UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
U N I T E D N A T I O N S
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This is number 37 in a series of weekly reports from IRIN on general developments in the Great Lakes region. Sources for the information below include UN agencies, NGOs, other international organisations and media reports. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original sources.
Weekly Roundup of Main Events in the Great Lakes
25 November - 1 December 1996
# WFP on Wednesday signalled the possible start of another large refugee influx into Gisenyi after about 10,000 refugees crossed over from Goma into Gisenyi. It said this was the highest number for several days. On Friday, another batch of 6,500 refugees arrived in Gisenyi. Attempts to help some 40,000 refugees in the Minova area were frustrated by renewed fighting on Friday. According to WFP, a way-station two kilometres outside Minova for refugees travelling to Rwanda, had to be abandoned. In South Kivu, UNHCR said at least 5,229 refugees had so far been repatriated to Rwanda through Bukavu and Cyangugu this month, with average daily repatriation last week of 600. Most of the first batch of returnees are now back in their communes.
Plans for air-dropping food into eastern Zaire were treated with caution, after many aid agencies criticised the proposal. Reuters said aid workers poured scorn on the plan as "expensive, dangerous and full of holes". Other critics pointed out that air-drops would depend on getting access for ground personnel and good intelligence on the whereabouts of the refugees - the very lack of these being a main reason why significant humanitarian operations have been unable to go ahead in eastern Zaire since the start of the conflict. According to Canadian sources, however, the plans for parachuting food over Zaire from a base in neighouring Uganda is mainly a "demonstration of readiness". The head of the proposed multi-national force Lieutenant General Maurice Baril, speaking in Kigali, said the air drops are "complex, dangerous and very difficult - something to use only as a last resort", AFP reported. Zaire expressed fierce opposition to the air-drops, while Rwanda objected to Entebbe being used as a base.
AFP reported that the 20 countries which form the multi-national force formally approved its establishment on Friday. Paul Heinbecker, the senior Canadian official who chaired Friday's meeting in Ottawa announced that the MNF was approved, with its headquarters to be in Entebbe. Heinbecker also said that it had been agreed to form a Steering Committee of 14 countries to make operational decisions on the recommendation of Lt Gen Maurice Baril. The Committee would meet in New York from now on and report to the UN Security Council. The members of the Committee are: Belgium, Cameroon, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Britain, the United States, Uganda and Canada. Canadian premier Jean Chretien said on Friday that Baril had secured the collaboration of rebel leader Laurent Kabila following talks in Goma.
# The Ugandan army captured Kasindi and Virunga Hills 10kms into Zaire on Friday, after a counter-attack to repulse Zaire-based Ugandan rebels launching assaults on Kasese in western Uganda, the state-owned New Vision reported. The Zairean army also accused Ugandan troops of taking the town of Beni, north of Goma, on Saturday although a Ugandan minister, speaking on BBC radio today (Monday), denied the allegation. Earlier in the week, Zairean troops were reported to have fled north from the rebel-captured town of Butembo, towards Beni and Bunia, pillaging and looting en route. Unconfirmed reports said Zairean troop reinforcements had been flown to Beni from Kisangani. [for more details see IRIN daily updates].
# Zaire recalled its ambassador to France on Sunday after he was involved in a car accident in which two children were killed. Ambassador Ramazani Baya was driving his car at high speed through the southern French town of Menton on Wednesday, after visiting President Mobutu in his Riviera villa, and hit the boys on a pedestrian crossing. Thousands of mourners filed silently in commemoration of the boys through Menton's streets on Saturday.
# As the situation in eastern Zaire continued to overshadow events in Burundi, news trickled out of intensified fighting there between the Tutsi-dominated army and Hutu rebels. A spokesman for the National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD) said rebels had stepped up their guerrilla campaign and fierce fighting was raging in five main provinces - Kayanza, Bujumbura Rurale, Bururi, Rutana and Ruyigi. Innocent Nimpagaritse, CNDD's East Africa representative, said the clashes were a "massive show of force ... to prove to all that we are alive, active and firmly in control of the main provinces." WFP on Sunday confirmed that the fighting had displaced thousands of people and caused serious food shortages. The previous day WFP reported that it had been allowed by the sanctions committee to resume food deliveries - 2,545 mt per month - to the embattled country, despite the regional economic embargo imposed after the July military coup. WFP said that due to the "dramatic escalation" in the Burundi conflict over the past weeks, the number of displaced people had nearly doubled to about 80,000, and its existing food stocks in the country were practically exhausted.
# On Monday (25 November), Tanzania reiterated that regional leaders would only lift the sanctions if Burundian president Pierre Buyoya agreed to talk to all parties in the conflict, including CNDD rebels. Uganda's foreign ministry said a press report giving the impression that Kampala backed an end to the embargo was "erroneous and incorrect". In a statement, the ministry clarified that Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni, during a meeting with Buyoya, had told him supplies such as medicines and fertilizers should be allowed into the country, but that he did not support a total easing of the blockade.
# The Burundian leader is expected to attend a meeting on the Great Lakes situation, convened by Congo in Brazzaville today (Monday 2 December), after being excluded from previous regional gatherings. Before departing on Sunday, he said the thrust of his message to the meeting would be problems caused by the sanctions and the current situation in the country. Earlier, in an apparent attempt to defuse tension, Buyoya, announced he was looking into reports of an army massacre at a church in the volatile northwest Cibitoke province. Prime Minister Pascal-Firmin Ndimira had strenuously denied that soldiers were responsible for the murder of over 300 returnees from Zaire, but Buyoya told a news conference he was "in the process of seeking the details."
