Great Lakes: IRIN Update 59, 12/16/96

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 59, 12/16/96

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

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IRIN Emergency Update No.59 on the Great Lakes (Monday 16 December 1996)

As of 14:00 today, 60,000 Rwandan refugees had crossed into their homeland from Tanzania's Ngara camps, bringing the total number of returnees since Saturday to 90,000, according to UNHCR figures. The refugees were said to be crossing at the rate of up to 15,000 an hour. A BBC correspondent said the flow was intensifying every hour, although mid-afternoon, the rate slowed because of heavy rain. However a number of refugees were reluctant to return and the BBC said Hutu militias were seen jogging in formation away from the border.

Refugees from the Rubwera and Kagere camps in northwest Tanzania, who do not want to return to Rwanda, continued to arrive at Orukinga camp in Uganda's Mbarara area at the rate of about 500 a day, reports the IFRC. The initial response of the Ugandan border authorities has been to send some of the refugees back to Tanzania, but refugees have been crossing the Kagera river on the border under cover of night. A total of 2,000 refugees have arrived and according to some reports, 30,000 may be on their way.

Rwanda is to receive $500 million in international aid to help with the repatriation of returnees, Canadian International Cooperation Minister Don Boudria said on Saturday. His announcement followed a meeting of donor countries and aid organisations in Kigali on Friday which was a follow-up to the Great Lakes humanitarian aid conference held in Geneva last month. During that meeting, Rwanda appealed for $740 million to help resettle the returnees. Boudria said the priority was housing, but aid would also be channelled towards boosting Rwanda's judicial and social service systems, as well as agriculture.

Fuel prices and public transport fares have increased considerably in Kinshasa, raising fears of a backlash by residents unable to afford the price hikes. Zairean radio, monitored by BBC, on Friday announced that fuel prices had risen from 68,000 to 71,000 new zaires, and the price per litre of gasoline now stood at 78,000 new zaires. Bus fares had risen from 30,000 to 35,000 new zaires, and taxis from 35,000 to 40,000 new zaires. The Zairean government also submitted budget proposals to parliament on Friday which called for reserving 35 percent of overall public spending in the coming financial year for defence, Reuters reported. It said that in recent weeks, the government had imposed extra taxes on local and international businesses as contributions to the war effort.

Zairean President Mobutu is due back in the country tomorrow after an absence of over three months, Zairean television announced. He underwent cancer surgery in Switzerland in August, and has since been convalescing in the south of France. Mobutu is expected to stay at the Tshatshi military camp in Kinshasa and will make a broadcast to the nation. Observers point out that Zairean public opinion expects Mobutu to take personal charge of military counter-offensive aimed at re-establishing control in the rebel-held east of the country.

IFRC has delivered a consignment of 10 MT of relief supplies for tens of thousands of refugees and displaced people in Kisangani. A Hercules C-130 flew into the town yesterday in what IFRC described as the first of a series of regular flights between Kisangani and Nairobi. Kisangani itself was reported to be calm, and food supplies had already been flown into the town by France and Belgium. Aid organisations were expected to airlift more supplies this week. NCA/ACT have begun airlifting food and medicines to Kisangani, for distribution there, and onward delivery to Lubutu by land and Katshungu by air. AFP quoted relief agencies as saying some 500,000 people were on the move in eastern Zaire heading westwards in the regions of Kindu, Lobutu, Walikale and Shabunda ahead of the rebel offensive.

Various reports said the original population of Lobutu have vacated the town and some 90,000 refugees and displaced people had moved in, probably including Interahamwe and ex-FAR. Aid organisations on the ground corroborated the information, saying these people were staying put in Lobutu and not moving on to Kisangani. According to IFRC, 300,000 displaced people were stuck between Walikale and Lobutu without food and assistance, and were in a poor state. UN sources said Zairean military authorities were blocking the refugee advance some 200km east of Kisangani near Lubutu, and some 200 km east of Kindu near Shabunda. It was probable that this would lead to the natural creation of camps as the refugee population in Shabunda and Lobutu continued to swell. An ex-FAR camp near Kingulube, some 180km east of Shabunda, has - according to Zairean security officials in Kinshasa - reportedly been dismantled but it is not known where the former Rwandan soldiers have moved to. Burundi on Saturday expressed surprise over a UN human rights report which said over 1,000 people had been killed in just one month in the country, mostly by government forces. Interior Minister Epitace Bayaganakandi said he did not know the sources used by UN observers, nor how they had worked out the number of people killed during fighting in Burundi. Bayaganakandi added that it had "become a habit among some agencies to ignore the crimes of terrorist organisations and to blame systematically the Burundi army for killings with inflated casualty figures for propaganda purposes." Also on Saturday, Burundi's Foreign Minister Luc Rukingama again appealed for the lifting of economic sanctions imposed on his country by regional countries following the July coup. Speaking in connection with Burundi peace talks in the Tanzanian town of Arusha, he said his government had drawn up several recommendations for peace in Burundi which would be presented to mediator Julius Nyerere. Tanzanian radio said five parties from Burundi, including the Hutu-dominated Frodebu party and the exiled extremist Hutu organisation CNDD, were represented in Arusha. Few details of the meeting have been released. Meanwhile, the UN in Tanzania announced that three barges loaded with fertilisers and medicines, exempt from the regional sanctions, left the port of Kigoma for Bujumbura on Thursday.

Uganda has said it will grant an amnesty to rebel leader Joseph Kony if leaders in the north - where he is waging his rebellion - and next of kin of people killed by his fighters, agree to pardon him. According to newspaper reports, special presidential adviser Salim Saleh told a seminar in the northern town of Gulu on Saturday that Kony - who leads the Lord's Resistance Army - could then return to Gulu and resume his career as a Roman Catholic catechist. AFP said that until now, President Museveni had refused to grant an amnesty to Kony, saying he must stand trial.

Nairobi, 16 December 1996, 15:30 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 18:54:44 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 59 for 16 Dec 1996 96.12.16 Message-ID: <>

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

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