Great Lakes: IRIN Update 172, 5/15/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 172, 5/15/97

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

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IRIN Emergency Update No.172 on the Great Lakes (15 May 1997)

* The chances of a negotiated settlement to the war in Zaire diminished today, as Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko flew back to Kinshasa from the Congolese port of Pointe Noire. Laurent Kabila, leader of the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL), was due in Cape Town for talks with South African president Nelson Mandela. Diplomats expressed disappointment after the failure of yesterday's planned meeting between President Mobutu and Kabila on board a ship off Pointe Noire. Kabila, citing security fears, had refused at the last minute to board the ship unless it sailed into international waters. Rebel radio in Bunia said today a plot had been hatched by the Togolese and Gabonese leaders to murder Kabila. South African private Radio 702 obtained the mediators' draft peace plan calling on President Mobutu to hand over power to an all-party transitional authority. Yesterday, US State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the rebels were just 60 kms outside Kinshasa and that "anything is possible militarily."

* The European Union expressed "extreme concern" yesterday over reports of massacres of Rwandan Hutu refugees by the ADFL rebels in Mbandaka, AFP said. The ADFL denies the accusations, which have also been made by the French foreign ministry.

* A group representing the refugees, the Rally for the Return of Refugees and Democracy in Rwanda (RDR), said the UN's investigations of atrocities had been deliberately sabotaged by the ADFL and their "Ugandan and Rwandan sponsors." The RDR called for a full investigation of the massacres and the disappearance of more than 300,000 refugees.

* Humanitarian sources say a lack of fuel in the Congolese capital Brazzaville is likely to hamper the response to an influx of Rwandan Hutu refugees from neighbouring Zaire. 4-5,000 refugees have already crossed the river from Mbandaka to swamp land at Liranga in Congo, where there is no drinking water, food or shelter. Some are stranded on small river islands. ICRC has launched a special operation to assist the refugees, whose state of health is described as "appalling." High-protein biscuits and plastic sheeting have been dropped by helicopter. 500 refugees, including 400 unarmed men, were found further south at Mokotipoko. They said Zairean boatmen had stolen their clothes and money. The Congolese government has set up a crisis committee and is identifying possible camp sites south of Gambona. The government has yet to decide on its official position regarding the refugees. Congolese radio said yesterday special army teams had been despatched to assess their situation. In Brazzaville, contingency plans are in hand for a possible influx of Zaireans fleeing Kinshasa. A reception centre on the beach opposite Kinshasa and two sites at 35 kms and 50 kms out of town have been identified.

* In Central African Republic (CAR), humanitarian sources report another growing refugee problem. Zairean, Rwandan and Sudanese refugees are arriving at Mboki in the south-east. UNHCR is separating former Rwandan soldiers into a camp at Obo. Zairean army deserters are going to Rafai, but most refuse to surrender their weapons. 300 Rwandans arrived in the capital Bangui three days ago and 3,000 more are thought to be on the way.

* UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Sergio de Mello was blocked by ADFL soldiers yesterday when he tried to visit Rwandan Hutu refugee sites more than 42 kms south of Kisangani. De Mello had been promised free access by rebel leader Laurent Kabila, but was stopped south of Biaro by soldiers citing insecurity.

* Figures supplied to IRIN by UNHCR indicate that 338,463 Rwandan and 44,000 Burundian refugees may remain in Zaire. The latest statistics, of 13 May, take into account the repatriations by land and air during 1996 and 1997, and the arrivals in third countries, but do not attempt to estimate births and deaths among the refugees since the outbreak of the rebellion in eastern Zaire. The numbers may also include armed elements who cannot legally be defined as refugees. The majority of these people remain unaccounted for.

* The 'Kenya Times' reports today that airport authorities in Mombasa detained a transport plane on Tuesday on suspicion that it was smuggling fuel to rebel-held eastern Zaire. The plane was later released.

* An investigation by the London 'Financial Times' estimates President Mobutu's personal fortune at up to $4 billion. The report says Western government and financial institutions continued to give aid despite clear evidence that the country's wealth was being siphoned off by Mobutu and his family. The paper says he owns at least 20 properties valued at $37 million, including a villa on the French Riviera and a coffee plantation in Brazil. He still draws on secret accounts in Western banks and on investments in South Africa. Zairean prosecutors have asked Switzerland to freeze President Mobutu's assets, a Swiss government statement said yesterday. Such procedures in the past have dragged on for years. The rebel ADFL has set up a special committee based in Goma, eastern Zaire, charged with recovering Mobutu's wealth.

* Burundian President Pierre Buyoya held talks in Dar-es-Salaam yesterday with Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa and former president Julius Nyerere. President Buyoya said on Burundi radio afterwards that he had raised his worries over rebel infiltrations into Burundi from Tanzania. Security along the common border has deteriorated and fighting between Hutu rebels and the Burundian army has largely shifted to the south of the country. Buyoya announced that he was ready to start a political dialogue with "all armed factions" following secret talks in Rome with the rebel National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD). On the subject of the regional embargo against Burundi, Tanzanian radio said President Mkapa stressed that air transportation, fuel and military hardware were not exempted by the recent Arusha sanctions meeting.

* Uganda is demanding that the Sudanese government hands over 35 schoolgirls abducted by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and taken to camps in southern Sudan, according to the Kenyan 'East African Standard'. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni and his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir agreed at the weekend to exchange captives. But Ugandan minister of state for foreign affairs Rebecca Kadaga said the agreement was subject to the release of the girls.

* John Garang, leader of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), says his forces captured the town of Warap in Bahr el-Ghazal yesterday. It is the latest in a string of recent military victories by the SPLA in the south, including the capture of Yei, Rumbek and Tonj.

* Leader of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-United, Lam Akol, said in Nairobi on Wednesday he did not support April's peace treaty signed by the Khartoum government and six rebel splinter groups.

* In Tanzania 278 people have died of cholera since January, AFP reports. A government statement said there were 103 deaths in the capital Dar-es-Salaam and 88 in Tanga.

* Rwandan radio said a former secondary school headmaster, Elijah Shimimana, was sentenced to death by a court in Rushashi, Rural Kigali, yesterday. He was found guilty of five counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Nairobi, 15 May 1997, 15:05 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: Thu, 15 May 1997 18:07:36 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 172 for 15 May 1997 97.5.15 Message-ID: <>

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

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