Great Lakes: IRIN Update 81, 01/17/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 81, 01/17/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

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IRIN Emergency Update No.81 on the Great Lakes (Friday 17 January 1997)

# UN and NGO sources point out that there is a growing human catastrophe in Burundi, which has gone largely unnoticed due to crises elsewhere in the region. One UN official described the situation as the "most critical emergency" in the Great Lakes region. Continuing economic sanctions against Burundi are rendering relief operations virtually impossible, with one of the greatest difficulties being the refusal of the Regional Sanctions Coordinating Committee (RSCC) to acknowledge requests from humanitarian agencies for the exemption of more fuel supplies. The numbers of forced regroupments into camps by the authorities are also said to be on the increase, making life difficult for people who are thus denied access to their land. The problem is exacerbated by inadequate medical facilities, shelter and the lack of potable water. The repatriation of refugees from conflict zones elsewhere in the region is also compounding the Burundi issue. Returnees are received at a transit camp outside Bujumbura, from where they are pressured to return almost immediately to their homes in the war zones they were trying to escape. Gaining access to the returnees by relief workers is extremely difficult.

# Burundi's Foreign Minister Luc Rukingama yesterday alleged that some countries imposing sanctions on his country had done so in a bid to prevent peace ever returning to Burundi. Speaking on the BBC's Kirundi service, he urged the international community to push for revoking the embargo. He accused certain countries of "provocation" by "returning criminals to Burundi without informing us". Referring to last Friday's incident in which some 120 refugees were killed upon being sent back by Tanzania, Rukingama repeated that the soldiers who had gone to meet them flew into a panic after a woman returnee threw a hand grenade towards them. He again stated that the returnees were members of the Hutu rebel group, Palipehutu, but stressed that the security forces should avoid the recurrence of such incidents. "However, we also appeal to the international community to do its best to prevent refugees outside the country from crossing the Burundi border to kill Burundi citizens," he added.

# Yesterday at 15:00 local time the governor of Kisangani, eastern Zaire, informed humanitarian sources that the temporary restriction on the air route between Kisangani and Amisi/Lubutu had been lifted. WFP recommenced normal operations with a cargo flight to Amisi this morning.

The assistant High Commissioner for Refugees announced that the UN is negotiating with Zaire to arrange voluntary repatriation by air of the most vulnerable refugees among the more than 200,000 Rwandans currently trapped near Lubutu and Shabunda in eastern Zaire. UNHCR hopes to negotiate with Zaire and Rwanda a secure land corridor to facilitate the repatriation of refugees who are healthy enough to walk back to Rwanda. The senior UNHCR official, also told Reuters that there was no question of sending people back to Burundi after last week's massacre by Burundian troops of 122 Hutus expelled from Tanzania. The UNHCR hoped Tanzania would allow thousands of Rwandan refugees still in Tanzania to be screened to determine whether they want to go home or seek asylum.

# Tensions in Kinshasa are growing following last week's introduction of new larger denomination banknotes. AZADHO, Zaire's main human rights organization, told Reuters that it had called for the withdrawal of the banknotes because of their potential social consequences. The last introduction of new banknotes led to the January 1993 riots and looting of Kinshasa. Radical opposition leaders have also called for a boycott of the new bills. Many moneychangers refuse to touch the new banknotes claiming that people are reluctant to accept them. Moneychangers said that the reduced circulation, partly because of the boycott, had allowed the exchange rate to stabilize around 160,000 NZ to the dollar over the last few days.

# The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, yesterday continued the trial of the first defendant, Jean-Paul Akayesu, a former mayor of Taba commune in Gitarama prefecture. During the hearing, he personally questioned a witness who had accused him of torturing her and killing her son and daughter-in-law. The witness, known as "N" for her own protection, testified the previous day that Akayesu had held two rallies to encourage Hutus to exterminate Tutsis. The prosecution will call a total of 30 witnesses for the Akayesu case. The court's rules allow suspects to interrogate witnesses themselves; however, following yesterday's sitting the court ruled that the accused could no longer cross-examine witnesses. The presiding Judge Laity Kama gave the ruling as part of a decision to prevent Akayesu from dismissing his two lawyers after he twice fired previous counsel. Rony Zachariah, a doctor with aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) which was based in Butare in April 1994, testified that he had seen hundreds of corpses and scores of Tutsis being killed by militia units in a series of incidents.

Meanwhile, four more suspects will soon be transferred to Arusha from Cameroon where they had been in detention, following a decree signed by President Paul Biya. AFP said two of the suspects, Colonel Theoneste Bagasora and Andre Ntagerura, were close to former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana whose death in a mysterious plane crash sparked off the 1994 genocide. The third suspect Ferdinand Nahimana was in charge of the Hutu extremist Radio Mille Collines which incited ethnic hatred, while the fourth Col. Anatole Nsengiyumva, was a former head of military intelligence under Habyarimana.

# According to AFP, the Ugandan government denied allegations that it was massing troops on its northern border ready to launch an attack on Sudan and instead accused Khartoum of harbouring expansionist ambitions. The Ugandan Minister of Defence Amama Mbabazi said, "These are the usual allegations by Sudan against Uganda," accusations which could be a ploy by Khartoum for possible aggression against Uganda. Both sides continue to accuse the other of supporting rebel movements in the other's territory. Sudan claims Uganda is supporting the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) which recently captured the town of Maban on the southern front of the Blue Nile region. Ugandan accuses Sudan of assisting the Lords Resistance Army (LRA).

Nairobi, 17 January 1997, 15:00 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: Fri, 17 Jan 1997 17:30:50 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 81 for 17 Jan 1997 97.1.17 Message-Id: <>

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

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