Great Lakes: IRIN Update 154, 4/21/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 154, 4/21/97

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

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

IRIN Emergency Update No.154 on the Great Lakes (Saturday-Monday 19-21 April

* Increasing confirmation of Angola's assistance to Zairean rebels came to light over the weekend, after a BBC journalist reported seeing Angolan troops in Lubumbashi over the weekend. According to the report, the Angolans were seen at the airport and eating in restaurants in town. However, when questioned, the rebels denied the presence of Angolan troops, telling journalists they were suffering from delusions. Luanda's profile in the Zairean conflict is gaining prominence as, according to unconfirmed reports, several thousand Rwandan refugees, among them a large number of ex-FAR and Interahamwe militia, have crossed over to Angola into an area where Angolan government-UNITA sensitivity is high.

* After many setbacks and much frustration, aid workers again began preparing for the delayed repatriation of 80,000 Rwandan refugees from camps in the Kisangani area, only to be stymied again today as food supplies were looted once more. WFP said a train carrying 120 MTs of food to Biaro camp was stopped and looted by local people early this morning, just south of Kisangani, in what was described as a "violent attack". In another incident, a WFP storekeeper saw local people looting a WFP warehouse in Kasese village around 3am local time today. UN officials later said everything had been pillaged from the depot. Precise details are unclear because the rebel authorities today prevented aid workers from travelling to the camps. There was speculation that the violence was in retaliation for the killing of up to eight local Zaireans, which according to the Haut-Zaire provincial governor Yagi Sitolo, was carried out by Rwandan refugees. Local residents claimed the killers were Hutu militiamen among the refugees.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata today issued a statement calling on the authorities in Kisangani to take urgent action so that the airlift could go ahead. "This is not good enough," she said. "We must have access and we must begin the airlift. Every day's delay means more lives lost. Repatriation is the only solution for these people, the only way to guarantee their safety. If we cannot reach the refugees, neither can we reach the local population, who also badly need our assistance."

The repatriation operation was put on hold Friday, after security incidents and rebel concerns of a cholera outbreak in Biaro camp, which is reportedly free of the disease prevailing in nearby Kasese camp. The first repatriations of 80 unaccompanied children were due to take place from Biaro. The governor of Haut Zaire province, Yagi Sitolo, told Reuters that the operation should not take place until May 5 at the earliest because of the cholera outbreak which, he said, threatened local Zaireans. On Friday, rebels in Goma requisitioned 60,000 litres of aviation fuel used for planes chartered by UNHCR for the repatriation, UNHCR said. It said this was in addition to 24,000 litres taken earlier on, and would hamper the airlift.

* Regional support for the rebels gathered pace as Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party congratulated ADFL leader Laurent Kabila on his successful campaign. "We hail the victories being scored by our dear brother...Laurent Kabila," the party said. The comments were contained in a statement to mark Zimbabwe's 17th independence anniversary, issued by Tirivanhu Mudariki, the party's publicity secretary for the Harare region. "We appeal to our dear brother Kabila to extend the hand of reconciliation while swimming in victory," the statement added. However, Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge noted that the message did not necessarily reflect the official government position. He said ZANU-PF, led by President Robert Mugabe, was an institution on its own and entitled to its own opinion "which is not necessarily the government position". Zimbabwe denies allegations that it has been supplying the rebels with arms and other military equipment.

Elsewhere in the region, Kenyan opposition forces were drawing inspiration from Kabila's victories. The weekly 'Economic Review', which reflects opposition sentiments, ran a feature headlined "The Last of a Vanishing Breed", dubbing President Daniel arap Moi as the last of the "old guard" of African leaders. Kabila, for his part, has described Moi as "another Mobutu". Moi has never invited the rebel leader to Nairobi-based regional summits aimed at discussing the Zairean conflict, meetings criticised by the Kenyan opposition as a waste of time and expense which offered few concrete results. Last month, 12 opposition MPs published a statement pledging their "total" support for Kabila.

* Hopes of a negotiated settlement to the conflict withered over the weekend as Kabila pledged to continue battling until Kinshasa fell. In an address to thousands of Lubumbashi residents on Saturday, he reiterated that any talks with Mobutu would be to discuss the Zairean leader's departure from office. "He should give up power, give up his army, put down the arms so there can be a peaceful transfer of power," he said. He demanded that Mobutu return "all the money he has taken from the people", adding: "we cannot kill him because he is already finished". At the end of last week, South African officials were optimistic that face-to-face talks between the two men would take place in Cape Town early this week, but despite Mobutu's agreement in principle to such a meeting, Kabila has remained firm that he will only negotiate Mobutu's departure.

