Zaire: IRIN Update 47 on Eastern Zaire, 12/3/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 47 on Eastern Zaire, 12/3/96

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 47 on eastern Zaire (Tuesday 3 December 1996)

Reports from Kisangani, in eastern Zaire tell of an increasingly unstable situation in the town. BBC radio today said Zairean rebels claimed they were in control of the town, but this could not be confirmed. Zaire denied the rebels had taken the town and said its forces were in complete control. The situation however was rapidly deteriorating, according to NGOs who had recently arrived from the town. Aviation Sans Frontieres (ASF) are reported to be pulling out of the area after their aircraft came under fire yesterday. Crack troops from the Civil Guard and the Special Presidential Division were reportedly arriving in Kisangani and other parts of eastern Zaire to reinforce the Zairean army. Some 400 Zairean soldiers, who regrouped in Kisangani after fleeing the rebel advance in north Kivu, have remained in the town where shooting and looting are common occurrences. Soldiers apparently have not been paid and are said to be demoralised as the rebels consolidate their gains. Aid workers who left Kisangani yesterday, said a military plane had arrived from the rebel-captured town of Beni bringing bodies of soldiers killed in the fighting. This added to the tension, heightening fears that insecurity in Kisangani will escalate still further.

The Kisangani area, home to some 500,000 people, also houses between 2,000-3,000 displaced persons. Last Friday, WFP was granted a government permit to oversee a feeding programme, but due to the growing insecurity, staff are still in Kinshasa. In the meantime, WFP is arranging the transport of 500 MT of food stocks from Zambia by rail to Kindu, and then by barge to Kisangani.

A recent Amnesty International report also painted a grim picture of life in Kisangani, saying it feared extrajudicial executions were being carried out in the town. Authorisation was never received to visit the area, but reports spoke of violent attacks on families by Zairean troops, including beating and raping women and girls as young as 12. A field trip to Zaire undertaken by the organisation's deputy Secretary-General Herve Berge highlighted torture and arrests in Kinshasa and massacres in other parts of the country.

After routing the Zairean army in Beni on Saturday, the rebels were still said to be advancing northwards towards Bunia where the situation was described as very tense. Missionary aircraft, attempting to land in Bunia and nearby Nyakunde today, had to abort as both places were deemed too insecure, while another missionary flight at Rethi, northeast of Bunia, was boarded by a soldier carrying out a search. Soldiers are not normally based in Rethi, which may indicate they are fleeing Bunia, according to a source in touch with the area. Local people on the ground told missionary groups by radio that the rebel focus was now on Bunia. "We are told Zairean soldiers are fleeing in total panic," said one radio operator, quoted by Reuters. "The rebels are advancing along the road to Bunia, there is complete chaos in Bunia."

An article over the weekend in the Zairean newspaper "La Reference le Plus" points to the low morale of the Zairean army. According to the report, Butembo - which fell to the rebels on Wednesday - was an easy gain. The lack of a military confrontation was surprising, the newspaper said, as soldiers had a three-day warning of the rebel attack. It questioned how a force 60,000-10,000 strong was unable to mobilise enough troops to meet the rebel challenge and criticised the government's delay in sending reinforcements. "La Reference" went on to predict the fall of the mineral-rich Kasai region, to the west of Kivu. Another newspaper, "Le Soft" reported on Saturday that forces from the Masisi Hunde and Ngilima militia had allied themselves to the rebels.

Despite the war looming on the Shaba-Kivu border, Reuters reports that the first private mining company to invest in Zaire since the 1970s signed a deal to mine copper and cobalt in Shaba. The Swiss-based Groupe Lundin, representing the Canadian company Consolidated Eurocan Ventures (CEV), won agreement from the Zairean government to mine the vast mineral resources at Tenke Fungurume in partnership with the state-owned Gecamines firm. Under the terms of the deal, signed Sunday, CEV will own 55 percent of the Tenke Fungurume project, and Gecamines 45 percent. Lundin chairman Adolf Lundin told Reuters the agreement signified the "rebirth" of Zaire's mining industry and he played down any risk of investing in the country. "Taking risks too much into account is like competing in a marathon with a broken leg," he said. Site studies have revealed that Tenke Fungurume could become one of the world's largest open-cast copper mines.

