Zaire: IRIN Update 54 on the Great Lakes, 12/11/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 54 on the Great Lakes, 12/11/96

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 54 on the Great Lakes (Wednesday 11 December 1996)

Rwandan refugees in Tanzania appear to be on the verge of leaving the camps in large numbers. A report from the office of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Kigali said 13,000 Muslims throughout the camps had asked to be repatriated this weekend. They will probably walk to the Rusumo border crossing, with some transport assistance for vulnerable groups. UNHCR, in its daily report, said the atmosphere in the Ngara camps was relaxed and refugees seemed to be preparing to go back. Some were selling their belongings or harvesting their beans. Further north, in Karagwe, the situation was less clear with reports of some 23,000 refugees fleeing away from the border following a campaign of intimidation by Hutu extremists in the camps. According to WFP, many of these refugees had moved south towards Chabalisa, but around 5,000 were heading northwards to the Ugandan border. UNHCR said the local authorities in the Karagwe region were enforcing measures promulgated a year ago, to restrict the movement of refugees outside four kms of the camps and to stop all commercial activities. UNHCR added it was sending 270 trucks to Tanzania from Rwanda to be used in the repatriation process.

Radio Tanzania today said arrangements to repatriate 130,000 refugees in Karagwe had been finalised. It quoted the district commissioner as saying the plans had been drawn up with UNHCR collaboration.

About 559 refugees from Karagwe arrived at a refugee camp in southwest Uganda yesterday and Monday, and it was expected that more would arrive today, WFP said. Oruchinga camp in Mbarara shelters 6,500 refugees, 5,000 of whom are Rwandan Hutu moderates who left the country in 1992-94. The refugees coming from Tanzania are crossing the Kagera river which straddles the border by private canoe, and then walking the remaining 2kms to the camp.

A WFP programme for supplying food to Rwandan prefectures expecting an influx of returnees from Tanzania is underway. WFP said 1,200 MT of mixed commodities were transported within Rwanda over the weekend. A detailed contingency plan has been elaborated by WFP, UN agencies and NGOs for Kibungo prefecture, which may have to cope with as many as 340,000 returnees.

Representatives of the Tanzanian and Rwandan governments and UNHCR are due to hold a meeting at the Tanzania-Rwanda border crossing tomorrow. The meeting is likely to be continued in the Ngara camps the next day and is expected to kick-start the repatriation process which is planned to begin at Ngara. All returnees will be required to register at commune level, DHA Kigali said. During the repatriation from eastern Zaire, there was some confusion as some refugees registered at commune level and others at sectoral level.

Aid workers, quoted by Reuters, said they believed Tanzanian troop reinforcements were heading for the northwestern camps to enforce the government's repatriation deadline of December 31 and that anyone escaping from the camps would face arrest.

Tanzanian Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye yesterday warned refugees against taking part in politics or military training and told them to respect the laws of the land. Addressing Burundian refugees at a camp in Kibondo district, he said they should continue living peacefully until they were ready to go home, Tanzanian radio reported. Any refugees who left the camps would be arrested, jailed and repatriated despite the fact that their countries were in turmoil. The minister said the warning came after the arrest of some refugees who had been involved in murder, theft and poaching.

The exiled Rwandan Hutu organisation, Rally for the Return of Refugees and Democracy in Rwanda (RDR), has alleged, in a statement issued on Monday, that the repatriation of Rwandan refugees from Tanzania may just be the start of a new cycle of instability and a "return to square one."

The UN inter-agency mission which flew over the Shabunda area on Sunday and Monday confirmed the presence of some 50,000 mostly Rwandan refugees in the region of Katshunga. The team - made up of UNHCR, DHA, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO plus MSF and advisers of the Zairean interior and defence ministries - found that the Zairean army had cut off the road beteen Shabunda and Kindu at Matukamo/Magenbe and were preventing refugees from walking towards Kindu. The plane managed to land at Shabunda and after some time on foot, the team located two refugee camps near Nialubwe, one consisting of 300-400 people, the other of about 2,000. These camps cannot be seen from the air. The mission also established that many refugees, some 20,000, were walking towards Walikale and then onwards to Kisangani.

UNHCR said 1,400 refugees from the Virunga National Park in the Goma region returned to Rwanda via Cyangugu yesterday. It said about 35,000 refugees, who had emerged from the forests, had been repatriated since November 19.

Kisangani has been calm over the past few days and newly-arrived Special Presidential Division troops are reported to be in control of the situation, according to the UN in Kinshasa. Only sporadic gunfire has been heard. Local authorities and missionary sources indicate a general price increase and overall food shortages, especially in Kisangani, Lubutu and Kindu. The local authorities warn that if the food situation does not improve by next week, the overall health of the population and general security are quickly expected to deteriorate. The Belgian embassy in Kinshasa announced that it had provided about 110 MT of food aid to affected people and soldiers in Kisangani over a week ago.

Unconfirmed reports said pockets of ex-FAR and Interahamwe troops have engaged Zairean rebels in a series of clashes, west of Goma. According to an AFP report, local eyewitnesses claimed the fighting, some 50kms away from Goma, had been underway for several days. Zairean Justice Minister Joseph Nsinga Udjuu meanwhile has urged the international community not to abandon his country. He called on countries "to resume their place at the side of the Zairean people and help it [Zaire] to again find political, social and economic stability without which human rights are at risk." The UN High Commission for Human Rights announced the deployment of the first two observers to Kinshasa yesterday, following allegations of human rights abuses in Zaire.

The USA and its European allies yesterday stressed the need to deploy a multi-national force (MNF) to the Great Lakes region to help with the humanitarian crisis, according to a spokesman for Belgian Foreign Minister Erik Derycke. He was speaking after a meeting in Brussels on the sidelines of a NATO ministerial gathering which included US, French, British and Dutch delegates. "No-one at the meeting questioned it (MNF)," the spokesman said. He added that an ambassadorial level meeting on Friday at UN headquarters in New York should confirm yesterday's talks.

Nairobi, December 11 1996, 15:15 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: Wed, 11 Dec 1996 18:28:40 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 54 on the Great Lakes for 11 Dec 96 96.12.11 Message-ID: <>

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

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