Zaire: IRIN Update 29 on Eastern Zaire, 11/18/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 29 on Eastern Zaire, 11/18/96

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 29 on Eastern Zaire (18 November 1996)

The tide of Rwandan refugees crossing the border today has dropped to about 3-4,000 per hour, compared to 12,000 per hour yesterday, according to the UNHCR. Half a million refugees are expected to have arrived in Rwanda by this evening. Television reports say the roads in Gisenyi, Rwanda, are beginning to empty, after a massive bottleneck of people over the weekend effectively blocked the border.

Late arrivals are reportedly in weaker condition than those crossing in the initial exodus, which started on Friday. UNHCR is sending trucks through the crowds to reach those in poorer condition, to carry them across the border. Although Rwandan personnel are still attempting to search the bundles carried in by the refugees, journalists and UN representatives report many of the refugees taking "short cuts" through the hills to avoid the check-points. Reuters report Rwandan border guards being overwhelmed by the number of people needing to be searched, and say aid workers have also given up trying to register the refugees. World Food Programme spokeperson Brenda Barton said yesterday that a WFP truck carrying high protein biscuits had been looted by some of the refugees.

UNHCR spokesperson Melita Sunjic was reported yesterday as saying the refugees returning to Rwanda were free of cholera. AFP say 25 cases of cholera have been registered so far in Goma town, among Zairean nationals.

The massive return of hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom are implicated in the 1994 genocide poses enormous problems for the Rwandan government. It has welcomed repatriation, although - like the aid agencies - probably never anticipated or planned for the enormous, spontaneous tide of returnees. The sheer number of people crossing the border over the last four days has overwhelmed screening and searching systems, and has necessitated the immediate return of Hutus to home communes, without practical or political preparation.

The United Nations Secretary-General Boutros-Boutros Ghali is expected to launch a flash appeal for humanitarian assistance in eastern Zaire at 12.30 New York time today.

Countries planning to send troops to Zaire will meet in Germany on Wednesday (November 20) to review the force's size and mandate, the US military announced on Sunday. An advance team of Canadian officials have already arrived in Stuttgart. Canada will lead the multi-national force. The US is reconsidering the need for an intervention force, but had been expected to provide security at the Goma airport and along a five kilometre corridor from the airport into Rwanda. Reuters reports the US is also to provide support to humanitarian rescue efforts. AFP reported yesterday that British SAS crack commandos could be deployed in Zaire as part of a mission to secure a "key airport" for aid supplies.

Eritrea today withdrew last week's pledge to contribute a contingent to serve in the multi-national intervention force. AFP reports a statement from the foreign ministry saying the planned force had no clear mission or mandate, and that recommendations by regional leaders in the Nariobi Summit on November 5 had been ignored. African leaders have expressed dissatisfaction with the way the international community has proceeded with plans for a multi-national force, complaining they had not been consulted.

On Saturday, Kenya's President Daniel arap Moi convened a meeting of leaders of the Great Lakes region to re-examine the crisis in eastern Zaire. The meeting, which was convened in Rome, Italy, following a UN World Summit, was attended by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Issias Afeworki of Eritrea, and the Prime Minister of Rwanda Celestin Pierre Rwigema. They said that proposals presented by regional leaders at the Nairobi Summit of November 5 had been ignored, and troop-contributing countries appeared to have taken a unilateral approach. They complained of a lack of consultation with regional leaders. A number of African countries have offered to contribute troops, and the Security Council has proposed a voluntary fund to assist African member states contribute to the operation. South African President Mandela said on Sunday that South Africa will send troops to join the multi-national force.

The immediate needs of tens of thousands of returnees in Rwanda has distracted international attention from those refugees still remaining in eastern Zaire, and also from the growing number of Zaireans who have been internally displaced. Tens of thousands of Zaireans have been displaced not only by rebel fighting in eastern Zaire, but also by violence from the Interahamwe before the crisis. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights reported more than 750,000 displaced in Shaba and Northern Kivu because of attacks against minority groups, and violence by the Hutu militants in 1996. Internal displacement has also been caused by the Zairean troops, and fighting betwen various Zairean militia. There have also been reports by journalists and aid workers that local populations in eastern Zaire have suffered killings and reprisals during the recent conflict, as well as atrocities by the fleeing Zairean troops. Estimates on location, condition and numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) are unlikely to be available until there is greater access to the Zairean interior. Aid strategies before the mass exodus of refugees included discussions on how to provide short term assistance to the internally displaced - particularly around Kisangani - and how to assist their return home.

More details are emerging of the location of the refugees in the Bukavu area. A mission based in the Bukavu area reports large numbers of refugees between Katshungu (175 kilometres west of Bukavu) and Kingulube (towards Bukavu) - the numbers are estimated at around 250,000. Health problems are reported to be on the increase, particularly cases of malaria and dysentery . Before the evacuation of international aid staff from Bukavu there were about 380,000 refugees in the area. Information on the location of 100,000 Uvira refugees remains patchy, although some reports say they have begun to go back to the camps of Kagunga and Kachembo (near Uvira in Zaire).

Reuters reports that the Zairean army driven from eastern Zaire is re-grouping for a counter-attack. Reuters quotes military sources as saying that the retreating soldiers were re-grouping in Kindu, 350 kilometres west of Bukavu. State-run radio quoted army Chief of Staff General Eluki Monga saying Zaire had "lost the battle, not the war", and claiming the army now had the capacity to recapture rebel-held eastern Zaire. The Chief of Staff is reported to be in eastern Zaire. Eluki accused the government two weeks ago of not providing the army with the means to defeat the rebels. However, many of the fleeing soldiers were reported over the last two weeks as arriving in Kisangani, demoralised and anarchic - some resisting re-location by military plane. Reuters puts the Zairean army at anywhere between 25 - 50,000; outnumbered by Rwanda's 54,000-strong forces.

UN Special Envoy Raymond Chretien said yesterday that a multi-national force was still needed in eastern Zaire, despite the mass exodus of 400,000 refugees over the weekend. Chretien said in a BBC interveiw from Kigali that that a multi-national force would probably be involved in working out a strategy to reach refugees still inside eastern Zaire, in order to assist them and encourage them to repatriate. He said "Don't think only of what you see on the television screens. There is a huge number of refugees that are absolutely invisible." Chretien said he had held talks with Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu on the return of Hutu refugees. Rwandan leaders have said that the mass exodus over the weekend makes the need for a multi-national force obsolete. The Rwandan government had previously said that a multi-national force should be mandated to disarm the Interahamwe and the former Rwandan forces, but the Canadian and US government made it a condition of leadership and contribution that there should be no attempt to disarm any of the warring factions.

Nairobi, 18 November 1996, 15:50 GMT


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Date: Mon, 18 Nov 1996 18:52:58 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 29 on Eastern Zaire for 18 Nov 96 96.11.18 Message-ID: <>

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

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