Great Lakes: IRIN Update 187, 6/4/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 187, 6/4/97


Department of Humanitarian Affairs

Integrated Regional Information Network

for the Great Lakes

Tel: +254 2 622147

Fax: +254 2 622129


IRIN Emergency Update No.187 on the Great Lakes (4 June 1997)

* Democratic Republic of Congo leader Laurent-Desire Kabila, who attended this week's OAU summit in Harare, held talks with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday during which they discussed the plight of refugees in DRC and the need for increased cooperation with the humanitarian community. Kabila agreed to investigate reports of refugee killings by his troops and to work more closely with UNHCR. He also requested UN help for the reconstruction of his country. Annan described the discussions as "very useful". The human rights organisation Amnesty International had also urged OAU leaders meeting in Harare to demand an investigation into reports of massacres by troops from the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL).

UNHCR said it had temporarily halted its operations in Karuba, near Goma, following last week's killing of a local Save the Children worker. It called for a thorough investigation into the incident, saying it would only resume its work when the safety of its officials and those of other aid agencies could be guaranteed. Four Rwandan refugees were also killed in the attack, believed to have been carried out ADFL members. Karuba is a major collection point for Rwandan refugees wishing to be repatriated. In another security incident last week, five armed men commandeered a UNHCR vehicle on the escarpment road between Uvira and Bukavu, reportedly beating up the driver and forcing him to drive them towards the Ruzizi Plain. They fled after coming across an Alliance vehicle in the opposite direction.

* The Zairean daily 'Le Soft' yesterday described the situation in eastern DRC as tense, with the local people angry over the "invasion by arrogant and intrusive neighbours". The article claimed anti-Rwandan sentiments were growing all over the country and splits were showing in the ADFL. The newspaper also noted that fighting was still going on in some parts of the country, notably in Equateur province where FAZ troops were still putting up some resistance.

* In Kinshasa itself, local sources reported sporadic fighting in the suburbs with gunfire audible every night. According to the sources, a major problem is that there are several military command centres such as Rwandans-Ugandans, Angolans, and Congolese, each with their own agenda, and with very little coordination existing between them. Kinshasa is currently witnessing a settling of scores and the requisitioning of cars is a common occurrence.

* DRC Justice Minister Celestin Lwangi yesterday welcomed the discovery by Swiss banks of 4.8 million Swiss francs (US$3.4 million) in assets held by former Zairean president Mobutu Sese Seko, but said it was only the start, Reuters reported. However the amount, which included foreign shares, bonds and securities, is just a fraction of the rumoured billions that Mobutu has stashed away in Swiss banks. Lwangi said DRC had its own international commission which was investigating Mobutu's fortune. The Federal Banking Commission, Switzerland's banking watchdog, confirmed the assets had been frozen, but said it could take years to return the money to Kinshasa.

* The DRC authorities reportedly prevented Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo from leaving the country last week. The archbishop said the authorities at Ndjili airport seized his passport on Friday evening, preventing him from flying to Brazzaville in neighbouring Congo from where he had a connecting flight to Belgium.

* The UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda (HRFOR) yesterday said 344 ethnically-motivated killings occurred in the country over a six-week period until mid-May. It blamed the Rwandan army for 162 of these, saying 152 people were killed by soldiers in the Hutu-dominated northwestern region of Ruhengeri alone. Northwestern areas of the country are particularly volatile with reports of ex-FAR and Interahamwe members filtering back into the region. The report added that Hutu rebels were responsible for 51 deaths in the period between March 1 and mid-May.

* A UN inter-agency mission to Rwanda's southeastern Kibungo prefecture last month found positive signs of recovery and reconstruction, with the emphasis moving away from humanitarian assistance. Mission members believed there was a true sense of commitment among government officials and aid workers in the prefecture and urged continued support from respective headquarters. Among problems noted by the team were difficulties in building shelters due to water and roofing material shortages, a generally bleak situation in health and nutritional services and food programmes hampered by pipeline shortages and logistical limitations. The number of malnourished children had doubled to about 10,000 since the beginning of the year, due in part to the mass return of refugees. The report said security in the prefecture was good and the reintegration process was progressing well. [Full text of report available from IRIN on request]

* Burundian army spokesman Isaie Nibizi said troops were bombarding Hutu rebel positions in the Mboza hills, south of Bujumbura. According to Nibizi, the rebels were entrenched in the region. Fighting has intensified close to the capital where heavy mortar fire has been clearly audible over the last few days.

* Students at Bujumbura university yesterday voted to end a boycott of classes provided the authorities withdrew their decision to cancel all registrations for the current academic year. The dean said the university would be closed two months ahead of the end of the current academic year, because of the student protest against the Burundian government's talks with the rebel National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD). Student leader Apollinaire Kavungerwa said the students would lift their boycott if registrations were restored, but would continue to oppose the talks, AFP reported.

* A statement issued by Burundi's Tutsi-dominated youth organisation SOJEDEM has warned that action will be taken to remove President Pierre Buyoya from power unless the army acts now. The statement, issued on May 29, gave the armed forces two weeks to arrest Buyoya and his "slave", Prime Minister Pascal-Firmin Ndimira, otherwise strikes would be staged and preparations made to "forcefully chase this clique from power".

* Some 350 people have died of cholera in Tanzania over the past five months, the health ministry announced yesterday. It said the regions worst hit by the disease were Kigoma, Lindi, Ruvuma and the capital Dar es Salaam where 133 deaths were reported.

* Thousands of people in the southern Sudanese town of Rumbek face mass starvation unless humanitarian help reaches them quickly, Roman Catholic missionaries said yesterday, according to AFP. In a statement, the Sudan Catholic Information Office in Nairobi said 10,000 to 15,000 people who had returned to the town since its capture by the SPLA in April were without food or medicine.

* Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir yesterday renewed an invitation to rebel SPLA leader John Garang to take part in the peace deal signed between the government and rebel factions in April. However, he told a news conference that the peace agreement would go ahead regardless of whether Garang participated or not.

Nairobi, 4 June 1997, 15:00 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: Wed, 4 Jun 1997 18:22:27 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 187 for 4 June 1997 97.6.4 Message-ID: <>

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

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