Great Lakes: IRIN Update 173, 5/16/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 173, 5/16/97

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

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

IRIN Emergency Update No.173 on the Great Lakes (16 May 1997)

* An official statement from Kinshasa today said President Mobutu Sese Seko was giving up power but would retain his title of president. He left the capital for his jungle palace at Gbadolite. CNN quoted diplomatic sources saying Mobutu would make a short stopover there before going on into exile in Morocco. His aides had told him they could no longer guarantee his safety. It was not immediately clear whether Mobutu's demand to retain his title would be acceptable to Laurent-Desire Kabila, leader of the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL). US State Department officials said the rebels were closing in on the capital and were now within a range of 50 kms. In Paris, AFP quoted Mobutu's personal military adviser, former French army chief-of-staff General Jeannou Lacaze, as saying there would be a "pitched battle" for Kinshasa.

* The Swiss government said today it was impounding Mobutu's $5.6 million villa at Sevigny near Lausanne. Zairean prosecutors have asked for international co-operation to freeze Mobutu's vast assets.

* Zairean immigration workers staged a pay strike yesterday afternoon, halting traffic between Ngobila Beach in Kinshasa and Brazzaville in Congo. They confiscated rubber stamps from the immigration post, demanding the payment of 14 months' salary arrears. Traffic across the river is said to be heavy as people flee Kinshasa or transfer goods to safety. Aid workers say group of 1,300 Malians, mostly women and children, have arrived in Brazzaville from Kinshasa over the last few days. Many are camped at the airport.

* Six barges carrying aid were to leave Brazzaville today for Liranga and Motokipopo, where several thousand Rwandan Hutu refugees who fled Zaire are stranded in swampland. The journey will take a week. The barges are to pick up some 3,000 refugees from Liranga and take them to a site to be determined further south. The Congolese government has not yet made its position regarding the refugees clear, but has asked aid agencies to prepare a plan of action to deal with the problem. Humanitarian sources say the Rwandan refugee population at Loukolelo has increased rapidly from 59 to about 900; and 500 Zaireans have arrived at Ngabe, 200 kms north of the capital.

* Five people died at Owando, northern Congo, in a reprisal attack on supporters of former president Denis Sassou-Nguesso, AFP reported on Thursday. The attackers were avenging the earlier shooting of a soldier by bodyguards of Sassou-Nguesso, who has started a campaign tour of the country but has not said whether he will stand in presidential elections in July.

* UNHCR said today rebel ADFL authorities in eastern Zaire promised they would be able to travel by road to refugee sites south of Biaro on Saturday. UNHCR officials were stopped at Biaro, 42 kms south of Kisangani, earlier this week by rebel soldiers citing insecurity. The authorities say two trains will be organised soon to evacuate refugees from Biaro. Trains are also to run three times a week to Obilo, Km 82.

* The repatriation total of Rwandan refugees from Zaire reached 26,248 on Thursday, UNHCR said. Another 15,000 in Biaro camp and 6,000 at Km 82 camp are waiting to be flown out.

* Humanitarian sources say 63 deaths were recorded among Hutu refugees repatriated from eastern Zaire to the Rwandan capital Kigali over the last two weeks. 53 died at Ruyenzi transit centre and 10 at the central hospital.

* Mohamed Sahnoun, UN/OAU special representative for the Great Lakes, has asked three non-governmental organisations to organise a consultation of experts on the region. Accord, Mwengo and Synergies Africa are looking for experts wishing to participate. Contact Vasu Gounden at Accord, e-mail : or tel. 27-31-2044816, fax 27-31-2044815.

* The Rwandan government this week approved a decree specifying that those sentenced to death for crimes of genocide in 1994 will not be executed in public. No film or photographs may be taken of the executions, which will be carried out between 5 am and 6 pm at the prison where the convict is held and in the town where he or she was sentenced. More than 40 people have been sentenced to death and five have had their appeals rejected since the trials began late last year.

* The UN Security Council expressed concern on Wednesday about deteriorating conditions in Rwandan prisons and the country's poor judicial system. It called on the Rwandan government to make improvements.

* The Ugandan 'Monitor' reports heavy fighting yesterday between the Ugandan army and rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) at Kahindangoma in the Rwenzori mountains. The paper says the army attacked ADF bases killing at least 40 rebels and capturing weapons.

* Uganda has reacted angrily to an article in the French daily 'Le Monde', which said Uganda helped train a "Tutsi legion" of 15,000 fighters behind Zairean rebel leader Laurent Kabila. The Kenyan 'Daily Nation' today quotes a Ugandan security official who dismissed the claim as "naive" and "rubbish."

* UN planes flew to destinations in southern Sudan today for the first time in ten days after the Sudanese government gave fresh authorisation. The control tower in government-held Juba had been denying flight clearance. Aid workers believe the government was trying to stop deliveries of food to areas captured by the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in its latest offensive.

* US Assistant Secretary of State George Moose urged the international isolation of Sudan to force it to "change its domestic and international conduct", AFP reported. ICRC said earlier this week it had started visiting Sudanese prisoners of war being held in Uganda.

* WFP reports normal or better than normal rainfall in virtually all parts of Kenya badly affected by drought. Water catchments have replenished and livestock health improved. WFP has revised downwards by 10% Kenya's 1997 maize imports estimate. However, maize prices remain very high especially in the Rift Valley and Kisumu. Prices have increased by 100-160% since May 1996. WFP drought relief operations continue, with food distributions to badly affected communities and to 450,000 school children.

Nairobi, 16 May 1997, 15:15 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: Fri, 16 May 1997 18:14:04 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 173 for 16 May 1997 97.5.16 Message-ID: <>

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

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