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IRIN Emergency Update No.74 on the Great Lakes (Wednesday 8 January 1997)
# Following Monday's denial by Paris, of French troops in the eastern town of Kisangani, Le Monde reported that retired Colonel Alain Le Carro, the former head of the French GSPR presidential security cell, and Robert Montoya former gendarme from the anti-terrorist cell are allegedly linked to the recruitment of mercenaries for Zaire. Both men denied their involvement. Le Monde reported that there were some 200-300 soldiers, dubbed the "White Legion", stationed in Kisangani to train Zairian forces. Ten of their numbers are saided to be former French soldiers while others are alleged to be recruits from Belgium, Britain, Angola, Mozambique and South Africa. Le Monde said that their numbers are expected to increase significantly in upcoming weeks with the expected arrival of new recruits from Europe.The mercenary forces are expect to buy time for General Mahele to clean-up and reorganize Zaire's armed Forces.
Strongly denying any official involvement, a spokesperson from the French presidency told Reuters they had no knowledge of such a force. Another spokesperson from the French Defense Minister stated that the presence of former French soldiers "could in no way infer that there was a link with French policy in the region." Although France is known to support President Mobutu, it is prevented by the international arms embargo on Zaire from providing military aid.
The South African security firm Executive Outcomes denied all involvement in the recruitment of soldiers; however, Le Monde claimed that some of the soldiers were recruited from among their numbers. Former Angolan rebel chief Jonas Savimbi also denied that his forces were assisting Zairian troops in Kisangani.
On 7 January, rebel leader Laurent Desire Kabila told AFP that the Zairian army was carrying out "very deep reconnaissance" missions from Kisangani, some 500 km west of Goma, towards rebel held territory. In an interview with the Ugandan journal "The Sunday Vision" on 5 January Kabila also claimed that Zaire was using Hutu ex-FAR to fight ADFL forces.
According to a Reuters report the Zairian government continues to rule out negotiations with ADFL rebel leader Laurent Kabila despite the fact that many politicians in Zaire are increasingly in favour of a peaceful settlement.
While on a visit to Paris, the former Zairian Minister of Information in the 1960 government of Patrice Lumumba, and currently a member of the Zairian parliament, Anicet Kashamura, stated in a press communique that he has joined with rebel leader Kabila. Mr. Kashamura also called on the US, France and Belgium to support the ADFL against Mobutu's dictatorship.
In an address to soldiers the new army chief General Mahele claimed the army was waiting for a green light from President Mobutu to begin their counter-offensive. In stressing the point that the army would fight according to internationally accepted rules he stated, "We will not harm civilians, our target is known." Residents in the rebel occupied territory have expressed anxiety over how Kinshasa would view those who remained in the area, as collaborators or an occupied population. Despite the semblence of normalcy in Goma, an AFP report indicated that several residents had fled or had made arrangements to flee in the event of a successful counter-offensive by Zairian forces. Analysts believe that Kinshasa's view of the civilians in the rebel held territory could impact on civilian loyalty in the event of a counter-offensive.
# Reuters reported that Kabila's ADFL has set up a training camp for new recruits at Rumangabo, 60 km north of Goma. Despite the training of several thousand new recruits they have yet to be incorporated into the core of the ADFL forces which remain predominantly Tutsi.
In a further effort to reign in its former allies the ADFL ordered the arrest of key Mai-Mai leaders. Star Radio, the ADFL mouthpiece, said the orders followed recent fighting between the Mai-Mai and ADFL forces. The Mai-Mai are composed primarily of teenagers grouped into units from their home areas. They have a strong belief in magic fetishes which they believe makes then invincible in battle. The alliance between Kabila's disciplined Banyamulenge troops and local Zairian warrior groups was disrupted by the recent return of President Mobutu to Zaire and the announcement of a counter-offensive by Zaire forces. Since then, the Mai-Mai have been involved in attacks on civilians and more recently against the ADFL forces. Over the last few weeks Kabila has announced various unsuccessful initiatives, including disarmament and retraining, to control the Mai-Mai violence. Reuters reported that the Mai-Mai continue to mutiny. In Butembo some 33 people, including 20 Mai-Mai warriors, were killed in fighting over the past week with alliance forces. Similar skirmishes were also reported in Rwindi and Bunia, 100 km and 360 km north of Goma respectively. Analyst believe that the internal conflict between the Banyamulenge and local ethnic groups allied to ADFL brings into question the strength of the alliance in the face of a possible Zairian counter-offensive.
# Kabila told AFP that he has been in regular contact with four unidentified foreign companies who have concessions in the Kilo Milo gold fields near Bunia, which fell to ADFL forces over Christmas. Kabila had issued an ultimatum to companies with mining concessions to resume operations by 3 January or risk losing them. To date, Kabila claims no company has resumed its activities because of "warmongering in Europe". If they become operational they are expected to provide enough financing for the ADFL war effort and the payment of wages for civil servants in the occupied towns.
# Over the weekend, Kenya launched an operation to round up alleged Rwandan Hutu militants. However, a police source told AFP that no arrests had been made to date and that the operation had been halted until 9 January. Recent reports indicated that several Hutu refugees had arrived in Mombasa from Tanzania. Other Hutu refugees are reported to have been operating businesses in Kenya since fleeing Rwanda in 1994.
# According to the state-owned Ugandan "New Vision" on Monday, there was fierce fighting on Sunday between the UPDF and Ugandan ADF rebels in Kampasa, deep in the Rwenzori Mountains. The fighting is reported to have involved 1000 UPDF troops. Kampasa is about 40 kms from Bwera town, Kasese, high up in the mountains. The paper quoted a senior military commander as saying that Kampasa is `the real ADF base'.
# Radio Burundi reported the arrival on 8 January of the US envoy to the Great Lakes Region in Burundi. Nairobi, 8 January 1997, 13:35 gmt [ENDS]
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Date: Wed, 8 Jan 1997 16:22:45 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <email@example.com> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 74 for 8 Jan 1997 97.1.8 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970108161908.4522Afirstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Ali Dinar, email@example.com