Great Lakes: IRIN Update No. 68, 12/30/96

Great Lakes: IRIN Update No. 68, 12/30/96


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IRIN Emergency Update No. 68 on the Great Lakes (Monday 30 December 1996)

# Zaire President Mobutu Sese Seko officially announced an order that will pave the way for a constitutional referendum, one that has been promised since 1990. According to a time-line imposed by the national election's commission a referendum on a draft constitution is to be held by February 1997. The new constitution will form the foundation of a federated state to be called the Federal Republic of the Congo governed by a bicameral parliament. Once again general, presidential and legislative elections have been set for a new date, May 1997.

Zairian Prime Minister Kengo wa Dondo has announced that the "army delegates' conference", the army's general meeting, will be held at the beginning of 1997. The conference is expected to result in the overhaul of the Zairian Armed Forces by the newly appointed military chief, General Mahele Lyoko Bokungu.

On 27 December, Zaire's most prominent opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) held a news conference in which he stated that his party was breaking off all contact with President Mobutu because of the government's decision to retain Kengo as Prime Minister. Moreover, his party has called a major political meeting for 4 January 1997 in which it will unveil a plan of action which "will force the dictatorship to flee". This is not the first time that Tshisekedi and/or the UDPS have broken off contact with Mobutu.

Tshisekedi, who was elected Prime Minister in 1992 by the national conference, was sidelined and eventually replaced in a political move by Mobutu in which he created a parallel government. Tshisekedi was removed because he had disagreed with Mobutu over payment of army salaries and the introduction of new Zairian banknotes. In November 1996, following a visit to a convalescing Mobutu in France, Tshisekedi claimed there had been a "reconciliation" between the two and that he would be named Prime Minister. UDPS supporters, who are numerous among the poorer neighbourhoods of Kinshasa, had expected Mobutu to replace Kengo with Tshisekedi in last week's nomination of the new crisis government.

The January 4th date for the UDPS conference will also coincide with the call for a nationwide general strike by secretary-general Steve Mbikayi, leader of the increasing powerful trade union movement, Solidarity.

# News reports in Zaire regarding the capture of mineral-rich Bunia by Laurent Kabila's Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) remain contradictory. The Zairian government has issued a communique stating that Bunia had not totally fallen to Kabila's ADF and that Zairian armed forces (FAZ) retained control of the airport. Humanitarian sources in Zairian confirmed this information, adding that intense fighting around the airport continues. They further stated that some 300 people had been killed in the fighting but did not elaborate on Zairian army loses.

A Ugandan army attack on Ugandan rebels in the Ruwenzori mountains in eastern Zaire coincided with Kabila's ADF attack on Bunia which is also situated in near the same area. Uganda denounced claims that its forces were involved in Kabila's ADF attack on Bunia as a smear campaign by Zaire.

Bunia's Radio Candip, which is in the hands of the rebels, continues to broadcast appeals to Zairian soldiers for their surrender. Candip radio also claimed that fleeing FAZ soldiers have looted towns near Bunia. Reuters reported that a government official in Kinshasa had confirmed the looting of Isiro, some 300 km northwest of Bunia, by uncontrolled elements of the FAZ and that an investigation would be undertaken.

Following recent rebel-FAZ skirmishes, Kisangani, the regional capital for Haut Zaire located on the Bukavu-Walikale-Lubutu-Kisangani axis, has been placed under curfew from 19:00 to 04:00 hours. According to humanitairian agencies in Kinshasa, an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 Hutu refugees, who fled Kabila's ADF attack on Bukavu in November, have been arriving in northeastern Zaire over the last few weeks. The refugees have been regrouping in Lubutu and Shabunda as FAZ forces have halted their advance towards Kindu or Kisangani. ICRC operations in Shabunda and MSF operations in Lubutu are being maintained by local staff following the pull-out of expatriate staff members due to security concerns. UNICEF also has 2 local staff members in Lubutu. The refugees, whose health and food supplies are quickly deteriorating, now find themselves in the "gray area"; a potential war zone between Kabila's ADF rebels and Zairian armed forces. As tension mounts, there is fear that the refugees may once again flee into FAZ held areas of Zaire. The food crisis has led to the raiding of local farms by some refugees.

# The Ugandan army has been bombarding the Ugandan Allied Democratic Front (Ugandan-ADF) rebels, base in the Ruwenzori mountains in eastern Zaire. The Ugandan-ADF, composed for the most part of fundamentalist Tabliq Moslem fighters and remnants of the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU), first attacked Uganda from their Zairian base on 16 November. In an uncollaborated report, the Ugandan army claimed to have killed 500 rebels in fighting that started on 20 December. AFP, citing Ugandan press sources, reported that a further 300 rebels and several people abducted by the rebels were killed in the heavy shelling on 25 December. The Ugandan army was reportedly assisted by Kabila's ADF troops who launched a rear attack on the Ugandan-ADF rebels, forcing them to abandon their base in Zaire and flee into the dense forest.

