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IRIN Emergency Update No. 254 on the Great Lakes (Tuesday 23 September 97)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kabila lashes out at western "plots"
President Laurent-Desire Kabila today (Tuesday) lashed out at "plots" against his country by the international community. Speaking in Kinshasa, he alleged the DRC was being targeted by western powers "in the disguise of humanitarian action". According to AFP, he appealed for "African solidarity", affirming that the country "prefers to be poor and free, rather than rich and a slave".
Article says Kabila "playing cat and mouse" with UN mission
An article in the 'Washington Post' yesterday said the remains of "tens of thousands" of Rwandan refugees were strewn around the forests of the former Zaire. Scott Campbell, a consultant for Human Rights Watch, who recently visited the area, wrote that he had seen the remains of refugees. He claimed that in many areas, their bones had been "hastily exhumed and burned", allegedly by DRC and Rwandan soldiers. The article accused President Kabila of "playing cat and mouse" with the UN investigative mission into alleged massacres, which has so far been unable to leave Kinshasa. A UN spokesman said yesterday the mission was "sitting tight" in Kinshasa while negotiations continued with the government on leaving for the field. For the moment, he said, the Secretary-General was content to let them try and carry out the mission. He could not say how long they would wait.
International community urged to be "firm" with DRC
However, the 'Washington Post' article stressed the UN "must remain steadfast in demanding that an impartial and independent investigation be carried out immediately". Another article in 'The New Republic' periodical warned that the international community must not "indulge Kabila for no particular reason other than the fact he replaced Mobutu". The UN and USA in particular, the article said, "should be insisting, quite forcefully, that the Congo open itself to human rights inspection".
Witnesses speak of Mbandaka killings
The 'New York Times' quoted refugee eyewitnesses, now in Loukolela in northern Congo (Brazzaville), as claiming hundreds of their compatriots were massacred by "men speaking the languages of Rwanda and Zaire" in the Mbandaka area of northwest DRC earlier this year. The paper added that the investigators were being delayed in Kinshasa and "fear the witnesses they need will disappear".
Non-aligned countries urge comprehension for Kabila
Meanwhile, non-aligned countries attending the UN General Assembly session in New York yesterday (Monday), urged the international community to have some understanding for the new authorities in DRC. Tanzanian Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete, speaking on behalf of the non-aligned countries, said what the DRC needed most of all was "solidarity, understanding and material support" from the international community. The return to democracy, albeit slow, was underway, he told the session.
Brazzaville refugees undergoing registration
The Kinshasa authorities yesterday began registering all refugees from Brazzaville to exercise better control over them, AFP reported. The measure is aimed at encouraging refugees staying with friends or relations to go the Kinkole camp, 30 km east of the capital. The registration is free, AFP said, but all refugees in employment have to pay certain taxes ranging from US$ two to six. This category of refugees also has to obtain resident cards, costing between US$ 165-200. Police issued a warning that all refugees who failed to register would be considered as "infiltrators and treated as such".
Over 2,000 refugees back in Uvira from Kigoma
Over 2,300 DRC refugees have returned to Uvira across Lake Tanganyika from camps in Tanzania's Kigoma region since a voluntary repatriation programme was launched at the beginning of this month, UNHCR announced. It said returns were expected to increase next month when a second ferry will go into operation. UNHCR also said it was screening more than 4,000 people rounded up by the Tanzanian authorities since Sunday, who were found outside the Kigoma camps. Of these 1,400 were Burundian, the rest from DRC, but not all of them were refugees. According to UNHCR, some were immigrants or former refugees who had been integrated into the community.
Hundreds said fleeing into Uganda
Hundreds of people are reported to have fled eastern DRC into southwestern Uganda over the past two weeks. Humanitarian sources say most of them are arriving in the Kisoro district, with 560 in Busanza town and a reported 1,000 in Bunagana. The latter are said to be arriving in Uganda at night, where they stay with friends and relations, and returning home during the day.
"Armed terrorism" in Goma, army publication says
A recent edition of the newsletter 'Le Congo Libre' published by the DRC army in Goma spoke of the return of "armed terrorism" to the town. "Goma has gone back almost to the way it was before the war of liberation when the FAZ soldiers wrought terror in the city day and night," the publication said. However, the Provincial Security Committee at a meeting last Friday noted that security was beginning to improve as a result of "reorganising" the national army. Humanitarian sources confirmed the security situation in Goma had improved a little over the last week.
