UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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.162 on the Great Lakes (Thursday 01 May 1997)
* Face-to-face talks between Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko and rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila appeared to back on track after both sides finally agreed to meet on board a South African warship in international waters. The meeting, originally planned for tomorrow, will now take place on Saturday. A source close to the talks, quoted by AFP, said the delay was due to "logistical problems". Mobutu who had been scheduled to leave for the Gabonese capital Libreville today, postponed his departure by one day. The ship is due to set sail from Libreville. South African President Nelson Mandela is to chair the talks which will be held under UN auspices.
US envoy to the UN, Bill Richardson, who has been in Zaire for talks with both sides described the coming meeting as an "historic occasion that hopefully will lead to a peaceful transition in Zaire". The agreement to meet raised speculation among regional analysts that Mobutu's "graceful departure" from office would be negotiated. Mobutu has been under increasing international pressure to step down. With rebels from the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire closing in on Kinshasa, Richardson said it was hoped a ceasefire would be declared for the duration of the talks. The envoy will attend the meeting, along with joint UN-OAU Special Representative for the Great Lakes Mohamed Sahnoun, and other African leaders.
Prospects of a face-to-face encounter were welcomed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York who expressed hope that Zaire would now embark on the path to "national reconciliation, democracy and prosperity". The UN Security Council meanwhile issued a statement last night also welcoming the meeting, but also raised concerns over alleged human rights abuses in eastern Zaire. It called on the ADFL to take "appropriate action" against any of its members who mistreated refugees and civilians in areas under its control.
Amid optimism over the meeting, the international community however continued to warn Kabila over the behaviour of some of his troops in the Kisangani area where tens of thousands of Rwandan refugees fled their camps last week. The US State Department said yesterday that Kabila's credibility was at stake if the allegations persisted. Richardson, who met Kabila in Lubumbashi on Tuesday, declared that the rebel leader had agreed to waive the 60-day deadline for repatriating the refugees as well as punishing any soldiers reponsible for commiting atrocities.
* As increasing numbers of the 85,000 missing refugees emerged from the forests south of Kisangani, UNHCR representatives said it was hoped about 1,200 a day could be repatriated once the airlifts became regular. Yesterday the rebels kickstarted the process by sending some 900 refugees to Kisangani by train from Biaro camp, at Kilometre 41 from the town. However, the sudden arrival of hundreds of refugees caused problems for humanitarian workers trying to accommodate them. A transit facility has not yet been fully set up. UN officials welcomed the move, but called for better coordination with the authorities. Over 200 refugees were airlifted back to Kigali yesterday and 332 left for Cyangugu and Kigali today. Latest figures indicated there were now some 10,000 refugees at Biaro camp. The Zairean Red Cross said another 5,000 were situated further south at Kilometre 82. According to some reports, the ADFL has informed the Rwandan authorities it took 50 children and 60 adults from a hospital at Lwiro, near Bukavu on Saturday and will return them to Rwanda. A UNICEF spokesman in Geneva, quoted by AFP, said 62 Rwandan refugees were handed over by the rebels to humanitarian agencies in Bukavu today, but it was not immediately known whether they included the abducted children.
* Britain has advised its nationals to leave Zaire as soon as possible, describing the situation there as volatile. A Foreign Office announcement broadcast over the BBC World Service warned Britons they should leave while normal commercial transport services, such as scheduled flights and ferries, were still available. The ADFL has increasingly been taking issue with media reports on the situation in eastern Zaire and several journalists have been detained and questioned. They have since been released.
* Angola has again denied any involvement in the Zairean conflict, as the former rebel group UNITA reiterated claims that the army had stationed battalions in Zaire. Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos yesterday met joint OAU-UN Special Representative for the Great Lakes region, Mohamed Sahnoun, during which the Zaire conflict was discussed. In comments broadcast by Angolan television, Sahnoun said they touched on all aspects of the Zaire crisis, in particular peace talks. He said dos Santos wanted to contribute to a peaceful outcome and the UN-OAU were keen to make use of his "good offices". According to UNITA radio, Sahnoun's talks with dos Santos were an attempt to persuade the government "to stop its military presence in Zaire". The radio alleged today that there were five Angolan army battalions inside Zaire and that Angola was providing the ADFL with food, equipment and combat technical assistance. But Angolan Foreign Minister Venancio de Moura, speaking on Angolan radio, denied accusastions of interference contained in a letter from Zaire to the UN.
Dos Santos also met an envoy from Burundian leader Pierre Buyoya yesterday, Angolan radio reported. It said the Burundian planning minister delivered a message from Buyoya, whose contents were not disclosed. However UNITA radio said Buyoya had called on the Angolan government to stay out of Zaire's war.
* A spokesman for Burundi's Tutsi-dominated army spokesman has accused Hutu rebels of killing over 40 people during a raid on a seminary in Buta, in the troubled southern province of Makamba. He said 34 pupils and seven lay members were killed in Tuesday's attack. Another 34 people were wounded. The spokesman added that the army had killed about 300 rebels in the province since fighting broke out early last month.
* In the aftermath of a massacre of 17 schoolgirls and teacher in northwest Rwanda, a man appeared on Rwandan television last night and confessed to taking part in the atrocity. He said the killings were part of a Hutu plot against the country's Tutsi-dominated authorities. The man was arrested by soldiers after Sunday's attack at a school in Muramba, Gisenyi prefecture. He claimed his group had 150 members and the "lieutenant" who recruited him said they were "preparing war to liberate Rwandans from the domination of the RPF". According to the man, his colleagues were based in the Ramba, Gaseke and Giciye communes of Gisenyi. They included ex-FAR and Interahamwe members.
* The Swiss authorities have approved the transfer of a Rwandan genocide suspect to Arusha, Tanzania, so that he can be tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Alfred Musema, a former tea factory manager in Kibuye prefecture, has been in a Swiss prison since February 1995. He is accused of organising or participating in the 1994 slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus. His appeal against extradition was turned down by the Swiss Federal Court yesterday.
* Ugandan soldiers have killed 14 rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in two days of fighting in the Gulu area, security sources said. According to the state-owned 'New Vision' today the fighting occurred Sunday and Monday in the Nwoya and Aswa districts. The same incident was also reported in the independent 'Monitor' newspaper. Several rebels were also captured. The 'Monitor' also said 80 rebels who had been in captivity at Ngomoromo were handed over to World Vision for counselling.
In Uganda's Kasese area, 50 rebels of the Allied Democratic Force (ADF) were killed by the army in two days' of fresh fighting, the 'Monitor' reported yesterday. Ten Ugandan soldiers also lost their lives, it said. The fighting broke out after an ambush set by the ADF in Muhambo, Bugoye district on Monday. The Ugandan army was reportedly pursuing rebels who were retreating to their bases in the mountains.
Nairobi, 1 May 1997, 12:55 gmt [ENDS]
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Date: Thu, 1 May 1997 15:53:49 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <email@example.com> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 162 for 01 May 1997 97.5.1 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970501154711.10728Afirstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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