Great Lakes: IRIN Update 61, 12/18/96

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 61, 12/18/96

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
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IRIN Emergency Update No.61 on the Great Lakes (Wednesday 18 December 1996)

Zaire's President Mobutu, who returned to the country yesterday, said he had come back against medical advice to take personal charge of the situation. In an address over state radio and television, he accused Zaire's "enemies" of choosing to "stab him in the back" when he was unwell and out of the country. He assured the people he had never "retreated" when the country was under threat, and he would not retreat this time. But he added that "our enemies' provocation should not make us fall into the trap of blind xenophobia against the foreigners who have lived for years in our country without violating the laws of the republic." A US State Department spokesman said yesterday Mobutu should move towards establishing "real democracy" in Zaire. According to AFP, spokesman Glyn Davies said that "after 56 years of promises, there really needs to be some action on the political front." He added it would be difficult to know what the country's future could be if Mobutu "decides not to open the political system." "The bottom line for the United States is that Zaire remains a single nation," he said.

Sources in Goma said Mobutu's return had heightened fears among the local population of a counter-offensive by the Zairean army. On Monday, the ADFL rebels - seeking to weaken army morale ahead of Mobutu's arrival - appealed to Zairean soldiers to switch sides, Reuters reported. The appeal was contained in two documents signed by two Zairean officers who had apparently gone over to the rebels.

UNICEF warned yesterday that thousands of Rwandan refugees in Zaire could die before Christmas unless aid agencies launch a huge emergency relief operation to get food to more than 100,000 people who have arrived in Lubutu recently. Many of the refugees have arrived from the Mugunga camp near Goma, a distance of some 300kms.

An article in the Belgian daily 'De Morgen' over the weekend said aid workers were making an initial assessment of the situation in the Goma region, following a ceasefire announcement by rebel leader Laurent Kabila. They found 5,500 bodies, mostly in pit latrines of the former refugee camps. Some of them "had an expression of pain on their faces," the newspaper reported. It added that they were probably slaughtered by retreating Interahamwe militia, saying that dumping bodies in latrines was practised by the Interahamwe during the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

Some 200,000 refugees have returned to Rwanda from Tanzania and more are said to be emerging from hiding to join the exodus. Most of the Ngara camps are now empty, but the Tanzanian authorities have allowed aid workers back into the camps to help any remaining refugees. UNHCR said some 2,300 Burundian refugees still in the Benaco, Musuhura and Lumasi camps were being regrouped with 20,000 Burundians in Lukole camp. Aid workers, quoted by AFP, said a Rwandan soldier last night fired several shots at a convoy bringing home refugees.

WFP said it was planning to cut food rations by 70 percent after the first month of assistance to the Rwandan returnees. It was aiming to prevent dependency on external food assistance and encourage the returnees to become self-sufficient. WFP will assist with reintegration through work-for-food programmes.

WFP also reported that 2,400 Rwandan refugees from the Karagwe camps in northwest Tanzania had been registered at Orutshinga (Orukinga??)in Uganda, while 200 Zairean refugees had arrived at Nebbi in northwest Uganda. WFP said more could be expected in the event of a further advance northwards by rebels in eastern Zaire. Further south in Tanzania, at Kigoma, UNHCR reported that refugees from Burundi and Zaire were continuing to arrive and that by mid-December there was a total of 174,500 refugees in the area. Of these, 2,120 were Rwandans. UNHCR said there was a problem regarding Zairean refugees who refused to be transferred from the town to the newly opened Nyarususu camp.

Two Roman Catholic priests said they had been deported by the Tanzanian authorities for opposing the repatriation of Rwandan refugees. The priests, from Spain and Italy, told reporters in Nairobi yesterday that the refugees did not want to return to Rwanda but that their pleas fell on deaf ears. Human Rights Watch yesterday called on the Tanzanian government and UNHCR to "stop forcing Rwandan refugees to repatriate." "The Tanzanian government's use of force to drive Rwandan refugees over the border is a blot on their traditionally good record in respect of refugee rights," HRW said. "Moreover, the UNHCR has shamefully abandoned its responsibility to protect refugees." HRW went on to say that the international community had "barely disguised its satisfaction at seeing the refugee camps around Rwanda forcibly disbanded. But moving the refugees from one side of the border to the other will not offer any lasting solution without justice for genocide victims and improved respect for human rights by the Rwandan government."

Rwandan radio said last night that a new regional summit could soon be held to discuss the situation in Burundi. The Burundi conflict did not figure in a communique released by regional leaders after their summit in Nairobi this week. According to the radio, a report was given to the heads of state which "noted that negotiations have not yet effectively begun" between the Tutsi-dominated authorities in Bujumbura and Hutu rebels, and that leaders would meet soon to discuss the issue in depth. Burundi's foreign ministry issued a statement describing as "shameful" the fact that Burundi had not been invited to the Nairobi summit. The statement, broadcast by Burundi radio on Monday, said that if the summit did not call for lifting economic sanctions against the country, then Burundians should unite "with the knowledge that sanctions are another war which must be fought." "Warmongers and their supporters are spreading falsehoods so that the Nairobi meeting does not reach any meaningful resolution on Burundi," the statement added. "The ministry reminds the international community that peace is slowly returning to many places in the country and citizens are dropping their support for the armed groups." Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu, quoted by Rwandan radio, said the presence of a Burundian delegation at the Nairobi summit "might have made a positive contribution."

The UN Secretary-General's outgoing Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region has made several proposals for the future of the mission. In a report to the UN Security Council, Raymond Chretien suggested appointing an envoy who either lives in Nairobi or somewhere close to the region, a roving envoy with no fixed home base for several months until a working relationship with regional leaders is established or an envoy who would visit the region as and when needed. In his opinion, the last option was the preferred one in order to build on the goodwill and momentum generated by his mission.

Nairobi, 18 December 1996, 13:30 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: Wed, 18 Dec 1996 16:55:51 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 61 for 18 Dec 1996 96.12.18 Message-Id: <>

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

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