Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round Up #19 22-28 July 1996

Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round Up #19 22-28 July 1996

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

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This is number 19 in a series of weekly reports from IRIN on general developments in the Great Lakes region. Sources for the information below include UN agencies, NGOs, other international organisations and media reports. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original sources.

Weekly Roundup of Main Events in the Great Lakes region
22 - 28 July 1996

# Regional leaders have called for an emergency summit of east and central African heads of state to consider their response to Thursday's army-backed bloodless coup which ousted Burundi's President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya. Following talks on Saturday with former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, the Presidents of Tanzania and Uganda, Benjamin Mkapa and Yoweri Museveni, condemned the coup and said that it undermined the efforts of both regional and world leaders aimed at finding a peaceful and lasting solution to the Burundi conflict. The two leaders underlined the importance of the agreements reached at the Arusha Summit on 25 June and called on all parties to respect its recommendations. The emergency summit, which will be held in Arusha on Wednesday (31 July), will include all regional heads of state except Burundi, and Cameroon who occupies the chair of the Organisation of African Unity.

At the 25 June summit, Burundi's President and Prime Minister called for regional security assistance involving the deployment of African troops into Burundi. Both were accused by UPRONA of "high treason". The Prime Minister, Antoine Nduwayo, resigned on Friday. President Ntibantunganya has continued to defy the coup leaders and so far has not offered his resignation. Ntibantunganya has also continued to seek sanctuary in the Bujumbura residence of the US Ambassador where he fled on Tuesday. Other prominent Hutu politicians have sought refuge with the German and other embassies in Bujumbura.

# The newly installed Burundi President, Pierre Buyoya, said on Thursday that he seized power to save Burundi. Buyoya, who was President in 1987 after a coup which ousted Tutsi President Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, said in a message to the nation that his first objective was to halt ethnic violence and "stop the massacres and all forms of criminality". He told reporters that he was forming a transitional broad-based government of national unity. Buyoya is known as the person who launched the democracy drive which ended in his defeat in the 1993 elections.

The head of FRODEBU has called for the rejection of the new military ruler but has urged the population to be calm. The head of UPRONA has said that the party has confidence in Buyoya and would give the new team a chance. Leonard Nyangoma, the leader of the Burundian opposition party, the CNDD, and its military wing, the FDD, has also called on Burundians to refrain from inter-ethnic killings but warned that the new regime's days are numbered. The CNDD/FDD has said that it will starve out the capital Bujumbura and Gitega in central Burundi to bring the new leaders to the negotiating table. Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, head of PARENA and rival of Buyoya, said that his political party would resist the coup with peaceful means.

Although Bujumbura was reported to be "abnormally quiet" over the weekend, army patrols were out in force at the university, a stronghold of support for Bagaza. Violence has also been reported during the week from outside the capital in Gitega and Bururi. Two people were killed and five more injured in a grenade attack in Gitega, central Burundi on Friday and some unconfirmed reports estimate that about 200 people have been killed between Wednesday and Friday in separate incidents. The sources said that the bodies of 51 people were found buried on Sunday near Giheta, a few kilometres north of Gitega, following attacks on a rice processing plant and a coffee factory. At least six students were reported to have been killed in an agricultural college in Gitega.

Thursday's coup follows week-long demonstrations protesting the proposed deployment of foreign troops and the massacre of more than 300 displaced Tutsis at Bungendana. President Ntibantunganya took refuge with the US Ambassador in Bujumbura shortly after his helicopter was pelted with stones by a angry mob as he attempted to attend the mass funeral service in Bungendana.

# Reaction to the coup by the international community has been mixed, but mostly condemning. The strongest statements were made by the Secretary-Generals of the UN and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). OAU's Salim Ahmed Salim told a press conference that the OAU would not recognise the new regime and that it had underestimated the resolve of the regional leaders to take them on. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said that on no account would the international community accept the coup.

The UN Security Council said on Friday that its 15 Council members had always made it clear that violence as a means to seize power is not acceptable, but went short of issuing an outright condemnation. Individual members, however, were more categoric. Botswana - one of the Council's three African members - said that the coup stood condemned. Botswana's position was echoed by Guinea-Bissau and Chile. Canada, the UK, the EU and South Africa have also condemned the coup, but France and Belgium appear to have tacitly accepted the new regime. Belgium's Foreign Minister, Eric Derycke described Buyoya as "the least of all evils" and France said that "peace and the search for national reconciliation must override everything else". The US, which initially condemned the coup, also appeared to be softening its line by the end of the week. Both the US and EU, however, have suspended development aid programmes. US President Bill Clinton's special envoy to the region, Howard Wolpe was to leave Washington over the weekend to meet with regional leaders. Kampala was the centre of intense diplomatic activity over the weekend.

The Government of Zaire said that it will not recognise the new government and that it had ordered reinforced surveillance of all roads and other routes between Zaire and Burundi because of the risk of a new refugee flood. Zaire officially closed its borders with Burundi two months ago. Zaire's Foreign Minister Jean Marie Kititwa-Tumasi also said at the weekend that Zaire would not send military forces to Burundi and described the deployment of an international force as "meaningless". Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi condemned the coup and said that it would widen the gap towards possible reconciliation.

# The Security Council has urged the UN Secretary-General to continue with contingency planning for a rapid humanitarian response in the event of widespread violence. UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace-Keeping Operations, Kofi Annan told journalists that the UN was encouraging a two track approach - a Chapter VI option and a Chapter VII option. The Chapter VI option was based on the situation calming down and on the Burundi Government inviting the UN to step in and assist it, while the Chapter VII option was based on the international community having to "react rather than sit back and watch another Rwandan unfold". Although the Secretary-General has requested that the Chapter VII planning be undertaken by Member States who would form the coalition that would go into Burundi, no country has offered to take up the leadership and only three countries have so far offered troops for a multi-national force.

