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IRIN Emergency Update No.64 on the Great Lakes (Saturday-Monday 21-23 December 1996)
President Mobutu extended until today the deadline for political parties to come up with nominations for a new government, but warned that he would take matters into his own hands if they failed to reach agreement. Parties were bitterly divided on whether Kengo wa Dondo should remain prime minister, or whether opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi should be chosen. Another contender is Frederic Kibassa Maliba who leads a breakaway faction of Tshisekedi's opposition alliance. On Saturday, supporters of the two factions clashed in Kinshasa, firing shots and throwing stones. ADFL rebels today claimed the Zairean army launched a counter-offensive in the Bunia region on Saturday. According to rebel leader Laurent Kabila, army reinforcements had gone into Bunia and offensives had been launched from the town towards Beni further south. "It is a counter-offensive...We are continuing to resist," he told reporters in Goma. "We are here and we are ready for them. It will be a pleasure to welcome them." The rebels had earlier dismissed the possibility of a big government counter-offensive in the east. Kabila alleged that France and foreign mercenaries were helping the Zairean troops.
Around 2,000 employees of Zaire's central bank went on strike on Friday demanding an end of year bonus and restoration of transport allowances. The workers picketed the bank building, forcing its closure for the day. One employee said his salary, equivalent to $50 a month, often went unpaid. Bank officials were meeting to try and resolve the problem.
The Zambian authorities have turned away dozens of Zairean nationals posing as refugees after rigorous screening at areas bordering Zaire, the South African news agency SAPA reported. It quoted an immigration spokeswoman as saying security had been tightened along the border to stop the influx of "false refugees and criminals". "Many Zaireans from Lubumbashi in Shaba province and not from the fighting zone in eastern Zaire posed as refugees," she said. "We have no choice but to turn them back." Zambian Commissioner for Refugees Lameck Mwaba has said over 200 Zairean refugees entered Zambia in recent weeks.
Amnesty International last week said "terror campaigns" were being waged by the Zairean military, militias and rebel forces against refugees and civilians in the South Kivu area. Amnesty said the campaigns were launched at a time when the international spotlight was focused on returning refugees last month and warned there were "real fears that the attacks and killings are continuing today".
Burundi has denied claims by Amnesty International that 500 people were killed by Burundian soldiers who lured them to a church in Nyarurama, Kayanza province. The human rights organisation said the massacre occurred on December 3 after the people were taken to the church on the pretext that they would be safe from violence. At least 243 were killed outright after grenades were thrown into the church which was then set alight, and the rest were killed after soldiers searched nearby river swamps, the report alleged. However Jean-Luc Ndizeye, a spokesman for President Pierre Buyoya, said Burundi "refutes the allegations completely". He pointed out that rebel activity was rampant in the area and as a result there had been casualties. "This everyone knows," he said. He added that the compilers of the Amnesty International report were well-known to the Burundi government. "We wonder why Amnesty persists in utilising people whose integrity is in question," he said. Travellers arriving in Bujumbura at the weekend from Buchaganzwa in the east said 250 civilians were killed during clashes between the army and rebels last month.
WFP reported there had been no let-up in the security situation in Burundi and many areas of the country were still unsafe. It highlighted troublespots as the northern part of Kayanza province, Bujumbura Rurale, Bubanza and Muramvya provinces. Mine incidents were reportedly on the increase after more blasts over the past week: two in Muramvya, and one in Kayanza which killed four people. According to some reports, rebel groups are laying mines on back roads in order to restrict military movements. WFP said there was a massive increase in the number of displaced people needing food, due mainly to the creation of new displaced sites and to an intensification of fighting where civilians were caught up between the rebels and the army. Assessment missions in Bujumbura-Rurale revealed that groups of people were emerging from the bush after several months' of hiding. WFP described their nutritional state as alarming. NGOs report an increasing number of people arriving in Rwanda from Burundi, fleeing the ongoing violence in Cibitoke province. Fighting in Burundi has been reported on three major fronts: the Mugina commune of Cibitoke, Mutambu commune south of Bujumbura, and south of the Kayanza-Ngozi road in Kayanza province.
Rebels of the banned Hutu extremist organisation National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD) have unilaterally declared a Christmas and New Year ceasefire to run from midnight local tonight for 11 days. CNDD leader Leonard Nyangoma however warned the Tutsi-dominated army "not to take advantage of this truce, which we are declaring unilaterally, to attack our positions or redeploy its forces across the country". "If this happens, we will react with considerable force," he said.
A large group of Rwandan refugees from the Karagwe camps in Tanzania was approaching the border with Rwanda, Tanzanian radio reported last night. UN sources confirmed all five camps were empty and that the refugees were on the move. Heavy rain and rough terrain are hampering their progress and they are not expected to reach the border until December 25. Tanzanian radio said another large group, which had fled into the forest from the Benaco camp in Ngara region, was also heading for Rwanda. It said about 100,000 refugees had emerged from the Nyakahura area, about 30km from the border. Some of the refugees told the radio they had escaped to the forest because their leaders had told them they would be killed if they returned to Rwanda. UNHCR, quoted by AFP today, said that so far some 300,000 refugees had returned to Rwanda from Tanzania.
The Kenyan 'East African Standard' daily reported today that hundreds of Rwandan refugees were stranded at Isebania on the Kenyan border with Tanzania yesterday after immigration officials turned them away. Border sources said over 200 refugees were camped on the Tanzanian side of the border, although the Kuria district commissioner said he was only aware of 24 refugees who were arrested on Friday night after trying to cross illegally into Kenya. Eight of them had already been sent back to Tanzania, he said.
The first trial of genocide suspects opens in the Rwandan town of Kibungo on Friday, three days before another such trial gets underway in the capital Kigali. Rwandan radio named the suspects as a former medical assistant Deo Bizimana and a former local administrative chief Egide Gatanazi. Both are accused of organising massacres in the province.
Another Tanzanian minister has resigned over allegations of corruption. Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Juma Alifa Ngasongwa, handed in his resignation to President Mkapa on Wednesday, saying the move was intended to allow investigations by a presidential commission into alleged malpractices. The minister is said to have issued hunting permits under suspicious circumstances. Last month, Simon Mbilinyi resigned as finance minister for alleged corrupt practices.
Nairobi, 23 December 1996, 14:30 gmt [ENDS]
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Date: Mon, 23 Dec 1996 18:08:47 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 64 for 21-23 Dec 1996 96.12.23 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.961223180549.4469Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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