Great Lakes: IRIN Update 243, 9/8/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 243, 9/8/97


Department of Humanitarian Affairs

Integrated Regional Information Network

for the Great Lakes

Tel: +254 2 622147

Fax: +254 2 622129


IRIN Emergency Update No. 243 on the Great Lakes (Monday 8 September 1997) [also covering Saturday 6 & Sunday 7 Sep 97]

[Please note IRIN will hold an information exchange meeting this Wednesday at 9am. All members of the humanitarian community are welcome.]

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONG0: * Ex-Zairean leader Mobutu dies in exile

After over three decades in power, ex-Zairean president Mobutu Sese Seko died in exile from prostate cancer last night (Sunday). Local sources in Kinshasa described the city as "somewhat sad and confused" as news of Mobutu's death filtered through. Mobutu fled to Rabat, Morocco, in May after being ousted from power by forces loyal to current DRC leader Laurent-Desire Kabila, but spent most of his time there in hospital as his health failed. He was 66 when he died. Reporting his death this morning, Bunia radio described him as a "bloodthirsty dictator". It quoted Information Minister Raphael Ghenda as saying the former leader would be buried in DRC, complying with a request by Mobutu's family for the remains to be brought home. DRC newspapers last week spoke of the imminent death of the former Zairean leader, with one publication observing that Mobutu was in a coma.

* UNHCR "disgusted" over refugee expulsion

UNHCR expressed "disgust" over last week's expulsion of Burundian and Rwandan refugees from Kisangani in eastern DRC and said it was reviewing the basis for its operations in the country. A spokesman pointed out that the needs of people requiring help would have to be balanced against the latest developments in Kisangani. In a brief report on Thursday night, DRC television said Commander Masasu Nindaga was in eastern DRC to "supervise the repatriation of Rwandan and Burundian refugees to their respective countries." By Friday, Information Minister Raphael Ghenda had confirmed all the refugees, numbering over 700, had been repatriated from Kisangani. UNHCR said it planned to repatriate 135 Burundian refugees from Kigali today, all volunteers who would return to "safe areas" from where they could be monitored.

* Talks on human rights probe

UN Security Council president Bill Richardson told reporters on Friday, that patience with DRC over the UN human rights investigation was running out. The Council is due to discuss the issue today. On Thursday evening, DRC television said National Reconstruction Minister Etienne Mbaya, Interior Minister Mwenze Kongolo and the UN team were "trying to harmonise viewpoints" before the probe got underway. Mbaya reiterated the government's position, which included calls for neutrality on the part of the UN mission. * Eastern DRC very tense

Meanwhile, tension intensified in eastern DRC with heavy shooting reported overnight (Sunday) in Goma. Humanitarian sources told IRIN the shooting, which continued this morning (Monday), appeared to coincide with the arrival of 10th brigade Congolese troops allegedly to replace Rwandan soldiers in the area. Six people are reported to have been killed since Thursday night. Further south, the town of Bukavu was also described as very tense with rebels reportedly closing in. Sources said soldiers were setting up heavy artillery positions at Tshibanda, about 35 km from Bukavu, on the road to Bunyakiri which is reportedly under rebel control. The Bukavu-Uvira road has become a no-go area, with frequent bandit attacks and regular harassment of aid agencies reported. On Thursday night, the Bukavu airport military commander and his bodyguard were shot dead in a car ambush, although details of the attack are sketchy. Confrontations between Mai-Mai militia and DRC troops are also said to be on the increase.

In a bid to defuse the crisis, local authorities in Bukavu met a Mai-Mai delegation on 30 August, the Agence Congolaise de Presse (ACP) reported. The news agency said the Mai-Mai submitted a list of grievances to the South Kivu governor, which the latter agreed to pass on to a higher authority. According to ACP, the delegation admitted to siding with ex-FAR/Interahamwe at one point in the Kalehe area, but now pledged to renounce all "underground activities". Last week, the DRC daily 'Le Palmares' wrote that "war resumed with a vengeance" in the east of the country. It claimed Mai-Mai militia had launched an offensive against ethnic Rwandans in the Masisi area, sparked by feelings of marginalisation and discontent. During last year's push against the ex-Zairean troops, the Mai-Mai had fought alongside the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL) but tension between the two sides had been steadily increasing.

