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IRIN Emergency Update No. 33 on Eastern Zaire (20 November 1996)
Faced by the rapidly receding possibility of an international intervention force, aid organisations are trying to re-focus attention on hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees and internally displaced Zaireans still believed to be inaccessible in eastern Zaire.
At a meeting in Kisangani, north eastern Zaire, yesterday the International Committe of the Red Cross and NGOs reiterated that too much attention was being focussed on Rwandan returnees, and that hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people and refugees are at risk in eastern Zaire. Tens of thousands of local Zaireans have fled, including Hutu Zaireans who fear both the rebel ADFL and the Rwandan government as a "Tutsi alliance". There are also hundreds of thousands of Zaireans - particularly from minority groups - who were displaced by the Hutu militants and Zairean soldiers before the conflict broke out.
The exact whereabouts of large concentrations of refugees and internally displaced people inside eastern Zaire is still not known, although many new locations and numbers are being offered. Results of aerial and satellite surveys done by the US, Canadian and French governments are not being made public, but appear to be producing contradictory information on the movements and locations of groups of people in eastern Zaire.
Rwandan Vice-President and Minister of Defence, Paul Kagame, said in a press conference in Kigali today that the "majority" of refugees had returned. He accused aid agencies of inflating numbers regarding refugees remaining in eastern Zaire. Kagame said there were a few scattered refugees remaining inside eastern Zaire, and he hoped they would return soon. He said the exact number of returnees to Rwanda was not yet known. Kagame said the ex-FAR and Interahamwe were scattered in small groups, and referred to locations between Walikale and Hombo, saying there were small groups of refugees among them. The Vice-President said that the Rwandan government had "signals" from Bukavu that there was an intention to make a return of refugees through Cyangugu possible. He said it was hoped that repatriation from Tanzania would be undertaken in a more orderly fashion once the current return from Zaire had been completed; and this would be discussed with the Tanzanian authorities. The Rwandan government has always disputed the total number of refugees given by aid agencies.
Rwandan state-run radio reported today that many of the ex-FAR soldiers had joined the exodus of refugees returning to Rwanda and called on these soldiers to make themselves known to the authorities. Vice-President and Defence Minister Paul Kagame said today that the main objective at the moment was to settle and "stabilise" returnees as quickly as possible, and that wider issues regarding property rights and screening would be settled later. Kagame said to date there had been no arrests relating to the newly returned refugees. UNHCR and the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda report that the among returnees since 1994, 1.4 percent have been arrested.
The Vice-President said that property would be returned to the original owners eventually. One UN offical told IRIN that property would be a major issue in resettlement because many houses had been occupied by people returning to Rwanda in 1994 after years of exile in neighbouring countries. Land rights in rural communes will be equally contentious. Some aid agencies indicate that many more returnees than initially expected may try to go to Kigali; figures from a census taken in refugee camps in 1995 about the rural-urban distribution have long been disputed.
Other comments during the press conference regarded the need to "re-think" the multi-national force. The Rwandan Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana said at the same press conference that Rwanda wanted to "maintain good neighbour relations" with Zaire, and claimed Rwanda had never exercised its right of pursuit into Zairean territory.
The Interahamwe and ex-FAR are believed to be moving south of Sake, various sources concur. A rebel spokesman said that fighting continued around Minova, but confirmed that the rebels now had control of Sake and Masisi. He said Kalehe and Katana refugee camps (north of Bukavu) were still being used as bases by armed Hutu militia; this was confirmed to IRIN by military intelligence sources. There has been no confirmation on the whereabouts of the refugees from those camps, but there have been persistent reports of a large concentration of people north of Bukavu.
AFP carried reports of uniformed Hutu militants sighted in Kalungu, which is south of Minova - described as the "front line" in some press reports. There have been contradictory reports on who the fighting emanates from. many Zairean soldiers are known to have fled sometime ago to Kisangani, but Bangilima militia are reportedly split between the government side and the rebels. The Mai-Mai militia are also active in the Sake area. Reuters reported yesterday that the "entire area around Kirotche, Minova and Sake to the west of Lake Kivu was controlled by large numbers of heavily-armed Zairean rebel troops, some of them no more than 10 years old"
Continued fighting between the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL) and Hutu militants along the road north from Bukavu towards Sake, may have blocked passage of refugees moving north of Bukavu. The re-grouping of the Hutu militants in this area and the use of the Kalehe and Katana camps as bases may mean the passage of refugees is also affected by political manipulation.
Reuters and BBC reports describe today some of the fears expressed by Tutsi villagers as the returnees arrive back in their home communes. One was reported as recognising a man who had killed family members, and expressing fear that he knew where she lived. She was quoted as saying "If we are told by the government we can accuse, we will accuse; if we are told to keep quiet, we will."
Amnesty International reports that three human rights activists in Zaire were released on 2 November 1996, who say they met dozens of other detainees, including civilian ethnic Tutsis arrested since the rebel up-rising in eastern Zaire. They reported to Amnesty that among those they met were about 10 ethnic Tutsis who the authorities claim are members of the rebel group. Amnesty says in its report that some ethnic Tutsis in eastern Zaire have been sujected to sexual assaults and humiliation.
A rebel source said that the issue of Banyamulenge rights, which had been a central issue for the rebel ADFL, still needs to be solved. The Banyamulenge, who are believed to be dominant in the ADFL, were stripped of their nationality rights in 1981 by the Zairean government. AFP reports the ADFL saying they will continue an offensive deeper into Zaire.
A letter in the Kenyan Daily Nation details an e-mail message recieved from a doctor in Nuankunde in north-eastern Zaire on November 14 says: "Retreating Zairean forces from Goma, after looting Butembo and Beni, passed through Bunia and Nyankunde on their way to Kisangani. We have had a relatively quiet day, with the military passing at the top of the road. The very sad news is the numbers of young girls that have been taken from Butembo and nearer here". One aid worker told IRIN that there had been many reports of Zairean soldiers committing rape along the road between Lubutu and Walikale.
General Eluki Monga Aundu, Zairean Armed Forces chief, has been suspended from his post, state-run television announced today. The TV report quoted the deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for defence when giving details of the dismissal. General Eluki earlier this month criticized the government for not "giving the army the means necessary to go to war".
Nairobi, 20 November 1996, 16:20 GMT [ENDS]
[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: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]
Date: Wed, 20 Nov 1996 19:28:24 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <email@example.com> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 33 on Eastern Zaire for 20 Nov 1996 96.11.20 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.firstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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