Great Lakes: IRIN Update 166, 5/7/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 166, 5/7/97

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

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

IRIN Emergency Update No.166 on the Great Lakes (Wednesday 7 May 1997)

* Zairean rebels from the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) have outlined their plans for the future, once the capital Kinshasa is "liberated". Rebel radio, broadcasting from Bunia, today said the current parliament would be dissolved and a broad-based national unity government would be formed from which "all Mobutists" will be excluded. Etienne Tshisekedi's Sacred Union alliance would be given a "defined place" within the new government. "The newly-formed government is required to take up the challenge left by Mr Mobutu and his decaying regime, to build up this country which has been crushed to a pulp," the radio said.

* Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko arrived in the Gabonese capital Libreville from Kinshasa today amid increasing speculation that he would not return. According to Gabonese radio, he would stay in the country 48 hours to attend a regional summit on the Zairean crisis including the presidents of Gabon, Togo, the Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea. Mobutu's spokesman declared the ailing president would return to Zaire on Friday and that he was not fleeing the country. Mobutu is accompanied by his wife and his directeur de cabinet Vunduawe te Pemako.

Mobutu's timing raised eyebrows as ADFL rebels announced they were closing in on the capital Kinshasa. Rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila has presented Mobutu with the option of stepping down with his protection ensured or being chased from office. If, as the rebels claim, they are some 60 kms from Kinshasa airport, it is conceivable they will take advantage of the president's absence to enter the city. Press reports note that expectations are high in Kinshasa where residents are, for the most part, anxious for the rebels to arrive. The city has so far been reported calm.

Rebel radio, broadcasting from Bukavu, today called on Zaiean soldiers to lay down their arms and surrender to "the forces of the Congo Liberation Army".

* The ADFL yesterday claimed to have taken control of Kenge, 200 kms east of Kinshasa, following fierce clashes with the Zairean army. Justice spokesman Mwenze Kongolo told a news conference in Lubumbashi last night that FAZ troops suffered heavy losses. He alleged members of the former Angolan rebel movement UNITA were fighting alongside Zairean troops in Kenge. However, aid agency sources quoted by AFP, said heavy street fighting was still underway in Kenge in which some 200 civilians and 100 Zairean soldiers had been killed. Residents were said to be fleeing south towards the small town of Mokila.

Kongolo went on to deny Zairean government claims that 500 rebels were killed in fighting with the army at Kikwit, further east from Kenge. According to a government adviser, Aime Atembina, the army was "in the process of recapturing Kikwit", which was taken by the ADFL last month. However AFP today cited an informed source in Lubumbashi as saying the ADFL had sent planes to pick up rebels wounded in the Kikwit area. Kongolo also alleged that 80 French mercenaries were alongside FAZ troops to defend Kinshasa airport.

Kongolo strongly denied that Kabila had pledged to freeze troop movements until a second round of peace talks was held in Congo between the rebel leader and Mobutu. AFP yesterday quoted a spokesman for the South African deputy president Thabo Mbeki who said Kabila had made the pledge in a phone call to Mbeki yesterday. "That's as false as false can be," Kongolo said. "We are marching on Kinshasa."

However journalists who travelled eastwards from the capital along the road that leads to Kenge yesterday said they saw no sign of rebel activity. The journalists were not permitted to venture more than 90 kms along the road. Local villagers confirmed there had been no fighting in those areas and regular Zairean army units were patrolling the roads and manning roadblocks. According to some villagers, AFP reported, troops who were "not Zairean" had been sighted. The villagers were reported as saying they were possibly UNITA soldiers.

* US Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson pressed on with his regional diplomatic shuttle mission searching for a peaceful outcome to the crisis. After meeting Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame in Kigali on Monday, he headed off for Botswana yesterday to meet Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Richardson is due in France tomorrow where he will meet President Jacques Chirac, along with joint OAU-UN Special Representative Mohamed Sahnoun who is already in Paris. US, Belgian, British, French and Portuguese forces based in Congo were standing by to evacuate expatriates from Kinshasa if necessary and South Korea said it would temporarily close its embassy in the Zairean capital from tomorrow. The UN is to pull out all but essential staff from Kinshasa, which has now been declared Phase 4 security risk.

* On the humanitarian front, the ADFL described EU Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Emma Bonino as a "psycopath" over comments she made regarding the death of 92 refugees, crushed by overcrowding on a train taking them to Kisangani. Bonino alleged yesterday that a "real slaughterhouse" was taking shape in eastern Zaire, but ADFL justice spokesman Mwenze Kongolo retorted that she was "obsessed" by the refugees.

