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IRIN Emergency Update No.72 on the Great Lakes (Saturday-Monday 4-6 January 1997)
# Gabonese Africa No.1 radio reported that political disenchantment was growing in Zaire within the pro-presidential Political Forces of the Conclave alliance. In a despatch from Kinshasa, it said one of the parties, the Nationalist United Front (FUNA), had decided to leave the alliance in order to become an independent party to contest the elections. FUNA said it had lost confidence in the Political Forces of the Conclave, claiming the grouping lacked sincerity and transparency. The final straw, it said, was the reappointment of Kengo wa Dondo as prime minister "in defiance of the unanimous will" of Zaireans. FUNA would now become an opposition party and set up its own parliamentary group within the transitional High Council of the Republic. The opposition grouping Sacred Union (USOR) on Saturday announced it no longer recognised President Mobutu as head of state and said a civil disobedience campaign would be launched this month to end the president's rule. USOR president Mputu Ndibwe stated that activists must be prepared to shed blood for this cause.
Rebel leader Laurent Kabila today told AFP that 1,000 French soldiers were present in Kisangani to help the Zairean army, along with South African and Angolan mercenaries, the latter numbering some 2,000. However a French defence ministry spokesman denied the claim, stating that the only French presence in the country were five gendarmes attached to the French embassy in Kinshasa. Kabila added that up to 4,000 Zairean soldiers and elite presidential guards were deployed in a 30km radius around Kisangani, which he said was under curfew, preparing for the counter-offensive. Any assault would be crushed, he warned. Zairean army chief Gen. Mahele Lyoko, meanwhile, is reported to have started cleaning up the army, as announced by the defence minister last week. Gen.Likulia said "miscreants, cowards, looters and vagabonds" within the army must be eradicated. The government also reiterated its refusal to negotiate with Kabila.
Reuters reported that at least 11 people were killed in the Butembo area of eastern Zaire on Friday during ADFL factional fighting between the Banyamulenge and their hitherto allies from the Mai-Mai militia. Similar clashes were reported in the area earlier last week in which 22 people died. Kabila has said he will disarm the Mai-Mai and send them to training camps because they rape and brutalise civilians. Italy announced 90 missionaries had been evacuated to its embassy in Kinshasa from the Isiro region because of ongoing violence there.
UN in Kigali reported that ADFL rear positions were coming under military pressure from former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) units operating out of the Virunga National Park, as well as from Burundian Hutu rebels belonging to the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD). The FDD rebels are said to be planting mines and staging ambushes along the Goma-Bukavu route. Details are also emerging of security incidents last month in the Gisenyi area of Rwanda allegedly involving ex-FAR and Interahamwe infiltrators from the Virunga park who targeted local authorities and "collaborators". At least 10 people were reported killed, including two infiltrators and one Rwandan soldier.
# An African leaders' summit on the Great Lakes conflict, due to open in Zaire today, has been postponed, a spokesman for South African President Nelson Mandela said. Mandela is one of four African leaders - along with Kenyan President Moi, Zimbabwe's President Mugabe, and President Biya of Cameroon - mandated by the Nairobi summit last month to find a solution to the region's troubles. However, Moi went ahead with his visit to Zaire and held talks in Gbadolite today with President Mobutu, Kenyan television said. According to a BBC radio report, he was expected to urge the Zairean authorities to hold discussions with the rebels. Mandela's spokesman said another date for the summit would be set by a meeting of foreign ministers. # The Zairean Central Bank has issued three new bank notes worth 100,000, 500,000 and 1,000,000 new zaires, saying this was necessitated by demand within the monetary system. Radio France Internationale described the country's monetary problems as very sensitive, noting that the Zairean government often resorts to printing money when it is in difficulty.
# More genocide trials are due to be held in Rwanda on January 14, according to Rwandan radio. It said the defendants at the trials in Nyamata include Alexis Dusingize, a former deputy burgomaster for Kanzenze commune, and Anastase Mvunabandi, a driver. On the same date, Froduald Karamira, described by the Rwandan authorities as a ringleader of the massacres, is due to stand trial in Kigali. The human rights organisation, Amnesty International, meanwhile condemned the death sentences handed down by a Kibungo court on Friday to two genocide suspects, Deogratias Bizimana and Egide Gatanazi. It described their trials as "grossly unfair", noting they were in the dock for only four hours and had no access to legal counsel. The statement also questioned the competence, impartiality and independence of court officials.
