Zaire: IRIN Update 30 on Eastern Zaire, 11/19/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 30 on Eastern Zaire, 11/19/96

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

Tel: +254 2 622147
Fax: +254 2 622129

IRIN Emergency Update No. 30 on Eastern Zaire (18-19 November 1996)

United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali yesterday appealed for $259.3 million for urgently-required humanitarian assistance to some 1.5 million refugees, internally displaced persons, returnees and other populations affected by the conflict in eastern Zaire. The Flash Appeal, prepared by the United Nations agencies and some NGOs operational in the region covers the period 1 November 1996 to 31 January 1997. It includes emergency food aid requirements as well as provision of clean water, sanitation, health services, shelter and other non-food items. Because of the recent mass exodus of refugees into Rwanda, the appeal will also cover repatriation programmes, referred to as "reintegration, justice and capacity building" activities. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights launched an appeal at the same time for $1,406,000, for sixty human rights officers, and five human rights monitors, for a period of three months.

Momentum for an international intervention force continues to wane, after the Security Council mandated a multi-national force to intervene in eastern Zaire last Friday. The commander of the multi-national mission to Zaire, General Maurice Baril of Canada, arrived in Kigali today for talks with Rwandan government leaders. The Rwandan government has said since the mass exodus of refugees that it does not believe an intervention force is now necessary. The US government is suggesting that its role might be limited to logistical support. European Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region Aldo Ajello said yesterday in Kinshasa that the multi-national force should be given a political mandate. He said the question of relations between Zaire and Rwanda and repatriation of refugees had to be dealt with in a "political manner". He also said - from Kinshasa - that the authority of the Zaire government alone would be recognised by the force and no deals would be done with rebels.

The massive repatriation exercise in Rwanda is under strain. "Impromptu" systems set up in response to the exodus are over-burdened by the huge numbers. WFP reports that attempts to distribute biscuits along homeward-bound routes were unsuccessful as returnees tried to attack and loot the trucks. Rwandan government officials yesterday closed a medical centre in Gisenyi, Rwanda, reports AFP. 350 hospitalised people were ordered to go, despite pleas for a 24 hour delay. There has been no information about the reason for the closure. Andrew Hall of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the Federation would lodge a protest.

Reuters quoted Sergio Vieira de Mello, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Great Lakes region as praising the Rwandan government: "They have taken risks and sacrificed security concerns for the refugees". Hutu extremists from Rwanda's former government are blamed for the massacre of more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994, along with many ordinary civilians who killed with machetes in their own villages. At commune and official level, many returnees will be perceived as directly or indirectly associated with the killings.

The Rwandan government has set up a National Emergency Committee to oversee all aspects of repatriation. Prefectural Emergency Committees are also to be set up, and will include the Prefect, RPA and Gendarmerie Commanders, representatives of Ministries of Health and Rehabilitation, UNHCR and WFP. They plan to meet on a daily basis. Other sub-committees, according to the Rwandan government, will be set up on security, health, food, transport and social integration. The Rwandan Minister of the Interior told aid agencies in a meeting in Gisenyi that all communes in Rwanda will open transit centres to register arriving returnees and host those who cannot reclaim their houses immediately. The Minister said a UNHCR representative should be appointed to assist and monitor registration in each commune.

The Rwandan government has reassured aid agencies at the border that no arrests will be made without sufficient evidence gathered by public prosecutors. No significant hostility has yet been reported at commune level, or acts of vengeance. AFP report some of the returnees being "warmly greeted" by villagers. Some returnees are reported as trying to reclaim property occupied by others. Food distributions will be implemented at the commune level and will be given to returnees only. One UN official, however, pointed out that distributions of food to returnees only is likely to cause resentment. UNHCR in Kigali estimate that the majority of refugees from the Goma camps will be returning to Ruhengeri, Gisenyi, Kigali and Byumba prefectures. UNHCR figures released by the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator estimate 165,388 returning to Ruhengeri; 163,913 to Gisenyi, 138,130 at Kigali, and 108,382 at Byumba (further figures available from UNHCR). AFP reported a UN official in Nkamira, a transit point 21 kilometres from the border, as saying agencies were being "over-optimistic" about the return. He said that reception at the border had been reasonably smooth, but there was a need to look at the reception at village level as "there is bound to be some violence".

Amnesty International released a statement on November 16 expressing fears that arbitrary arrests within Rwanda may increase significantly. At the same time Amnesty Secretary-General Pierre Sane said those responsible for human rights abuses during and following the 1994 genocide "must be held fully accountable".

UNICEF reports 2,500 unaccompanied children registered in Gisenyi, Rwanda, since the exodus from Goma began. 450 children were reunited with their families immediately. Some 15,000 unaccompanied children were known to be placed in institutions and families around Goma, before the eastern Zaire crisis began.

Personnel from the pan African NGO EUB, in Uvira when it was captured by rebels, travelled for twenty days with refugees. Many of the refugees travelled south towards Baraka, but had to move because of insecurity. They moved to Kasimir, further south towards Fizi, which is reportedly a base for the Wabembe militia. EUB said that refugees and internally displaced travelled together, and estimated some 50,000 refugees and some 300,000 internally displaced in the area. He said that the mixed population was unable to use boats to cross to Tanzania because the price had risen to $50.

Reports in Bunia of looting by former Zairean soldiers continue. Aid agencies and missionaries say ther has been no access since last Thursday because of insecurity. Some 150,000 refugees are thought to be between Katshungu and Kingulube. They have relayed pleas for assistance through missionaries in the area. Kisangani also remains volatile. It is reported as reasonably calm during the day, but gunfire is heard by night. A group of businesses in Kisangani are reportedly paying the military to reinforce the town. There have been reports of rape and looting by Zairean soldiers between Walikale and Lubutu. Aid agencies report continued hostility towards expatriate organisations and personnel from Zairean soldiers.

Other responses to the massive exodus include speculation that refugees remaining in eastern Zaire, and in neighbouring countries, will be encouraged to return home. The huge numbers of Hutus returning may reduce fears held by refugees that they faced revenge, imprisonment and isolation in Rwanda. The rebel Alliance of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) says it wishes to open a humanitarian corridor in the Bukavu region to allow tens of thousands of Rwandan refugees to return home, report AFP. Rebels say that a corridor may be opened today between Bukavu and Cyangugu, said Fernando del Mundo of UNHCR, Geneva.

In eastern Zaire, Hutu militants are reported to be less than fifty kilometres from Goma, moving north east from Bukavu region. AFP's Annie Thomas, in Kalungu (southeast of Minova), reports seeing men wearing uniforms of the former Rwandan Armed Forces. The militants had reportedly told local authorities that thousands of Rwandan refugees were on the plateaux, having travelled about 150 kilometres of mountainous terrain on foot from Bukavu and west of Lake Kivu. The Hutu militants were reportedly travelling west to Shanje and Numbi. Information from aerial surveys given to IRIN today indicate a large group of people (estimated to be over 150,000) congregated south of Kirotche.

Refugee figures as of 17 November:

UGANDA Kisoro: 6,500 Matanda camp (combines people crossing at Ishasha and Butogota: 3,317)

TANZANIA The refugee population in the Kigoma area of Tanzania has doubled since the beginning of month from 51,000 up to 118,000, as a result of heavy fighting in Burundi and the conflict in eastern Zaire. The breakdown of new arrivals is: 38,200 new Burundian arrivals of whom 27,000 crossed at Kibondo and 7,000 at Kasulu, the rest across the lake. A total of 27,000 Zaireans have arrived in Tanzania in and around Kigoma from South Kivu across the lake. Also 1,200 Rwandans across the lake

ZAIRE UNHCR says up to 500,000 returnees have returned through Gisenyi.

EUB, a pan African NGO, has reportedly buried 780 bodies in mass graves in Goma. No further details are immediately available.

Switzerland has refused to grant another visa to ailing Zairean President Mobutu, the foreign ministry said on Monday. Mobutu is in France, following treatement for cancer in Switzerland, and claims he will return to Zaire soon.

Nairobi, 19 November 1996, 11:30 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: Tue, 19 Nov 1996 14:38:09 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 30 on Eastern Zaire for 18-19 Nov 96 96.11.19 Message-ID: <>

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

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific