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IRIN Emergency Update No.75 on the Great Lakes (Thursday 9 January 1997)
# President Mobutu Sese Seko arrived in France today. Following his operation for prostate cancer in Switzerland Mobutu convalesced in his French Riviera villa from November 4 to December 17 1996.
AFP reported that a Chinese military delegation arrived in Zaire for a four-day visit that included talks with President Mobutu, Defense Minister General Likulia Bolongo and armed forces chief of staff General Mahele Lieko Bokumgu. No details of the talks were available.
Zaire denied reports of foreign mercenaries in Kisangani. However, sources in the French community in Zaire and senior Zairian dignitaries told Reuters that some 100 foreign mercenaries were training Zairian soldiers in Kisangani.
Last week Zaire's Defence Minister announced that the army would be cleaned up and mutinous soldiers punished. However, senior officials for Haut Zaire told Reuters that bands of several hundred soldiers continue to terrorize civilians in their region. Citing military sources, Reuters reported that the Zairian military command, following the in-house "clean-up", intended to launch a counter-offensive with a core force of 6,000 trained and disciplined soldiers. French sources told Reuters that Zairian soldiers in Kisangani had received token support from France but not enough to influence the anticipated conflict. They also claimed that foreign intermediaries were being used to pay Zairian troops in Kisangani.
Zaire's Central Bank has begun releasing new, larger denomination, bank notes with face values of 100,000, 500,000 and 1,000,000. Reuters reported that the new bank notes will be used to pay civil servants, many of whom have not been paid in several months. The new notes were printed in Germany, financed by Gecamines, the Zairian state-run mining giant. In June 1996, following months of hyper-inflation civil servants were earning the monthly equivalent of $5.75 US. Following last week's announcement of the release of the new notes the Nouveau Zaire (NZ) slumped against the US dollar, from 120,000 to 165,000 NZ to one dollar US. The bank justified the new notes stating that they keep up with inflation and are easier to carry. In a similar move in late 1992, a decision by Mobutu to pay salary arrears to soldiers in the then new 50,000 bank notes lead to the January 1993 riots and looting of Kinshasa.
# AFP reported an attack by 30 armed men on two civilian vehicles 60 km northeast of Goma on 8 January. One civilian was killed and six others injured. Several observers speculated that the attackers, who wore mismatched uniforms, may have been Zairian soldiers or members of the former Rwandan Armed Forces (ex-FAR), who are believed to be hiding in nearby forest areas. The attack came amid growing tension amongst the local population who fear a Zairian counter-offensive in the region. This attack followed a similar one in the same area on 4 January, suggesting that the rebels are not in total control, said AFP.
# The state-owned Ugandan newspaper "New Vision", quoting unidentified humanitarian aid workers from southern Sudan, claimed that Sudanese rebels from the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) had attacked the Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Some 40 LRA were reported to have been killed in the fighting. "New Vision" reported that Ugandan military sources had confirmed the report of fighting between the two groups. The SPLA has been battling against Khartoum since 1983. The Ugandan paper the "Monitor" reported that heavily armed LRA forces had re-entered Uganda from Sudan on 5 January. They ambushed an army patrol in Gulu a day later, killing one soldier and disrupting a government rally to explain the special anti-LRA protection measures set up by the government.
# AFP reported that the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda's 1994 genocide, based in Arusha Tanzania, began hearing testimonies on 9 January for the first genocide trial, that of Jean-Paul Akayesu, a teacher and former mayor of Giterama prefecture in Rwanda. Mr. Akayesu is one of 21 suspects to be tried by the International Tribunal, seven of whom are already in custody in Arusha. His trial initially started on 30 October but was postponed when his defense lawyer, US attorney Michael Karnavas, requested more time to prepare the case and complained that he had been denied access to prosecution files. The American lawyer has since been replaced by Nicolas Tiangaye from the Central African Republic. Mr. Akayesu pleaded not guilty. According to a humanitarian worker, the trial is expected to be lengthy as there are numerous witnesses who are likely to undergo prolonged cross-examination.
The American lawyer Mr. Karnavas complained that he had been removed from two cases against the will of his clients. Tribunal spokesperson Bocar Sy countered that the accused, not the tribunal, had chosen their lawyers from a panel of attorneys.
