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IRIN Emergency Update No. 246 on the Great Lakes (Thursday 11 September 97)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kabila welcomes UNHCR pull-out
President Laurent-Desire Kabila yesterday (Wednesday) welcomed the suspension of UNHCR activities in his country, describing the history of DRC's relations with the UN as "one of the worst experiences of our people". Interviewed by DRC television upon his return from a visit to Rwanda, he described the UN experience as the "sum total of all the conspiracies against our sovereignty". UNHCR's withdrawal would be the "best opportunity for the Congolese people to live in total freedom," he added. Kabila said he would make an official statement when he had received confirmation of UNHCR's decision from his foreign ministry. He also described relations with Rwanda as a "militant friendship", saying the revolution in DRC was beneficial to both countries. "By staging the revolution here, we crushed all the enemies of Rwanda on our national territory," he said.
Bonino "disheartened" by Kabila response
EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Emma Bonino today said she was "disheartened but not suprised" by Kabila's comments regarding UNHCR. In a statement, she described his attitude as "dismissive". A spokesman for Bonino pointed out that UNHCR's departure from DRC could trigger the withdrawal of other aid agencies. Those who remained would be working in very difficult conditions, the spokesman added.
Border security with Rwanda to be strengthened
Rwanda and DRC pledged to reinforce security on their common border at the end of Kabila's visit to Kigali yesterday. In a joint statement, reported by Rwandan radio, they agreed to set up a security commission to monitor the border and stamp out smuggling. Both sides condemned "elements who wanted to mislead the international community on the repatriation issue," the radio said. Before leaving, Kabila denied his government had blocked the UN investigation into alleged massacres in his country. The DRC president and his Rwandan counterpart Pasteur Bizimungu further asked the international community to assist in the rehabilitation of DRC as a country which had hosted so many refugees, and in the resettlement of returnees to Rwanda. According to an AFP report, Kabila blamed most of the current unrest in eastern DRC on Interahamwe members who, he said, "are roaming about in our forests". He dismissed the Mai Mai militia, saying "it's a name that means nothing at all. It covers all kinds of bandits, tribal militias whom Mobutu's people are trying to finance."
Kabila reacts to Mobutu death
Earlier this week, reacting to the death of his predecessor, Kabila said ex-Zairean leader Mobutu Sese Seko should not have died in exile. In comments broadcast by DRC television, Kabila said he told Mobutu to stay in his country, return to his village and live there. "Bring back everything you stole from Zaire and you will not be harmed," Kabila said he told Mobutu. "You are sick and you should stay in your country instead of fleeing..." However, his position appeared to harden yesterday when, asked about Mobutu's death, he replied that "people are dying all the time". Mobutu "was a citizen like any other," he said.
UN mission still in Kinshasa
After optimism that the UN investigative team might be able to leave Kinshasa today (Thursday) to carry out its mission, a UN spokesman announced further delays. The team had hoped to meet Minister for National Reconstruction and Emergency Relief Etienne Mbaya yesterday ahead of their departure for the field, but the meeting was rescheduled for today. According to the spokesman, the team now planned to leave on Saturday for its first site visit.
CONGO (BRAZZAVILLE): UN team members in Loukolela
Meanwhile, four members of the team in Kinshasa had arrived in the northern Congolese (Brazzaville) town of Loukolela to visit Rwandan refugees there, the UN spokesman said. They would spend three days there, talking to refugees who had travelled right across DRC territory before crossing the river into Congo. The spokesman added that the situation in Congo had sharply deteriorated over the past week and was further complicated by the placing of landmines in Brazzaville, particularly around government buildings.
Sassou Nguesso forces reportedly control north
Militia loyal to ex-president Denis Sassou Nguesso are reported to be in full control of north and central Congo. Pro-Sassou Nguesso radio yesterday claimed his troops had taken Owando, the most important city in the north. Heavy fighting has been reported in the city between Sassou Nguesso's Cobra militia and the forces of President Pascal Lissouba. The radio also accused Brazzaville mayor Bernard Kolelas - who had been mediating in the conflict - of going over to Lissouba's side after the president appointed him prime minister in a national unity government.
RWANDA: "Gorillas in the Mist" orphanage attacked
Humanitarian sources said an indication of the worsening situation in northwest Rwanda was an attack against an orphanage in Gisenyi prefecture. The orphanage, run by a British woman Rose Carr, featured in the film "Gorillas in the Mist" and was generally regarded as a safe haven in the area. Many returnees had settled close by, believing it offered them some protection. A watchman was reported killed in the attack. Sources say the fighting in Gisenyi has led many local people to move to the Nkamira transit centre and the Petite Barriere camp in Gisenyi town.
BURUNDI: Burundian refugees driven home by DRC fighting
Fighting in eastern DRC is driving home about 100 Burundian refugees a day, according to UNHCR, quoted by Reuters. The UNHCR representative in Bujumbura said today 2,500 refugees had so far fled fighting near Fizi, arriving at the Gatumba transit centre on Burundi's border with DRC.
Moi backs sanctions
Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi yesterday expressed full support for the decision to maintain sanctions on Burundi reached by regional leaders at their meeting in Dar es Salaam last week. He said the Kenyan government had decided to lift the oil embargo against Burundi because "it was hurting the people", today's 'Daily Nation' reported. Moi also asked the private Kenyan carrier, African Airlines, to immediately cease flights to Burundi. Tanzania has banned the airline from its airspace, accusing it of not divulging its true destination.
Sanctions illegal, envoy to Kenya says
Burundi's ambassador to Kenya described the sanctions against his country as illegal. In an interview with the 'East African Standard' published today, Stanislas Nakaha said the embargo had ruined Burundi's economy and greatly affected vulnerable groups. It was a "miracle", he said, that Burundi had survived the sanctions. The ambassador accused foreign media of not focusing on positive issues in Burundi and said much had been done to restore peace.
SUDAN: Garang refuses to talk to Bashir
John Garang, leader of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), yesterday ruled out talks with President Omar al-Bashir and said the only possible peace initiative for Sudan was the IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought) process. In a lengthy interview with rebel Voice of Sudan radio, he explained that his meeting with President Mandela in South Africa had been to "clear the air". He claimed Bashir's earlier visit to South Africa was aimed at "killing the IGAD peace mediation process and delivering the SPLM/SPLA to the NIF (National Islamic Front)." On military operations, Garang said the SPLA was aware the government was preparing a military offensive and that it "welcomed" this. "We will hit them very hard and it is our joy," he said.
SPLA strong militarily, Khartoum politically superior: 'Economist'
An article in 'The Economist' magazine noted that the SPLA currently is stronger and better disciplined than ever before, buoyed by support from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, DRC and USA. In addition, northern and southern opponents of the Khartoum government have come together under an umbrella organisation known as the National Democratic Alliance. Soldiers defecting from the government side have formed the Sudan Alliance Forces in the northeast where they are making spectacular gains, the article said. Diplomatically, the government has the upper hand by "talking peace and wooing its opponents", which culminated in a peace accord signed with six rebel factions in April. Garang may be outmanoeuvred politically by his apparent intransingency, the article concluded.
Nairobi, 11 September 1997, 15:00 gmt
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Date: Thu, 11 Sep 1997 18:36:35 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 246 for 11 Sep 1997 97.9.11 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970911183452.7321A@dha.unon.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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