Great Lakes: IRIN Update 160, 4/29/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 160, 4/29/97

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Department of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for the Great Lakes

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IRIN Emergency Update No.160 on the Great Lakes (Tuesday 29 April 1997)

* Aid workers and journalists, who yesterday discovered over 5,000 missing refugees coming out of the forests south of Kisangani, came across the scene of a massacre in Biaro camp, 41 kilometres from the town. CNN showed pictures of rotting corpses and people dying in a tented hospital. The refugees claimed they were attacked by soldiers. In an interview, EU Special Envoy Aldo Ajello said he believed the attacks were carried out by "army groups acting alone". As the aid workers and journalists wandered around the scene of devastation, they were closely watched by members of the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL).

UNHCR in Geneva said Alliance troops today stopped a convoy of 11 trucks which was heading towards Biaro to bring food to the refugees, and which would then bring the refugees back to Kisangani for repatriation to Rwanda. Three trucks were reportedly allowed to proceed. UNHCR said it was told the Alliance was putting some 1,000 refugees on the train to Kisangani for airlifting to Kigali.

Meanwhile the search was underway for tens of thousands of refugees still missing from Biaro and the two camps at Kasese, further north. An estimated 85,000 have disappeared. This figure represents about a third of all Rwandan refugees still unaccounted for.

* Both the USA and the UN have expressed strong opposition to a 60-day deadline for repatriating Rwandan refugees from Kisangani, imposed by Kabila, describing it as unreasonable. "To issue an ultimatum now, particularly when the refugees are scattered, is unhelpful," a State Department spokesman declared yesterday. UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, told the press after addressing the UN Security Council yesterday that the deadline presented aid agencies with a "daunting task". Expressing concern over human rights abuses in eastern Zaire, she said Kabila had agreed to the arrival of human rights investigators, adding that the Alliance's cooperation was crucial for this "very difficult task". Regarding the repatriation of refugees, she said the Rwandan government had confirmed its support for the operation. She added however, that besides the Kisangani refugees, another estimated 170,000 refugees were missing from other camps in addition to some 40,000 Burundian refugees. That brought the total number of refugees in Zaire to some 300,000. She also called on the international community to monitor the movement of ex-FAR members, moving deeper into Zairean territory towards the Angolan border, where they were said to be threatening local Zaireans.

A spokesman for the former Angolan rebel movement UNITA claimed nearly 4,000 Rwandan refugees had been sighted on the Angola-Zaire border. The official, Andre Pindi, told the Portuguese news agency today that they had arrived in the Uige area and were looting supplies from the local population. "The situation is tense and we are waiting for an explosion of serious conflicts between the population and the Hutus," he said.

* As humanitarian agencies in eastern Zaire pieced together snippets of information on the missing refugees, the US ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson, arrived in the Zairean capital Kinshasa where he held talks with President Mobutu Sese Seko today. He is reported to be bringing a message from President Clinton and will discuss ways of finding a negotiated settlement to the Zairean crisis, including the establishment of a transitional period leading to elections. From Kinshasa, Richardson was due to fly to Lubumbashi for talks with ADFL leader Laurent-Desire Kabila. He is also expected to travel to Angola, and possibly Gabon which has offered to host a meeting between Kabila and Mobutu.

However, the South African foreign affairs department today announced that face-to-face talks between Mobutu and Kabila would take place in South Africa on board a naval vessel within the next few days. The talks will be chaired by President Nelson Mandela. The meeting was confirmed by rebel foreign affairs official Bizima Karaha.

* Meanwhile, as the diplomatic offensive intensified, unconfirmed reports spoke of the imminent fall of Kikwit to the rebels, the last major gain before Kinshasa. However the Zairean authorities last night denied the reports, claiming the army was still in control of Kikwit, about 500 kms east of the capital. An army spokesman described the reports as "propaganda", and said there had been no fighting. Rebel radio, broadcasting from Bunia, today said the advance into Kikwit was continuing. It alleged Zairean troops were looting before fleeing the town which it described as the "great gateway to the liberation of Kinshasa". The rebels also claimed yesterday to have captured the small town of Idiofa, 100 kms east of Kikwit, but this was also denied by the Zairean government.

