Zaire: IRIN Update 36 on Eastern Zaire, 11/22/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 36 on Eastern Zaire, 11/22/96

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 36 on Eastern Zaire (Friday 22 November 1996)

The Canadian commander of a proposed international force in eastern Zaire said that troops were still needed, but it would take until tomorrow at least to develop military aid options. Lieutenant General Maurice Baril said officials from 35 countries and international organizations meeting in Stuttgart today had disagreed about the number of refugees in need and that he had established a "multi-national assessment group" to try to reach agreement.

Ethiopia has threatened to pull out of the force unless the mandate is expanded to allow the separation of Hutu militants from refugees. "The UN Security Council should revise its decision that confines the mission of the proposed multi-national intervention force to humanitarian work only," Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said yesterday. Kenya's President Moi said a force should only be deployed in the Great Lakes region with the consent of both Zaire and Rwanda.

An international meeting tomorrow in Geneva will focus on humanitarian aspects of the refugee situation, with priority going to the resettlement of Rwandan refugees, AFP said. However, participants in the meeting, to be chaired by Canadian International Cooperation Minister Don Boudria, also want the spotlight to fall on hundreds of thousands of refugees still in Zaire. The talks are expected to bring together ministers and high ranking officials from Canada, the USA, Europe, Japan and Australia. Senior UN and other aid officials will also attend.

The Rwandan government issued a statement yesterday saying that numbers given by aid agencies of Rwandan refugees remaining in eastern Zaire "are totally incorrect and misleading". In a meeting yesterday called by the Rwandan Minister of Rehabilitation and Social Integration, the Rwandan government based its assessment on the fact that neither the UNHCR nor the Government of Rwanda had done a physical count of returnees following last week's exodus from eastern Zaire, and that all the camps in North Kivu were empty. The government also asserted that interviews with returnees indicated that they included refugees arriving from Bukavu, who had moved northward as the result of the civil war in South Kivu. Refugees who had moved west of Bukavu, according to the government "could be either Barundis, Zaireans or Rwandese." The government also claimed that there were "daily crossings of refugees from the Bukavu area through the Cyangugu border post and other crossings in the south". The statement appealed to the aid agencies to provide "the necessary assistance to the entire affected population in eastern Zaire". The meeting was attended by Ministers of Health, Foreign Affairs, political advisor to the Vice President and Minister of Defence, and representatives of UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and ICRC.

US Ambassador to Rwanda Robert Gribben said in a BBC interview yesterday that most of the refugees still in Zaire were either displaced Zaireans or Burundians, and that numbers of Rwandan refugees were nothing like those put forward by the aid agencies. He said that groups of refugees remaining in eastern Zaire "appear to be tens to twenties of thousands rather than in vast numbers". In response, Refugees International (RI) demanded the recall of the ambassador, saying he was downplaying the seriousness of the refugee crisis in eastern Zaire just before the Stuttgart military meeting today. Lionel Rosenblatt, President of the Washington-based RI told the BBC from Bukavu that the situation was still critical and that international intervention was a necessary decision: "We have one of the worst refugees crises of modern times. One need not quibble over numbers, but we know there are hundreds of thousands of people formerly supported by all of us as wards of the international community who've gone missing and are without food or water now for three weeks".

CNN journalist Catherine Bond reported yesterday, from near Sake, that local people said refugees fleeing Mugunga were killed by rebel soldiers. Newsweek (US) also reported accounts by eye-witnesses that refugees were killed by both the Hutu militants and the rebel forces, when Mugunga camp dispersed.

Renewed fighting was reported near Sake yesterday between rebels and Hutu gunmen. "We are receiving first-hand reports of fighting around Minova and in the Masisi hills above Sake," UNHCR's Filippo Grandi told reporters in Goma. Refugees arriving in Goma from Sake said there had been several clashes in the last few days between rebels and Hutu militias.