RWANDA: * Ruhengeri governor urges border security

Increasing violence in eastern DRC prompted the governor of Rwanda's Ruhengeri prefecture to call for tighter security along the common border. According to AFP, governor Boniface Rucaku described the border zone as a "veritable hotbed of insurgency". He said although the Rwandan army controlled Ruhengeri militarily, "that doesn't mean it can prevent all the saboteurs at work. It doesn't take many bullets to create panic in a central city." He added that the instability could persist for a long time.

* Kabila in Kigali

DRC leader Laurent Kabila arrived in Kigali today on a two-day official visit to Rwanda. His trip will include meetings with Defence Minister Paul Kagame on regional security issues. AFP said the two sides will discuss last week's repatriation of refugees by DRC to Rwanda.

BURUNDI: * Government disappointed with summit decisions

The Burundian government expressed disappointment over regional leaders' decision to maintain sanctions on the country. In a statement, reported by Burundi radio, the government said Thursday's summit in Dar es Salaam had refused to take into account concerns expressed by the authorities and other partners in the peace process. The government vowed to restore peace through all-party talks. The authorities had earlier requested a postponement of talks until 29 September, pointing out they should be held in a "neutral" country such as Ethiopia. However, participants in the Dar es Salaam summit agreed to hold the negotiations in the Tanzanian town of Arusha, although no date was fixed.

* Splits on sanctions reported

Participants in the Dar es Salaam summit were apparently divided over the Burundi embargo, Reuters reported. It quoted a senior African diplomat who attended the talks as saying Kenya (whose president Daniel arap Moi boycotted the meeting), Zambia and Ethiopia were spearheading calls for lifting the sanctions. Another group, made up of Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda, allegedly argued that sanctions should be strengthened and that a secretariat should be created to monitor the embargo.

CONGO (BRAZZAVILLE): * Situation "worsening by the hour"

ICRC said the situation in Congo (Brazzaville) was "worsening by the hour", describing the peace process at a complete stalemate. Humanitarian conditions had been deteriorating over the last three months, with the number of internally displaced people put at well over 100,000. ICRC expressed concern over the "indiscriminate use of more sophisticated weaponry" by the warring sides of President Pascal Lissouba and his rival Denis Sassou Nguesso. Lissouba meanwhile has refused to meet face-to-face with Sassou Nguesso as the latest attempt at peace talks in Libreville, Gabon, appeared to flounder and heavy shelling again pounded the city of Brazzaville. ICRC said it feared the fighting would spread to other parts of the country and was making plans accordingly.

TANZANIA: * Food situation bleak

The current drought in Tanzania has rendered the food situation - especially in central and northwest regions - during the common months as very bleak, according to WFP. The government is expected to make a formal request soon for assistance to some 1.5 million affected people.

SUDAN: * Ugandan troops, SPLA said advancing towards Rukun town

Sudanese newspaper reports yesterday claimed Ugandan troops and south Sudan rebels from the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) were advancing on Rukun, close to the strategic town of Juba. Some 5,000 fighters equipped with mortars, machine guns and armoured vehicles were reportedly closing in on Rukun, according to the daily 'Alwan'.

* Eastern refugee camps "deteriorating"

A Sudanese official meanwhile warned that conditions in refugee camps in eastern Sudan were deteriorating as people continued to pour in mostly from neighbouring Uganda and DRC. According to AFP, acting Refugee Commissioner Mohamed Ahmed Hussein Abdul Aleim said medical and health services in the camps had "drastically deteriorated for lack of funds". The flow of refugees into Sudan, he added, was "increasing continuously".

Nairobi, 8 September 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: Mon, 8 Sep 1997 18:23:01 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 243 for 8 Sep 1997 97.9.8 Message-ID: <>

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

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