Great Lakes: IRIN Update 151, 4/16/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 151, 4/16/97

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

Tel: +254 2 622147
Fax: +254 2 622129

IRIN Emergency Update No.151 on the Great Lakes (Wednesday 16 April 1997)

* Regional leaders, at the end of a one-day summit in Arusha, Tanzania, today, agreed to ease sanctions against Burundi. Speaking after the meeting, Burundi's military leader, Pierre Buyoya, attending a regional summit for the first time since the embargo was imposed last July, said the ban had been lifted on food and agricultural products, educational and construction materials and medicine. He said that although Burundi's expectations had been higher, this was nevertheless a "very important step" and encouraging for the peace process. Buyoya arrived in Arusha yesterday where he was welcomed by Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa. The countries invited to the summit were Ethiopia, Cameroon, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Zaire and Zambia as well as mediator, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere and OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim, who yesterday urged the lifting of certain sanctions against Burundi. The summit, which was only expected to last half an hour, carried on into the evening with reports that the Kenyan delegation left early.

In Bujumbura, diplomatic sources said an anti-personnel mine was detonated on the golf course when a tractor ran over it today. It was not immediately known whether there were any injuries, but no deaths were reported. Today's incident brings to five the number of mine blasts in the Burundian capital this month, and 11 since March 12.

* The Zaire crisis took another twist yesterday with reports that former prime minister Leon Kengo wa Dondo had fled the country, taking with him the equivalent of "several million dollars", according to the authorities. It was learnt later that the Belgian authorities had given him a six month visa. The Belga news agency said Kengo left Zaire on Sunday and was currently in Switzerland. According to Zairean Information Minister Kin Kiey Mulumba, Zaire's "coffers are empty". "We would like to get that money back," the minister added. Zairean radio said the government had issued an international arrest warrant for Kengo and legal action was also being taken against his economic team. "The public treasury has suffered to the point that even the Bank of Zaire is the red," the radio reported. The army is due to be paid shortly, but it is unlikely that Kinshasa's nearly bankrupt regime will be able to come up with the money, heightening fears of an army rampage in the Zairean capital. A source close to Mobutu, quoted by AFP, later denied Kengo had fled, stating he had gone to Switzerland "to visit his family and take a rest". Kengo was forced from office last month after parliament criticised his handling of the war.

* For a second day, Kinshasa was at a virtual standstill yesterday as supporters of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekdedi continued their protest campaign to oust President Mobutu Sese Seko. Most shops and businesses remained closed and many residents, fearing trouble, stayed at home. The security forces, who have instructions to put down any demonstrations, blocked roads to the volatile university campuses to prevent any student unrest. The opposition had called for a car-procession protest, but Zairean radio said the move failed due to the deterrent presence of the security forces. The city was reported back to normal today.

* Rebel leader Laurent Kabila was not having it all his way as dissent took a hold in his home region of Shaba. Some 500 people demonstrated in Lubumbashi in support of former provincial governor Kyungu ku Mwanza, now placed under house arrest by rebels who took the city last week. According to rebel radio, Kyungu has also been "deprived of all his political rights". The rebels are facing opposition from pro-secession "old" rebels calling for the independence of Katanga, the original name of Shaba. Kyungu - who has been replaced by Gaetan Kakudji, a nephew of Kabila - claims his supporters helped the rebels capture towns across Shaba, and his repeated calls on government soldiers not to go on a looting rampage helped prevent civilian deaths. In Kinshasa, vice-president of Kyungu's UFERI Originel party, Faustin Lukonzola denounced the treatment of the former governor, stating "We will not accept a change from one dictator to another dictator." "If Mr Kabila does not change his direction [regarding Kyunga's house arrest], he is going to find the whole population of Katanga in his way," Lukonzola said.

* Ahead of Kabila's arrival in South Africa today for talks with President Nelson Mandela, South African Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo announced yesterday that he expected "dramatic progress" in the peace negotiations. "We are in constant touch with all the role players in Zaire and in the region, and international efforts will see some dramatic progress within the next few days," he told parliament in Cape Town. He gave no further details. Mobutu has indicated his willingness to talk to Kabila if the latter "asks politely". Kabila arrived in South Africa from Lubumbashi saying he had come to discuss the future of "his" country. He again ruled out a ceasefire and predicted that the rebels would be in Kinshasa in three weeks' time. Kabila said he intended to return to Lubumbashi tomorrow.

* Meanwhile, South Africa's huge mining company De Beers shrugged off the ADFL's intention to renegotiate contracts with international mining firms. Kabila's "finance minister" Mwana Nanga Mawampanga had said the Alliance is unhappy with De Beers' monopoly of the diamond industry. "It is a monopoly and we don't want monopolies in this country anymore," he told a news conference. De Beers' selling arm, the Central Selling Organisation (CSO), markets one third of Zaire's diamond production. A De Beers spokesman told the South African news agency SAPA that his company was confident "the logic of the world diamond marketing situation will prevail". "It will be in Zaire's interest to continue dealing with the CSO," he added, saying De Beers was taking a "significant quantity of poor quality diamonds". Most of Zaire's diamond output is of industrial quality. The country's official diamond production is priced at around 450 million US dollars per year.

As part of their new policy on mining, the ADFL today signed a billion (US) dollar deal in Lubumbashi with the US-based America Mineral Fields (AMF) company. The deal was signed by Mawampanga and AMF official Jean-Raymond Boulle, and envisages AMF buying a major copper/cobalt reclamation project, building a new zinc plant and investigating further mineral prospects in the country.

* As plans for repatriating some 80,000 Rwandan refugees from the Kisangani area gained momentum, the Rwandan government expressed strong opposition to UNHCR's plan to airlift the returnees. According to the Rwandan News Agency (RNA), while approving the repatriation, the authorities said the most efficient way of bringing the refugees home was by road. Ephraim Kabaija, chairman of the Joint Commission for Repatriation, who returned yesterday from visiting the Kisangani refugee camps, accused the UNHCR and aid agencies of overestimating the number of refugees. "Rwandan officials affirm that the real number stands at between 30,000 to 40,000," he said. "We have told UNHCR that if we were provided with only 200 trucks, all the refugees in Zaire could be repatriated in less than a month." RNA said the Rwandan authorities have indicated that UNHCR will not be allowed to use Kigali airport because it is "too narrow", and because the returnees would then have to travel some 400kms to their homes in prefectures bordering Zaire.

Reports from the camps in Kisangani say the situation of the refugees is improving and they are increasing in strength. UN officials said the airlift from Kisangani to Goma of a first batch of 80 unaccompanied Rwandan children along with displaced people, due to take place tomorrow, had been postponed until Friday. ADFL rebels have formally given the go-ahead for the repatriation to take place. From Goma, the children will be taken by road to Rwanda.

Relief agencies have been unable to confirm the number of refugees in the Ikela region, southwest of Kisangani, although the Zairean military, contacted by UNHCR, say there are some 55,000 in the area.

Japan today pledged 2 million US dollars to assist the UNHCR programme for repatriating the Rwandan refugees, the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported. It said Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda also urged visiting Rwandan Defence Minister Paul Kagame to cooperate with the repatriation effort. Kagame has been quoted as saying he welcomes the return of the refugees. In addition, Tokyo pledged a further one million dollars to help UNHCR resettle the returnees in Rwanda.

* The joint UN-OAU Special Representative for the Great Lakes region, Mohamed Sahnoun, has described the current rebellion in Zaire as the "final wave of post-colonial development". In an article for the 'International Herald Tribune', he warned that "if Zaire implodes and refugees spill out, it will spread the kind of chaos and destabilisation, although on a vaster scale, with which we are already so tragically familiar in Rwanda and Burundi." But "if instead, these links between many peoples become the basis of a more integrated region, in which wealth and resources are shared, Zaire could become the other leg, along with South Africa, by which Africa gets on its feet." "They will not go easily, but the old guard, which took over after independence and became the corrupt political class, has exhausted its power. The final wave of African independence is at last underway," he wrote. The departure of the old regime had to be handled without humiliating its members and thus Kabila was being encouraged to "look for the peaceful compromise of a coalition government in Kinshasa".

* Total pledges received as of April 9 1997 for the UN 1997 Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for the Great Lakes (excluding Rwanda) amount to US$116,159,150, representing 51.5 percent of needs covered. The total amount required is US$324,506,861.

* Ugandan Foreign Minister Eriya Kategaya has said Sudanese President Omar Bashir is ready to resume diplomatic ties with Kampala, the state-owned 'New Vision' reported today. The two countries severed relations in 1994 amid accusations that they were supporting each other's rebel groups. Kategaya, who met Bashir in Libya last Sunday, said the Sudanese leader "now accepts a comprehensive peace plan unlike before when he said the southern Sudan question was merely an internal matter".

Kategaya also ruled out talks with rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the 'New Vision' said. "I don't think that our government has changed its position on the issue," the foreign minister told a news conference yesterday. He was responding to an announcement by an LRA representative in London last week that the rebel group was willing to negotiate with President Yoweri Museveni.

Nairobi, 16 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: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 18:39:22 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 151 for 16 Apr 1997 97.4.16 Message-ID: <>

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

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific