Great Lakes: IRIN Update No. 261, 10/2/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update No. 261, 10/2/97


Department of Humanitarian Affairs

Integrated Regional Information Network

for the Great Lakes

Tel: +254 2 622147

Fax: +254 2 622129


IRIN Emergency Update No. 261 on the Great Lakes (Thursday, 2 October 97)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Annan withdraws rights' team for "consultations"

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced in New York on Wednesday he was recalling the human rights investigative team from the DRC for "consultations pending final clarification of the policy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo". UN spokesman Fred Eckhard told the daily press briefing in New York the withdrawal was immediate. He noted that in over one month in the country the team, despatched to investigate allegations of gross violations of human rights, had been unable to accomplish its mission.

Kabila says he did not ask UN to withdraw mission

Shortly before Annan's announcement, AFP quoted DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila as denying press reports he had requested the UN to pull out the mission. "No, I have not asked the UN investigative mission to leave," AFP quoted him as telling a press conference in Kinshasa. For its part, the UN said the unconfirmed press reports had not been the reason for the secretary-general's decision. Replying to questions, Eckhard told correspondents the UN was not backing down in the face of criticism by Kabila. The Pan-African News Agency, PANA, and Reuters reported on Tuesday from Lusaka, Zambia - where Kabila was on an official visit - that the DRC president had accused the members of the team of "sending false reports from hotels" and failing to go to "the places where massacres are alleged to have taken place". UN Human Rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson - addressing her first press conference at UN headquarters later that day - responded that Kabila's comments, if formally confirmed, "would make the present position of the investigative team untenable".

UN human rights head says DRC situation of "immediate concern"

Robinson said "the difficult situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo" was one issue of immediate concern and involved not just the future of the UN investigative team, but also the overall situation of human rights in the country. She said the UN investigative team's terms of reference had been fully agreed to by the DRC government. Robinson said the mission had to take account of what had happened in the past, the regional consequences of human rights abuse, the right to development of the people, and an awareness of the fragility of the new government."The international community had a responsibility to break the cycle of impunity, which has so affected the countries and peoples in the Great Lakes area.We must take a stand on that and at the same time, we have to do it with credibility for that region by caring enough about the human rights of the vast majority of the people there, being seen to do that, and doing it in a broad-based way. I am not sure we have sufficiently given attention to that," Robinson said.

US envoy may visit region

A US envoy could soon be dispatched to ensure that the UN inquiry into human rights violations is allowed to carry out its mandate, news agencies reported diplomats at the UN's New York headquarters as saying on Wednesday. The diplomats said that in addition to visiting Kinshasa, the envoy could travel to other Great Lakes capitals including Kigali and Kampala which are considered the main backers of Kabila. The UN could not immediately confirm that an envoy would soon leave for the region. Fierce fighting reported at Katana, Bukavu airport deserted

Humanitarian sources in Bukavu told IRIN local officials had today (Thursday) reported fierce fighting at Katana, some 45 km north of Bukavu and 15 km north of Kavumu, where Bukavu airport is located. One source said it had fallen to rebel forces on Wednesday, but no other details were immediately available. Aid sources told IRIN the road north of Kavumu was closed and the airport itself deserted. All military personnel, customs and other government officials had fled, but there were no signs of any fighting or sightings of any Mai-Mai rebels. Katana is also the location for one of the biggest hospitals in the Bukavu area - la Formulac, operated by Belgian doctors.

DRC calls for cancellation of "Mobutu's debts"

The DRC government on Wednesday called for a "pure and simple" cancellation of its US $14 billion debt, Reuters reported. Foreign Minister Bizima Karaha, referring to ousted President Mobutu Sese Seko's misappropriation of government funds, told the UN General Assembly it was "public knowledge that these funds, in fact, never reached the Congo (ex-Zaire) and that they were for the most part invested in American, European and Asian banks." Bizima said: "this is why we call for the pure and simple cancellation of this debt." He added that it was unfortunate that future international assistance was dependent on payment of these arrears. As a fallback position, he said that if the debt could not be cancelled the UN should help find the US $14 billion.

RWANDA: UN reports 918 deaths in July/August

The UN Human Rights Field Operation for Rwanda (HRFOR) reported today that at least 918 people had been killed in the central African state during July and August, but estimated that the level of violence had markedly declined. The mission said in a seven-page report its investigators had found that many of the victims had been killed by Interahamwe militiamen and ex-FAR troops, but also said unarmed civilians died at the hands of the current government's army, the RPA. In their previous report, UN observers said that at least 2,873 people had been killed in May and June, including 2,022 in the northern Ruhengeri district alone.

