Zaire: IRIN Update 49 on Eastern Zaire, 12/5/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 49 on Eastern Zaire, 12/5/96

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 49 on eastern Zaire (Thursday 5 December 1996)

Despite rumours that Kindu had fallen to the rebels, residents said yesterday it was still in government hands. According to Reuters, local people described Kindu as a "virtual military fortress" with large numbers of soldiers in town. There is speculation that rebels are announcing the capture of towns to throw Zairean troops off balance and frighten them out. ICRC pulled its last two staff members out of Kindu for security reasons yesterday. In a statement, ICRC described the situation as "precarious" and said it had been the only international aid organisation working in the region for weeks. Displaced Zaireans arriving in Kindu to escape fighting were reported to be in extremely poor health. The statement cited the example of an exhausted nineteen year-old girl who arrived from Bukavu with her six-month old baby too tired to speak and suffering from malaria, dehydration, malnutrition and shock. She had wandered around without help for weeks. The statement also expressed concern over tens of thousands of civilians, displaced people and refugees in the Shabunda area who have been deprived of humantarian assistance for weeks.

The situation in Kisangani is still unclear, but some media reports say the local military authorities have begun disarming soldiers who arrived from the Kivu region. These soldiers have been creating insecurity in the town due to food-related problems. More soldiers are said to be arriving from the direction of Walikale, along with their families, and attempts to disarm the Kivu soldiers appear to be increasing tension in the town. Reports say that until the Kivu soldiers have been definitively disarmed and fed, humanitarian aid in the area risks being looted and security for international staff cannot be assured.

Zaire has called on the UN to stop what it describes as Uganda's armed incursions into Zairean territory. In a statement to the Security Council, dated 1 December, it accused the Ugandan army of "involvement in the war which Rwanda is imposing on Zaire". The statement, signed by Zairean deputy premier and Interior Minister Gerard Kamanda wa Kamanda, said Ugandan troops entered Zaire on November 30 by way of the Kasindi border point. The incursion followed repeated attacks against Zairean territory by the Ugandans earlier in the year, the statement added. It denied Zaire was backing Ugandan rebels of the Allied Democratic Front (ADF). The statement said that because of its "involvement", Uganda should be disqualified from serving as a base for the multi-national force (MNF). It urged the Security Council and Secretary-General to take "energetic measures" against Uganda's "incursions". In Kinshasa, the authorities have reiterated that the MNF should be stationed on Zairean territory and that any aid flights should go via Kinshasa for reasons of cargo verification.

A report in the Ugandan 'New Vision' newspaper today said 50 rebels were killed in the mountains of Kasese province during heavy fighting yesterday. Rebels of the Allied Democratic Front infiltrated from Zaire on Monday night and rampaged through the Kanyansi area, setting houses on fire, the newspaper said. It quoted military sources as saying the rebel "remnants" fled back to Zaire and Ugandan soldiers were conducting mopping up operations. Hundreds of exhausted displaced people trekked to Bwera trading centre, about 10 kms away from Kanyansi, the paper said. Three civilians were reportedly wounded in the crossfire. Five Ugandan soldiers were also injured. Meanwhile, presidential adviser Maj Gen David Tinyefuza resigned over remarks criticising the government's handling of the rebellion in the north, the independent daily 'Monitor' reported today.

UN Special Envoy Raymond Chretien, who met President Mobutu in the south of France yesterday, said the Zairean leader was "the only one who can deal with the situation" in eastern Zaire. According to Chretien, Mobutu himself wanted to return home. "Zaire is ready to play its role again and does not intend to use an 'empty chair' policy, Mr Mobutu has assured me," Chretien added. He said Mobutu was in charge of all important decisions concerning the country and that the Zairean leader had stated his readiness for talks with Rwanda.

