Zaire: IRIN Update 43 on Eastern Zaire, 11/28/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 43 on Eastern Zaire, 11/28/96

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
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IRIN Emergency Update No. 43 on Eastern Zaire (Thursday 28 November 1996)

US Defence Secretary William Perry, who is in Italy, yesterday pledged Washington's support for a Canadian proposal to parachute food to the refugees in Zaire, but said there was no question of sending a US combat force to the country. A White House statement yesterday said the USA had placed troops on alert in readiness for a possible airlift. However WFP said the proposed air drop should only go ahead if relief supplies could not be transported overland. Both WFP and UNHCR called for a presence on the ground to ensure the food packages did not fall into the hands of the Hutu militia. Zaire today rejected the proposed airdrops, saying it would not authorise overflights of its territory for "such an insulting operation". "It's better to do nothing at all than treat refugees and displaced people like dogs," Information Minister Boguo Makeli told AFP. Uganda yesterday agreed that Entebbe could be used as a base.

Rwanda meanwhile criticised a Canadian suggestion to use Entebbe airport as a base for the airdrops. Presidential adviser Ephraim Kabaija said if the international troops did not have a mandate to fight in eastern Zaire, then "they are coming here for a holiday, to spend time on the beaches of Entebbe." Entebbe, he added, was on the wrong side of the frontline and the base would be better situated in Kinshasa or Kisangani.

The head of the proposed multi-national force, Canadian Lt. Gen Maurice Baril, arrived in Goma from Kigali today for talks with rebel leaders, AFP said. One of the Canadian officers accompanying him said the aim of the visit was to try and make contact with the "new authorities", as he described them. The team had also wanted to see whether it was possible to cross the border, the officer added. Yesterday, Baril met UN Humanitarian Coordinator Sergio Vieira de Mello at Uganda's Entebbe airport before flying on to Kigali where he held talks with Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame. During the meeting, Kagame again stressed Rwanda's opposition to the planned multi-national force. Canada announced yesterday it had decided to distribute the first tranche - seven million [Canadian] dollars - of an overall 15 million dollars in emergency aid to Rwanda and Zaire. Japan said a government fact-finding mission would leave for the region tomorrow to assess the humanitarian needs in eastern Zaire and Rwanda.

Aerial surveys carried out by Britain yesterday revealed there were "numerous camps" scattered throughout the mountainous and forested area, west of Minova. Aid workers have located several thousand Rwandan refugees and Hutu militiamen a few kilometres west of Numbi, just off the main road to Goma, AFP also reported today. It quoted a UNHCR official as saying the refugees, who formed too large a group to be easily counted, were five hours' walk west of the road between Goma and Bukavu.

Mobile way stations providing high energy biscuits and medicines are to be set up between Minova and Sake with the involvement of ICRC, MSF and Merlin, after some 40,000 refugees and displaced people were located in the area, WFP said.

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. The total number of refugees assisted by operations run from UNHCR sub-office in Kigoma has almost tripled from 51,600 at the start of November to over 148,000 people. The new arrivals include Burundians crossing overland and Zaireans arriving by boat to Kigoma town. UNHCR has asked for help from ICRC and MSF Spain in assisting the new arrivals from Zaire and Burundi. At Mtendeli camp, the malnutrition rate for children under five is said to be approaching 19 percent.

UNHCR and the Tanzanian government meanwhile have stepped up negotiations with the Rwandan refugee population regarding their voluntary return home, according to the USAID report. Some refugees have stated they first need confirmation that their land back home is unoccupied. UNHCR said it detected a new mood on repatriation among the Rwandan refugees. Previously seven to eight refugees a day were volunteering to go back, now the number had risen to 100-150. The Tanzanian authorities had drawn up a plan to separate extremists from the refugees.

About 10,000 refugees crossed over from Goma into Gisenyi, WFP reported yesterday. It said this was the highest number for several days and could indicate the start of another large influx. WFP was able to distribute biscuits to those coming across the border. The agency said its aim now was to move away from free food distribution and into food for work programmes as soon as possible. In the south Kivu area, WFP said it was planning "small scale targeted distribution" to vulnerable groups in Bukavu - 500 hospital patients and 500 children in orphanages. Additional aid would be provided to 8,000 - 9,000 refugees and displaced people in and around the Bukavu area.