At the weekend, the President of the Non-Governmental Organisation, American Refugee Committee, urged the US and other world powers to provide strong leadership in stemming the violence in Burundi. The British NGO, ActionAid, called on the UN to take immediate responsibility for helping the displaced in Burundi and Oxfam said that Burundi faces a bloodbath unless the international community backs the peace plan.

# African military experts were reported to be meeting in Arusha on Sunday to chart out more details of the proposed regional security assistance plan for Burundi. A source said that the closed door meeting began yesterday under the chairmanship of General Robert Mboma, Chief of the Tanzanian Defence Forces. The meeting is said to have brought together 15 military experts from Zaire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The security assistance plan put forward at the June Arusha Summit had been floundering due to opposition by the Burundi Army and political parties. African states who had agreed to take part in the plan had said that it was contingent on a cease-fire being called by Burundi's opposing groups.

On Tuesday, Norway announced a cash donation of US$ 500,000 to the OAU to support the plan. The new donation takes Norway's financial aid to Burundi and Rwanda in 1996 to between US$ 20 and US$ 25 million, making the country one of the largest cash donors to the two states.

# Refugees from Burundi continue to arrive at the rate of up to 500 a day in Uvira, Eastern Zaire and the total camp population has increased to 195,868 persons. At the current rate of arrival, accommodation will be depleted within two weeks. A new camp is planned with sufficient space to accommodate up to 100,000, but the site has not yet been approved by Zairian authorities. Some 370 new Burundian refugees also arrived in Mtendele, the new camp in Kigoma, Tanzania, while new arrivals to Keza camp in Ngara, Tanzania averaged 100 a day - 94% of these new arrivals Burundian and 6% Rwandan. With fears that the coup will spark off further violence in the Burundi countryside and mass exodus of populations, UNHCR has re-launched an emergency plan calling for US$ 13 million to cope with a possible flood of 300,000 Burundi refugees into neighbouring countries.

# Following condemnation by the international community, Burundi agreed two days prior to the coup to suspend its forced closure of camps for Rwandan refugees. Around 15,000 refugees from Kibezi and Ruvumu camps in Burundi were repatriated to Rwanda during the operation which began on 20 July. A small number of refugees died en route as they were crammed into trucks and other vehicles by the Burundi army and transported to the Rwandan border. No major incidents have been recorded on the Rwanda side and the rate of arrests of refugees so far is reported to be very low.

At the beginning of the week, the UN accused the governments of Burundi and Rwanda of colluding over the forced closure and the High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadaka Ogata wrote a formal letter of protest to both the Rwandan and Burundi Presidents. Earlier in the week, the Rwandan Minister for Rehabilitation and Social Integration had told reporters that the repatriation exercise would continue and that the camps in Burundi would be emptied within a week.

Burundian refugees also continue to arrive in Rwanda, albeit in smaller numbers. As of early last week, the total of recent asylum seekers was 3,600. Two alternative sites have now been identified for more permanent accommodation of the refugees in Cyangugu Prefecture.

The situation in Masisi, North Kivu, is reported as calm and displaced families are continuing to return to their home areas. The number of Zairian refugees arriving in Rwanda to escape from the recent violence in Eastern Zaire also continued to be low. Currently, some 13,500 Zairian refugees of Rwandan origin have been registered in Rwanda.

# UNHCR and its humanitarian partners on Idjwi island began implementing plans this week to move some 40,000 Rwandan refugees from the east of the island to two western sites. The transfer, which began last week, is expected to take a month. Most refugees are expected to walk to the new sites.

# The Government of Zaire said at the weekend that it has seized a cargo plane in Goma for allegedly carrying a consignment of materiel for the Rwandan Army. The plane was carrying aid cargo. The Liberian-registered DC-8 was seized on Thursday while en route from Belgium to Uganda. An Air Zaire Boeing 737, meanwhile, has been stranded at Kamembe in Rwanda since April when it was seized by the Rwandan Government. Zaire said the plane had been on a flight from Kinshasa and was forced down by bad weather. Rwanda says the plane was carrying weapons.

# A UK newspaper has accused South Africa of fuelling the violence in Burundi and Rwanda through illegal weapons shipments brokered by former intelligence agents or officials of the former regime. The Sunday Times reported that private pilots, air cargo crews and a member of a special South African Commission investigating the trade have confirmed that small arms, explosives and communications equipment from South Africa are being distributed to Hutu extremist rebels in Burundi and Rwanda. South Africa was a leading weapons supplier to Rwanda's former government until 1993, but all trade was supposed to have stopped after the genocide of 1994. There is, however, no UN arms embargo on Burundi and the embargo against the Rwandan Government was lifted in August of last year.

# The Rwandan Army is reported to have killed nearly 300 people in the northwestern corner of the country, an UN official said on Friday. In a statement, the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda said that on 24 June the army killed more than 200 people in the Gisenyi area and that Hutu rebels killed 90 more people in the same area. A UN report released Thursday lists three incidents between 5 and 13 July in which witness accounts vary considerably from official reports.

# The Ugandan army killed 20 rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in a pitched battle in northern Uganda. The group was killed after they attacked an Army base at a forest outside the northern town of Gulu. Earlier in the week, the rebels are reported to have attacked Minakulu town in the northeast of Uganda and abducted 80 people, most of them school children. Diplomats say that the Ugandan Army has weakened the rebel group but is yet to end its ability to launch attacks on unprotected civilians in the northern areas.

15:50 GMT 29 July 1996


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From: Pat Banks <> Date: Mon, 29 Jul 1996 19:49:50 +0300 (GMT+0300) Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round Up #19 22-28 July 1996 96.7.28 Message-Id: <>

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

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