Great Lakes: IRIN Update 85, 01/23/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 85, 01/23/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
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IRIN Emergency Update No.85 on the Great Lakes (Thursday 23 January 1997)

# International pressure to have the regional economic sanctions against Burundi suspended or lifted is gaining momentum. A German parliamentary delegation, currently visiting Burundi, said the sanctions were of no benefit and that Burundians themselves should find solutions to their own problems. Speaking to the press, after meeting Pierre Buyoya, the MPs said they would urge their parliament to support peace programmes in African countries, national radio reported. South African President Nelson Mandela's special envoy is also in the country on a week-long visit during which he will have talks with top officials. Heightened concern has been expressed by the UN and NGOs over the dire fuel supply situation: a direct consequence of the regional embargo. Faced with the refusal of the Regional Sanctions Coordinating Committee (RSCC) to act upon new requests for fuel supplies exempted from the embargo, one UN official remarked that "we're running on fumes".

UN agencies have consistently warned that unless action to remedy the situation is taken soon, they may be forced to buy fuel on the black market or suspend operations. If this happens 150,000 displaced people, returnees and other vulnerable groups will not receive the basic food rations they require to survive. Additionally, 60,000 malnourished children under five will not be provided with supplementary food in health centres throughout the country and some two million hospitalised people will not receive essential drugs and other medical supplies. Hundreds of thousands of people will also be affected by the non-distribution of seeds, fertilisers, water and sanitation supplies. Essential vaccines in cold storage, needed to treat some 190,000 children, will have to be destroyed.

However the Organisation of African Unity stuck to its position in favour of maintaining sanctions against Burundi. In a statement issued yesterday in Addis Ababa, following a meeting of its conflict prevention committee, the OAU claimed sanctions should continue because of a "multiplication of human rights violations" in Burundi. In particular it highlighted the recent killing of some 120 returnees from Tanzania by the army. The Burundi authorities have said the returnees, forced out by Tanzania after trouble in the camps, were members of the outlawed Hutu rebel movement, Palipehutu. The OAU committee also announced it was sending a fact-finding mission to Zaire and other nations in the Great Lakes region.

With mounting concern over the fate of Burundian refugees in Tanzania, the state-owned Tanzanian 'Daily News' on Tuesday reported that police had discovered the bodies of 14 Burundians buried near a refugee camp in the Ngara area. Local authorities believed the refugees had been buried alive and that the killers lit a bonfire over the gravesite to camouflage it. As a result, police had increased security in the Tanzanian camps which shelter some 230,000 Burundian Hutu refugees.

Tanzanian President Mkapa told a visiting Amnesty International delegation that his country was well aware of the situation in Burundi and would not force out the refugees. He said the 126 refugees who went back to Burundi had refused to abide by Tanzania's refugee regulations and had "volunteered" to return. "The Tanzanian government was not involved in any way in forcing these people to return to Burundi," he told the AI team.

# A former UN military official with extensive experience in Rwanda warned that security incidents in the northwest of the country may just be the tip of the iceberg. Noting that the Ruhengeri and Gisenyi areas have always been the heart of Hutu extremism, he pointed out that ex-FAR/Interahamwe may resort to their often-used tactic of mining roads as aid agencies pull out of the troubled regions and travel up from Kigali instead. A possible response by the RPA would be to move some of its integrated ex-FAR soldiers into those sectors, as in the past they have proved effective at convincing Hutu civilians to support the Rwandan government.

In a hard-hitting statement yesterday, Rwandan Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana pledged to put the perpetrators of violence "out of action". Measures had been taken to counter the spiral of violence, which he described as a "provocation that calls for tough intervention and a riposte without delay". "Those who have taken to the art of killing ... will find they face a resolutely determined government, ready to act and strike equally hard to discourage their intentions," he said. According to AFP, Gasana added that his government did not want aid agencies to pull out because they were doing valuable work.

