Zaire: IRIN Update 28 on Eastern Zaire, 11/18/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 28 on Eastern Zaire, 11/18/96

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 28 on Eastern Zaire (17-18 November 1996)

A UNHCR spokesman said that 400,000 refugees had crossed into Rwanda as of this morning. Rwandan Minister of Rehabilitation and Social Integration Patrick Mazimhaka said he had tried to go to the border yesterday and described the scene as "moving". He said it became difficult to proceed to the border from about 90 kilometres away.

Press reports say the retreating Interahamwe and ex-Rwandan forces left a trail of documents relating to a planned invaison of Rwanda, along with abandoned weapons, uniforms and medical supplies. Military identity cards were found torn up, with abandoned uniforms, in Mugunga camp suggesting some Hutu militants have joined the march as civilians across the border. Journalists say documents found in the camp also provide direct evidence of arms supplies, including those relating to large amounts of weapons flown into Kinshasa for the Hutu militants.

The Times (UK) reported today that documents prove sales of weapons by a British company after the arms embargo. According to the documents found on the road to Sake, northwest of Goma town, British company Mil-Tec Corporation supplied Hutu militants with rifles, ammunition, grenades, rockets, rocket-launchers and explosives worth more than $5.5 million. AFP reports that other documents found relate to guerrilla operations on Rwandan territory, ammunition supplies, and the management of vehicles and other military resources the troops had managed to bring when they fled Rwanda in 1994. Journalists with access to Mugunga camp say the militant Hutus fled north of Sake where gunfire can still be heard. Rwandan Minister Patrick Mazimhaka said on the BBC that evidence of planned military activity by the Hutu militants came as "no surprise" and that the Rwandan government was aware of it.

Zaire threatened to wage war on Burundi and Rwanda to defend its territory which it described as being violated by the two neighbouring states, the Zairean deputy Foreign Minister was reported as saying on Friday. He is on a diplomatic tour around Europe and northern Africa.

The exodus of 400,000 leaves at least half a million refugees inside Zaire. Information regarding the whereabouts of the remainder remains scant, with much still depending on guesswork. Their condition is believed to be worse than the Mugunga refugees - who had some food and medical supplies up to the time of dispersal - and will deteriorate as the period without assistance lengthens. Some, like the Uvira caseload, were in a poorer nutritional state than other camps before the crisis, and have been in the bush for at least three weeks.

There are consistent reports of a concentration of people moving towards Masisi, believed to be primarily from the Katale and Kahindo camps (northern Goma). According to aid agencies who are in contact with local workers with the refugees, this group is situated along the western edge of the park forest moving towards Masisi town. Some of the refugees from this group fled to Mugunga camp a few days ago, and some have been killed in fighting around Tongo around November 13. Many of the "vulnerables" - women and children - are reported to have gun shot and shrapnel wounds. Reports indicate that the concentration of people covers some 10 kilometres and is estimated to be about 300,000 refugees; but this conflicts with other reports that a significant number managed to get to Mugunga and are now joining the exodus into Rwanda. It is sufficient to say that "a large group" of people are in the Masisi area.

According to aid workers working in the Goma refugee camps before the eastern Zaire crisis erupted, Katale camp was characterised by its middle class/intellectual component, perceived to be some of the "masterminds" of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Kibumba in contrast, was characterised by its rural-peasant component. Kahindo is described as having been occupied mainly by people from Kigali and Kigali-rurale. Aid workers point out that intellectuals - government officials, teachers, civil servants etc - may not wish to return to Rwanda, and are likely to be among the group heading towards Masisi. Information gathered before the crisis indicates that Masisi was a known Interahamwe training and supply stronghold.

Other information regarding the location of refugees remaining inside eastern Zaire include reports that refugees from Bukavu had initially started to move north towards Minova, on the Goma road. However, fighting northwest of Goma (belived to emanate primarily from inter-militia battles and retreating Hutu militants) has caused displacement towards Minova. Other sources, including one close to the rebels, said last week that the rebels have been unsucessful in establishing control in territory north-east of Bukavu. This would make passage northwards difficult for refugees.

New information today supports last week's reports, indicating that Bukavu refugees dispersed in three directions and have moved in concentrated groups towards Walikale (north-west), Walungu (south-west) and on the Kalehe road towards Minova (north-east).

United Nations sources in Kigali report that refugees continue to come out of the interior and are moving towards and through Mugunga camp, effectively creating a "second wave" after the original dispersal of Mugunga on Friday. However, a UN official in Gisenyi told IRIN that there had been no known - or significant numbers - of refugees from Bukavu and Uvira arriving in Rwanda as part of the exodus.

Movement of refugees and Hutu militants towards Masisi remains a concern, as Hutu militants may want to treat it as an operational base. The Masisi stronghold was consolidated by militant Hutu mainly during early 1996 and caused displacement of Zaireans, including ethnic Tutsis, many of whom are belived to have joined the recent rebel uprising, or fled into Rwanda. A report of UN Special Rapporteur, Mr Robert Garreton, released October 1996, investigating human rights abuses in North Kivu, expresses concern about the "forced displacement of more than 750,000 persons belonging to ethnic minorities", and says Hutu militia "have been the main instigators of violence". It also says that the Interahamwe were to be found in all the refugee camps "especially Mugunga, where it is believed that 80 per cent of young people belonged to them". (See IRIN reports on Masisi, and copies of reports by the UN Special Rapporteur available from IRIN). A WFP spokesperson told IRIN that there were now 300,000 food packages stocked in Rwanda, and that WFP aimed to have 1 million there in the next seven to ten days. Aid agencies are facing some criticism in the press for being unable to cope with the massive exodus, despite two years of preparation for repatriation. Repatriation was expected to be more gradual, and contingency plans had depended on issuing food and water at transit centres. The enormous flood of returning refugees means the aid agencies have had to effectively abandon original reception plans and concentrate on getting assistance to the communes. Over the weekend, refugees started to walk back to their homes, but are encountering problems getting sufficient water and food on the way. There has also been growing concern about whether there is sufficient food and water available in home communes once they arrive. One UN offical said that feeding at commune level would require more man-power, more transportation and more time - and described it as "altogether more difficult".

Another issue will be monitoring the arrival of the returning Hutus in their home villages, many of whom will be identified as or percieved as guilty of participation in the 1994 genocide.

One hundred and twenty Canadian soldiers and additional equipment destined for Rwanda left Trenton air force base in Ottowa, Canada, Sunday. Canadian Defence Minister Douglas Young said yesterday in a television interview he favoured the establishment of an African follow-up force after the four months' mandate by the Security Council expires for the multi-national force. The US is reported as monitoring the "dramatically changing" refugee crisis and has made no decision yet on US troop intervention in the region.

Nairobi, 18 November 1996, 11:55 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.]


Date: Mon, 18 Nov 1996 14:04:09 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 28 on Eastern Zaire for 17-18 Nov 96 96.11.18 Message-ID: <>

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

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