UNHCR reported that 241 people had crossed at Cyangugu yesterday, while on Wednesday 3,000 refugees from Kahindo and Katale camps arrived at Mugunga en route to the Rwandan border. The rebels allowed the use of one UNHCR bus to transport vulnerable cases. Numbers issued by UNHCR suggest the population of Gisenyi could increase by nearly 30 percent and Ruhengeri and Kibuye by almost 20 percent if all the refugees believed to be in Zairean camps return home. Initial reports also suggest a slight increase in Rwandan returnees from Tanzania, but numbers are not yet available, UNHCR said. An AFP report from Kigali said some of the refugees arrived in the city today after trudging over 150 kms from Gisenyi.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has announced that thousands of Rwandan children lost in the mass refugee return over the past week should be back in their homes within 48 hours thanks to a "lightning action" launched by ICRC in collaboration with the Rwandan authorities. However, the Committee is still concerned about the fate of possibly thousands of unaccompanied children still languishing in Zaire.

Rebel "Radio of the People" in Bukavu, monitored by BBC, yesterday announced the end of the ceasefire announced unilaterally fifteen days ago. Rebel-run radio said that ADFL commander, Colonel Andre Kissasse Ngandu, had told a meeting attended by 10,000 people in Goma that the cease-fire was intended to allow refugees to return to Rwanda. Kissasse said now that a large number of refugees had crossed the border, the immediate aim of the Alliance was to continue occupying Zairean regions, and eventually overthrow Mobutu's regime. The radio claimed 1,500 young men from the Bukavu area had joined the Alliance. Rebel radio also said that opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi - who met President Mobutu yesterday for talks - was ready to work with Alliance leader Laurent Kabila. The rebel radio station appears to have replaced state-run Radio Bukavu. Recently, the Zairean government appears to have up-graded its transmitters in order to better serve provinces which for long have been without good radio reception.

Etienne Tshisekedi today claimed he had been named prime minister of a new government of national unity following talks with President Mobutu in France yesterday. He told Radio France Internationale the meeting had led to a reconciliation, but a spokesman for Mobutu denied the remarks. "The president yesterday received him for more than an hour, and there was never any question of political problems," spokesman Honore Nghanda told RFI, adding it would be unconstitutional for Mobutu to appoint a premier while he was out of the country.

The Rwandan government has told international journalists that there have been some arrests of returning former Rwandan soldiers, but many other ex-FAR have been allowed home and will be screened later. According to a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, quoted by AFP today, 15 arrests have been reported so far, but the number is expected to rise dramatically. The spokeswoman, Marie Van Der Elst, said trials were expected "soon" and were likely to be followed by executions. One UN official told IRIN it was frustrating and "of great concern" that there was so little information about how re-settlement at commune level was going. Donors are reportedly keen to put money into Human Rights monitors, and 60 monitors are due to arrive in Rwanda shortly.

UNHCR today said 300 Burundian refugees who returned from eastern Zaire were massacred in a church in Cibitoke province last month. UNHCR spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said they returned voluntarily to Muramba on October 22 and spent the night in the church, where they were killed. Berthiaume added that the identity of the killers was not known. Burundi yesterday denied Amnesty International claims that at least 400 returnees were killed by the security forces in the church, and Prime Minister Pascal-Firmin Ndimira today in Stockholm again issued a flat denial. "There is no sense for this allegation and people who are returning are well supported by humanitarian organisations," he said. "Even people who inform the UN are not always right," he added.

President Museveni visited Mpondwe on the border with Zaire yesterday and warned that Ugandan troops would follow rebels into Zaire if they attacked Uganda again. "If the rebels dared to attack the country again, they will be crushed and followed up to their bases," he told journalists, according to the New Vision paper today. A BBC journalist in the area said there were signs of a big battle - houses were empty and there were no civilians on the street. Displaced people were gradually returning to Mpondwe from Kasese. The Ugandan government, meanwhile, said it would soon send a delegation to Kinshasha, according to Ugandan press reports. The talks will discuss flushing out "the Zairean-backed rebel group" that raided the western district of Kasese last week capturing a series of towns. Foreign Affairs Minister, Eriya Kategaya told diplomats in Kasese on Wednesday that Uganda had already contacted Kinshasa over the issue. Some twenty diplomats were given a tour of the re-captured towns and told that Uganda wanted to solve the problem diplomatically. "There is no doubt that the rebels are in Zaire and could strike again," Kategaya said.

Nairobi, November 22 1996, 15:50 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: for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]


Date: Fri, 22 Nov 1996 19:10:09 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 36 on Eastern Zaire for 22 Nov 96 96.11.22 Message-ID: <>

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

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