Zaire: IRIN Update 44 on Eastern Zaire,11/29/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 44 on Eastern Zaire,11/29/96

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 44 on Eastern Zaire (29 November 1996)

Aid workers report fighting around Minova today. Attempts to help some 40,000 refugees, encountered by Canadian Commander Lieutenant General Maurice Baril yesterday southwest of Goma, have been frustrated by the renewed fighting, with aid agencies confined to Goma and Sake. UN agencies have had access to Minova since Tuesday, and had provided high protein biscuits at a way-station two kilometres outside Minova for refugees travelling to Rwanda through Goma. According to WFP, this way-station had to be abandoned today. The group of some 40,000 refugees southwest of Goma were the first large group to be physically encountered by aid workers and foreign military personnel since the conflict in eastern Zaire began. World Food Programme reported 6,500 newly arrived Rwandan returnees in Gisenyi today.

Baril reported yesterday, according to AFP, that the refugees he encountered were not moving because "they are too sick, or being held hostage". Baril's statement on the "hostage" situation of the refugees, as reported by AFP, indicates a continued presence of Interahamwe and former Rwandan soldiers, and possibly hostile militia, on the Sake-Minova road. The rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) was reported to have taken control of Sake and Minova last week; however, these gains proved tenuous, with continued reports of security problems. The rebels are now attempting to consolidate and control a swathe of border territory stretching some 500 kilometres along the Rwandan and Burundian borders. ADFL's most recent acquisition is allegedly Butembo (on Tuesday night) some 200 kilometres north of Goma. BBC reported today that the Zairean government denies Butembo has been taken. State-run television today showed pictures of Beni, and ran interviews with displaced Zaireans. IRIN has received unconfirmed reports of Zairean army reinforcements flown into Beni and Bunia.

Lieutenant General Baril was scheduled to complete his assessment mission of the region today. Journalists report that Baril has plans to go to Kinshasa this weekend to hold talks with the Zairean government. AFP reports that Baril negotiated with rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila yesterday in Goma on use by the multi-national force of Goma airport; but that he refused to comment on the outcome of the negotiations. Reuters reported gunfire shortly after Baril travelled through Sake. Reuters said the gunfire caused refugees, aid workers and journalists to flee. However, a WFP spokesperson said the shooting was an attempt at crowd control by the rebels, after people congregated around a warehouse.

A Canadian military spokesman said today that a base of the multi-national force has been established in Entebbe, Uganda, which is primarily for intelligence collecting. The proposed multi-national force will have a steering committee in New York, USA, from which approval is needed for any switch between five established levels of readiness - including operating in a hostile environment. United Nations agencies are in the process of establishing a joint logistical and air coordination cell in Kampala.

The UNHCR daily up-date reports, for Wednesday, that more than 95,600 refugees from Zaire and Burundi 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. Tanzania now hosts more than 755,000 refugees, including 535,000 Rwandans and 189,000 Burundians. More than 59,000 Burundian refugees from Zaire have returned to Burundi 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, where fighting has been reported between government forces and rebels. 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.

Plans for air-dropping food into eastern Zaire are being treated with caution, after many aid agencies criticised the proposal. Reuters reports that aid workers poured scorn on the plan as "expensive, dangerous and full of holes". Other critics point 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". Lieutenant General Maurice Baril said yesterday in Kigali that air drops are "complex, dangerous and very difficult - something to use only as a last resort", reports AFP.

Several countries participating in the Canadian-led multi-national operation announced commitments of equipment and personnel yesterday, reports AFP. France has pledged to provide two planes and an unspecified number of ground troops; Belgium will be providing at least one Hercules aircraft and one field hospital; Denmark and South Africa have both offered Hercules; and Senegal has offered to send in ground troops for reconnaissance. The US announced a committment to provide headquarters personnel in Entebbe, and assistance in air-drop planning. Canada already has 21 military personnel in Kigali, and 243 personnel at the Entebbe base.

The Rwandan government, which has publicly opposed the proposed multi-national force as "irrelevant", has not confirmed whether the multi-national force will be able to use Rwandan air or land territory. BBC reports presidential advisor Claude Dusaidi as saying Rwanda will support reconnaissance missions to get the "exact facts" from eastern Zaire. Dusaidi said the attitude of the international community was "hypocritical" in that it used inflated numbers to attract funding, but failed to provide support for refugees when they returned to Rwanda.

The United Nations Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda reported today that four new human rights monitors had arrived, and more were expected - including United Nations volunteers. It had received reports of about 35 arrests of newly arrived returnees by November 26. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jose Ayala Lasso, is due to arrive in Rwanda during the first week of December, and plans to meet with government officials, UN agencies and NGOs to discuss programmes of protection and promotion of human rights, particularly with regard to the administration of justice and reintegration of returnees.

Nairobi, 29 November 1996, 16:10 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: Fri, 29 Nov 1996 19:18:31 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 44 on Eastern Zaire for 29 Nov 96 96.11.29 Message-ID: <>

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

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