Thousands of refugees, thought to be emerging from the forests of eastern Zaire, have been crossing into southwest Rwanda from Bukavu. The ICRC said since January 8 nearly 2,000 people a day had been crossing the border, arriving around the town of Kamembe. UNHCR said a total of 30,000 returnees had arrived as of January 22, malnourished and generally in very poor shape. >From the Nyagatare transit centre, they were walking on to their home communes, with the most vulnerable being taken in trucks. It is probable that yet more people are crossing the border.

# Medecins du Monde (MDM) have pulled out most of their staff in Rwanda, following the murder of three Spanish employees in Ruhengeri. Three French volunteers remain in Kigali. MDM workers throughout the world observed a minute's silence in memory of their Spanish colleagues, who appear to have been specifically targeted by gunmen dressed in khaki fatigues. Three Rwandan soldiers were also killed. The Rwandan vice-president's political adviser, Claude Dusaidi, said three ex-FAR soldiers were in custody in connection with the incident. On Sunday, a security guard was killed following an attack on the CONCERN compound in Ruhengeri. Dusaidi said the army was sealing off the area in a bid to contain the violence and flush out the perpetrators. Following the killing of the MDM workers and speculation about a Zairean counter-offensive, some NGOs in eastern Zaire have been scaling down their operations. MSF have reduced their staff in Tingi-Tingi camp, while Action contre la Faim (ACF) has suspended its activities there. # Zairean ADFL rebels yesterday denied that number two in the alliance, Commander Andre Ngandu Kisase, had been killed. Reports earlier in the week claimed Kisase had been killed by Mai-Mai militia in an ambush near Butembo on January 8. However a rebel commander, interviewed on ADFL's Radio of the People, described the reports as "absolute lies", saying Kisase had been injured and was receiving care. "Very soon you will see he is back to normal," the commander said. The denial followed Monday's announcement by Zairean Premier Kengo wa Dondo that a "war" would be waged to regain rebel-occupied territory in eastern Zaire. The Zairean authorities appear to be launching a campaign to raise morale in the country. Army chief General Mahele Lioko has set up a command post at the airport in Kisangani and reports from the town say disciplined troops are now guarding public buildings. Military sources, quoted by AFP, said the latest element in Mahele's morale-boosting efforts was the court martial and subsequent death sentencing of 14 officers for cowardice. The soldiers have appealed, but the sources believe the sentences will be carried out to make an example of them.

# Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has returned to the war front to continue the military campaign against rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army in the northern Gulu area. A report in the Kenyan "Daily Nation' newspaper today said army commander Maj-Gen Mugisha Muntu was also in the area where new military strategies were being worked out. Their visit north comes amid conflicting reports of civilian massacres allegedly committed by LRA rebels early this month. According to official sources, 40 people were killed but independent assessments put the figure as high as 300, the 'Daily Nation' said. Coinciding with Museveni's departure north, came claims in the state-owned 'New Vision' on Monday that rebels were planning a major offensive against government troops. The article alleged that Sudanese fighter planes were dropping food supplies to rebel positions in the Gulu and Kitgum areas.

Sudan yesterday accused Uganda of a troop build-up along the southern front of their common border. The troop reinforcements were "within the framework of the acts of aggression to which Sudan is being exposed," Sudanese Information Minister Brig. Dr Tayyib Muhammad Khayr claimed, according to Sudanese radio. He added that his government had made "all necessary arrangements to confront every act of aggression against the southern border".

# Two of the major players in the Great Lakes conflict, President Museveni and his French counterpart Jacques Chirac, are set to discuss the deteriorating situation in the region on February 11. Museveni will stop off in Paris en route from Washington where he is to attend a UN credit summit. According to Museveni's press secretary Hope Kivengere, economic ties were expected to take centre stage but regional security would also form part of the agenda.

# Mohammed Sahnoun of Algeria looks set to be named the joint UN-OAU special representative for the Great lakes region. If the post is approved by the Security Council, it is proposed he report to the secretaries-general of both the UN and the OAU in order to strengthen coordination between the two organisations.

Nairobi, 23 January 1997, 15:00 gmt [END]

[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, 23 Jan 1997 18:48:10 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 85 for 23 Jan 1997 97.1.23 Message-Id: <>

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

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