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IRIN Emergency Update No. 35 on Eastern Zaire (Thursday 21 November 1996)
The International Committee of the Red Cross today announced a massive new tracing operation in the Kivu area to enable people still on the move to make contact with their families. The operation was also aimed at reuniting children who had been separated from their parents during the population movements. In Gisenyi, ICRC has reported a total of 2,634 unaccompanied minors had been identified and registered, most of whom were being transferred to Nkamira transit camp or Ruhengeri. Four hundred and forty-five families were reunited on the spot. An additional group of 480 unaccompanied children had been transferred to Kigali where they were being accommodated by the Belgian Red Cross. UNICEF put the figure of lone children much higher at 4,125, as of Wednesday. It said 70-80 percent were boys. UNICEF spokeswoman Marie Heuze added that the agency was also concerned by reports of armed child soldiers in the Kirotshe area, between the Mugunga and Katale camps of eastern Zaire.
According to ICRC, before the start of the exodus, there had been 20,000 unaccompanied children in eastern Zaire. It said nobody knew what had become of these children, whose numbers are assumed to have increased by several thousand. An ICRC data bank in Nairobi will centralise all available information concerning the children.
ICRC said that since last Sunday it, along with the Zairean Red Cross, had treated 300 wounded Zairean soldiers in Kisangani. In a statement from Kinshasa, it said it had also dispatched four tonnes of medicines, blankets and food which left by truck from Kisangani for Lubutu on Wednesday. The aid is intended to help displaced Zaireans in the Lubutu and Walikale areas.
The exiled Hutu organisation, Rally for the Return of Refugees and Democracy in Rwanda (RDR), reacted bleakly to the mass return of refugees, warning of another "Kibeho" - the camp in southwest Rwanda where large numbers of Hutus were killed when it was closed down by the Rwandan Patriotic Army last year. "The ongoing forced repatriation of refugees from Zaire is proving yet another nightmare for returnees," RDR said in a statement yesterday. It charged that some refugees were either arrested immediately upon their return home or "forced to be squatters on their own properties". Part of the proposed multi-national force should be deployed inside Rwanda, the statement added. There have been no official reports of arrests within Rwanda as yet.
Some reports warn of short-term vulnerability to hunger in Rwanda caused by returning refugees, but paint a rosier picture of long-term prospects. Rwanda currently faces a critical situation regarding beans and other pulses, the country's most important crops. Poor rains meant the crops were withering and dying and the influx of hundreds of thousands of returnees is likely to increase the threat of hunger among the resident population. In the past, returning refugees have generally sold their resettlement rations for local products such as beans, sweet potatoes and bananas prompting price increases of such goods. In the long-term however, the returning refugees would increase the labour pool thus reducing labour costs and putting more land to production.
Returnees to the Gatumba transit camp in Burundi, near Bujumbura, told AFP that Hutu men, fleeing camps on the Uvira plain, had trekked 100 kms to mountains further south where they were fighting Banyamulenge Tutsi rebels. Women returning to the camp said the men, both Burundian and Rwandan, were now concentrated in the Ubembe area, near Fizi, where they had joined up with the Babembe people to fight the Tutsis. A DHA report from Bujumbura said details of Burundian refugees in the south Kivu area were sketchy. According to the last census there were about 125,000 Burundian refugees in south Kivu, 11,000-13,000 of whom had been registered at Gatumba. Refugees were still crossing the Zairean border to Cibitoke on their own accord and UNHCR estimates the number at some 22,000. UNHCR said today 8,917 new Burundian refugees arrived in Tanzania yesterday and a total of 24,701 "boat people" have so far arrived in Kigoma across Lake Tanganyika.
ADFL military commander Andre Kissasse announced plans for taxing and administering the area under rebel control. "Up until now the international community has only thought of the Goma region in terms of providing food and aid for refugees, but now we have to think for ourselves," he told a crowd of some 10,000 supporters in Goma on Wednesday. He vowed to reduce unemployment and impose local taxes to bring about essential services. He also urged local people to form self-defence committees, adding that his troops would bring democracy to the whole of Zaire.
Zairean Prime Minister Kengo wa Dondo today said Kinshasa was considering breaking diplomatic ties with the neighbouring countries of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi describing them as "aggressors of Zairean territory". He also told a news conference that the Zairean army would soon recapture Goma and Bukavu from the "Rwanda-backed" rebels, who were "trained by mercenaries of various nationalities" on Rwandan territory.
A new interim Zairean armed forces chief was named today to replace General Eluki Monga Aunda who was sacked. The new incumbent - General Kpama Baramoto Kata - is closely allied to President Mobutu and comes from the same ethnic group. Baramoto Kata, described as a hardliner, was commander of the feared civil guard. Meanwhile, AFP quoted Zairean opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who met Mobutu at his villa in France today, as saying the two men agreed on the need for national reconciliation. "The unifying of the political class is required by the country," Tshisekedi said.
Burundi today strongly denied an Amnesty International report which said 400 returnees from Zaire were killed by members of the security forces in Cibitoke province last month. Speaking on BBC radio, a spokesman for Burundian leader Pierre Buyoya said more evidence was needed and that Amnesty had its own agenda regarding Burundi.
Another rebel attack in the Kasese area of Uganda, near the Zairean border, brought an abrupt halt to a tour of the region by Ugandan parliamentarians and security officials late Wednesday, AFP reported. A 30-minute barrage of heavy artillery fire from Zaire towards the Mpondwe border post sent the officials scurrying for cover. NGO reports from the area said Mpondwe was sealed off but fighting in the Kasese area had subsided although there was still tension. Between 20,000-25,000 displaced people (IDPs) were mostly staying with their families, others were housed in church halls and schools. WFP was providing food assistance but said the need so far was not great. There may be greater need for assistance once the IDPs return home, as there have been reports of some looting. President Museveni, who has blamed Sudan for the cross-border attacks, is due to visit the area. An NGO in the area told IRIN the biggest threat currently comes from Arua, further north, where Zairean army troops are said to be massing across the border and giving support to rebels of the pro-Idi Amin West Nile Bank Front (WNBF).
A Ugandan paper reported that the Zairean border town of Kasindi was "shelled to rubble" on Tuesday, but accounts of the attack differed. In conflicting reports, quoted by The Monitor, Ugandan military authorities said the town was shelled by mistake "because of the geographical location of the area", while other military sources claimed it was attacked because it served as a rear base for Ugandan rebels.
Nairobi, 21 November 1996, 16:20 GMT
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Date: Thu, 21 Nov 1996 19:26:27 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 35 on Eastern Zaire for 21 Nov 1996 96.11.21 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.961121191229.19250Zemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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