In New York, UN Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Sir Kieran Prendergast told the Security Council that "systematic and unwarranted limits on access" were of great concern to the humanitarian community. Kabila's adviser, Moise Nyarugabo, said accusations against the rebels were "ridiculous", adding that the military had been given orders not to impede relief workers. Aid agencies however say that despite the problems of access and other obstacles imposed by the ADFL, the repatriation operation from Kisangani is going well. According to UNHCR, the exercise was reaching its objective of airlifting some 2,500 people per day. Yesterday, 1,976 refugees were repatriated to Rwanda, bringing the total number so far to 9,500 since the airlift began last week. The operation was suspended for a day after the carnage on the train bringing the refugees up from Biaro camp, 41 kilometres south of Kisangani.

* The ADFL authorities in eastern Zaire have identified priority humanitarian/rehabilitation needs, intended as guidelines for relief workers. According to a DHA report, these include rehabilitating educational facilities and the health and transport infrastructure, agricultural support, environmental issues such as reforestation and economic and social programmes including the reintegration of refugees and displaced people. The report pointed out that UN-NGO projects in principle met the majority of needs identified by the Alliance, but awareness had to be raised among the ADFL and local population about the scope of UN-funded programmes.

* Burundian presidential spokesman Jean-Luc Ndizeye resigned from his post today, the the Burundian news agency (ABP) reported. The resignation followed a newspaper report in which he allegedly described the Rwandans as "puppets of Museveni". Ndizeye denied making the comments, but tendered his resignation in the interests of the nation, ABP said. Observers say the report had contributed to the worsening relations between Burundi and Rwanda.

* Burundi's cabinet reshuffle earlier this week, which brought in six new ministers, was aimed at including more technocrats in the government, according to Burundian radio. Burundian Prime Minister Pascal-Firmin Ndimira explained that on the political level, the reshuffle took into account "all sentiments, regions and ethnicities". Secondly, on the economic front it was a case of taking advantage of the easing of sanctions to strengthen government capability, particularly in the commercial and transport sectors, he said.

* There has been more violence in southern Burundi. Military sources said 102 rebels were killed on Monday night after launching an attack on a farm in Rutovu commune, Bururi province. Two civilians were also killed and two wounded, along with four soldiers injured. Ten weapons were confiscated, the sources said, quoted by ABP. The agency stated that the rebels were attacking Rutovu in order to reach Mutancaro, the home commune of President Pierre Buyoya, also in Bururi. ABP added that security in the troubled Makamba province was slowly improving. Attacks launched by Tanzania-based rebels had instead spread to Bururi, it said.

* In Rwanda meanwhile, the armed forces have stepped up a huge security operation aimed at routing ex-FAR/Interahamwe members in the north and northwest. The Rwanda News Agency, quoting military sources in Kigali, revealed there had been fierce fighting south of Gisenyi town over the weekend. Army spokesman Emmanuel Ndahiro told RNA "criminals" had infiltrated Rwanda from Masisi and Rutshuru in eastern Zaire and were "slowly infusing" the population. Ndahiro claimed the infiltrators had also been targeting expatriate workers in the southwest of the country, as well as in the north.

Reports from Gikongoro prefecture in southern Rwanda said about 25 people were killed at the end of last month in the communes of Mubuga and Mudasomwa. Local officials, quoted by Rwandan radio on Monday, claimed the attackers were comprised of recent returnees who were armed and others hiding out in the Nyungwe forest.

* Another Rwandan radio report said the death sentences against three genocide suspects were upheld by a court in Nyabisindu, Butare prefecture on Monday. The three men, who had appealed against the sentences within the 15-day appeals procedure, were charged with genocide and other crimes against humanity.

* Sudan's air traffic control system, Juba Tower, yesterday refused to clear three OLS flights scheduled to land in southern Sudan. OLS South was later informed that Juba Tower will deny OLS flights authorisation to fly in Sudanese airspace for the next two days. Humanitarian sources argue that the government is deliberately harassing OLS and seeking to undermine access to SPLA-controlled parts of the country.

Nairobi, 7 May 1997, 16:00 gmt [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: Wed, 7 May 1997 19:04:05 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 166 for 7 May 1997 97.5.7 Message-ID: <>

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

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