UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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Department of Humanitarian Affairs
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IRIN Emergency Update No.156 on the Great Lakes (Wednesday 23 April 1997)
* The refugee problem in Kisangani looked set to escalate as a stand-off between aid agencies and rebels from the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) became more apparent. Some 55,000 refugees from the Kasese camps are believed to be on the move again, probably in search of food, but also as a result of reported fighting between rebels and Rwandan Hutu militia. Aid agencies, who are still prevented from reaching the camps, have been unable to verify exactly what is happening but a UNHCR spokesman said it was feared there were casualties from the violence. Relief workers pointed out that the rebels' continued denial of access to the camps south of Kisangani meant the refugees had been without food or medical assistance for three days, prompting fears that they would indeed leave the camps and trek deeper into the forests to seek out food. If they begin scattering, this will complicate the repatriation process. Reports said that aviation fuel requisitioned from the UN by the rebels earlier in the week had been used to fly child soldiers to an undisclosed destination. Refugees International yesterday accused the Alliance of "showing a callous disregard" for the lives of refugees and displaced people.
Rebel radio broadcasting from Goma meanwhile countered that aid agencies were "abandoning their responsibilities to local people". It said the suspension of food deliveries - after looting and attacks against aid workers by local people - could have led to subsequent violence. "A lack of food could have forced starving bellies to resort to any method, including theft and banditry," the radio said. It added that local people had been exasperated by the sight of food trucks carrying aid to the refugees, while Zaireans themselves had been "abandoned" by the international aid community.
A tripartite team from Rwanda, the ADFL and UNHCR was due to meet in Kisangani for talks on resuming the postponed refugee airlift. The three camps - Kasese 1, Kasese 2 and Biaro - house some 80,000 refugees and a futher 20,000 are thought to be scattered in forests or among families in the surrounding area.
The mortality rate in the camps is alarming and set to rise. UNICEF said that as of April 20, the last date that figures were available, the death rate at Kasese 1 was 11.4 per 10,000 people per day. In Kasese 2 it was 13.3 per 10,000 per day, while in Biaro the figure was 20 per 10,000 each day. UNICEF pointed out that the rates were 10 times worse than an "acceptable" estimate and would undoubtedly increase if access continued to be denied. An acceptable rate, according to UN nutritionists, would be 0.7 per 10,000 per day in a refugee population. Alarm bells ring once the death rate rises to 1 per 10,000 per day: if it reaches 2 per 10,000 per day it is considered a crisis.
* Thousands of "forgotten" refugees in the Shabunda-Walikale region are reported to be facing serious humanitarian problems. According to humanitarian sources, an estimated 50,000 refugees were scattered in and around the forests panning out from Bukavu, or staying with Zairean families. Reaching them however was extremely difficult, both logistically and because the ADFL rebels were denying access. Some reports said the refugees were being systematically killed by the rebels.
* A UN commission of enquiry is to probe alleged massacres carried out by the rebels. The investigation will begin next month, security permitting, with a visit to Goma to examine mass graves in the area. The mission, which has been approved by the rebels, comes as a result of a previous fact-finding visit by Roberto Garreton, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights for Zaire. Garreton said he had reason to believe the rebels had carried out killings, although he dismissed reports that these ran into tens of thousands.
* A security incident in Goma, in which a UNHCR administration officer was attacked, has given cause for concern. Two unidentified men entered the building yesterday evening, and held a gun against the man's head, demanding he open the safe. They then tied him up and bundled him under a desk, before making off with up to US$70,000.
* A glimmer of light hung over the prospect of peace talks between rebel leader Laurent Kabila and President Mobutu Sese Seko after South African President Nelson Mandela announced yesterday he was in touch with regional leaders and "not pessimistic". "The channels are still open," foreign ministry spokesman Pieter Swanepoel said. According to Mobutu's son Nzanga, his father was looking for an alternative venue for the meeting after stating that the journey to South Africa was too long for someone recovering from cancer surgery. He added the two warring sides were now discussing where to hold the talks.
