Great Lakes: IRIN Update 155, 4/22/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 155, 4/22/97

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

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

IRIN Emergency Update No.155 on the Great Lakes (Tuesday 22 April 1997)

* Prospects for a negotiated settlement of the Zaire crisis dwindled as ailing President Mobutu Sese Seko refused to travel to South Africa because the journey was too long. South African mediators had been optimistic Mobutu would meet rebel leader Laurent Kabila in Cape Town tomorrow, but the chances were already slim with Kabila declaring he would only negotiate Mobutu's departure. However, joint UN-OAU Special Representative for the Great Lakes region, Mohamed Sahnoun, who is in South Africa, yesterday expressed cautious optimism that the talks would go ahead. "There is still a small hope to concretise the meeting," he was quoted as saying. Both sides "continue to say they're ready to meet", he added.

Diplomatic activity continued as French President Jacques Chirac sent a senior envoy to Cape Town at the weekend for talks with President Mandela. No details of the meeting have been revealed. A French foreign ministry spokesman said today Paris wanted to see a transitional government in Zaire, leading to national reconciliation. Washington expressed disappointment that obstacles were being placed in the way of face-to-face talks.

* Following reports that Angolan soldiers had been sighted in rebel-held Lubumbashi, a senior rebel official yesterday claimed Chinese troops had flown into Kinshasa to back Mobutu. Rebel "finance minister" Mawapanga mwana Nanga alleged about 400 Chinese soldiers were in the Zairean capital, a claim strongly denied by both the Chinese ambassador to Zaire and Zairean diplomats in Beijing. The ambassador Wang Shegiao dismissed the allegations as "rebel gossip". The Chinese government itself later issued a denial stating "these rumours have no foundation and are designed only to damage relations between the Zairean and Chinese people". Speaking in Lubumbashi, Mawapanga warned that "all foreign soldiers on our territory, in Kinshasa or elsewhere, even under the pretext of evacuating expatriates, will be considered as enemies". The fall of Kinshasa to the rebels was "just a matter of days", he added. But if Mobutu stepped down, they would halt their advance.

In defiant mood, Zairean Prime Minister Likulia Bolongo declared that the country's armed forces were capable of defending Kinshasa against the rebels and he appealed for public support. Speaking on Zairean television last night, the prime minister affirmed that if peace talks failed "the FAZ is ready to end a truce and resume fighting". He blamed divisions among Zairean politicians for weaknesses in the armed forces.

* Amid reports of renewed violence in Kisangani today, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned attacks on aid workers in eastern Zaire and called for an end to the unrest so that relief operations to repatriate thousands of Rwandan refugees could resume. An operation to airlift the first batch of refugees from Kisangani to Goma was put on hold after warehouses were looted and staff attacked. "I very much deplore the recent attacks on refugee camps and humanitarian workers and I urge all the parties to stop the fighting and allow the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population caught in the conflict," the Secretary-General said in a statement. "I hope the repatriation and air-bridge operations will start very soon to save the lives of the vulnerable women and children needing better care," he said. Local residents were said to have resumed attacks on Rwandan refugees today and aid workers expressed serious concern over the condition of refugees in the Biaro and Kasese camps who are now due for a food distribution. Relief workers have now been denied access to the camps for three days.

According to UNICEF, tension was high between aid workers and the local population in the Kisangani area, who resent the assistance given to the refugees. Cholera, which had broken out among the refugees, had also fuelled resentment and was partly responsible for the breakdown of discussions with the authorities on the repatriation plans, UNICEF said. The agency added that as of 20 April, in the camps south of Kisangani, 3,128 unaccompanied children had been registered in refugee foster families, along with 700 lone children and 500 in Zairean families. The daily death toll among refugees had decreased from 180 a day to 51 on 17 April, but with access to refugees severely limited over the last few days, the figure was expected to rise.

WPF Executive Director Catherine Bertini strongly condemned the theft of some 200MTs of relief food from a looted train and a warehouse. "We've been working flat out to feed people and to save thousands of lives in these camps," she said. "This is a terrible loss. Desperately hungry people are reliant on that very food for their survival." She urged the Kisangani authorities to create a safe environment for the delivery of aid and called on the local population to return the stolen relief supplies and allow future shipments of food to transit through their home areas. Her sentiments were echoed by her counterpart in UNICEF, Carol Bellamy who accused the world of "watching and waiting" while "hundreds of children are at death's door". She appealed to African leaders, in particular President Mandela, to use their influence with the ADFL.