HRFOR report notes deterioration in Gisenyi

The same report said there had been a marked deterioration, particularly in August in the security and human rights situation in Gisenyi Prefecture.The mission said it had gathered credible information indicating increased activities by armed groups as well as counter-insurgency operations by the RPA, sometimes resulting in the killing of civilians, and increased violence affecting refugees, genocide survivors and members of the local population. The report detailed large-scale armed confrontations between armed groups and the RPA in Kanama and Rubavu communes in Gisenyi prefecture. It said that on 8 August an unspecified number of people were killed during an armed confrontation between the RPA and armed groups at Mahoko Market, located near the communal offices and detention centre in Kanama sector, Kanama commune. Victims included 26 detainees, reportedly killed by the armed groups during an attack on the detention centre.Official sources said at least 40 additional people were killed during the course of the attack and during subsequent RPA operations. In Rubavu commune, Gisenyi, the mission said it received reliable information indicating 95 detainees were killed during an attack on the communal detention centre. The military prosecutor-general deployed a team of judicial police to the area to investigate the incident and - according to the UN report - a total of 29 RPA soldiers, including officers, had been arrested by 12 September for various crimes allegedly committed during these incidents.

Humanitarian sources say Hutu refugees flee Gisenyi

Meanwhile, humanitarian sources report that groups of Hutu refugees are arriving in the Rutshuru region in north Kivu, apparently fleeing violence in Rwerere commune in Gisenyi prefecture. The sources say 699 refugees have already arrived and were gathered at Kanyaruchinya.Several more are reported to be on the way, but some reports say DRC soldiers were refusing to allow them to cross and pushing them back over the border.

UN report says 120,000 now detained

The HRFOR report also said that according to official figures the population in the 19 central prisons in Rwanda in August totalled around 72,000 compared to 68,000 in May. This marked an increase of some 10,000 detainees since January 1997. Official sources estimated a combined population of approximately 120,000 detainees in central prisons, communal detention centres and gendarmerie brigades.

FAO expresses concern over "food scarcity"

The FAO Rwandan office said it was concerned about "the acute food scarcity that affects a great number of households"and said any delay in rains could amplify the food insecurity problem. The rainy season normally begins in September in Rwanda, but an FAO report released on Wednesday noted drought threatened the 1998-A season (September - January 1998). "Taking into account the previous poor harvests, there is a risk, in the short run, of aggravating the existing food shortages, that already existed in eight of the 11 prefectures of Rwanda," the FAO report warned.

TANZANIA-BURUNDI: Regional sanctions committee to meet on Friday

The regional committee monitoring sanctions against Major Pierre Buyoya's government in Burundi will meet on Friday in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, AFP quoted a statement by the Tanzanian foreign ministry as saying. According to the statement, the meeting would aim to set up a means of tightening the embargo imposed since Buyoya seized power in July 1996 and force his government and the Tutsi-dominated army to negotiate with Hutu extremist rebels. Simeon Ileta, press officer at the foreign ministry, was quoted by AFP as saying that the committee meeting will be chaired by Tanzania's high commissioner to Kenya, Major-General Mirisho Sarakikya. The Buyoya government has declined to participate in multiparty negotiations due to have opened in Arusha, northern Tanzania, on August 25, because it accuses the Tanzanian authorities and former president Julius Nyerere, the chief mediator, of a biased and "hostile" attitude.

Missing Tanzanians shot dead by Burundian troops, say survivors

Three Tanzanian fishermen reported missing on Lake Tanganyika were killed during an attack by a Burundian army gunboat, AFP quoted the Kiswahili-language daily Rai as saying. It said an 18-year-old survivor, Chabi Mkito, 18, charged that the three were killed after they refused to surrender their fish catch and fishing gear to the Burundian soldiers.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: More artillery duels reported

More heavy weapons fire was exchanged in the civil war between Congo's president and his predecessor across the divided capital Brazzaville early Thursday, but AFP reported neighbouring Kinshasa was not hit. The DRC, which has said it will send troops to create a security corridor and search for guns, meanwhile has called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the conflict. "The crisis is unacceptable for both the Brazzaville Congolese and those of Kinshasa," Foreign Minister Bizima Karaha was reported by news agencies as saying in a speech to the UN General Assembly. Shells from the fighting in Brazzaville killed 21 people in Kinshasa earlier this week, prompting fears the conflict could spread beyond Congo-Brazzaville's borders. Paris welcomed the DRC decision to send observers across the river. Foreign Affairs spokesman Jacques Rummelhardt said today it could avoid an "increase in tension", but regional experts said more details of its exact role would have to be known.

Nairobi, 2 October 1997, 15:30 gmt


[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this report, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the WWW at: or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to]

Date: Thu, 2 Oct 1997 19:07:37 -0300 (GMT+3) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update No. 261 for 2 Oct 1997 97.10.2 Message-ID: <>

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

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