# UNHCR confirmed that there are some 87,000 Burundian refugees in Ngara district, 89,000 in Kibondo district and 63,000 in Kasulu district of Tanzania. Some 600 Burundian refugees are reported to be arriving daily from Burundi.
# Jean Flamme, the secretary-general of Avocats sans Frontieres (Lawyers without Borders) told Reuters that three lawyers from the international justice group would arrive in Rwanda on 11 January to open a permanent office in Kigali. He also indicated that more lawyers could be sent out if it is deemed necessary. They will help in the defense of Hutu suspects accused of genocide crimes, 90,0000 of whom are being held in Rwandan prisons.
According to a UN Human Rights report cited by AFP the maltreatment of prisoners in detention and interrogation centers is increasing as well as incidents of illegal arrests.
# UNHCR spokesperson stated that some 1,300,582 refugees have returned to Rwanda as 5 January, including 722,064 from Zaire. A further 330,000 refugees have been located in the Shabunda and Lubutu areas of eastern Zaire. UNHCR cautions that there are likely other, as of yet, unidentified groups of refugees hiding in Zaire. On 6 January, a new group of some 4,500 refugees emerged from a previously unknown location northwest of Bukavu, of whom approximately 1,700 have already repatriated via Cyangugu border since Wednesday with others expected to follow. The refugees claim there are others hiding in the Bukavu forest area.
# UNICEF has expressed concern over the deteriorating state of health and rising malnutrition, linked to food shortages andto a lesser extent disease, among 180,000 refugees in the Lubutu area, 170 km southeast of Kisangani. UNICEF reported that there are some 810 malnourished children in several UNICEF/MSF special feeding programmes. UNICEF said the death rate for the affected population rose from 2.1 to 3.8 per 10,000 from January 2 to the 7th. AFP quoted a UN spokesperson as saying 23 deaths had been recorded on Monday alone.
The local population and internally displaced Zairians are also being adversely affected by food shortages in the area following the arrival of the 180,000 refugees. Food shortages have lead to conflicts between local and refugee populations as well as the looting of farmers' fields. The food shortage is further aggravated by the difficulty in transporting food over badly deteriorated roads to the affected area and poorly maintained airstrips which limit transport to small cargo planes. WFP is reported to have provided 250 tons of food with another 700 tons waiting in Kisangani for delivery. However, the food aid covers only 10 to 20% of the required needs.
UN and NGO agencies working in the Lubutu area have expressed concern over the unusually high percentage of young males in the Tingi-Tingi camp. Humanitarian workers indicted to Reuters that a significant number of the men may be members of the Hutu ex-FAR or Interhamwe militia and, as in the former Kivu refugee camps, they continuing to control the refugee population through intimidation.
ICRC, who withdrew expatriate workers from Shabunda on 24 December, announced that they will return to Kindu as soon as possible to hold talks with authorities and discuss its resumption of activities in the area once the security situation has been stabilized. It is deeply concerned about the plight of the refugees in Shabunda.
UNHCR has recently established a 19-member team in Kisangani to cover refugee needs in the region. The Zairian government has told UNHCR that permanent camps are not an acceptable solution. UNHCR is exploring alternative solutions including the possibility of a land corridor for repatriation. However, the current position of the refugee camps, situated in a potential war zone between ADFL rebel forces and Zairian troops, makes this unlikely in the near future. The option of re-locating refugees to a more logistically accessible location, for both food delivery and repatriation, is also being explored.
# In Kenya Chief Magistrate William Tuiyot told a Kenya daily newspaper that seven Rwandan refugees, who had been in custody since 31 December for being in Kenya illegally, were released in order to permit them to contact the UNHCR for assistance.
# Medical officials told AFP that a cholera epidemic in Bururi, southern Burundi, had infected 150 people, killing ten. The last cholera epidemic in 1992 also affected the same area. Burundian officials claim the epidemic is linked to the sabotaging of public water facilities by Hutu rebels, forcing people to drink untreated water from Lake Tanganyika. NGOs are meeting with government officials to draw up a plan of action.
Nairobi, 9 January 1997, 14:30 gmt [ENDS]
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Date: Thu, 9 Jan 1997 18:37:50 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 75 for 9 Jan 1997 97.1.9 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970109183023.13662Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Ali Dinar, firstname.lastname@example.org