UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
U N I T E D N A T I O N S
Department of Humanitarian Affairs
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for the Great Lakes
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IRIN Emergency Update No.157 on the Great Lakes (Thursday 24 April 1997)
* Faced with increasing international condemnation, rebels from the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) today escorted an assessment mission from WFP, UNHCR and the Rwandan government across the Zaire river at Kisangani to visit the refugee camps. The camps have been out of bounds for about three days. The mission, along with five journalists, eventually set off at 1pm local time, after some delay. On arrival at Kasese 1 and Kasese 2 camps, the team found all the refugees gone and proceeded no further. The mission is on its way back to Kisangani.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday accused the rebels of "killing by starvation" and told ADFL leader Laurent Kabila to bring his forces under control. Speaking to reporters in New York, he said he was "shocked and appalled by the inhumanity of those who control eastern Zaire to these refugees, most of whom are innocent". The international community could not stand by as thousands starved to death, he added. His comments were echoed today by the human rights group, Amnesty International, which asked how many refugees had to die or suffer human rights violations before the world reacted. According to AI, the attacks on Rwandan refugees "appear to be part of a pattern" of human rights abuses against them by the rebels. The US government also urged the rebels to allow "immediate, unhindered access" to the refugees. The Security Council is to discuss the issue of access and humanitarian operations later today.
* According to Rwandan radio last night, fighting has been underway for the last two days near the Kisangani refugee camps. The radio said the clashes initially broke out between Zaireans, angry over the killing of six locals by the refugees, and the refugees themselves. Alliance forces intervened but in the process "fell into an ambush" by ex-FAR/Interahamwe members. The fighting was now dying down, the radio said. It pointed out that a joint UNHCR-Rwanda commission was due to visit the camps today, after which they would discuss the repatriation of refugees with the ADFL. It noted that the Rwandan government favoured a repatriation by road which was "the best way to reach many refugees scattered between Walikale and refugee camps near Kisangani".
A local farmer told Reuters that the rebels entered one of the Kasese camps on Tuesday morning, and that they killed "hundreds" of refugees. Other locals concurred with the story. The farmer alleged that the rebels had used a mechanical digger to bury the bodies. Aid workers were today seeking to verify reports that fighting had forced thousands of refugees to flee the camps.
Kabila dismissed the killings claim as "total nonsense", saying refugees had attacked villagers and rebel troops only stepped in to stop the fighting. According to Kabila, the UN was responsible for the chaos in Kisangani. He accused the organisation of "gross inefficiency, misplaced priorities and indecision". The rebels' liaison officer with UN agencies, Emmanuel Kamanzi, also rejected allegations of rebel atrocities in the camps, saying the killings had been perpetrated by the ex-FAR/Interahamwe.
Rebel radio today accused the UNHCR of seeking to repatriate the refugees "at any cost", reiterating that Biaro, the camp furthest south, was suffering from an outbreak of cholera, despite aid workers' assertions to the contrary. "The UNHCR, in defiance of international conventions, has sought to repatriate infected people at any cost," the radio said. "Rwanda, which has seen the danger, has opposed this operation."
* The issue of face-to-face talks between Kabila and President Mobutu Sese Seko dragged on as both sides continued procrastinating over the venue. Mobutu's special envoy Honore Ngbanda Nzambo met South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki in Pretoria last night. He arrived in the country earlier in the day with a message from the Zairean leader for President Mandela, whose spokesman Parks Mankahlana denied reports that Mobutu had refused to travel to South Africa for health reasons. The spokesman said they had not received an official reply from Mobutu to the invitation to attend peace talks. It was expected that Ngbanda would deliver that reply. The rebels have come up with Lubumbashi as an alternative venue, but this was rejected by Mobutu's son and spokesman Nzanga who commented that the city was "not what you would call a neutral zone".
* The rebels claimed a third town, in addition to Ilebo and Tshikapa, had fallen under their control yesterday. Rebel "justice minister" Mwenze Kongolo announced the fall of Bowete, saying that along with Ilebo and Tshikapa, it meant the ADFL now had two lines of attack on Kikwit, the last significant town before Kinshasa. At a press conference in Lubumbashi, he denied that rebel troops had passed through Angola to attack Tshikapa, which is near the border, but added that "Angola is a friendly country". Six Zairean army chiefs, taken prisoner after the capture of Lubumbashi, were paraded at the press conference. One of them told journalists that the Alliance forces were "very strong, tactically, and from the point of view of military intelligence".
* Rebel "Radio of the People" has been renamed Congolese Radio-Television, a rebel broadcast from Bukavu announced last night. It said a new director had been appointed to head the service, which replaced the "former OZRT", the Zairean state broadcasting organisation.
* The Angolan government has announced it is taking "necessary measures" to stop acts of destabilisation along its border with Zaire. An interior ministry announcement, broadcast by Angolan radio yesterday, said that as of April 21 it had recorded an "intense movement of foreign citizens" towards the country's northern and northeast border with Zaire. Some of these people had tried to cross over illegally, the statement said, forcing border troops to detain 24 of them and seize military equipment.
* Reports from eastern Zaire indicate that cracks may be appearing in the cohesion of the ADFL rebels, as non-Tutsis begin to take issue with the supremacy of the Banyamulenge Tutsis. Observers point out that Goma is experiencing a certain lack of control since Kabila's departure for Lubumbashi where he now spends most of his time. 'Africa Confidential' notes the creation of a resistance group in Tanzania, set up by the Banyamulenge's traditional rivals, the Babembe, many of whom have been driven into exile from their homes south of Uvira. The Conseil de Resistance et de Liberation du Kivu is based in the refugee camps of Kigoma and is reportedly collaborating with Burundi's extremist FDD rebels. Analysts point out that the Babembe have long tolerated the existence of FDD bases in the Fizi area, from where the Burundi rebels could launch attacks across Lake Tanganyika. Tens of thousands of Babembe fled into Tanzania to escape the ADFL advance, but thousands of them are now trying to return. Babembe "freedom fighters" have remained in the Fizi/ Baraka area which is not entirely under ADFL control, and which could represent a destabilising factor for the Alliance in eastern Zaire.
* Tanzania has called on Burundi President Pierre Buyoya to step up the pace of peace talks with opposition parties, saying the easing of sanctions does not mean the embargo has been waived. The principal secretary in the foreign ministry, Elly Mtango, said regional countries had been instructed to continue imposing the remaining sanctions, such as the fuel embargo. Mtango denied some press reports that the sanctions had been totally lifted.
* The UN Commission on Human Rights last week decided to appoint a Special Representative to make recommendations to the Rwandan government on improving the human rights situation in the country. It did not renew the three-year term of its former Special Rapporteur, Rene Degni-Segui. On the situation in Rwanda, the Commission hailed the start of genocide trials but expressed concern over the way the first trials had been conducted. It also expressed serious concern over a deterioration in the human rights situation since the beginning of this year.
* Uganda is to be the first beneficiary of a debt relief scheme elaborated by the IMF, World Bank, donors and other lending institutions. The plan provides for cancelling some of the debts of the world's poorest nations as long as they implement macroeconomic reforms. Under the scheme, Uganda's debt of US$338 million to multilateral lending organisations will be cancelled as of April next year.
Nairobi, 24 April 1997, 15:00gmt
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- Date: Thu, 24 Apr 1997 17:46:31 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 157 for 24 April 1997 97.4.24 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970424173146.26838Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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