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IRIN Emergency Update No. 42 on Eastern Zaire (Wednesday 27 November 1996)
Soldiers of the rebel Alliance of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) are alleged to have massacred more than 300 Rwandan and Burundian Hutu refugees. Local Zaireans have reported eyewitness accounts by residents of Kakinda village, near to the empty Chimanga refugee camp, some 40 kilometres southwest of Bukavu. Eyewitnesses say that on November 17 some 40 rebels gathered about 300 refugees at Chimanga camp saying they would be repatriated, and then set off a mortar or grenade. They said survivors were killed with automatic rifles. Amnesty International issued a statement on the massacre yesterday, but alleges that about 500 Rwandan refugees and displaced Zaireans were killed. Amnesty International said the rebels separated out women and children, whereas Reuters say victims included women and children, and interviewed a young injured female refugee who survived the massacre. Bodies were buried by village residents in mass graves.
A resident of Butembo, North Kivu, contacted by radio today, said rebels had captured the town after entering it yesterday. Civilians fled into the surrounding hills several days ago while Zairean troops looted the town, and the local radio is appealing for people to return home, assuring them of their safety. Zairean soldiers, meanwhile, were fleeing further north, congregating in the towns of Beni and Bunia, pillaging and looting en route. Unconfirmed reports said troop reinforcements had been flown into Beni from Kisangani. A source close to the rebels claimed today that the towns of Kamituga, southwest of Bukavu beyond Mwenga and Lulimba, southwest of Fizi, were now also under rebel control.
The Ugandan daily New Vision reported today that around 200-300 heavily armed rebels of the Allied Democratic Army (ADA) entered western Uganda on Monday, heading for the Bundibugyo district north of Kasese. The paper also said the Ugandan army shelled suspected rebel hideouts in the Kamirongo, Karimyo and Kasindi areas on the border with Zaire. An army officer told the paper that despite the shelling there was no response from the area, but that according to intelligence reports the rebels were mobile, moving within Zairean territory. The army had been monitoring rebel radio communications since their invasion of the country two weeks ago, he added.
UNHCR said 1,800 Rwandan refugees crossed into Gisenyi from Sake on Monday, with two thirds of the new arrivals coming from south Kivu. The returnees reported that many more refugees were following them. UNHCR said 4,000 Rwandan refugees arrived in Sake yesterday and were transported by UNHCR trucks to the Rwandan border. UNHCR also reported a concentration of 40,000 Rwandan refugees at Minova yesterday. SCF-UK said it had been able to move out of Goma to make a further assessment of the area. Some 30,000 people were believed to be in Minova town and a futher 10,000-15,0000 appeared to be moving northwards to meet them, it said.
ICRC reported on the joint fact-finding mission to Kindu, along with UNDHA, UNHCR and UNICEF. ICRC confirmed that only a few hundred people had arrived in Kindu. ICRC is to establish a logistical base closer to the conflict area which will also monitor the situation in south and west Kivu. ICRC delegates, who met the local head of the Zairean Red Cross in South Kivu, were told that volunteers had buried 525 people in Bukavu killed in fighting after October 28 when ICRC had to evacuate the town. Other reports say that Mugunga camp contains unexploded ordnance and two local NGO workers died at the camp on Monday when a mine exploded.
UNHCR said at least 5,229 refugees have so far been repatriated to Rwanda through Bukavu and Cyangugu this month, with average daily repatriation last week of 600. Also, according to UNHCR, hundreds of refugees from Zaire and Burundi continued to arrive in Tanzania, putting the total number of refugees in the country at 756,200. Of these, 535,000 are from Rwanda. European Aid commissioner Emma Bonino called again yesterday for a multi-national force to be sent rapidly to eastern Zaire. She expressed frustration about inaction: "Scores of governments and military leaders from the most powerful nations in the world seem to be incapable of assessing the number of human beings in distress and to precisely locate them." She said in a statement issued from Brussels that the only response was to immediately organise a military mission to find out "once and for all" the location and situation of refugees remaining in eastern Zaire. Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy yesterday suggested basing an international relief mission at Entebbe in Uganda from which supplies could be parachuted into Zaire.
Bonino's statement followed a meeting on Monday of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels, and weekend conferences in Stuttgart and Geneva, which resulted in a "war of numbers" - regarding refugees and displaced people - rather than a decision for action. African leaders continue to complain that they are not being consulted. The UN Security Council has proposed a voluntary fund to finance troop contributions from African nations.
Aid agencies are endeavouring to move on from the political focus on numbers to the more important question of access. Despite lack of precise detail, aerial surveys have confirmed significant movements of groups of people within the area from the Rwanda border west into the interior of Zaire. The limited picture provided by technical intelligence has led to renewed emphasis on human intelligence, with efforts to get eyewitness reports.
The United Kingdom has agreed to provide information from aerial photographs relevant to the location and number of refugees and IDPs, but not the photographs themselves. Information will be shared with all relevant UN agencies and NGOs.
State-run Tanzanian radio, quoting a Rwandan minister, said yesterday that citizens in Rwanda were gripped by deep fear, because of accusations that returning refugees include individuals involved in the 1994 genocide. Rwandan Minister of Rehabilitation, Patrick Mazimpaka, who was in Dar es Salaam yesterday said that so far nearly 700,000 refugees had returned to Rwanda from Zaire, Burundi and Tanzania, and that the government was seeking funds to build temporary accommodation for the refugees before building permanent houses. UN Humanitarian Coordinator Sergio Vieira de Mello said yesterday some Rwandan refugees based in Tanzania might start moving home and added he planned to visit Tanzania, after travelling to Uganda, Kenya and Burundi.
State-run Rwandan radio reported an estimated 110,000 people had returned to the 12 communes of Gisenyi Prefecture. About 1,500 soldiers of the former had been registered in those communes, according to the government. Members of the former Rwandan forces have been issued with identity cards to show they were former soldiers. Most of the returnees are still in transit camps at commune HQs, while some have returned to their homes and are receiving food and medicine, reports Radio Rwanda. It also reported yesterday that the price of foodstuffs in Kigali Urban Prefecture had risen, because of increased consumption by returnees. Another explanation was given by an official from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry who was quoted as saying that most vehicles used to tranport foodstuffs from up-country Rwanda were being hired by the government to help in the transportation of returning refugees, explaining a drop in supply. A survey reportedly done in the town records the price of beans rising from 150 to 200 francs, and Irish potatoes from 35 to 45 francs.
An international journalist who has been in Goma and Kigali told IRIN today that "the level of hostility and fear between returnees and survivors is tangible". According to the journalist, reclaimed farm land will be a big issue as it is already cultivated. The Rwandan military maintains a visible presence on the roads, reports the journalist, and "everybody knows there is a strong security presence in the communes".
Zairean opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi returned to Kinshasa today after talks in France with President Mobutu, and announced he would call a government meeting tomorrow, AFP reported. According to AFP, he received a triumphant welcome from thousands of supporters.
About 15 people have died from cholera and another 2,000 are infected in Zambia on the northern border with Zaire, report health authorities in northern Zambia. Health department spokesman Frederick Mwansa said the deaths were reported in recent days in two fishing camps.
Nairobi, 27 November 1996, 15:30 GMT [ENDS]
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Date: Wed, 27 Nov 1996 19:01:03 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 42 on Eastern Zaire for 27 Nov 96 96.11.27 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.email@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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