"Pacification commission" finds Masisi calm but needing help
Local radio in Goma reported that an official "pacification commission" for the Kivus began its work last week with a mission to Masisi. According to the mission, peace and security had returned to the town but the people were in urgent need of rehabilitation and reintegration assistance. The commission, organised by the interior ministry, will remain in the Kivu area until 3 October to evaluate the causes of conflict and ethnic tension, the radio said.
War-displaced returning east
Over 650 people from eastern DRC, displaced by the war to Kinshasa, are returning to Kisangani on board three barges, official sources said, quoted by AFP. The barges reportedly left Kinshasa on Sunday and are due to arrive in Kisangani in a week's time. This is the first repatriation of war-displaced organised by the Kinshasa authorities. Thousands of other displaced people are still in the capital.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Congo, DRC refugees return home
Around 300 refugees from Congo (Brazzaville) and DRC have returned home from CAR over the past week, UNHCR said. It flew 51 Congolese government soldiers and their families from Bangui to Pointe Noire aboard a chartered plane, and a further 267 DRC refugees were returned to Kinshasa by barge. Each person was given the equivalent of US$25.
RWANDA: Military spending slashed
Rwanda is to slash military spending and demobilise thousands of soldiers, the authorities announced today (Tuesday). The head of Rwanda's demobilisation committee, Ephraim Kabaija, told AFP it was impossible to maintain the army at present levels. Spending on the army would be reduced from 34 percent of the national budget to 20 percent by the end of next year. This would entail demobilising 5,000 soldiers in the first phase (running to December next year) and assisting 12,000 ex-FAR troops and 2,500 child soldiers return to civilian life. In the second phase (running to December 2000), 10,000 soldiers would be demobilised and 28,000 ex-FAR assisted, Kabaija said, according to AFP.
Four children killed in rocket attack
Four schoolchildren were killed and six wounded when a rocket slammed into their school late Sunday in the northwestern town of Gisenyi. AFP quoted a local official as saying Interahamwe militia were suspected of carrying out the attack, but the perpetrators fled before soldiers arrived on the scene. According to the official, the children had just sat an exam and were gathered together for security reasons.
Genocide victims reburied
The remains of 4,000 genocide victims were reburied as a sign of respect in Muhazi commune, Kibungo prefecture on Sunday. Speakers at the ceremony stressed the importance of an official burial for the victims of genocide, Rwandan radio said.
SUDAN: Government, rebels to resume peace talks
The Sudanese government and rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) have agreed to resume peace talks which broke off in 1994. The breakthrough followed a one-day ministerial meeting in Nairobi yesterday within the framework of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) aimed at reviving the peace process. Kenyan Foreign Minister Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka had earlier told his Eritrean, Ethiopian and Ugandan counterparts that negotiations between the conflicting sides in Sudan should resume as soon as possible. In comments broadcast by Kenyan television, he called for establishing a timetable for dates and venues of continued IGAD negotiations. The foreign ministers later met representatives of the Sudanese government and the SPLA. The resumed talks are due to be held in Nairobi on 28 October.
BURUNDI: Attack against FRODEBU leader
Gunmen carried out an attack on FRODEBU secretary-general Augustin Nzojibwami as he was travelling in his car in Bujumbura on Sunday, Radio Burundi reported. Nzojibwami was unhurt but his car was damaged by bullets.
CONGO (BRAZZAVILLE): Bongo calls for UN peacekeeping force
President Omar Bongo of Gabon, who is mediating in the Congo conflict, has called for the urgent deployment of a UN peacekeeping force in the ravaged capital Brazzaville. In a letter to the president of the Security Council, he stressed the force should be tasked with supervising and guaranteeing a definitive ceasefire, controlling the demobilisation of troops and contributing to the collection of weapons. The deployment of a UN force would facilitate negotiations aimed at reaching a peace accord, he wrote.
Nairobi, 23 September 1997, 15:30 gmt
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Date: Tue, 23 Sep 1997 19:03:29 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 254 for 23 Sept 1997 97.9.23 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970923190104.23934A@dha.unon.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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