Zaire: IRIN Update 38 on Eastern Zaire, 11/25/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 38 on Eastern Zaire, 11/25/96

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for the Great Lakes

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 38 on eastern Zaire (24-25 November 1996)

Some 6,000 refugees arriving in Goma over the weekend are reported as suffering from knife and bullet wounds, as well as from lack of water and food. The Christian Science Monitor reports that returning refugees say many have died and others are still in the mountains foraging for food and water. Refugees recount stories of fear about both the Hutu militia and the Zairean rebels.

Military officials meeting in Stuttgart say they have developed a "plan of options" for a multi-national intervention force, and have agreed that as many as 250,000 refugees might still be in eastern Zaire. The number being adopted by the military is less than a third of the number given by UN agencies and others in the humanitarian community. Military officials say that an estimated 575,000 have so far returned to Rwanda, although no numbers have yet been confirmed as initial registration systems inside Rwanda broke down under the huge exodus about ten days ago.

Lieutenant Colonel Baril, Canadian commander of the proposed force, said that "the scene now shifts" to the capital cities of the governments concerned "to choose...if they think a multi-national force is necessary", reports AFP. At a press conference on Saturday he said that "The accurate situation of the refugees has to be the basis of the decision of how to deploy the multi-national force." Baril said that "very sophisticated means" were being used to identify numbers and locations of refugees - although satellite images and aerial surveys have not yet been able to provide the accurate picture necessary.

Baril said yesterday that the mission of the force would be to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and voluntary repatriation of refugees and displaced persons. He said the force would be politically and militarily neutral. Baril has said from Stuttgart that individual governments must review the mission options, which reportedly range from the "zero option" to providing protection for humanitarian assistance. Other possible options discussed in Stuttgart include a multi-national force headquarters to direct and coordinate humanitarian efforts, or facilitating assistance in "a non-threatening enviroment". The Canadian commmander is apparently reluctant to base any military activities in Zaire while fighting continues. Press reports regarding the location and numbers of refugees inside eastern Zaire remain contradictory and without obvious cohesion. Different press agencies, journalists and aid agencies are focusing on different concentrations of people inside eastern Zaire which adds to the confusion - Reuters reports Rwandan refugees "emerging from the forests of eastern Zaire"; BBC reported a group apparently being herded by uniformed men further into the Zairean interior, towards Walikale. There is still no real access into eastern Zaire for aid agencies. One UN offical said humanitarian agencies was no further forward in terms of access and operations than they were three weeks ago, despite the sudden plethora of estimates and numbers on locations of people inside eastern Zaire.

The Rwanda government, after intially welcoming a multi-national force and hosting international agencies dealing with the eastern Zaire crisis, now decries the non-political, non-combative mandate of the proposed force as "irrelevant" and says Rwanda cannot be used as a base for such an intervention. The Rwandan government has appealed for $739 million to assist re-settlement of Rwandan returnees.

Zaire supports the idea of a multi-national force, and insists it must be based in Zaire. President Mobutu and Prime Minister Kengo wa Dondo are seen to be keen to have a multi-national force operating in Zaire that recognizes the government - described by the press as "weak" and "rudderless".

The apparent "impasse" over military intervention has attracted strong opinions. International affairs columnist Jonathon Power writes in an article reprinted in the Kenyan Daily Nation today that much can be attrituted to Western "Machiavellian" politics, designed to "wrong-foot the French in the region". He says the US is using discreet military aid with the view of "building up in east Africa a chain of friendly states...with the big prize in this modern day 'scramble for Africa' being Zaire". He says the real solution to the refugee problem lies in western governments throwing joint weight behind war crimes tribunals and courts. Humanitarian agencies, like Oxfam, have issued strong statements condemning what they see as the disinterested and hypocritical reaction of the international community and call for immediate action.

Zairean opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi is expected to return to Zaire tomorrow. Reuters quoted a government spokesman Boguo Makeli saying that he would not be arrested, but that his political pronouncements would be investigated. The government said his comments, following talks with ailing President Mobutu last week, verged on treason. Tshisekedi said on a radio interview on Friday that he had a mandate to form a national unity government, and called for dialogue to end the rebelion in the east. Rebel radio, broadcast from Bukavu claimed simultaneously that Tshisekedi was ready to work with rebel coordinator Laurent Kabila.

Rebel "Radio of the People", monitored by BBC, announced that all civil servants in South Kivu region should report for duty this morning. The rebel radio claimed on Saturday that the Goma-Bukavu road would soon be open. The radio, broadcast from Bukavu, said that Zairean forces supported by former Rwandan forces abandoned heavy weapons and ammunition following defeat on the Walikale-Lubutu road. Rebel coordinator Laurent Kabila of the Alliance of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) - referred to now by rebel radio as "President Kabila" - claimed they freed 67,000 Zairean civilians taken as hostage and used as human shields by the Interahamwe in Mugunga, Sake, Tongo and Kibumba. Kabila also announced the opening of what he referred to as a "humanitarian corridor" under the control of the ADFL on the Minova-Goma-Gisenyi line. CNN has shown pictures of heavy weapons left behind in abandoned refugee camps near Bukavu. An international journalist told IRIN that the Rwandan government took possession of documents relating to arms sales, weapons supplies, warfare manuals and identity papers found last week when Mugunga camp, Goma, dispersed. Journalists who discovered incriminating papers on the Sake road were obliged to hand all papers over to Rwandan security forces.

In Geneva, a high-level meeting of donor countries and multilateral agencies concluded on Sunday, saying it had reached broad agreement on priority areas for assistance regarding the eastern Zaire crisis. Canadian Minister for International Cooperation, Don Boudria, chairman, said it was "time to act". Priorities for action included the need for strengthened support for human rights monitoring, assistance for the justice system, including training of police and judges, and measures to support peace building and reconciliation. There was consensus that continued aid was needed for returning Rwandan refugees. The donors meeting was attended by some 135 representatives from 20 countries, including Rwanda, several European countries, the United States, Australia, Japan, as well as UN and other multilateral agencies, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Nairobi, 25 November 1996, 12:00 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: Mon, 25 Nov 1996 14:59:46 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 38 on Eastern Zaire for 24-25 Nov 1996 96.11.25 Message-ID: <>

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

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