The number of Burundian returnees from Zaire to the Gatumba transit centre has been dropping, according to DHA in Bujumbura. Over the last two weeks the number of daily new arrivals averaged under 400, with fewer than 50 arriving on some days. Inter-agency missions are continuing to work in the troubled Cibitoke province where tension is reported to be high between returnees and those displaced by recent fighting.

UNHCR in its daily report said there are signs of a major battle at Nyabibwe, 100 kms south of Goma, at the peak of a high path leading back down to the lake. The road was littered with the wreckages of 57 trucks, buses and cars, probably hit by rocket-propelled grenades. Other cars had just been left abandoned in the road. Local villagers said many civilians who had been behind the vehicle convoy - apparently coming from the south Kivu region - fled to the hills, but the UNHCR team was unable to go into the hills to confirm the reports.

Eastern Zairean rebels have issued a statement telling journalists they must have a permit from the rebel authorities to carry out their work. The statement, broadcast yesterday by rebel-run Radio of the People and monitored by the BBC, said journalists must produce a written request to include the aim and length of the mission, the employer, the country of origin, and the areas they want to visit. Any journalist contravening an agreement signed with the authorities would not be able to work in the territory.

Belgium's State Secretary for Cooperation Reginald Moreels arrived in Kinshasa on Tuesday night for a one-week official visit, the Belgian daily Le Soir reported yesterday. The paper said it was the first visit to Zaire by a Belgian government member since 1990, but it doubted that the trip would give out any strong political signal. It was expected that Moreels would keep a low profile, the paper said. Moreels, who is due also to visit Kisantu, Mbwamanda and Kisangani, said the message he was bringing from his government included support for Zaire's territorial integrity. He also said Belgium disapproved of the slowness in dispatching an international force to the region and that it would step up indirect assistance by supporting more projects for food security, health care, training and democratisation. It would be a mistake for Zaire to allow the democratisation process to be affected by the Kivu crisis, he added. In another development, Belgium yesterday strongly denied allegations that it was sending military supplies to Hutu militias in Zaire through a Kenyan weapons factory at Eldoret. "This factory is not up to production," a foreign ministry spokesman said. "It is impossible that munitions could have been delivered to any party in the Great Lakes region."

An aide to President Mobutu confirmed the Zairean leader would not be returning home from Europe this weekend, after raising expectations that he would go back three days after a medical check on 25 November. The check-up was postponed, and the aide, Honore Ngbanda, said Mobutu would return "some time soon", but no date had been set.

The regional military commander in western Uganda, Col Peter Karim, has denied press reports that heavily armed Ugandan rebels infiltrated the country from neighbouring Zaire, saying that they had been pushed back into Zaire. He said shooting in the Kasese area on Tuesday was simply soldiers undergoing training exercises. MSF told AFP that most of the 30,000 people displaced by the recent fighting had now returned to Kasese district, despite press reports to the contrary.

The UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Great Lakes Sergio Vieira de Mello chaired a regional meeting in Nairobi yesterday to discuss key operational issues in the region. These included collaboration with the multi-national force, regional logistics matters and dissemination of information. The meeting was attended by the deputy Humanitarian Coordinator Martin Griffiths: the humanitarian coordinators of Zaire, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania: the UN resident coordinator for Kenya: and the regional coordinators/special envoys of UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, WHO, FAO and ICRC.

Actionaid is convening an international conference on the Great Lakes crisis, to be held at the Nairobi Hilton Hotel on December 1 and 2. The aim of the conference is to bring together academics, analysts, UN agencies and NGOs to discuss the humanitarian implications of the crisis. For further details contact Robert Dodd on Nairobi 334000, Fax 339462 [Hilton Hotel], or at Actionaid Tel.442200,440440/4/9, Fax 445843, E-mail

Nairobi, 28 November 1996, 15:15 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: Thu, 28 Nov 1996 18:23:56 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 43 on Eastern Zaire for 28 Nov 96 96.11.28 Message-ID: <>

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

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