* With the situation in Kinshasa looking increasingly unsettled, the USA on Saturday recommended its nationals to leave Zaire. "The [State] Department strongly urges US citizens in Zaire to depart the country," it said in a statement. It warned against travelling to Zaire "due to the uncertain political and security situation and the potential for unrest throughout the country". Kabila has predicted that his troops will be in the capital within three weeks.

Washington also discounted claims by Zairean rebels that Mobutu had ordered the killing of expatriates in Kinshasa. "We have approached Mobutu's people about this and they've said it's absolute nonsense. It would make no sense," a State Department official said on Friday. "Give it no credence. We're discounting it."

* The Zairean authorities today announced new measures regarding foreign reporting in the country. These included demanding renewed accreditation from all journalists by Wednesday and the formation of an ad-hoc "ethics" committee to rule on "misinformed and unbalanced" articles. Information Minister Mulumba Kin-Kiey said the move was intended to make life easier for journalists some of whom, he claimed, had not given a "balanced" view of events.

* Negotiations on the release of 46 Lebanese, held by rebels in Mbuji-Mayi, were due to open in Lubumbashi today, diplomats said. Kabila was to meet two delegates representing the captives, and a commercial plane, chartered by wealthy Lebanese citizens, was on standby waiting to fly them out, probably to Kigali initially. Lebanon's immigration ministry says Kabila has agreed to drop the huge ransom demands for the hostages and allow them to leave soon.

* With the Arusha summit barely over, the spiral of violence continued in Burundi as the army reported a massacre of some 100 civilians, which it said was carried out by extremist rebels. Army spokesman Col.Isaie Nibizi said troops "found the bodies of about 100 civilians. The rebels called them out and killed them". The slaughter, he said, took place at Kayogoro in the troubled southern province of Makamba. According to a defence ministry statement, reported by Burundi radio on Friday, CNDD rebels "backed by elements of the former Rwandan armed forces and fugitives from the Zairean armed forces" had been infiltrating from Tanzania and across Lake Tanganyika since April 5. The statement said they had carried out killing and looting attacks in the Nyanza Lac, Vugizo, Mabanda and Kibago communes of Makamba province.

* Meanwhile, according to Radio Tanzania, the Hutu-dominated FRODEBU opposition party in Burundi called on mediator, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, to convene an urgent meeting to discuss peace in Burundi. FRODEBU spokesman Simba Rushatsi told the radio the meeting should concentrate on restoring democracy in Burundi with an aim to stopping the killings. He also commended the easing of sanctions against the country, a decision, he said, which was taken on "humanitarian grounds".

* The 'East African' weekly today gave a behind-the-scenes look at the Arusha summit, which according to sources close to the meeting, was far from cohesive. As regional leaders attempted to iron out their differences, the meeting stretched on for three hours instead of the allocated half hour. The sources revealed that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni criticised Buyoya for "polarising Burundi along ethnic lines" and for a "lack of national patriotic consciousness". This viewpoint was apparently echoed by Rwandan premier Pierre-Celestin Rwigyema. Observers have pointed to the two countries' worsening relations with Burundi. Buyoya denied that the regroupment camps in Burundi were aimed at dividing people according to their ethnicity. "There is propaganda that these camps are for elimination, but this is not true. We are only keeping people for their own safety. I have the credentials of a moderate and not of dividing people on ethnic lines," he said. According to the sources, Buyoya revealed that secret talks were being held in Rome with Hutu groups under the auspices of a Catholic peace organisation led by Don Matteo Zuppi. He also declared that his government had begun an internal dialogue with Burundians, holding five seminars in rural areas and three in Bujumbura.

Another article in the 'East African' quotes senior Rwandan officials as saying they cannot sacrifice the region's broader interests for the sake of the "disorganised leadership class in Burundi". Analysts note that both Rwanda and Uganda see Buyoya as a "spoiler" in their attempts to dominate the region. According to the newspaper, Rwandan officials accuse Buyoya of "being out of tune with the geopolitical setup". "With democratisation sweeping across the region, you cannot afford to monopolise power," one unnamed official was quoted as saying.

* Troubled relations between Sudan and Uganda intensified over the weekend, with reports that Uganda had stepped up its fight against Sudan-based rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army. Uganda's independent 'Sunday Monitor' said military officers, including Northern commander Maj-Gen Salim Saleh, had shifted their operational bases further north from Gulu to Kitgum. Last week, Uganda said it had killed 60 Sudanese troops and captured 114 in fighting between the countries' armies. The Sudanese prisoners were reportedly being held captive, along with 64 LRA rebels, at Ngomoromo, just near Uganda's border with Sudan. Two Ugandan soldiers, on an intelligence mission, were confirmed missing inside Sudan by Ugandan State Minister for Defence Amama Mbabazi.

Nairobi, 21 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, 21 Apr 1997 18:43:39 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 154 for 19-21 Apr 1997 97.4.21 Message-ID: <>

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

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific