Great Lakes: IRIN Update 152, 4/17/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 152, 4/17/97

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

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

IRIN Emergency Update No.152 on the Great Lakes (Thursday 17 April 1997)

* Zairean rebel leader Laurent Kabila, who arrived in South Africa yesterday to an almost presidential welcome, held closed-door talks in Cape Town with President Nelson Mandela and senior government officials. The meeting culminated in an announcement today that Kabila was expected to hold talks with President Mobutu Sese Seko "as soon as possible" in South Africa. South African deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad told a news conference that Mandela had issued formal invitations to both men. He urged the two sides to "waste no time because of the growing crisis". UN-OAU Special Representative for the Great Lakes, Mohamed Sahnoun, who is also in South Africa, told the news conference that the situation was "very difficult, but we are confident the meeting will be held very soon". Other reports indicated that parallel efforts to hold a meeting were underway in Congo, as Mobutu may prefer to be closer to home.

* According to AFP, a senior diplomat close to the peace talks said Mandela and Kabila had agreed there must be a peaceful solution to the Zairean crisis. In Kinshasa, Mobutu's son Nzanga said his father had "accepted the idea" of talks. "Now I suppose they're working on a time frame," he added. Nelson Mandela, who said he had spoken on the phone three times with Mobutu since Saturday, described the Zairean leader as "very cooperative", saying he "has an interest in a negotiated settlement". Mandela told reporters he was optimistic there would be a peaceful solution to the conflict. "The only constraint we have for success ... is to ensure there is an element of confidentiality," he said. He added that Kabila wanted a solution which would be approved by Mobutu and that the rebel leader did not intend to humiliate the embattled president. Kabila returned to a rapturous welcome in Lubumbashi today, where thousands of supporters turned out to greet him.

* The rebels remained defiant yesterday, as calls continued for a ceasefire in Zaire. France urged a meeting "very soon" between Kabila and Mobutu aimed at "stopping the hostilities once and for all", predicting chaos if there were no negotiated end to the fighting. In Bonn, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel yesterday called on the international community to "put pressure" on Kabila to accept a ceasefire and negotiate with Mobutu. "If we don't manage the change in Zaire, we may lose control of it," Annan warned, adding "we don't want to repeat history." He said there should be "transitional arrangements in Zaire and eventually elections".

But a rebel spokesman in Goma, echoing statements by Kabila in South Africa, reiterated there would be no ceasefire. "If there is a ceasefire, it would favour the other side," Raphael Ghenda told AFP. "It would enable them to gain time. One must negotiate first, a ceasefire would follow. The US House of Representatives' International Relations Committee yesterday called on Mobutu to resign and urged President Clinton's administration to distance itself from Mobutu's regime. In a resolution, the Committee said Mobutu's government had "systematically violated human rights".

* The joint UN-OAU Special Representative for the Great Lakes, Mohamed Sahnoun has said he plans to convene a conference aimed creating the free movement of people and trade across Central Africa, regardless of artificially-imposed boundaries. Writing in the 'International Herald Tribune', he said the conference, which would come under UN auspices, would be dubbed the "anti-Berlin conference", a reference to the Berlin conference of 1884 which established the colonial division of Africa and most of the continent's present-day boundaries. "In a sense, the aim of this new conference will be to erase the colonial intent of dividing up the spoils with state boundaries and seek instead to share them through new interstate cooperation, beginning with a common market," Sahnoun wrote. "Only an approach that enables the free movement of people and goods across Central Africa, so that the density of population can be matched with the available resources, will reverse the trend of crumbling states. Only such an approach can hope to entice foreign investment."