* Sources in Kinshasa say 400 wounded ex-FAR troops are in hospital undergoing intensive care. With no other alternative to offer, the Zairean authorities want them to remain in hospital but this is reportedly causing problems within the hospital system which cannot feed them.

* Britain announced yesterday it was sending 200 extra troops to Gabon to help with a possible evacuation of Britisha and Commonwealth citizens from Zaire. An initial contingent of 90 airmen would arrive first to lay the ground for a rapid reaction batallion later this week. A defence ministry spokesman said if an emergency evacuation became necessary, the Libreville-based troops would assist 60 marines already in place in the Congo capital, Brazzaville.

A Congolese opposition leader meanwhile warned that Congo would "inevitably" be dragged into the Zairean war, if fighting broke out in Kinshasa. Jean-Felix Demba-Ntelo, who heads the Rally for Democracy and Social Progress, warned the Congolese people not to be complacent about the possible implications for the country. "We have already seen in the past that shells fired in one town hit the other," he told AFP. The Congolese capital Brazzaville lies on the other side of the river from Kinshasa. "Kinshasa has six million inhabitants and Brazzaville just 900,000. If two million Kinois came here, I think it would kill off Brazzaville," he added. He also declared there were too many foreign troops stationed in Brazzaville.

* Seventeen schoolgirls were among over 20 people murdered by a gang of "armed criminals" who attacked a school in Rwanda's Gisenyi prefecture on Sunday, Rwandan radio reported. The dead also included a Belgian nun who was the headmistress of the school in Muramba. Several local residents were also killed and 14 pupils were wounded. One suspect has been caught in the search for the perpetrators, the radio said.

In the Rwandan capital Kigali, 4,000 street children have been rounded up in city clean-up operation, Rwandan radio reported yesterday. It said they would be taken to a reform centre in Kigali rural prefecture where they would undergo a training programme. The minister of youth, sports and vocational training, Jacques Bihozagara, was due to talk to the children.

* Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said the transfer of power in Zaire could not be delayed any longer and the question remained whether it would be peaceful or violent. He told a news conference in Kampala yesterday that there must be democracy in Zaire. "It cannot be postponed any longer," he said. He rejected suggestions by reporters that he was building himself up as "King of the Great Lakes region". A Zairean radio commentary contended that Museveni was "obviously the key player" in Zaire's war. But Museveni again denied his country was arming Kabila's rebels.

In an address to parliament yesterday, Museveni said his government would not hold peace talks with rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army. Rebel leader Joseph Kony, he said, was not fighting for political aims "but for a style of living he cannot afford through legal toil". According to Ugandan radio, Museveni said the government would not "take the road of capitulation to criminal evil".

The Ugandan press meanwhile today reported that 114 Sudanese prisoners of war were paraded before a crowd at a stadium in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu yesterday. The Ugandan military said they were captured while fighting alongside LRA rebels in northern Uganda.

* East African leaders were due to meet in Arusha, Tanzania, today during which they would launch an internal passport for East African residents and plan closer economic integration. Presidents Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda were also expected to discuss an application by Rwanda to join their economic grouping. Former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere has backed the enlargement of the East African grouping, saying Rwanda's inclusion "would be good for Rwanda, good for East Africa and good for Africa generally". He added he thought Burundi would also be able to apply to join once it had a "legitimate government".

* President Pierre Buyoya of Burundi last week met the country's provincial governors in Bujumbura to discuss security and assess whether the regroupment centres should continue. No details of the meeting have been issued, but the government always insisted the exercise was temporary and has indicated that people in the centres may be allowed back to their homes at the end of June. In an indication of the improving situation in Bujumbura, the UN has reduced its curfew hours. The curfew now begins at 22:00 local time, instead of 19:00. The government-imposed curfew time remains midnight, local time.

After the easing of the economic sanctions against Burundi, Tanzania today was set to allow the first shipment of 460 tonnes of fertiliser from the port town of Kigoma. Regional commissioner Yusuf Makamba was quoted as saying more consignments were waiting to be despatched from Kigoma, including further supplies of fertiliser, building materials, wheat and salt.

Nairobi, 29 April 1997, 15:30 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, 29 Apr 1997 18:22:52 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 160 for 29 April 1997 97.4.29 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.95.970429182831.1087a-ength: 10799 Status: O

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

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