Kisangani residents, interviewed by Reuters, said the rebels had incited them to loot supplies destined for the refugees. The rebels have denied any involvement. A USAID report said the Alliance sent 400 troops to Kisangani over the weekend.

* In a bid to prevent arms smuggling from Zaire, Tanzania has announced that paramilitary forces will be deployed along its border with Zambia. Home Affairs Minister Ali Ameir Mohamed told PANA news agency the action was prompted by "rising incidents of banditry due to an incessant influx of refugees from Rwanda, Burundi and lately from Zaire". Areas marked out for special surveillance included Ngara, Kigoma, Rukwa and Tunduma. The minister added that Tanzania was seeking close cooperation with the Zambian police to combat cross-border crime.

* Tanzanian radio today reported that 734 Rwandan refugees who entered the country illegally between January and April 17 had been repatriated from the Kagera region. The radio also quoted the regional police commander as saying 113 Burundian nationals had been arrested and would be sent to a camp in Ngara district reserved for Burundian refugees.

* UNHCR and the Ugandan Local Government Ministry have started repatriating Rwandan refugees from the Orukinga camp in Mbarara, Uganda's state-owned 'New Vision' reported. It said about 500 refugees would return to Rwanda. Other refugees who escaped from the camp had been rounded up by security officials. Recently, district leaders visited the camp and emphasised the need to restrict the number of refugees there.

* Burundi's military leader Pierre Buyoya has predicted that ousted president Sylvestre Ntibantunganya will soon leave the US ambassador's residence where he has been holed up since the army coup last July. In an interview for 'Newsweek' magazine, Buyoya said Ntibantunganya, who sought refuge fearing for his life, had been a "hostage of his own people". "They have been telling him: 'stay there, we are fighting for constitutional legality, we can come back to power. The embargo is helping us'", Buyoya said. "I think now that illusion is over." A summit of African regional leaders in Arusha last week eased sanctions against Burundi which were imposed in response to the coup.

Jean-Luc Ndizeye, a spokesman for the Burundi president, said the government would hold bilateral meetings with other states to negotiate lifting the embargo on fuel supplies."Fuel was not included under lifted sanctions but since the regional sanctions committee has been dissolved, we have to hold bilateral negotiations with individual governments," Ndizeye said. "If you want to distribute food you need fuel...if you want to run either a hospital or school you still need fuel."

* Uganda's State Minister for Security, Muluri Mukasa, has warned of a plan by defeated Ugandan rebels based in Sudan and Zaire to infiltrate Buganda county, according the 'New Vision'. He said their aim was to continue to destabilise the country. "Muluri Mukasa said the ongoing military successes of the Banyamulenge and Garang's SPLA was a blessing to Uganda's security interests as the Ugandan rebels' bases in the two countries have been destroyed," 'New Vision' reported.

'New Vision' also reported that 26 rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army were killed and an unspecified number seriously injured on Saturday morning when they launched a "futile attack" on a Ugandan army encampment at Acet, Kitgum district. Three UPDF soldiers died and seven more were injured in the attack, acting Fourth Division Commander, Colonel Katumba Wamala, told journalists who visited the scene.

* Sudanese rebels said former US president Jimmy Carter was prevented from visiting the southern Sudanese town of Yei yesterday to meet rebel leaders after it was bombed by government forces. SPLA spokesman Sampson Kwaje said a MIG-23 dropped four bombs on the town during a visit by an advance team of four Americans. Carter was supposed to arrive with a message from Sudanese President Omar Bashir, Kwaje said. "The government then sent a MiG-23 which dropped four bombs in Yei town. Ten minutes later an Antonov bomber arrived and hovered around the airstrip and Yei town, apparently with the aim of bombing the advance team plane or even Carter's," he said.

Nairobi, 22 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, 22 Apr 1997 18:00:45 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 155 for 22 Apr 1997 97.4.22 Message-ID: <>

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

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific