Zaire: IRIN Update 31 on Eastern Zaire, 11/19/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 31 on Eastern Zaire, 11/19/96

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
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IRIN Emergency Update No. 31 on Eastern Zaire (Tuesday 19 November 1996)

The road between the Rwandan border town of Gisenyi and Ruhengeri further east was packed with thousands of refugees today as relief agencies and the authorities continued to grapple with logistical and food problems. AFP said buses and trucks from the Rwandan transport authority and the UNHCR headed from Kigali to Ruhengeri to ease the crowding as exhausted refugees demanded transport back to their home villages. Refugees who are too weak to return on foot from Goma have also been assisted by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) which sent 53 trucks into the town on Sunday to bring out the sick and vulnerable. IOM said 5,000 refugees had already been helped in this way.

The Rwandan government took issue with NGO operations in the country saying the priority was for the refugees to go straight home. Speaking on BBC radio, the vice-president's political adviser, Claude Dusaidi accused the NGOs of again wanting to create camps in Rwanda. He said the relief agencies should establish themselves in the communes and provide aid from there. Camps for mainly Hutu displaced people in southwestern Rwanda in 1994 proved a thorn in the government's side because of insecurity and the ability of militants to control their populations. The Rwandan Patriotic Army eventually closed the camps by force in April 1995.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it would move a team from Lubumbashi to Kalemie, south of Uvira, as soon as possible and a delegate would attempt to reach Bunia on the border with Uganda to assess reported heavy fighting there. The ICRC will also attempt to land a plane in the town of Shabunda, between Bukavu and Kindu, following reports from the area of a large group of refugees and internally displaced people (IDP) in very poor condition.

The World Food Programme today said UN teams had not been able to gain access to Uvira from Burundi. It added that according to unconfirmed reports, there was a significant concentration of people, possibly some 100,000, near Fizi, south of Uvira. A UNHCR official told AFP Tutsi rebels were still blocking aid agencies trying to cross from Burundi. Some 100,000 Burundian refugees who were on the Uvira plain remain unaccounted for, along with an unknown number of displaced Zaireans. "Expatriate staff need to go there to assess the situation, but the rebels are still not allowing us to cross the border," Hitoshe Mise, Burundi's UNHCR representative told AFP.

A Christian NGO consortium, Action by Churches Together (ACT), warned of a continuing humanitarian crisis in eastern Zaire as thousands of people were still stranded without food, water or shelter. An assessment mission for the organisation reported there were two main routes for refugees and IDPs moving towards the Zairean interior - Goma-Masisi-Walikale-Kisangani and Bukavu-Hombo-Walikale-Kisangani - and many were hiding in the forests and banana plantations. As many as 250,000 refugees from Bukavu may be in the Hombo area, ACT said. It appealed for donations to help its operation in the region, saying that for the moment the biggest challenge for the international community was to integrate the returning refugees in secure conditions. WFP reported a total of 79 refugees had crossed from Bukavu at Cyangugu on the Rwandan border as of midday today, but BBC radio said Zairean rebels had warned of a big influx of refugees from Bukavu.

Despite waning enthusiasm for an international force, French President Jacques Chirac today insisted the troops were still needed to help the refugees."There are still many refugees," he said. "The situation, alas, is far from stable." He reiterated that France's "double objective" of helping the refugees and creating the necessary conditions for an international Great Lakes conference still stood. Britain today also appeared determined to send troops to the region. Defence Secretary Michael Portillo told The Times daily it was "premature" for the international community to "breathe a sigh of relief" and Britain would push ahead with its plan to send 1,000 troops. A Pentagon spokeswoman said today the USA would probably provide troops in a supporting role only. "Our current thinking is that the force will require less than 1,000 troops operating in a support role rather than a security role," Lt Col Nancy Burt said. According to AFP, countries planning to contribute to the force are now to meet in Stuttgart, Germany, on Thursday to review its size and mandate.

Allegations are mounting against Western firms breaking a UN arms embargo by providing weapons to former Rwandan forces (ex-FAR) in 1994. In London, customs officials on Monday said they wanted to examine documents abandoned in eastern Zaire by fleeing Hutu Interahamwe militia and ex-FAR soldiers. British press reports, based on the documents, said a company based in the Isle of Man, named Mil-Tec Corporation, had supplied the Hutu militants with weapons worth over 3.3 million pounds between April 17 and July 13 1994.

Meanwhile Britain's Channel 4 news said on Monday there was also evidence, based on discarded papers found near Goma, of a French firm - Sofremas - supplying arms to the Hutus. An invoice showed the company accepted an order on April 29 1994 for 12 million dollars' worth of shells and mortar rounds, to be manufactured in South Africa. However France today denied the allegations. There was "a total halt to deliveries and approval of contracts as of April 1994," foreign ministry spokesman Jacques Rummelhardt said. The document in question, he said, was "a tender on May 5 1994, which was not followed through."

Kenya was also implicated in arms deliveries to Hutu militias in eastern Zaire, after the Belgian daily De Morgen reported on November 9 that Belgium was providing them with products from a bullet factory in the Kenyan town of Eldoret. The factory was set up with the help of the Belgian arms supplier FN Herstal, the paper said. Kenya has strongly denied the reports.

A British daily, the Independent, today dealt with arms supplies to the Tutsi rebels in eastern Zaire, quoting South African intelligence sources as saying the weapons come from past and present members of the intelligence services. According to the paper, a former personal assistant to South African ex-president Pieter Botha is coordinating one of the operations, and is under investigation by the UN.

Since January 1995 donors contributing to the Rwanda Rehabilitation and Recovery Programme have disbursed a total of 696.5 million dollars. The top five bilateral donors are the USA which disbursed 103.1 million dollars, Netherlands 69 million dollars, Germany 43.2 million, Belgium 38 million and Canada 32.7 million dollars. The biggest multilateral donor is the European Union which has disbursed 132 million dollars.

Nairobi, 19 November 1996, 14:00 GMT


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Date: Tue, 19 Nov 1996 19:09:10 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 31 on Eastern Zaire for 19 Nov 96 96.11.19 Message-ID: <>

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

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