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IRIN Emergency Update No. 56 on the Great Lakes (Friday 13 December 1996)
Some 300,000 refugees who left the Ngara camps to head further into Tanzania yesterday, did an about-turn today and began heading back. It was uncertain whether they were returning to their camps or continuing on to the Rwandan border, but it appeared they had been turned back by the Tanzanian military. Later reports said the Tanzanian security forces were preventing the refugees from re-occupying some camps, in a bid to encourage them to continue to the Rwandan border. A tense standoff could develop, according to news reports.
The exodus started yesterday afternoon with refugees telling aid workers they were heading for Kenya or Malawi. WFP said they had taken food rations with them and were "obviously preparing for a long trek." Aid agencies also pointed out that the Ngara refugees had received food rations, and this could have sparked off the mass movement. Refugees in the Karagwe camps further north were due to receive their rations today, raising fears of another exodus. WFP said its food depot at Lumasi camp in Ngara had been looted and at Benaco camp, the largest in the area, WFP workers were refusing to distribute food until they were paid which had raised tension among refugees. Relief organisations say the mass departure was triggered by a campaign of intimidation in the camps by Interahamwe and ex-FAR members. The Ngara camps house some 490,000 refugees, while the Karagwe camps' population is put at 110,000.
The Tanzanian military today set up a roadblock 4 kms southeast of Lumasi to try and stop the remaining 40,000-50,000 refugees from leaving the Ngara camps. WFP reported that these refugees did not put up any resistance and were returning to their camps. The Tanzanian authorities have warned for some time that refugees venturing 4kms from the camps will be arrested and repatriated. Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that UNHCR has been unable to move trucks from Rwanda into Tanzania. The Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Kigali reported that 30 trucks were supposed to cross over but were prevented from doing so at the last minute. Discussions are underway and it is hoped the trucks will be allowed over.
Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame has warned that the threat to his country from Hutu militants is not over. Speaking in Kampala yesterday during a visit to Uganda, he acknowledged that the emptying of refugee camps in eastern Zaire had eased Rwanda's security problems but stressed that most Interahamwe and ex-FAR were still across the border. "We have to keep watching out for any other eventuality," he said. According to AFP, Kagame also said Sudan was offering refuge to Zairean troops and Rwandan militias. He added that his country was coping well with the return of refugees, although there were still some problems such as resettling them and finding food and medicine. Donor countries and organisations meeting in Kigali today and tomorrow under Canadian chairmanship will discuss the reintegration of returnees. UNHCR figures released yesterday showed that approximately 473,333 Rwandan returnees had been registered by the local authorities in their communes of origin during the month of November.
A report by the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda (HRFOR) released on Wednesday made it clear the total number of prisoners in Rwanda's jails by the end of October came to 86,200. This represented an increase of about 2,700 detainees since the previous month and an increase of over 23,200 since the beginning of the year.
NGOs with sources on the ground concur that there are some 25,000 displaced people and 50,000-60,000 refugees around Lobutu. In addition very large numbers of people are said to be on the road in groups between Walikale and Lobutu, which one aid agency said amounted to 50-100 people per kilometre. The situation in Walikale is said to be calm. Aid planes are continuing to fly into the area. However Amisi airstrip which would be used for the purpose is reportedly in need of repair before the airlift can take place. UNHCR also announced it was mobilising emergency relief for up to 100,000 Rwandan and Burundian refugees sheltering in the Shabunda region and a seven-member mission was expected to leave Kinshasa for Shabunda over the weekend. Field reports indicate that the refugees are malnourished and suffering from a variety of diseases. WFP and relief agencies are already providing emergency assistance to affected people in the area. AFP reported that the French foreign ministry's emergency unit sent a plane carrying 37 tonnes of relief supplies to Kisangani on Wednesday which is expected to benefit displaced Zaireans and refugees walking towards the town.
Eastern Zaire rebel leader Laurent Kabila yesterday declared a unilateral ceasefire in the fighting with Zairean government troops and called for negotiations with Kinshasa. Announcing the ceasefire at his Goma headquarters, he made it clear the ceasefire was conditional. "This (war) can continue if there is not a clear indication from the international community and the gang in power in Kinshasa to say they are willing to surrender or to start negotiations," he said. He added that the rebel ADFL alliance wanted to hold elections in the country.
A mission to check on eastern Zaire's mountain gorillas following fighting in the area has found that all the national park infrastructure has been destroyed and some park guards killed. A conservation group, International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) said however that the gorillas - who live in the Virunga National Park which straddles the borders with Rwanda and Uganda - were not affected too much. The Zairean side of the border contains about 200 of the world's 300 mountain gorillas, which are only to be found in the Virunga area. IGCP said pressure on the natural resources of the park had fallen with the mass departure of Rwandan refugees, but poaching and rebel presence remained a problem.
The United States said it was winding down its military presence in central Africa amid ebbing support for a multi-national force. Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon noted yesterday that the "momentum seems to be moving away from an international mission there." A Canadian-led steering group is due to meet at the UN in New York today to decide on the future of the MNF. Bacon said if the meeting decided against the MNF, the Pentagon would probably shrink the US operation to a dozen people or less. The European Parliament meanwhile urged EU heads of state and government to discuss the situation in eastern Zaire at their summit meeting in Dublin over the weekend "in view of the current impasse." A resolution passed by the parliament stressed the need to deploy the MNF to allow the supply of humanitarian aid. However the UN special envoy Raymond Chretien yesterday questioned the need for the MNF, saying that the situation was "encouraging." AFP said he told a news conference in New York after a five-week mission to the Great Lakes region that if present trends continued, there would be a diminishing need for the MNF.
Burundi peace talks began in Arusha today, but it was unclear who was attending. An adviser to Burundi mediator, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, said yesterday that the talks would be held from Thursday to Saturday and that the Burundi government had agreed to send a delegation. The spokesman Charles Sanga also said a summit of regional leaders would be held in Nairobi on Monday which would focus on eastern Zaire. Burundi's mainly Tutsi opposition party Uprona and another Tutsi-dominated party Raddes have said they will not attend the Arusha talks, although the Hutu-dominated Frodebu party is sending its chairman Jean Minani and the outlawed Hutu rebel group National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD) has also sent representatives, although not its leader Leonard Nyangoma.
An official report has accused Tanzania's former president Ali Hassan Mwinyi and several past and present cabinet ministers of corruption and abuse of public office. A presidential commission report, released on Tuesday by President Mkapa, said Mwinyi's office was responsible for allocating housing plots to his children and relatives in areas reserved for public institutions before he retired last year. Other ministers were accused of involvement in activities beyond their authority.
Nairobi, 13 December 1996, 15:00 GMT [ENDS]
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Date: Fri, 13 Dec 1996 18:21:42 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 56 for 13 Dec 96 96.12.13 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.961213182019.9088Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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