Great Lakes: IRIN Update 158, 4/25/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 158, 4/25/97

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

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

IRIN Emergency Update No.158 on the Great Lakes (Friday 25 April 1997)

* A plane with journalists, UN, Alliance and Rwandan officials on board left Kisangani around 12:00 GMT in search of tens of thousands of refugees missing from the refugee camps, and returned after about four and a half hours without having sighted them. The flight ascertained that the southern-most camp, Biaro, was also empty which meant that another 30,000 refugees had disappeared somewhere. The plane managed to reach Kilometre 95, where it landed to enable a ground search. Officials spoke to local villagers who said they had not seen large groups of refugees, only very small groups over the last few days. Aid workers speculated that the refugees may have fled into dense forest - where they would not be seen by aerial survey - to escape heavy fighting. A train had been loaded up with food in Kisangani, ready to move if the refugees were located.

Yesterday, it was established that some 55,000 refugees had deserted the Kasese camps south of Kisangani. Shocked aid workers have pointed out that many of the refugees were too sick to walk. The assessment team from WFP, UNHCR and the Rwandan government which went to the camps yesterday were prevented from travelling further south by their rebel escorts, after shots rang out and they were advised to return to Kisangani.

* The ADFL today went on the defensive, blaming the ex-FAR/Interahamwe for the disappearance of the refugees. Moise Nyarugabi, an adviser to rebel leader Laurent Kabila, at a news conference, claimed the ex-FAR/Interahamwe had evacuated the refugees ahead of the assessment mission. "I can't say what became of the refugees," he told the press conference. "This wasn't something that the militia and ex-FAR did by surprise. The attack was planned in advance."

The rebels yesterday denied allegations of massacring Rwandan refugees. Bizima Karaha, a foreign affairs official for the Alliance, currently visiting Libreville told Gabonese Africa No.1 radio, that the rebels had "already done everything" for the refugees and asked why humanitarian organisations were exerting pressure on the ADFL. "These refugees were used as shields both for military and political reasons," he said. The ADFL, he said, had declared more than three "humanitarian ceasefires" in favour of the refugees as well as opening humanitarian corridors for them. "We fully accepted the plan presented to us by the United Nations. So when you said that they are exerting pressure, we would like to know this: they are exerting pressure on us for what?" Kabila has also dismissed the massacre claims as "total nonsense". Bizima Karaha also met Gabonese President Omar Bongo and asked him to help resolve the Zairean crisis. The Gabonese authorities meanwhile announced that President Mobutu has agreed to meet Kabila in Gabon "at any time".

* MSF has claimed that serious human rights violations have been committed by the ADFL in the Shabunda-Bukavu region, including the deliberate killing of male refugees. In addition, local villagers said they had been forced to cooperate in removing bodies and belongings. MSF-Holland public relations head Erwin van 't Land told IRIN an internal report based on an exploratory mission late March-early April had been leaked to the Spanish daily 'El Pais' and the organisation wanted to try and control the story. A report issued earlier this month by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Zaire listed numerous allegations of similar killings west of Bukavu. The rebels have consistently denied accusations of this nature.

* The UN Security Council has expressed alarm over the deteriorating security situation in Zaire and the humanitarian consequences. In a presidential statement adopted yesterday, the Council called on the ADFL to ensure unrestricted and safe access for humanitarian agencies. The statement said the Security Council was particularly alarmed by reports of massacres and other human rights violations in eastern Zaire and urged an immediate cessation of hostilities in Zaire as a whole, as well as talks between Mobutu and Kabila. The Council called on the ADFL and others concerned in the region to cooperate fully with the recently established UN human rights mission by ensuring unimpeded access to all areas and sites under investigation, as well as the security of members of the mission. EU Special Envoy Aldo Ajello was due to leave for Zaire today for talks with Kabila in an attempt to persuade him to allow the repatriation of Rwandan refugees and to accept a peaceful transition of power.

* According to USAID, the authorities in Goma have announced new procedures for the registration of relief organisations. All organisations, both those already registered to work in Zaire and new ones, must submit a detailed dossier on activities and personnel in order to obtain permanent authorisation.

