Zaire: IRIN Update 39 on Eastern Zaire, 11/25/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 39 on Eastern Zaire, 11/25/96

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 39 on eastern Zaire (Monday 25 November 1996)

The Rwandan government has begun registration of returnees in the communes. All members of the former Rwandan armed forces (FAR) have been told to register immediately upon arrival, as well as to hand in any weapons. So far five communes have registered between 60 and 150 ex-FAR members per commune and only a few weapons have been turned in. There have been few arrests.

According to a UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda (HRFOR) information officer some 20 people have been detained "for their own protection" after being denounced by people in their communes, but the government is sticking to its pledge not to carry out arbitrary arrests. The government has requested residents to vacate the homes of returnees within 15 days and some transit centres have been set up in communes to accommodate both homeless returnees and residents displaced by returning owners. The centres are controlled by the local authority in a bid to avoid turning them into refugee camps and are open only to commune residents after registration. Currently there are 110 UN human rights observers in Rwanda, 65 of whom are in the field and 45 special investigators based in Kigali. Another 35 are due shortly, the objective being to increase their numbers by 300.

WHO (Gisenyi) has expressed satisfaction with the condition of returnees, stating that the mortality rate is lower, compared to the rate within Mugunga camp, near Goma, before the start of the exodus. However WHO says this is probably due to the fact that those surviving the walk back to Rwanda are probably the healthiest. WHO recorded only 23 cases of cholera between 13-22 November and the fatality rate has been low.

Rwandan foreign minister Anastase Gasana held talks on Friday with Canada's Nairobi-based representative to Rwanda, Bernard Dussault, Rwandan radio reported on Saturday. According to the radio, they discussed the proposed multi-national force, which Gasana described as "irrelevant", in keeping with the Rwandan government stand. The financial and logistical support to be used by the force could instead be sent to Rwanda for refugee reintegration, he said.

An NGO representative who has just been in Kigali said problems may just be starting in the Rwandan capital as refugees, who had walked from Gisenyi, were only now beginning to arrive. A government official has said a large number of families will have to move out of their homes to make way for the returnees. UNHCR puts the figure of returnees to Kigali Ville at 30,000. Predictions of higher numbers may be based on the fact that many returnees are walking through, instead of around, Kigali en route to their communes further south in Byumba and Kigali Rural. This is creating a massive flow of refugees through the city. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator's office in Kigali said many of them are now being transported on IOM trucks. Meanwhile, the mayor of Kigali requested 10,000 tents and prefabricated buildings to house the returnees and displaced residents.

The Hutu opposition Forces de Resistance pour la Democratie (FRD) accused the Rwandan authorities of a "machiavellian plan" in denying the existence of some 700,000 refugees still said to be in eastern Zaire. "The RPF regime has just amazed the world by shamelessly claiming that there are no more Rwandan refugees in Zaire and that the humanitarian military intervention voted by the UN is no longer needed," FRD said in a Brussels statement, signed by ex-minister Seth Sendashonga. It urged the quick deployment of a multi-national force "to stop the ongoing genocide against Rwandan refugees in Zaire."

Following on from the Stuttgart meeting, British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said today it was too early for European Union foreign ministers to decide on sending a multi-national force to Zaire. "It is not the day for a decision," he said on arrival at the Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels, adding that the final decision lay with the UN. Belgium lashed out at the UN today, accusing it of tardiness. "I'm afraid that if the huge United Nations machine finally gets moving, it will take several weeks more before something can be organised," Defence Minister Jean-Pol Poncelet said on Belgian radio. "The slowness of the international community to react is due to the failure of the United Nations system, the imbalanced power of the United States and the weakness of Europe."

Rebel commander Andre Kissasse has said the zone west of Goma, on the border with Rwanda, has been sealed off while his fighters move towards Hutu militia forces around Sake, Associated Press reported on Saturday. He said the rebels were carrying out "secret operations" in the area. Rebel leader Laurent Kabila had said earlier his troops had captured the towns of Mwenga and Masisi in recent days and were approaching the city of Kisangani.

AFP said officials of the UNHCR and other aid agencies met in Bukavu on Sunday to prepare for an urgently needed relief operation in the town. UNHCR spokesman Mans Nyberg said the talks, which were also attended by Tutsi-dominated rebels who control the town, focused on aid to the region and the plight of internally displaced people and refugees still in eastern Zaire. Nyberg added that the attitude of the rebel officials was "helpful", but that they refused to acknowledge the existence of a refugee problem, admitting to a possible maximum of 100,000.

Zairean-based Ugandan rebels have abducted about 400 people and taken them to a camp inside Zaire, Ugandan papers reported today. A man who escaped from rebel captivity was quoted as saying rebels from the Allied Democratic Army captured men, woman and children in the Kasese area of Uganda and took them to a temporary camp in Zaire, only half a kilometre from the border. The Kasese area has been the scene of heavy clashes between rebels and the Ugandan army for over a week. On Saturday, the New Vision daily reported that the death toll among rebels was expected to reach over 400 as more and more "rotting rebel bodies" were being discovered in bushes and houses.

[IRIN Note: IRIN regrets a typing error which misstated Canadian Lt. Gen. Maurice Baril's rank in Update 38.]

Nairobi, 25 November 1996, 15:25 GMT


[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 18:32:45 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 39 on Eastern Zaire for 25 Nov 1996 96.11.25 Message-ID: <>

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

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