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IRIN Emergency Update No.70 on the Great Lakes (Wednesday-Thursday 1-2 January 1997)
Press reports in Kinshasa speculated that President Mobutu may soon be planning a trip to Morocco, possibly seeking military assistance to overcome the rebellion in eastern Zaire. According to AFP, the president's office did not rule out such a visit, but would not officially confirm it nor specify a date. On Tuesday, Mobutu lashed out at the "barbarous aggression" in the east. In his New Year message, he gave assurances that Zaire would "emerge victorious" in the fight against the Tutsi-dominated rebels. He said nationality issues were "purely internal" and could not "serve as a pretext for aggression". "As the guarantor of territorial integrity and of national unity, I have promised you I will not spare any effort to keep my constitutional oath," he pledged.
Radio France Internationale said the Zairean information minister on Tuesday denied that a counter-offensive had been launched against the rebels in South Kivu. The report gave no further details. Also on Tuesday, Sudanese radio reported that Sudan's Interior Minister Brig Bakri Hassan Salih had visited Zaire and conveyed greetings from President Bashir to Mobutu. The Zairean leader described relations between the two countries as good and said he looked forward to visiting Sudan soon, according to the radio report.
With the deadline for the departure of Rwandan refugees from Tanzania now over, some 480,000 people are reported to have returned home. AFP quoted UNCHR as saying some 50,000 still remained in Tanzania, and around 450 continued to trickle into Rwanda on a daily basis. Tanzanian radio reported that 360 Burundian and Zairean refugees in Kigoma, on Lake Tanganyika, were arrested on Monday night during a special crackdown on the town. Regional commissioner Alhaji Ahmed Lugusha said nine Tanzanians were also arrested for illegally harbouring refugees in their houses.
Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, in a New Year message, pledged to continue with efforts aimed at restoring peace with the neighbouring countries of Zaire and Burundi. He also urged Tanzanians to boost agricultural and industrial production in a bid to end poverty and substitute imports.
In his New Year address, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni again reaffirmed that his country was not involved in the Zaire conflict and he urged the conflicting sides to resolve their differences through negotiations. Regarding the northern rebellion in his own country, Museveni said that "slowly but surely and irreversibly", Uganda was fighting the insurgency. "Even with the support of Sudan, we can defeat this insurgency," he said. "We can get this peace whether Sudan is with us or is not. We have the means to do so. We have been building up these means." "The bandits are clearly in serious trouble," he added. On the peace accord signed with Sudan, he stated that Uganda would continue with the peace process despite the fact that "before the ink was dry, Sudan was bombing Uganda". "For historical and geographical reasons, the Sudan and Uganda need each other and the sooner the government in Sudan discovers this, the better for our two countries," he stated.
Rebels in northwest Uganda attacked and looted property in the Arua area, including a communications system from a project aided by World Vision. The organisation's spokesman in Kampala Robby Muhumuza told AFP that some 500 rebels from the West Nile Bank Front(WNBF) attacked the project at Madi Okollo on Monday night. The state-owned New Vision newspaper reported on Tuesday that the army had killed 18 WNBF rebels in a surprise attack on a group of about 80 who were feasting on the roasted meat of stolen cows.
The Ugandan army claimed its forces had captured Zairean soldiers who were fighting alongside rebels of the Uganda Allied Democratic Front (ADF), the independent Monitor newspaper reported yesterday. The claim was made by western Uganda army commander Col Peter Kerim who said one of the soldiers was shot dead while trying to escape captivity and two others were being held by the army near the frontline. Kerim added that about 100 ADF members had been killed by the Ugandan army since it started its operation against rebel hideouts in the Ruwenzori mountains on December 16.
The trial of a former secondary school teacher accused of genocide crimes was adjourned on Tuesday until January 9 by a court in the Rwandan town of Bymuba. The court agreed to a request by Francois Bizimana for more time to prepare his defence, Rwandan radio reported. Meanwhile, Radio France Internationale said a military court on Monday sentenced a senior Rwandan army officer to 18 months' imprisonment for his part in the massacre of Hutu refugees at the Kibeho camp, southwest Rwanda, in April 1995. Rwandan authorities put the number of dead at 300, while other sources said the figure was much higher, running into thousands.
Burundi President Pierre Buyoya urged Burundian refugees to come home, pledging to provide decent houses for returnees and to hold peace talks with "all Burundians" this month. In his New Year address, broadcast by Burundi radio, he said talks would be held to show the international community Burundi was not afraid of tackling its own problems. He said there should be no fear of talks with Hutu rebels "since we know that truth lies on our side". He added that the government had done everything possible to combat the regional economic sanctions against the country and the best way to overcome them was to "wait and see those outside Burundi become discouraged and divided". He stressed that the army was not fighting a tribal war, but "groups of killers whose aim is to kill along ethnic lines".
Nairobi, 2 January 1997, 13:00 gmt [ENDS]
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Date: Thu, 2 Jan 1997 16:03:13 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes:IRIN Update 70 for 2 Jan 1997 97.1.2 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970102155634.4063Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Ali Dinar, firstname.lastname@example.org