Great Lakes: IRIN Update 58, 12/16/96

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 58, 12/16/96

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
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IRIN Emergency Update No.58 on the Great Lakes (Sunday/Monday 15-16 December 1996)

Rwandan refugees began pouring back into Rwanda from Ngara camps in Tanzania over the weekend. DHA in Kigali reported that by yesterday, some 24,000 refugees had crossed the border into Rwanda and the flow was increasing towards the end of the day with some 5,000 refugees crossing every hour. Most of the returnees who arrived at the Birenga transit centre in Kibungo prefecture had already been trucked onto their home communes by yesterday. DHA reported a 10km long column of refugees inside Rwanda. However information is quite hard to come by, as access along the 60km stretch of road from Kibungo town to the Tanzanian border is restricted and most NGOs have not yet been allowed to operate. Assistance is currently being provided by the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Rwandan Red Cross. UNHCR has also been allowed to cross the border. The biggest of the Ngara camps - Benaco - is now empty as 200,000 refugees are said to be heading for the border.

As of this morning, a steady stream of refugees continued to cross into Rwanda. Returning refugees report that the Tanzanian authorities have been using tear gas and firing into the air to prompt an exodus from the camps. UN staff in Ngara yesterday reported some NGOs as saying large numbers of people were still in the bush and two fairly large of concentrations of 5,000 and 10,000 were said to be moving south and east. The team also reported that significant portions of the population in the Karagwe camps appeared to be "at large" outside the control of both UNHCR and the authorities. Two large groups of people are said to be heading for Kenya. UNHCR is hoping to truck the inhabitants of Karagwe down to Ngara from where they could walk across the border, UN staff said.

IOM, according to a DHA report from Kigali, has positioned 76 trucks at a BP station 22 kms from the border with a further 70 trucks in Kibungo. IOM also indicated that the Rwandan government has said it will closely monitor the repatriation process and will use the army to intervene if necessary. By 1830 last night, a significant army presence was in evidence along the road to the Nyakarambi transit camp, near Gatore. Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu was on hand to welcome the returnees at the Rusumo border point yesterday, but warned that members of the Interahamwe and ex-FAR would be "dealt with".

Regional leaders are meeting in Nairobi today to discuss the crisis in the Great Lakes, although Zaire and Burundi are not taking part. South African President Nelson Mandela and President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe are attending for the first time according to the Kenya News Agency. Burundi mediator, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere will be at the meeting along with OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim.

A 14-nation steering committee which met in New York on Friday decided to wind up the mission of the Canadian-led multi-national force by the end of this month. After the announcement was made in New York, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien issued a statement in Ottawa saying the force had served as a "catalyst" for the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees to Rwanda. Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy also claimed the mission had led to the refugees' return. "The fact that the movement of peoples took place exactly at the time when the announcement of the international force was made is not a coincidence," he said.

Nairobi, 16 December 1996, 10:55 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: Mon, 16 Dec 1996 14:03:44 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 58 (15-16 December 1996) 96.12.16 Message-ID: <>

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

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