The Rwandan director of the National Commission for the Repatriation of Refugees, Dr. Ephreme Kabayija, claimed that all the refugees from Tanzania have returned to Rwanda. He further stated that no refugees remained in the Tanzanian camps nor on route to Rwanda. However, UNHCR reported that some 475,000, out of an estimated 540,000, had returned to Rwanda. As of 30 December, only a few stragglers continued to trickle in. The remaining 65,000 are believed to have fled into the Tanzanian countryside and north to Kigoma where some may be posing as Burundian refugees.

The Guardian (Tanzania) press quoted Brigadier-General Benjamin Msuya, the Chief Tanzanian Commander of the Hutu refugee repatriation exercise, as stating that Tanzanian Defense Forces will conduct house-to-house searches on January 1st for escaped Rwandan refugees in Ngara and Karagwe, where the main refugee camps were located. He stated that some 6,000 refugees who had fled to Muleba district from Karagwe camp had already been rounded up and were on route to Rwanda. The Tanzanian army will also search for weapons owned by the former Hutu Rwandan forces (ex-FAR) and demolish the remaining refugee camp structures. Tanzanian authorities reportedly detained more than 50 refugees from camps near Ngara and 100 from Karagwe camp. UNHCR is in contact with Tanzanian authorities regarding what will happen to the detainees and their families. UNHCR reported that some 49 refugees, 35 of whom are self-confessed killers, have turned themselves over to UNHCR in Tanzania. There is no update on the Tanzanian Mwisa camp which also sheltering refugees whose names appear on the Rwandan list of 1,900 people accused of genocide.

# The first suspect to be tried for genocide in Rwanda, Deo Bizimana, will reappear in Kibungo court on 3 January 1997. According to Deputy Justice Minister Gerard Gahima, five to six more genocide trials were expected to open in Kigali court today, 30 December. Two prominent suspects to be tried in Kigali are Mr. Silas Munyagishali, the former assistant prosecutor, and Faoduald Karamira, an ethnic Tutsi turned Hutu who was a senior officer in the Interhamwe Militia. Two more trials will open 31 December in Byumba prefecture. The Rwandan government still has not decided if the execution of those found guilty will be open to the public

The Hutu political group Rally for the Return of Refugees and Democracy to Rwanda (RDR) continued to denounce the genocide trials that began in Rwanda on 27 December as unjust. They claim that the accused have not had access to legal council. Indications are that all those appearing in court today have had lawyers. Of the two trials that began on 27 December Deo Bizimana's lawyer did not show up for the first day of the trial and there has been no credible information regarding the presence or lack of legal council for Egide Gatanzi. The trials which are being broadcast live on local radio are expected to be closely monitored by the refugees who recently returned from camps in Zaire and Tanzania.

The registration of returning refugees in the communes has encountered some problems due to a lack of sufficient registration forms, failure to respect established procedures by all parties involved and deliberate attempts by returnees to manipulate the process.

# Burundi's head of state, Major Pierre Buyoya, visited Rutana province in eastern Burundi in which he addressed local inhabitants regarding the internationally imposed sanctions and the cash contributions solicited from citizens for the war effort. Major Buyoya claimed that the efforts to have the five-month old sanctions lifted were having some effect, and even if they are maintained Burundi and it's "peace programme" would continue. He stated that the sanctions were a direct attack on the Burundian army's effectiveness "so (that) perhaps those fighting them would find respite...". He claimed that despite the sanctions, Burundian civil servants and other workers had received their salaries and that authorities had found ways of fighting the embargoes. In regard to the requested cash contributions he stated that it was up to the people to decide between letting the "killers" take over the country or assisting in the war effort.

According to a Reuters report, the largest Hutu rebel group in Burundi, National council for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD), sent a letter to the regional committee monitoring sanctions in which they claim that 34 tons of military equipment were delivered to Bujumbura airport December 26-27. The manifest for the Egyptian plane listed its flight plan as having come from Ostend, Belgium via Lubumbashi, Zaire to Bujumbura where it off-loaded the military hardware and reloaded a cargo of tea. A second delivery is reported to have been scheduled for December 28-29. Economic sanctions were imposed on Burundi in July 1996 to force Major Pierre Buyoya, who gained power in a coup by the Tutsi-lead army, into negotiations with Hutu rebel groups.

Nairibi, 30 December 1996, 18:06 GMT [ENDS]

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Date: Mon, 30 Dec 1996 18:14:05 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update No. 68 for (Monday 30 December 1996) Message-ID: <>

Editor: Ali Dinar,