Great Lakes: IRIN Update 159, 4/28/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 159, 4/28/97

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

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IRIN Emergency Update No.159 on the Great Lakes (Saturday-Monday 26-28 April 1997)

* Aid agencies today expressed concern over a 60-day deadline set by rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila to find and repatriate tens of thousands of Rwandan refugees, believed to be hiding out in dense forest near Kisangani. However Kabila said it was "ample" time, adding that the number of refugees missing was between 30,000-60,000. Humanitarian workers estimate the number around 85,000. "We hope that in 60 days they will all be gone," Kabila told a press conference in Kisangani over the weekend after meeting UN officials and EU special envoy Aldo Ajello. Kabila, who heads the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) authorised the use of Kisangani international airport for the repatriation, but said the refugees must be flown directly to Rwandan territory. Regarding allegations that rebels were killing refugees, he later said there was a "deliberate campaign of accusing the Alliance for what it has never done." "Why should we kill them now?", he asked.

An inter-agency mission today discovered over 5,000 refugees walking from Kilometre 30 towards Kilometre 41 on the Kisangani-Ubundu axix. WFP said a train, loaded up with 115 MTs of food, may be dispatched to the area tomorrow. UNHCR officials aboard a flight which overflew the area at the weekend saw several hundred people some 45 kms south of Kisangani and spotted plumes of smoke deeper into the forest, leading them to believe groups of refugees could be gathered there. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, late Friday, accused the rebels of a "slow extermination" policy towards the refugees. His spokesman Fred Eckhard told journalists there was "increasing suspicion that these people are being attacked in an organised way". UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata is due to address the UN Security Council on the refugee issue later today.

Rwandan radio, commenting on Friday's flight over the Kisangani area, noted that no refugees had been found, but said that according to local Zaireans a "mass of armed people" had swept through the area, looting everything in sight. The radio said the refugees disappeared after fighting and killing a number of local Zaireans. The flight included representatives of the Rwandan government.

Thirty-three Rwandan refugees from the few remaining in Kisangani were repatriated yesterday on board a flight to Kigali. Twelve others, considered too weak to travel, remained behind for medical treatment. Rwandan radio confirmed the arrival of the returnees, who were immediately taken to the Runda transit camp in Gitarama. From there they will be returned to their home communes.

* Some 50 Rwandan refugee children were abducted from a hospital near Bukavu by men in military uniform at the weekend, UNICEF reported from Geneva today. Quoted by Reuters, it said the incident occurred at Lwiro when some 20 men in military uniform drove up in trucks and fired in the air, before storming the paediatric hospital where the children were undergoing treatment for malnutrition. Hospital staff were beaten up and the intruders threatened to return. They also took away some adult refugees, but gave no indication of where they were going.

* Humanitarian sources said some 12,500 Rwandan refugees arrived in Ingende over the weekend, about 75 kms east of Mbandaka by river. Mbandaka is about halfway between Kisangani and Kinshasa. The refugees claim to originate from the Ubundu group, but it is unlikely they are part of the missing 85,000. Another 35,000 are reported to be between Boende and Ingende.

* Forty-six Lebanese held in Mbuji-Mayi since the rebel takeover early this month, were finally released over the weekend, the majority of them arriving in Johannesburg on Sunday. Three of them opted to travel to Goma and then on to Beirut. The Lebanese, most of them diamond traders, were prevented from leaving until they paid the rebels "back taxes" of US$750,000. They finally agreed to pay a total sum of US$250,000. Their release was mediated by the Lebanese and South African governments and by the joint UN-OAU Special Representative for the Great Lakes region Mohamed Sahnoun. The Lebanese had been held in their homes with dwindling food supplies and very little money.

* As attempts continued to find a diplomatic solution to the Zaire conflict, the US ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson, was awaited in Kinshasa today. A White House spokesman said Richardson's mission would be to inject life into the apparently stalled peace process and attempt to bring the two warring sides together at the negotiating table. Richardson is expected to meet both President Mobutu Sese Seko and Kabila in a bid to convene a face-to-face meeting. Mobutu has agreed to meet Kabila in Libreville, Gabon.

* With Kinshasa bracing itself for the expected arrival of the Alliance, the commander of Zaire's crack Special Presidential Division (DSP) pledged to "fight to the death". General N'Zimbi Ngbale admitted there was corruption in the armed forces, but dimissed suggestions that the war was over. His defiance came amid reports that Kabila's troops were closing in on the city of Kikwit, in Bandundu region, and the last significant gain for the rebels before Kinshasa. The Zairean army has reportedly sent reinforcements to Bandundu. Mobutu's Popular Revolutionary Movement party (MPR) also remained defiant. Its interim leader Mananga Dintoka Pholo, addressing a rally of some 3,000 people yesterday, warned of a 100-year war if Mobutu's supporters were forced out of the county, saying they would prepare their rebellion in exile. Missionary sources reported Kikwit airport came under a barrage of rebel gunfire today, believed to be a warning to the FAZ to vacate. Within Kinshasa, the Zairean opposition led by Etienne Tshisekedi rejected the state of emergency declared by the authorities and called on the people to ignore it, saying it amounted to a coup d'etat. Mputu Dibwe, acting president of the Sacred Union opposition, also announced that symbols of "the Congo" would be reinstated, including its flag which would be used during all public events. He urged people to stop paying their bills "to suffocate [Prime Minister] General Likulia's government".

* As allegations increased of Angolan involvement in the Zaire conflict, strenuous denials were issued from all sides. On Saturday, Zaire accused Angola of violating its airspace alleging two helicopters landed without authorisation in the villages of Kinvula and Kipangu near the border. According to Zairean television, the helicopters were "part of an expeditionary force sent into Zaire". The day before, the Zairean authorities said Angola had massed 1,400 troops at the Zairean village of Yema, on the border with the Angolan enclave of Cabinda, and also in Tshikapa. However the Angolan army described the allegations as "defamatory reports aimed at creating a crisis between neighbouring states". Both the army in Cabinda and the Cabinda authorities concurred that there were no clashes along the Yema border. But Zairean radio, quoting reliable sources, said the Zairean authorities were preparing to lodge a complaint with the UN and they urged the UN envoy in Angola, Blondin Beye, to visit the Zairean regions "occupied by the Angolans". Meanwhile, the former Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi denied his UNITA movement had sent troops into Zaire and the Alliance rejected reports it was using Angola as a rear base.

An Angolan army commander, speaking on Angolan television Saturday, said Rwandan and Burundian refugees had been arriving at Nachiri and Chiassango border towns since April 23, many of them armed. As this posed a threat to security in Angola, border troops had been reinforced and the majority of refugees had now returned to Zaire.

* The head of Fizi zone in Zaire told rebel ADFL radio on Saturday that an attack by extremist Burundian rebels of the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD) had been repulsed. He did not say when the attack occurred but noted that the Fizi area was now peaceful. The attackers, he said, had "neither the strength nor the means to wage a war". He also spoke of a "certain Charles Simba" who fought alongside the FDD in Fizi, saying the man had been "intoxicated" by the Burundian rebels. He gave no further details of "Charles Simba" but there have been reports of cooperation between the FDD and the Babembe tribe, now pushed out of the Fizi region, who are said to be mounting a rebellion against ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~the ADFL from their bases in Tanzania.

* In Burundi, fighting continues to rage in the southern Bururi and Makamba provinces. Defence Minister Firmin Sinzoyiheba described the clashes as a "major concern", but said the army was killing an average of 30 to 50 rebels every day. A Radio Rwanda report from Bujumbura said the rebels fighting in southern Burundi are based in Tanzania and also comprise ex-FAR, Interahamwe and ex-FAZ forces. The radio quoted a Burundi army spokesman as saying the rebels had changed their tactics from guerrilla warfare to conventional warfare. The army commander of Burundi's Fifth Military Region met his Tanzanian counterpart in Kigoma on Friday.

Tension on the Burundi-Tanzania border was mounting, as Burundi military spokesman Maj. Pascal Nimubona warned of the increasing threat to Burundi from rebels based in Tanzania. Some 3,000 peasants are said to have abandoned their smallholdings in the south since rebels launched their offensive earlier this month, and are taking refuge in religious missions and government buildings. "The Burundian refugee camps...are close to the Burundian border," Nimubona said. "We cannot continue to tolerate the activities of these terrorists coming from Tanzania." He warned that Tanzania "risks becoming a new Zaire", in terms of being a staging ground for extremists among the refugees. "We have apprehensions that Tanzania is supporting these rebels, they are attacking by thousands," he added.

* Rwandan radio detailed security incidents over the weekend in which 76 "criminals" from the Ndusu and Nyamutera communes of Ruhengeri prefecture were arrested. It said they had been jeopardising security in the region. Four rifles and 10 grenades were also seized. Meanwhile, in Kigali Rural Prefecture, 16 people have been killed and four seriously wounded since last Monday. The area's army commander said the killings had been perpetrated by ~~~"infiltrators" who were now being sought.

Nairobi, 28 April 1997, 15:50gmt [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: Mon, 28 Apr 1997 18:52:07 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 159 for 26-28 April 1997 97.4.28 Message-ID: <>

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

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