Zaire: IRIN Update 48 on Eastern Zaire, 12/4/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 48 on Eastern Zaire, 12/4/96

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 48 on eastern Zaire (Wednesday 4 December 1996)

Ugandan military sources say rebels in eastern Zaire have captured the town of Bunia, forcing looting and rampaging Zairean soldiers to flee further north. Reuters quoted the sources as saying the town fell on Monday night, and that yesterday rebels were clearing pockets of resistance. Zairean refugees, arriving in the Ugandan border town of Kasese to escape the fighting, said soldiers pillaged Bunia, beat up residents and raped women before the rebel takeover. Missionary sources in the area appeared to confirm the reports, saying soldiers were looting from Sunday onwards and by last night all the FAZ troops had left. Some sources suggest the troops may head for Isiro, over 350km to the northwest.

Renewed clashes broke out in western Uganda yesterday after Zaire-based rebels crossed over the border, the "New Vision" reported today. It quoted fleeing civilians as saying there was fierce fighting between Ugandan soldiers and some 100 rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), who entered via Bwera. Ugandan military sources said there were casualties on both sides. The rebels invaded Uganda last month, but were pushed back into Zaire after a week of heavy fighting.

Zairean premier Kengo wa Dondo has accused Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi of aggression against his country, aimed at setting up a "Tutsi empire", and called for the rapid deployment of a multi-national force to help "a million Rwandese refugees" in eastern Zaire. Speaking at the Congo summit of central African leaders yesterday, he also reiterated Kinshasa's opposition to food airdrops and to the establishment of the force's HQ in Uganda, saying it should be set up in Kisangani. Burundian leader Pierre Buyoya, in comments broadcast by Burundi radio yesterday, told the meeting the economic embargo against his country was the main obstacle to peace. Burundi, he said, was waiting for the world community and regional leaders to show "active solidarity." "The international community cannot bring about peace among the people of the Great Lakes without us," he said.

>From Congo, Buyoya has gone on to Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to attend a Franco-African summit due to open tomorrow. Rwandan foreign minister Anastase Gasana, who is representing his country at the meeting, lashed out at UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali yesterday accusing him of presiding over "failure after failure." According to a statement, issued in Ouagadougou, he said that "under his mandate, Africa went through a horrible genocide, and that tragedy took place in Rwanda."

UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali maintains that a military multi-national force is still required for eastern Zaire, despite the fact that prospective participants want to scale down or scrap plans for troop intervention. In a report to the Security Council, he said the humanitarian situation in the region was undergoing "dramatic changes" and was likely to evolve rapidly in the coming weeks. He warned there must be no return to the "status quo ante" and above all no re-creation of refugee camps in eastern Zaire. The immediate concern, he said, was the fact that hundreds of thousands of people were still facing hunger, disease and death in eastern Zaire and the only practical way to avoid a humanitarian disaster was to establish some form of international military presence in the region.

The head of the multi-national force Lt Gen Maurice Baril stressed that fighting in eastern Zaire was changing very quickly and could be "extremely dangerous" for any force attempting to aid refugees. Speaking from Uganda's Entebbe airport yesterday, according to Associated Press, he said 13 countries had promised air assistance to the multi-national effort and the force would be increased to 460 in the next 10 days, in addition to the 300 US troops operating separately from Entebbe.

A question mark remained over the status of Kindu after Zairean rebels claimed today they had taken the town. However sources on the ground dismissed the claim, saying Zairean troops were in control. The rising insecurity and tension threatens limited relief operations mounted in the area. An ICRC update yesterday said the Committee was setting up a logistical base in Kindu where a group of 300 displaced people had already received assistance. A Zairean Red Cross truck carrying ICRC relief supplies left Kindu for Shabunda and a small ICRC aircraft landed at Kalima, between Kindu and Shabunda, to hand over relief items to the local Red Cross which is assisting some 500 displaced people. ICRC also said a team had managed to get through to Rutshuru from Goma. Further south, ICRC delegates reached Kalemie where over 8,000 people have sought shelter. They will receive assistance from Lubumbashi. Meanwhile, a source in Walikale confirmed the presence of large numbers of former Rwandan soldiers and Interahamwe militia and their families in the area.

Reports continued to filter through of the unstable situation in Kisangani. UNICEF pulled its last two staff members out of the town on Monday due to insecurity, Reuters reported. Steven Allen, UNICEF representative in Kinshasa, said that before they left, the staff members reported shooting between different elements of the Zairean army, apparently triggered by the arrival of wounded and dead soldiers from the rebel-captured town of Beni. At least 1,000 soldiers, plus their families, are reported to be in the town and that number may be swollen by soldiers who allegedly do not want to be registered for fear of being sent back to the front. However the situation was described as relatively calm last night.

WFP said it was still waiting for authorisation from the Zairean authorities to conduct an airlift from Entebbe to Kisangani, but so far clearance had only been given to fly via Kinshasa - which WFP regards as an "unfeasible route".

The first UN/NGO team to visit Uvira since aid agencies pulled out on October 22 arrived in the town from Bukavu yesterday to assess the situation there. WFP said the team - comprising representatives from UNHCR, DHA, WFP, UNICEF, MSF, ICRC, IFRC - stayed overnight. Checkpoints were reported along the roads, but the road conditions were said to be good. Aid agency compounds within Uvira had been heavily looted, but the hospital appeared to be functioning relatively normally. All the refugee camps seen on the trip were empty. WFP said a request to visit the Uvira port would probably be granted later in the week. The border with Burundi is still closed on the Zairean side.

Some 1,500 refugees from Zaire are reported in the Congolese capital Brazzaville, 85 percent of them ethnic Tutsis mostly from the Kinshasa area. There are 10-40 new arrivals each day and WFP is preparing an assessment mission to the city.

WFP has said it is preparing for a possible influx of Rwandan refugees from Tanzania by prepositioning food at commune level in and biscuits en route. Reports say the Tanzanian government has ordered all Rwandan refugees out of the country by the end of the year. WFP said a meeting of the tripartite commission (UNHCR, Rwanda and Tanzania) was likely to take place in Ngara, Tanzania, or Kigali before the end of the week to discuss modalities for repatriating the Rwandans. The multi-national force successfully completed four airlifts carrying a total of 10,000 plastic sheets to Mwanza in Tanzania. The sheeting will be used by new Burundian arrivals further south.

Nairobi, 4 December 1996, 15:40 GMT


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Date: Wed, 4 Dec 1996 19:03:59 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 48 on Eastern Zaire for 4 Dec 96 96.12.4 Message-ID: <>

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

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