba province recently, claiming that the victims were civilians. The rebels had "opened fronts across all the territory", he added.

A preliminary report on the impact of Burundi sanctions has found there was no concrete evidence that sanctions have been successful politically. The report by researchers from Brown University in the USA stated that while the sanctions were having a signficiant impact on the Burundian economy and causing considerable civilian hardship, they were compounding an already difficult situation caused by the internal crisis and insecurity. Noting that the Burundian government had made concessions, the report said this may also have been due to the country's international isolation and it was important to ask whether the same results might have been achieved with more targeted, "civilian-friendly" sanctions. High level smuggling, cross-border trade and Burundi's rural subsistence economy had diluted the sanctions' impact. The report stressed the embargo had created a serious problem for humanitarian agencies and recommended expanding the list of exempted items as well as simplifying the exemption process.

* UNHCR has expressed concern over the repatriation of some 1,200 Burundian refugees from the Kabangira camp in southwest Rwanda. The camp housed about 2,600 refugees. Rwandan officials who visited the camp earlier this month, told the refugees to leave by April 6. UNHCR said it learnt about this later and raised the issue in Kigali where it was told there was no forced repatriation. UNCHR said the security situation in Burundi was such that it did not encourage the return of refugees to the country.

* Rwandan Defence Minister Paul Kagame has called for continued Japanese assistance to his country. Kagame, who began a six-day visit to Japan yesterday, said Rwanda needed Japanese assistance for "rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation". In particular, he requested financial and technical aid to help develop agriculture and other industries, rather than emergency assistance. Kagame added that his country was ready to welcome back the 80,000 refugees from the Kisangani area. Japan and Rwanda also exchanged notes regarding 2.4 million dollars' worth of grants-in-aid to help upgrade Rwanda's public transport system.

* With the focus now on Kinshasa in the Zaire crisis, the capital is under pressure both inside and out, as rebels from the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) continued their advance. Ousted premier Etienne Tshisekedi's opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party meanwhile today called for a second stayaway day in the capital, aimed at forcing President Mobutu Sese Seko to step down, and troops were out in force to put down any unrest. Yesterday, the strike - which was also observed in the five provinces remaining under government control - provoked confrontation between the army and opposition supporters, as the former fired warning shots into the air to disperse demonstrators. The streets of the capital had been practically deserted. A cabinet meeting yesterday instructed the interior and justice ministers to "fully enforce the law", Zairean radio said. The meeting also examined ongoing peace talks with the rebels in South Africa, pledging Zaire's continuing commitment to the dialogue.

President Mobutu's son, Nzanga, in defiant mood, said his father would never flee into exile and would stay put in Kinshasa to stop the city falling into rebel hands. "We are determined to defend Kinshasa," he said, quoted by the Belgian daily 'Le Soir'."The army has received clear instructions on this." He added that the Zairean government "does not intend to set out on the road towards surrender". Mobutu Nzanga admitted that the July 9 elections could not take place, but stressed that the government was determined to observe the electoral process.

* Rebel leader Laurent Kabila swept into Lubumbashi yesterday afternoon to a triumphant welcome as thousands of local residents lined his route from the airport to the city centre. AFP said he left Goma aboard an "official Ugandan plane" to arrive in the capital of Shaba, his home region. He is expected to address a public meeting today. The new governor Gaetan Kakuji, who is a nephew of Kabila, said he was aware of "the political problems in Katanga", the original name of Shaba province which has a strong tradition of secessionism. Local youths and students, members of the powerful provincial party, UFERI, gave the rebels their first taste of political challenge as they demanded to know Kabila's plans for the region. They called for fresh elections and improving the educational system, warning of bloodshed if their demands were not met.

The ADFL yesterday claimed to have taken the town of Kasumbalesa on the border with Zambia. Rebel radio, broadcasting from Goma, said yesterday the town fell on Friday without any resistance and that the Alliance was "favourably welcomed". "The liberation army, an indomitable machine, is sweeping through towns and regions to drive out the enemies of the people," the radio added. However, fierce clashes between the rebels and UFERI members have been reported in Kasumbalesa.