Kinshasa is reported calm at the moment, but its dependence on food supplies from the Kivu region threatens to destabilise the situation as prices soar. Red beans have become scarce, increasing in price by 124 percent, while white beans have have increased by 88 percent. The prices of vegetables, usually imported from the Kivu area, have also been dramatically hiked. Potato prices are up by 117 percent, and maize and manioc by 55 percent. Bas-Zaire, and to a lesser extent, Bandundu, are now the main suppliers for Kinshasa but the quality and qauntity are said to be poor. A shortage of beans is expected to create problems for Kinshasa residents who had already substituted beans following an increase in meat prices. This, coupled with inflation, has eroded the purchasing power of many low income residents.

The UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Raymond Chretien arrived in Nice last night, ahead of a planned meeting with Zairean President Mobutu. According to AFP he told journalists earlier in the day in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, that Mobutu was "the only one who can bring solutions" to the eastern Zaire crisis. France meanwhile demanded that the immunity of Zairean ambassador Ramazani Baya be lifted so that he could be tried for running down and killing two boys in the southern town of Menton at the weekend. Mobutu is scheduled to meet the mayor of Menton today to discuss the issue.

Reports from the Minova area, south of Sake, concurred that 40,000 refugees discovered in the region had moved on. The UNHCR Goma head of sub-office said they had moved westwards rather than towards Goma as expected. Aerial surveillance showed that the refugee camp at Minova was now empty. Fighting in the area had prohibited access for several days.

Interviewed by the Belgian daily "Le Soir", Rwandan vice-president Paul Kagame alleged the planned multi-national force in eastern Zaire was merely a "pretext" for propping up Mobutu. He denied that the Rwandan army had taken part in supporting the rebels, but added he was "not altogether unhappy about the events in eastern Zaire." He also rejected the idea that Rwanda wanted to revise its borders. "We have neither the ability nor the desire to modify our frontiers. We want good relations and safe borders," he told the paper.

The repatriation of Rwandan refugees from Tanzania could take place before the end of the month, UN sources said today. A UN official in Kigali said refugees seemed "resigned" to repatriation and it appeared the Tanzanian government was pressing for their departure by the end of the year. Of the approximately 500,000 Rwandan refugees in Tanzania, almost all from eastern Rwandan prefectures: 69 percent from Kibungo and 25 percent from Byumba/Umutara. Their return is likely to be through Rusomo in the southeast corner of Kibungo. NGOs said today there was no major movement from Ngara, but the trickle of returnees was increasing significantly and some refugees were selling their possessions. Doubts were cast however on whether a mass return would take place before the harvesting season in January, as many refugees had planted crops.

The Canadian airforce has agreed to move plastic sheeting from Uganda's Entebbe airport to Mwanza in Tanzania, bound for Kasulu and Kibondo districts where a huge influx of refugees from Burundi and Zaire has been reported, according to a UNHCR update yesterday. A total of 46 MT of plastic sheeting for 50,000 people will be flown in aboard two flights scheduled for today, and another one tomorrow.

UNHCR said registration of the estimated 500,000 Rwandan returnees was continuing in the communes without major disruption, according to the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Rwanda. After this first major batch of arrivals in mid-November, another 50,000 had been recorded since then. Over the weekend, 1,475 Rwandan refugees arrived in Cyangugu from Bukavu bringing the total number of returnees on that route to some 8,000.

A two-day meeting in Nairobi on the Great Lakes crisis, convened by ActionAid, ended yesterday with agreement that NGOs should support processes which encourage reconstruction based on local people's initiatives. The conference, which grouped over 50 representatives of humanitarian agencies, the UN, African experts and academics, also believed NGOs should assist women, especially, to understand and enjoy their rights. It gave the example of Rwanda where the majority of households are headed by women, but under Rwandan law they are not allowed to own land, and therefore would have nothing to pass on to their children. The aim of the meeting was to identify the key implications for humanitarian work in the region and explore strategies for short-term relief.

Heads of state and government from 11 central African states met in Brazzaville, Congo, today to discuss regional problems, including the situation in the Great Lakes. The meeting included Burundi's leader Pierre Buyoya, President Pasteur Bizimungu of Rwanda and Zairean premier Kengo wa Dondo who were meeting for the first time since the crisis broke out in eastern Zaire. A BBC reporter said the gathering was likely to be "volatile".

The response to the UN inter-agency flash appeal for the Great Lakes region reached a total of $86,531,222 as of yesterday. The appeal, covering the period 1 November 1996 - 31 January 1997, is trying to raise a total of $259,466,214. Other donations (mainly to international NGOs) reported to DHA bring the total response to the crisis up to $109 million so far.

Nairobi, 3 December 1996, 15:10 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: Tue, 3 Dec 1996 18:46:02 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 47 on Eastern Zaire for 3 Dec 96 96.12.3 Message-ID: <>

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

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