Great Lakes: IRIN Update 80, 01/16/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 80, 01/16/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

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IRIN Emergency Update No.80 on the Great Lakes (Thursday 16 January 1997)

# More Rwandan refugees in eastern Zaire are coming forward to request repatriation. Missionary sources, believed to be working in Kingulube, 170 km east of Shabunda, said they had been approached by a group of refugees who claimed that some 1,500 ex-FAR and Interahamwe militia had recently left their camp heading east and northeast towards Walikale and Virunga National Park. The refugees alleged they had been controlled and intimidated against repatriating by the ex-FAR. Free of ex-FAR control, they were now requesting assistance to repatriate to Rwanda.

Humanitarian workers say refugee leaders in Shabunda continue to refuse all suggestions of repatriation for the present. As the refugee sites are organized along the Rwandan administrative lines, prefecture to commune, these leaders retain significant control over the refugee population. However, refugees themselves in Lubutu and Shabunda have informed missionary and UN sources that they are prepared to march back to Rwanda if they are provided with enough food and security guarantees. Most of them - except for vulnerable groups in the Lubutu area - are believed to be in relatively good condition to undertake such a trek. The health condition of refugees on the Shabunda to Kingulube axis is unknown. UNHCR hopes to send a mission out of Shabunda by bicycle or motorcycle to some of these sites within the next few days.

Refugees in both Lubutu and Shabunda originate from the South Kivu camps around Bukavu and Uvira. UN estimates of the Shabunda refugee population indicate that some 55% came from Uvira and 45% from Bukavu. Unlike their North Kivu counterparts these refugees were not permitted a safe corridor to return to Rwanda following the ADFL offensive. Uvira and Bukavu refugees were instead pursued by ADFL rebels westward, deeper into the forest. The South Kivu camps had a significant concentration of intellectuals and political elite.

Contrary to a BBC report, Kisangani airport remains open. However, the Zairean regional governor did announce the closure, for military reasons, of the air axis between Kisangani to Lubutu/Tingi-Tingi and Amisi for today and tomorrow. Tingi-Tingi contains some 120,000 refugees and Amisi some 40,000. Sources in the area indicate that the rebels have reconnaissance parties as close as seven kms to Amisi which is also the location of a strategically important bridge over the Oso river. Increased activities by Zairean soldiers have also been reported in the area. Earlier, the Zairean authorities had proposed moving all the refugees to Amisi. This would have placed a sizeable civilian population in the midst of either a rebel advance or a Zairean counter-offensive.

Yesterday a WFP cargo plane left the Lubutu area carrying several expatriate workers from the Lubutu /Amisi region. The plane arrived at Kisangani after the 17:00 curfew and was refused permission to land; it then flew on to Kinshasa. WFP also said two privately-leased 4x4 trucks were commandeered by the Zairean military yesterday and the WFP logo removed.

# In a bid to consolidate his gains, ADFL leader Laurent Kabila this week began a tour of rebel-held territory in eastern Zaire. Accompanied by his security aide Jean Kabongo, he left his Goma stronghold on Tuesday and flew to Bukavu. According to sources in Goma, quoted by AFP, he flew on to Bunia yesterday and may also visit Beni and Butembo.

# Continued fighting and looting in eastern Zaire have resulted in a stream of refugees crossing the border into the northwest Ugandan district of Arua, Ugandan radio reported yesterday. It said the number had reached 590 by January 6 and "thousands" more were poised to cross. Local officials in Arua had appealed to the national government and UNHCR for assistance. The returnees, mostly women and children, are for the most part Ugandans who were living in Zaire. Some West Africans and Zaireans have also crossed the border. The new arrivals said they were escaping excessive looting by Zairean soldiers retreating from the rebel advance.

# The Burundi authorities have accused Hutu rebels of the National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD) of massacring 22 people in the volatile northwest Cibitoke province. Defence Ministry spokesman, Col. Isaie Nibizi, interviewed by Burundi radio, said rebels launched an attack overnight Monday in Rugombo, killing 22 mostly women, children and old people with machetes and knives. Four more people were injured. Nibizi said the local governor and military officials had visited the area and helped to bury the dead. Nibizi also spoke about the incident in Muyinga province last week when soldiers opened fire on Hutu returnees from Tanzania, killing some 120. He said the returnees were from the rebel Palipehutu party "which is why the soldiers did not make any mistakes and why the incident took place". An investigation was underway, he added. UN officials report that the provincial military commander has been sacked and that human rights observers have been denied access to Kobero where the killings occurred.

# Burundian President Pierre Buyoya on Tuesday met political leaders, the first meeting of its kind since the unbanning of political parties last September. Speaking on national radio, Buyoya said the purpose of the meeting was to create a framework for regular political meetings and to discuss the forthcoming national debate. He described the national debate, scheduled for later this month, as "a clean page intended to bring Burundians closer together for discussions".

# Aid organisations yesterday warned that Rwanda will need tens of thousands of tonnes of food aid this year to cope with the massive influx of returnees. The Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Food Programme, in a report based on a December mission to Rwanda, predicted that the food shortfall during the first half of 1997 would be the equivalent of 141,000 tonnes of cereals. Commercial imports would only make up part of the deficit, the report added. It estimated that 81,000 tonnes of cereals and 33,000 tonnes of vegetable products would be required during the first six months of the year to feed more than 2.5 million people, or a third of the population. The report also warned that Rwanda needed a huge input from donor countries to rehabilitate the agricultural sector otherwise it would remain heavily dependent on food aid for the next few years. [For further information on food security in the region, please see IRIN paper dated 23 December 1996.]

# UN human rights operations have been temporarily suspended in southern parts of Rwanda's Gisenyi prefecture following an attack on staff members three days ago. A press release issued yesterday by the Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Rwanda said activities had been temporarily suspended in the Kabaya and Ngororero sub-prefectures. According to the statement, four members of the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda (HRFOR) were attacked by 10 unidentified armed men, although no serious injuries were sustained. The incident is under investigation by the local authorities and HRFOR. All other UN operations in Gisenyi continue as normal, the statement added.

# Tanzanian police have launched a crackdown on Rwandan refugees who tried to flee deeper into the country rather than face repatriation. A total of 6,354 refugees who ventured into forests in the Ngara region had been apprehended by Tuesday and handed over to Rwandan officials at the Rusumo border crossing. Ngara District Commissioner Evans Balama said the crackdown would continue until all aliens had left Ngara. He urged local residents to assist the police in flushing out the refugees. Balama added that the operation had also resulted in netting 8,441 Burundians who entered the country illegally. They had been transferred to the Lukole refugee camp in Ngara district. An exercise to transfer 60,000 Burundians from Kitali camp to Lukole also began on Tuesday.

#### Please note IRIN will hold its weekly UN/NGO information meeting tomorrow morning, Friday, in Nairobi at 0900. ####

Nairobi, 16 January 1997, 14:30 gmt [ENDS]

[Via the UN DHA Integrated Regional Information Network. The material contained in this communication may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN DHA IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]

Date: Thu, 16 Jan 1997 17:30:42 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 80 for 16 Jan 1997 97.1.16 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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