# The Tanzanian authorities over the weekend arrested 75 more Burundian and Zairean refugees who left their camps in the Kigoma region. A total of 16 Tanzanians who were allegedly harbouring refugees in Kigoma town have also been arrested, Kigoma police commander Christopher Shekiondo said. Last week, 360 refugees from Burundi and Zaire were arrested in the town although a report on Radio Rwanda, quoting UNHCR, said they had been released and were waiting to be sent to refugee camps. The Tanzanian government had earlier threatened to repatriate them. Medical authorities in Kigoma announced that some 26 people died from cholera last year, and a further 290 had been affected by the disease.
# A report in the East African weekly today claimed an unknown number of Rwandan Hutu refugees, including ex-FAR and Interahamwe members, had slipped quietly into the Kenyan port of Mombasa after fleeing camps in eastern Zaire and Tanzania. Police authorities said any Rwandan refugees found in or near Mombasa would be arrested and deported, and anyone harbouring them would be abetting a crime.
# The same newspaper also wrote that Burundi was avoiding the effect of regional economic sanctions to some extent through widespread smuggling organised by astute entrepreneurs. The article noted how a convoy of 10 fuel tankers was seen driving towards Bujumbura, the number plates obscured by mud. Five of the tankers were said to have come from Rwanda, the other five from Tanzania. A ministry of commerce official acknowledged the smuggling operations, saying the high price of fuel was attracting all sorts of suppliers. According to the East African, petrol and diesel in Bujumbura cost between $2.50 and $3 a litre. Other commodities supplied through smuggling include Zambian cement, salt from Tanzania and household and health products from Kenya. The Tanzanian authorities have conceded that smuggling via Lake Tanganyika is difficult to control. OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim on Friday warned of a new refugee crisis if the conflict between Hutu rebels and the army in Burundi continued, and he urged neighbouring states to try and find a solution.
All first and second year students at Burundi's main university are to be called up for one year of military service in a bid to boost the Tutsi-dominated army. Most students at the campuses in Bujumbura and Gitega are Tutsis. The main Hutu-dominated party, FRODEBU, condemned the move as "national suicide", saying the solution to the country's problems lay in negotiations not war.
# Civilian traffic along the Gulu-Juba road in northern Uganda was held up for several hours on Saturday as the army fought fierce battles with rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army, Ugandan press reports said. According to the reports, fighting lasted several hours on four fronts outside Gulu town, and the Ugandan army claimed it killed four rebels and took two prisoners after fierce fighting west of Gulu. People arriving in Kampala from Gulu at the weekend confirmed that heavy clashes had taken place, telling AFP they had seen the army moving westwards with heavy weapons.
Over 200 people captured by the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) during raids in western Uganda have been released and have begun to arrive in their homes, the state-owned New Vision newspaper reported on Friday. They were among an estimated 400 people captured when the ADF raided Mpondwe, at the border between Zaire and Uganda, on November 13. Those released include the elderly, children, Zaireans and other non-Ugandans. The rebels are believed to be still holding able-bodied Ugandan men. One of the former captives, Kihuka Sondiyamwenge, told The Monitor newspaper (5.1.97) that recruitment and training by the rebels continues in the mountains overlooking Kambasa in Kitholhu sub-county. According to military intelligence cources cited in the New Vision, the ADF rebels are split between those under the leadership of Fanahasi Kisokeranio who want to surrender and another group led by Mr Ngaimako who want to continue fighting.
Panic was reported in Kasese town, western Uganda, last Wednesday after about 20 rebels were spotted near the suburb of Nyakasanga. In subsequent fighting one rebel was killed, while the rebels reportedly killed two people, according to The Monitor (3.1.97).
Nairobi, 6 January 1997, 14:45 gmt [ENDS]
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Date: Mon, 6 Jan 1997 17:48:06 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 72 for 4-6 Jan 1997 97.1.6 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970106174332.4501Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Ali Dinar, firstname.lastname@example.org