Burundi national radio on Sunday reported that four people were killed and five injured when fighting and gunfire broke out at a displaced people's camp in Bujumbura's Kamenge suburb. According to the radio, casualties would have been even higher "if soldiers in charge of security at the camp had not intervened." Elsewhere in the country, ambushes are reported to be rife along RN3, the main road from Bujumbura south to Rumonge, which is now considered one of the most dangerous in Burundi. Skirmishes have been reported in the vicinity of Nyanza Lac in Makamba province.
The Burundi government has redrawn the administrative structures in five provinces, affected recently by rebel attacks, according to DHA in Bujumbura. Interior Minister Epitace Bayaganakandi explained that the restructuring will provide the military authorities with greater control over access and administration in selected communes of Kayanza, Gitega, Muramvya, Karuzi and Bujumbura-Rurale. The authorities are also permitting limited fishing in Lake Tanganyika, provided fishermen give advance notice and undergo a search of their boat when they return to shore. Fishing had previously been forbidden as the authorities were afraid Hutu rebels could infiltrate the country posing as fishermen.
A cabinet meeting on Tuesday, chaired by Buyoya, decided to impose war contributions on all citizens depending on their income. For government ministers, the amount was set at 25,000 Burundi francs. Those people unable to contribute financially would be required to render other services, without payment.
Amnesty International raised concern over the fate of several prisoners allegedly taken from jail in Muyinga province by the security forces to be tried in their villages. AI says none of the prisoners has been seen since they were taken on 27 November and it is afraid they are at risk of extrajudicial execution. It urged the authorities to establish the whereabouts of the prisoners and take steps to guarantee their safety.
# More than 95,600 refugees from Zaire and Burundi are reported by UNHCR to have arrived this month in Tanzania's Kigoma and Kibondo districts. Of the arrivals, 30,000 were Zairean refugees and about 1,500 Burundian refugees from Zaire - the rest came directly from Burundi. WFP raised concern over the poor nutritional state of the new arrivals from Burundi. It said the malnutrition rate for children under five was almost 19 percent at the Mtendeli camp which had received some 40,000 new Burundian refugees since the beginning of November. Tanzania now hosts more than 755,000 refugees, including 535,000 Rwandans and 189,000 Burundians. More than 59,000 Burundian refugees have returned to Burundi from Zaire since early November. This figure includes 15,377 who arrived through the Gatumba transit centre outside Bujumbura.
UNHCR says the number also includes some 44,000 who came spontaneously to the Cibitoke region. UNHCR reports that a team visited Cibitoke on Wednesday and travelled to the Rwandan border, where they saw groups of returnees and displaced people in poor health. In Uganda, UNHCR reports an average of 40 people a day continuing to arrive in southwestern Uganda. Some 11,597 mostly Zairean refugees are in the region, including 8,094 at Kisoro and 3,503 at Matanda.
According to a report issued by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Zairean refugees in Kigoma, Tanzania rioted earlier this week over a shortage of plastic sheeting. The following day there was a riot over lack of blankets. During this disturbance, the Kigoma Regional Commissioner was attacked and promptly ordered all Zairean refugees to be repatriated. The USAID report said UNHCR is holding discussions with the Commission to have this decision rescinded.
Aid workers in Rwanda were predicting a new massive influx of refugees from Tanzania within a matter of weeks. A UN official, quoted by AFP, said contingency plans had been prepared and conceded that the return would probably be a sudden surge. The official also pointed out that in Tanzania "there is a government which is in control, where is the rule of law, and an army, which there wasn't in Zaire." He added that the camps in Tanzania were set further back from the Rwanda border, which would give aid agencies more time to rush supplies and personnel to the region. However only a trickle of returnees is currently reported.
# A UN spokeswoman in Geneva on Friday reported the killng of three civilians by former Rwandan soldiers in Giseki, Gisenyi. One was a genocide survivor. So far 38 ex-FAR have been arrested in Rwanda since the mass return of refugees earlier this month. A press release issued by the exiled Rally for the Return of Refugees and Democracy in Rwanda (RDR) accused the Rwandan army of killing over 6,400 refugees since the "invasion" of eastern Zaire. It said the biggest number of casualties was in the Bukavu area "where RPA entered with a list of over 1,000 former politicians, intellectuals and members of various refugee organisations, as well as churchmen, to be killed."
# Two former Rwandan mayors, accused of involvement in the country's genocide in 1994, pleaded not guilty before the UN war crimes court in Arusha, Tanzania, on Friday. Elie Ndayambaje, former mayor of Muganza, and Joseph Kanyabashi, former mayor of Ngoma, entered their pleas at a preliminary hearing and their trials were set for later next year.
# Ugandan Foreign Minister Eriya Kategaya, speaking before a parliamentary committee hearing on the war in the north this week, again stressed his country's "moral" support for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), adding, regarding the war in the north, that "our neighbours have tried to make sure that we do not succeed". Sudan's Culture and Information Minister Brig Dr Tayyib Ibrahim Muhammad Khayr, meanwhile, stressed his country's commitment to the accord signed with Uganda aimed at normalising bilateral ties. According to a report broadcast by Sudanese radio, he denied Khartoum was behind the incursion into Uganda by Zaire-based rebels.
Uganda's presidential adviser for defence called for a referendum on the future of the government if it failed to resolve the northern rebellion, according to press reports on Saturday. Maj Gen David Tinyefuza told the parliamentary committee that if the government was unable to end the war militarily, then it should talk to or even pardon Joseph Kony, leader of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army. "If you can't pardon him, then be prepared to be defeated by him and be thrown out," he added. LRA rebels on Friday attacked Unyama village, north of Gulu, abducting over 30 people and forcing 20,000 others to flee their homes, the independent daily Monitor reported on Sunday.
[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: email@example.com for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]
Date: Mon, 2 Dec 1996 17:13:22 +0300
From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round Up 37 25 Nov - 1 Dec 1996 96.12.2
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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