* In the first known incident of its kind, Laurent Kabila's rebels are holding 46 Lebanese nationals hostage in the diamond centre of Mbuju-Mayi. The South African news agency, SAPA, said the South African Foreign Affairs Department was negotiating their release with Kabila. The rebels are reportedly asking each Lebanese national to pay a 750,000 US dollar ransom before being allowed to leave. According to SAPA, the 46 Lebanese have been trapped in their homes since the rebels took the city. Their personal belongings were taken in widespread looting before the rebel takeover. Lebanese ambassdor to South Africa, Sharbil Istifan, told SAPA his government had asked him to approach Pretoria for help. Istifan said there were 3,000 Lebanese in Zaire, most of them businessmen in the mineral rich centres of Mbuji-Mayi and Lubumbashi, adding that no ransom demands had been made when the rebels entered Lubumbashi. If the nationals were released, they would be flown to South Africa on board a commercial aircraft chartered by South Africa's Lebanese community, the envoy said.

* As the rebel advance continued, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday urged Kabila to call a ceasefire and accept a negotiated solution to the crisis. Speaking in Rome, Annan said he was concerned that a five point peace plan, backed by the UN Security Council, had not brought about a ceasefire. But he was encouraged that Mobutu had indicated his willingness to talk to the rebel leader. Annan added it was clear that Zaire was on the verge of major political change and that it would need the support of the entire international community. A US State Department spokemsan yesterday also called for a ceasefire and negotiations, adding that if Kabila became the new Zairean leader, Washington would do its "very best in influencing him to be open". Reports indicated that Kabila would soon fly to South Africa to attend the peace talks in person.

* Local press reports in Zambia today claimed over 100 soldiers of Zaire's elite Presidential Security Division (DSP) fled into Zambia on Sunday night. The minister in charge of the northern Copperbelt region, Charles Museba, confirmed the arrival of 106 soldiers, whose weapons were seized immediately upon arrival. He said they would be handed over to UNHCR after screening.

* Unconfirmed reports from Ikela and Bokungu, southwest of Kisangani, say there are between 30,000-60,000 Rwandan refugees in the area who fled the Tingi-Tingi camp ahead of the rebel advance earlier this year. Ex-FAR and Interahamwe members are thought to be among them. Another 10,000 ex-Tingi-Tingi refugees are reported to be in Opala, between Kisangani and Ikela, but information from these areas is sketchy.

* WFP says it has chartered two private barges in Kisangani each with a capacity of 250 MTs, to transport food and relief aid across the Zaire river. The operation began Sunday, thereby relieving the only existing ferry which until then had provided the sole means of transport across the river and was used by local people and aid agencies alike. WFP said the barges could be made available to UNHCR for the Rwandan refugee repatriation operation from the Kisangani area which is expected to begin later this week.

* Cholera is said to be spreading at an alarming rate in Dar es Salaam since an outbreak of the disease in January, regional commissioner Hassan Ngwilizi has said. Some 52 people had died of the disease which had so far been contracted by 1,058 people. Ngwilizi announced a total ban on the open-air sale of food and urged residents to boil drinking water.

* There have been several serious security incidents in Uganda's northern Kitgum district since the beginning of April, including attacks on a trading centre and a camp for the displaced as well as two mine incidents,according to well-placed sources. On April 4 a vehicle hit a mine between Palabek and Atiak, killing two civilians and three soldiers, while on April 7 an anti-personnel mine injured a farmer in Lacekocot, near Atanga IDP camp. On the same day, a group of rebels attacked Pajimo trading centre, 14 kms north of Kitgum town, and burnt several huts, while on April 11 rebels attacked Palabek displaced camp, killing seven people and wounding eleven. The rebels are believed to have moved from Sudan into Kitgum district.

Nairobi, 15 April 1997, 15:00 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: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 18:26:50 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 150 for 15 Apr 1997 97.4.15 Message-ID: <>

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

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