* Former Zairean premier Kengo wa Dondo yesterday denied claims he had fled the country, taking several million dollars' worth of state money with him. Speaking in Geneva, he said he was in Switzerland for medical reasons and "absolutely rejected" claims of fleeing and plundering state money. "Everyone knows perfectly well that state coffers have been empty since 1991, and I can prove it," he said. The allegations, he added, were a "settling of scores" by the new information minister, Kin Kiey Mulumba. Kengo said after his treatment, he would go on to Belgium for a visit, following which he would return to Zaire. He denied that his family was with him Switzerland. Zairean radio yesterday reported that an international arrest warrant had been taken out against the former premier, but a Swiss police spokesman refused to comment on the issue. He said Zaire had not requested legal cooperation from Switzerland.

* Fears heightened over the safety of the boss of MIBA mines in Mbuji-Mayi after his family took out an advert in a Zairean paper claiming they had not seen him and his wife since they were summoned to Goma by Laurent Kabila. Mukamba Kadiata Nzemba and his wife boarded a special plane on April 10 and since then, there has been no news of them, the advert said. It called on the international community to intervene. MIBA personnel were apparently prevented from accompanying him. An article in the Zairean daily 'La Reference Plus' yesterday said that according to rumours circulating in Kinshasa, Mukamba was dead. Some reports said he had been accused of corruption by Kabila. Although a close ally of Mobutu, Mukamba was highly regarded in Mbuji-Mayi for creating employment opportunities and contributing to an economic turnaround in western Kasai. The paper said the issue was being hotly debated in the streets of Mbuji-Mayi and could become a major problem for the rebellion in a region as sensitive as western Kasai.

* Preparations are underway in Kisangani for tomorrow's airlift of the first batch of Rwandan refugees. Eighty unaccompanied children will be flown to Goma, and then trucked back to Rwanda, UNHCR said. More of the 80,000 refugees will be airlifted over the weekend and the numbers will build up over next week. The first to go will come from the Biaro refugee camp, where there has been no outbreak of the cholera which has afflicted nearby Kasese camp. To date, 303 cases of cholera have been reported there and 19 people died over the past month, although the strain is not virulent. Emmanuel Kamanzi, the rebel official responsible for relations with UN agencies, was due in Kisangani today ahead of the repatriation operation.

* The official communique from the regional summit on Burundi, held yesterday in Arusha, stated that focal points would be designated in each country to facilitate the smooth implementation of the decision to ease sanctions. Exempted from the embargo are food and food products, education and construction materials, medicines and agricultural items "in order to alleviate the sufferings of the people of Burundi". The communique stressed the importance of talks for a political solution to the Burundi conflict and said all sanctions, except the arms embargo, would be suspended "once there is movement in the negotiations". It urged the establishment of an environment "propitious for negotiations and national reconciliation to take place" and called on the Burundi government to disband regroupment camps. It also called for restoring the freedom of the National Assembly Speaker considered "an important interlocutor in the process of negotiations". Before the summit took place, there had been some debate about the status of Burundi leader Pierre Buyoya. However in the communique, he was referred to as the President of Burundi.

In his opening speech to the summit, Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa acknowledged "the will to negotiate had been expressed" by the Burundi authorities, but said there had been an absence of "practical and clear steps" towards dialogue between the government and Hutu rebels. The sanctions, he said, were imposed "only as a tool for a specific purpose".

* The UN Human Rights Commission has expressed "grave concern" over a sharp rise in killings and attacks against Rwandan genocide survivors. In a resolution, issued in Geneva, the Commission said it was worried about "the deterioration in human rights since the beginning of 1997 and the continuing suffering experienced by the survivors of the genocide". While hailing the start of genocide trials and an overhaul of the judicial system, the resolution urged the Rwandan government to thoroughly investigate incidents of rape and sexual abuse in the country, as well as prison conditions. It called on the international community to assist Rwanda in reconstructing its "human rights infrastructure".

* Operation Lifeline Sudan said two aircraft dropped bombs on the southern Sudanese town of Yei on April 10, but gave no details of possible casualties. UN and NGO personnel have been working in the area over the past few weeks to assist over 55,000 people who have returned since mid-March, mostly from refugee camps in Uganda.

Nairobi, 17 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: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 17:51:38 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 152 for 17 Apr 1997 97.4.17 Message-ID: <>

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

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