Zaire: IRIN Update 23 on Eastern Zaire, 11/14/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 23 on Eastern Zaire, 11/14/96


Department of Humanitarian Affairs

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 23 on Eastern Zaire (14 November 1996)

Fierce fighting broke out around Goma overnight and continued today, raising fears that relief efforts would be further hampered. Rebels opened up with heavy arms and anti-aircraft fire against positions west of the town, targeting a plane which may have also overflown Goma yesterday. The plane then left the area. A BBC reporter in the area said it was the worst violence since the rebels took the town. Some reports said shells were also fired from Mugunga camp near Goma. UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler said the Interahamwe militia were ordering refugees to gather at Mugunga, in an attempt to prevent their return to Rwanda.

However UNHCR reported that 730 refugees -- probably from the Katale/Kahindo camps -- had defied the Interahamwe and crossed at Mutovu into Rwanda on Wednesday, the biggest number of returnees into Rwanda since fighting broke out last month.

Hundreds of residents started returning home to Goma today. A journalist in Goma said that people arriving in the town from the west say that Mugunga camp is "well hemmed in" by rebel forces. The journalists told IRIN that an elite force was stationed on the west side, seemingly consisting of Rwandan soldiers. Eyewitnesses coming into the town are reporting that the view from the slopes of Nyaragongo shows life "looking normal" inside the camp, with many refugees still there. Some trade is begining again in Goma town, but there is no main crop to depend on because the expected bean crop has not yet come through. Refugees coming into Goma are described as in reasonably good shape, though with blistered and torn feet. One journalist told IRIN that rebel authorities would broadcast that refugees were arriving, presumably to try and reduce tension between the local population and the refugees. The reporter added that tens of thousands of refugees are reported to be making their way from Kahindo and Katale camps, skirting the lava fields, down towards Goma town.

According to a Reuters report today, 800-1,000 internally displaced people arrived in Goma by boat across Lake Kivu from Sake to the northwest. They reported cases of cholera, as well as fighting between Zairean Mai-Mai militia, ex-FAR troops, the Interahamwe and rebels. A BBC reporter said the Zaireans, who came with a few belongings, had spoken of appalling conditions and heavy clashes in the area.

AFP reported that Tutsi rebels turned away a delegation from Medecins sans Frontieres attempting to enter Bukavu from Rwanda. It said aid agencies had made no headway with rebels in the South Kivu area of which Bukavu is the capital. NGO reports from Bukavu described the situation as "worrying" with a possible epidemic of diarrhoea, particularly among small children.

A UN relief flight funded by Switzerland arrived in Kinshasa today, using an AN-124 aircraft supplied by Emercom (Russia) to bring 100 MT of UNICEF supplies from Copenhagen, including 10,000 blankets, medical supplies and 31 tonnes of milk and high energy biscuits. The flight was arranged by DHA's Military and Civil Defence Unit.

Zaire lashed out at the world community today, accusing it of indifference and saying any aid should be delivered to the refugees' home countries. "The refugees who live today in the east of Zaire belong to states run by governments which cannot with any excuse, duck their responsibility to accept their compatriots inside their borders," deputy premier Mutombo Bakafwa Nsenda told an FAO summit in Rome.

President Mobutu was due to meet an OAU delegation today in the southern French town of Roquebrune-Cap Martin where he is recovering from cancer surgery. The delegation is led by Kenyan foreign minister Kalonzo Musyoka.

NGOs today continued to press for disarming Hutu militias and ex-FAR troops. Oxfam said the proposed multinational force must have a mandate to carry this out. "The lessons of the last two years have been that humanitarian aid is no substitute for political action," it said. MSF said it was "disappointed" that the force was not intended to "separate the criminals" and unless this happened, it was difficult to see how the refugees could be repatriated.

CNN said in a report today that aid agencies in Rwanda felt the challenge to a multinational force was to separate genuine refugees from the armed Hutu militia and former Rwandan forces. CNN's Christiane Amanpour said aid agencies were concerned that massive quantities of aid were not the solution, but that the international community should try and "break the lock" and stop the armed groups holding the refugees hostage.

Rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila today warned of a Somali-like situation in eastern Zaire if the multinational force was "ill-intentioned" or sought to "Balkanize the country". He also told reporters in Goma that use of the local airport was "negotiable", but that foreign soldiers could use airports in Rwanda and Uganda instead. Meanwhile, reports from Zaire near the Rwandan border town of Gisenyi said the rebels had set up an FM radio station called Radio Star.

Canada has called on countries interested in contributing troops to the multinational force to meet in New York later today to discuss a "plan of action". A foreign ministry statement said participants would include Britain, France, the USA and "key aid donors". An advance team of 24 Canadian armed forces personnel, meanwhile, would head for the region today and another 250-strong military team, including doctors, engineers and communications specialists, was on standby. The US sent a team to Kigali today for discussions. The UN Security Council was expected to approve the mandate and deployment of the force by Friday.

French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette said today the force could be ready for deployment by the weekend, while his spokesman Yves Doutriaux said a European should be among three deputy commanders of the force. He added that France would "secure the airport at Bukavu". Senior government sources in Britain indicated it would send between 2,000 and 4,000 troops to eastern Zaire. Defence Secretary Michael Portillo speaking on the BBC today made no mention of numbers, but said the operation should quickly be handed over to African forces.

As a US airborne infantry battalion prepared to fly into eastern Zaire next week, two US relief teams were prevented from entering the region, according to a State Department statement on Wednesday. Zairean rebels in Goma told a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to return to Rwanda minutes after it had arrived, and a second group was turned back from Bukavu. A third team of military and civilian officials meanwhile, led by US coordinator for Rwanda and Burundi Richard Bogosian, was in Uganda en route for Rwanda and eastern Zaire.

The US contingent of the Canadian-led intervention force would comprise some 1,000 troops to be deployed in the Goma area and up to another 3,000 would support the operation in other countries, according to US officials quoted by AFP. The troops, who would be in Zaire for about four months, would be equipped to defend themselves under "robust" rules of engagement similar to the US operation in Bosnia.

WFP said its current stock level in the eastern Zaire region amounted to 71,358 mt, enough to feed 1.5 million people (including 1.25 million refugees and 250,000 affected Zaireans) for about 50 days. As another potential refugee crisis unfolded in Burundi, the UN indicated supplies there were running low. There were 63 days' worth of emergency food rations left, enough for 250,000 beneficiaries. Burundi's prime minister told WFP executive director Ms Bertini on Tuesday that his country had given clearance for international organisations to enter eastern Zaire from Burundi.

UN special envoy Raymond Chretien was due in Burundi tomorrow, a UN source said, and Humanitarian Coordinator Sergio Vieira de Mello was due in Kigali today. The Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, is in Kampala this evening en route to Kinshasa.

Three armed raiders were killed by Ugandan troops in the Kasese area on the border with Zaire Wednesday, a Ugandan official said. Martin Aliker, Minister of State for foreign affairs, told a news conference they were members of gang made up of Zairean soldiers and Ugandan dissidents which had attacked a Ugandan military installation near the border earlier this week. He said the attackers were driven back into Zaire, adding he was unsure whether the attack had been sanctioned by Kinshasa or at a local level. WFP described the situation around Kasese as tense following the attack which reportedly involved 200 Zairean troops and Ugandan dissidents. It said several thousand Ugandans were displaced as a result of the attack.

Australia today announced a financial aid package of 2.6 million Australian dollars for the refugee crisis in Zaire, 100,000 of which will go to DHA IRIN. Other contributors to DHA IRIN since its inception in October 1995 are Sweden, Norway, UK, USA, Belgium, Netherlands and Israel.

Nairobi, 14 November 1996, 16:15 GMT


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Date: Thu, 14 Nov 1996 19:26:52 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 23 on Eastern Zaire for 14 Nov 1996 96.11.14 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Ali Dinar,