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IRIN Emergency Update No. 53 on eastern Zaire (10 December 1996)
ICRC said its team in eastern Zaire, which was forced to evacuate Kindu and Kisangani last week because of insecurity, managed to fly to Shabunda on Sunday from Lubumbashi. Between 8,000 and 10,000 Burundian and Rwandan refugees, from the Uvira camps, were located in the area, most of them in a very bad condition. They were suffering mainly from diarrhoea, malnutrition and malaria. ICRC said there were indications that large groups of women, children and elderly people were in the surrounding forests living in difficult conditions. Emergency food aid was being flown into the area as of today and ICRC said it would concentrate on the refugees it had located. ICRC added however that it did not want its activities to favour the establishment of new camps, and it was discussing the future of these people with the local authorities and UNHCR. A UN interagency mission just returned to Kinshasa from Shabunda reports a similar picture, having visited small camps of refugees at Nialubwe near Shabunda. Several Rwandan refugees interviewed by a UN official during the mission expressed a willingness to go home.
Zairean Prime Minister Kengo wa Dondo has stated that his country's armed forces "have lost the battle but not the war". In an interview with Radio France Internationale, broadcast yesterday, he said Zaire would do everything in its power to regain "its occupied territories". "The Zairean armed forces have withdrawn at the moment... Soon you will see what these Zairean armed forces are capable of when motivated by the love of their country," he told the radio. He described rebel leader Laurent Kabila as a "puppet of the Rwandans", and ruled out any negotiations with the rebels. "The war has not been won," he added. "No-one can celebrate a victory at the moment."
Kabila meanwhile said the Zairean army was facing "total disaster". According to rebel Radio of the People yesterday, monitored by the BBC, he said 350 soldiers had gone over to the side of the rebels. The Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL), he said, was ready to negotiate with "all those in favour of a democratic and republican system", but he would never work with Mobutu. However, Zairean Information Minister Makeli Boguo denied that soldiers had defected to the rebels, saying the claim was part of the rebels' "psychological battle". "I would have liked us to be told where and how many," he told Radio France Internationale. "All we are told is that 300 soldiers are reported to have gone over to the enemy forces. According to military sources, this report is untrue and is being spread about simply to sap the morale of our soldiers."
Boguo also strongly denied that the town of Bunia had fallen to the rebels, despite repeated claims by rebel security chief Jean Kabongo that the town was in ADFL hands. NGOs, with contacts on the ground, confirmed that Bunia had not been taken, and said more Zairean soldiers had turned up in the town where they continued to loot property and possessions. Seven soldiers were reported killed by Bunia residents who are said to be increasingly fed up with the state of lawlessness in their town. A demonstration, by mostly young people, was held over the weekend in protest against the current state of affairs.
Some reports said Bunia was surrounded by rebels, backed by fighters from the Mai Mai militia of the Hunde tribe. According to a Reuters report, Mai Mai child warriors captured the village of Mambasa on Sunday, effectively cutting off Bunia and some 5,000 Zairean soldiers there from any escape route. The news agency quoted the local operations head of the Zaire Red Cross in Beni as saying the rebels were taking advantage of the Mai Mai who believe the power of water will protect them from harm, including bullets. Reuters said the ADFL had trucked thousands of Mai Mai to the frontline near Bunia, as a psychological weapon against Zairean forces.
One French and two Belgian employees at a mine in eastern Zaire were reportedly held hostage for three days by Burundian Hutu rebels in the Kamituga area. According to Reuters, Sylvain Bogaertss, the Belgian director of works at the Sominki gold mine in Kamituga said on Friday they were surrounded by about 20 Burundian rebels and taken away. "They were desperate men with nothing to lose. They said they were going to kill us," he said. They were freed separately after a large but undisclosed ransom was negotiated, Reuters said. It added that Burundian rebel groups have been driven from bases inside Zaire in areas bordering Burundi, by Zairean rebel advances in the east of the country. Their supply lines from Bukavu to the Rusizi plain, have been cut. Like their armed Hutu counterparts from Rwanda, many have now been driven into the interior of Zaire.
There are indications that some refugees who fled camps in Tanzania's Karagwe region rather than be repatriated to Rwanda are returning to the original camps, signifying that intimidators - thought to be preventing the repatriation - may be losing their hold. UNHCR said several of the 15,000 refugees who left Kagenyi and Rubwere camps over the weekend had now returned. A report from the office of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Kigali said 30 trucks were able to cross from Rwanda into Tanzania today in readiness for the repatriation exercise, and another 60 UNHCR/IOM trucks were on their way to the border. Today, 1,387 Rwandans returned from Tanzania, bringing the total of returnees since 1 December to over 3,000.
Radio France Internationale reported today that President Mobutu would return to Zaire early next week. It said it had obtained the information exclusively from Mobutu's chief aide, Honore Ngbanda. Mobutu has been in France convalescing from cancer surgery.
Amnesty International today accused the Zairean authorities and ADFL rebels of clamping down on human rights activities in the Bukavu area. It said that since September many human rights activists had been killed, attacked, imprisoned or had disappeared. In its statement, the organisation said it had received many "alarming reports" on the difficult conditions faced by activists to investigate and publicise cases of human rights abuses.
A 14-nation steering group overseeing the multi-national force (MNF) is due to meet in New York on Friday, a Canadian government source said. Quoted by AFP, he said no timetable had been set for the meeting which will be held at UN headquarters. There has been much speculation of late about the future of the mission with prospective participants questioning whether or not it should be scrapped.
Nairobi, 10 December 1996, 15:15 GMT [ENDS]
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Date: Tue, 10 Dec 1996 18:23:31 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 53 on Eastern Zaire for 10 Dec 96 96.12.10 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.email@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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