* South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad yesterday warned that the Zairean conflict could spill over into neighbouring countries, especially Angola. "The danger to Angola is a very real one," he told the parliamentary foreign affairs committee. "There are reports of UNITA forces still in Zaire, there are reports of Katangese forces in Angola returning to Zaire, there are constant reports of that sort ..." A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, meanwhile, warned there may be "considerable bloodshed" in Kinshasa if a peaceful transition did not come about. "Both sides need to soften their current positions, and this is what the Secretary-General is calling on them to do," Fred Eckhard told a news briefing yesterday. Belgium has recalled all its non-essential staff from the embassy in Kinshasa.
* The ADFL is to move its headquarters from Goma to Lubumbashi "very soon", rebel radio, broadcasting from Bukavu reported. The decision was prompted by the strategic and economic importance of Lubumbashi, it said, adding that the "final offensive for the liberation of Kinshasa" was being prepared and it was only a matter of days before the city fell.
Another broadcast by the rebels today said they had taken the towns of Ilebo and Tshikapa in Western Kasai province. AFP noted that Ilebo, 700 kms from Kinshasa, has an airport capable of handling large planes and is also the rail terminal for lines from Lubumbashi and Kalemie. A track leads from Ilebo to Kikwit, from where there is a good road, 500 kms-long, to Kinshasa. Kabila's forces also claim to be heading to Kinshasa from Bandundu in the northwest and Matadi to the southwest, on the border with Angola.
* Rwanda's economy received a boost yesterday after the IMF approved a US$12 million loan to support its economic programme for 1997. In a statement, the IMF praised the country's "considerable progress" in repairing social and economic infrastructures. It noted that Rwanda's medium-term strategy sought to promote the social and economic reintegration of over two million former refugees. Belgium also pledged a total of about 96 million Belgian francs for two justice projects: one to boost investigation and prosecution departments, and the other to assist in training judges at Nyabisindu, southern Rwanda. The pledges were made the Belgian ambassador Frank de Conninck during a meeting with Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana.
* In Uganda, 746 rebels of the West Nile Bank Front (WNBF) have been charged with treason by a court in Arua, the state-owned 'New Vision' reported today. It quoted prison officials as saying the prisoners would this week be transferred to prisons in Kampala and Jinja. Last Friday, 399 WNBF rebels were also charged with treason. 'New Vision' said some of the prisoners were captured in southern Sudan by the SPLA and handed over to the Ugandan army. Others were handed over to the Ugandans by Zairean rebels.
'New Vision' also reported that two Ugandan soldiers, taken captive by the Sudanese army, allegedly appeared on Sudanese state television Saturday night saying they had taken part in an attack last week against Sudanese positions south of Juba. The newspaper quoted the television commentator as saying the attack was launched from the Ugandan town of Gulu. However, Ugandan Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Rebecca Kadaga denied the two men were captured during a battle in southern Sudan, saying the fighting took place in Uganda.
* Sudan yesterday dismissed Ugandan claims that Sudanese troops invaded northern Uganda and that Sudanese soldiers had been captured. State Minister in the foreign ministry, Dr Mustafa Uthman Isma'il, described the allegations as "untrue and lacking in objectivity". The minister claimed that Ugandan troops had instead attacked the Sudanese towns of Yei and Kaia, taken army prisoners and were parading them to convince international public opinion that Sudan had attacked Uganda.
Sudanese President Omar Bashir on Monday declared a general amnesty for "all those who have raised arms against the state since 1983," Sudanese radio reported. The gesture came during a ceremony at which a peace deal was signed between the government and four rebel factions, splinter groups of the SPLA, including Riak Machar's South Sudan Independence Movement (SSIM). The accord provides for a referendum on self-determination in the south after four years. A spokesman for the main SPLA group, Samson Kwaje, dismissed the agreement as a "sham", saying it would not stop the war and was simply a mechanism for absorbing the factions into the Sudanese army. He said the factions had been collaborating with the government since 1991. Faction leaders however pointed out that the deal meant the southern Sudanese would be able to choose between unity or separation from Khartoum.
Nairobi, 23 April 1997, 15:00 gmt
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Date: Wed, 23 Apr 1997 17:58:25 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <email@example.com> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 156 for 23 April 1997 97.4.23 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970423175716.16340A@dha.unon.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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