Rebel leader Laurent Kabila called on Mobutu to resign. In a 27 page open letter, he claimed that the "incompetence" of the Mobutu regime was comparable to "natural disasters such as droughts, floods and earthquakes." At least the bombing of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Nazi Germany did not destroy the sociological basis on which their societies were founded, AFP reported him as saying. Meanwhile, the rebels yesterday announced the defection to their side of a senior Zairean officer. According to AFP, rebel security adviser Jean Kabongo said Lt Col Lokilo Nene Boseka had gone over to the rebels and was preparing an appeal to fellow officers to follow suit.

There are indications that life is inching towards normality in rebel-captured territory. An Associated Press article yesterday spoke of crowded markets, the sale of farm produce and businesses re-opening their doors. The report gave the example of Goma, where there was a "growing sense of optimism". Water was again being supplied for part of the day and electricity would soon be restored.

The Franco-African summmit, opening in Burkina Faso today, has prepared a draft declaration on the Great Lakes crisis, although the topic is not officially on the agenda. The declaration stresses the inviolability of Zaire's borders. AFP said the declaration was drafted during 12 hours of preparatory talks late Tuesday which were peppered by charged encounters between the representatives of Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. A regional meeting in Brazzaville, Congo, on Tuesday appeared to yield few results and was boycotted by both Rwanda and Uganda. A final communique called for lifting regional economic sanctions against Burundi "noting steps taken by the Burundian government towards re-establishing democracy."

Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu warned that the road ahead would be difficult and that the emphasis now must be on rebuilding Rwanda, both materially and psychologically. In a presidential message, broadcast by Rwandan radio last night, he said there was no alternative to "unity to write our country's history afresh". Bizimungu announced that committees would be set up at all levels, in which the church would be involved, aimed at reconstructing the country.

UN human rights monitors in Rwanda say they have received reports of Rwandan returnees killing genocide survivors. A UN spokeswoman on Tuesday, quoted by Reuters, said the head of the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda Javier Zuniga had called for a thorough investigation into the incidents and for follow-up action. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jose Ayala-Lasso, is due in Kigali today for a three-day mission. So far, some 2,000 ex-soldiers have been registered and 38 people arrested.

A UNHCR nutrition survey indicated that the refugees who have returned to Rwanda are generally in good health, but they are worried about food shortages and housing issues. The UNCHR's daily update pointed out that the next harvest will be in February and local authorities are predicting difficulties ahead. A seven-day food ration, which returnees collect after registration, consists of 400 grams of flour, 120 grams of peas or beans, 20 grams of oil, 5 grams of salt and some biscuits. The Rwandan government has offered new plots of land to people who have to leave their houses so that returning owners can move back in, Reuters reported. The authorities have set a 15-day deadline for families to move out after registration by the rightful owners, but the government was due to initiate a housing programme today to lessen the impact. "The aim of the house-building programme is not for people to wait for government to build them houses, but to foster a spirit where people will not leave vulnerable groups stranded on the hillside," said Christine Umutoni, deputy rehabilitation minister.

UNHCR has urged Rwandan refugees in Tanzania to start making preparations to return home as soon as possible, after the Tanzanian government's demand that they leave the country by the end of the year. The government had informed UNHCR it was confident the refugees could return to their country in safety and that the repatriation would be conducted in an orderly and humane manner under the aegis of the Home Affairs Ministry. WFP said the Tanzanian authorities had begun visiting the camps to inform refugees that repatriation must take place imminently. On Tuesday, over 230 refugees were repatriated to Rwanda, which UNHCR described as the biggest figure in a single day. It said the figure almost equalled the number of returnees for the whole of October. More refugees were expected to return today. The Rwandan government, in conjunction with UNHCR, was making preparations for the returnees. Unconfirmed reports cited an NGO as saying yesterday that refugees from the Ngara camps were gathering at the border waiting to cross to Rusomo.

Nairobi, 5 December 1996 15:40 gmt


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Date: Thu, 5 Dec 1996 18:57:00 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 49 on Eastern Zaire for 5 Dec 96 96.12.5 Message-ID: <>

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

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