* A Zairean church official in Kinshasa confirmed rebel claims that Ilebo and Tshikapa had fallen, citing reports from religious officials in the two towns. Father Dominique Kahanga, head of the Roman Catholic episcopal commission for peace and justice, told AFP both towns were taken without a fight. He added that the Zairean authorities had sent military reinforcements to the Bandundu region, 250 kms east of Kinshasa. Kahanga, who is a member of a crisis committee set up by the authorities, said the news had been divulged by Prime Minister Likulia Bolongo yesterday.

* As the rebels advanced on Kinshasa, foreign diplomats in the capital were quoted as saying the ruling elite was making hasty plans to leave the country. Foreign embassies said they were being inundated with requests for visas for reasons such as health, family or urgent business trips. AFP said the surge in demand for visas came amid Kinshasa press reports that the rebels had a hit list of several hundred people they wanted to eliminate.

* In Geneva, the son of Patrice Lumumba, Zaire's slain first post-independence premier, expressed his support for the Alliance. "We affirm our solidarity with the rebels. Their struggle is our struggle," Francois Lumumba told a news conference. He said the rebels benefitted from diplomatic support and facilities to bring in arms through Uganda, Sudan and Rwanda. "We don't have any complexes if people give us certain facilities to finish off the Mobutu regime," he said. Lumumba announced he would go to Goma on Monday for talks with rebel leader Laurent Kabila. He heads the Lumumba National Congolese Movement (MNCL) which is not part of the Alliance.

* The fate of 46 Lebanese men and one woman is still hanging in the balance in Mbuji-Mayi, where the rebel authorities are preventing them from leaving. The rebels originally demanded US$700,000 in back taxes, saying they did not recognise any deals with the previous authorities. The Lebanese citizens - who say they have no food or money - agreed to pay US$350,000, but the rebels have still refused to let them go. Sources close to the Lebanese say they are afraid and just want to leave.

* The US government has expressed "deep concern" over Angola's reported military involvement in the Zaire conflict. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, George Moose, said this could represent a "complicating factor" for both Angola and Zaire. He added that despite an international embargo on arms sales to the former UNITA rebels in Angola, the force had continued to purchase weapons from neighbouring countries "particularly Zaire".

The oil-rich Angolan enclave of Cabinda, already the scene of fighting between three secessionist groups and the Angolan government, has been mentioned as a possible launching point for an attack on Kinshasa or Matadi by rebels associated with the ADFL. Zaire's 'La Reference le Plus' two days ago claimed that "heavily-armed, exclusively Swahili-speaking troops" had been arriving in the area.

* First-hand reports from towns south of Uvira note the growing needs of the population in those areas. Humanitarian sources told IRIN worst-affected is Fizi, whose centre resembles a "ghost town" and which is said to be in immediate need of help. Many of its inhabitants are in Kalemie, and those who have returned are malnourished. However, many Fizi residents say they want to return home. Towns such as Fizi and Nundu are said to have suffered extensively from vandalism. Mission stations in Mboko and Baraka are being used by the military as re-education camps for former Zairean soliers.

* Tanzania has reinforced border security in Kigoma region amid threats by Burundian rebels to sink any vessel transporting goods across Lake Tanganyika to Burundi. According to the privately owned 'Guardian' daily, a contingent of marines had been despatched from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma to boost security along the lake. Sanctions against Burundi were eased at a regional summit in Arusha last week.

* A group of relatives of Rwanda's genocide victims has lodged a complaint with the Belgian Supreme Court against the foreign minister of the time, Willy Claes, whom they accuse of leaving people to their fate. As foreign minister, he must have known that massacres were being planned in Rwanda but failed to take any action, they claimed. They accuse him of being aware that weapons were being issued to the Rwandan armed forces in preparation for genocide and that militias were undergoing training. A similar complaint was filed against the-then defence minister Leo Delcroix last year.

* Southern Sudanese faction leader Riak Machar has said his South Sudan Independence Movement (SSIM) is to despatch forces to Juba to fight alongside the Sudanese army. The mainstream SPLA faction has already captured the town of Yei, 130 kms southwest of Juba, but Machar concurred with the government's claim that Ugandan troops were on the offensive in southern Sudan, rather than the SPLA. "We have moved troops to Juba to defend it and even push back the foreign invasion," he said in an interview.

Nairobi, 25 April 1997, 16:50gmt [ENDS]

[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: Fri, 25 Apr 1997 20:00:20 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 158 for 25 April 1997 97.4.25 Message-ID: <>

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

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