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IRIN Emergency Update No.86 on the Great Lakes (Friday 24 January 1997)
# There have been conflicting reports on the number of people killed in the Rwandan army's clean-up operation in the northwest of the country following increasing violence in the region. Speaking on the BBC yesterday, Vice-President Paul Kagame said 80 people had been killed, including civilians, but NGO sources have spoken of hundreds of deaths. Observers from the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda (UNHRFOR) are currently visiting the communes to establish the extent of the sweep. Kagame's adviser Claude Dusaidi, in an interview with the BBC, said violence had intensified since the mass return of refugees to the country. The government was mobilising the people politically, he said, and military vigilance was being increased. Dusaidi denied reports that two of three people, taken into custody in connection with the killing of three Spanish Medicos del Mundo (MDM) employees in Ruhengeri, had died. In further remarks, broadcast by Rwandan radio yesterday, Dusaidi also categorically denied allegations that the Rwandan army was involved in the deaths of the aid workers.
Rwandan radio yesterday reported that two genocide suspects had committed suicide in Gisenyi prison. It named the two as ex-FAR soldiers Lt.Col Nzabanita and Lt.Innocent Nsabimana. They apparently used their clothes to strangle themselves while in a latrine on Tuesday. Their deaths were discovered after the prison guard went to investigate why they were spending so long in the latrine. A probe into their suspected involvement in the 1994 genocide was underway, the radio said. In a separate despatch, the radio said an ex-FAR major, his six children and a neighbour were killed on Wednesday in the Nyamyumba commune of Gisenyi prefecture. An investigation was being held into the incident.
As the Rwandan authorities launched their crackdown on Hutu extremists, army spokesman Emmanuel Ndahiro briefed the international community in Kigali on the measures currently underway. He said the number of soldiers in the area had been increased and patrols were working round the clock. Civilians had also been urged to cooperate with the military. "We assure you that we shall deal with this problem and...bring back the confidence you've had in us," he stated. A report by Amnesty International meanwhile, released today, warned that the "rushed and forced nature" of refugee returns could lead to increased human rights violations.
# The long-expected Zairean counter-offensive appears to be underway, with reports yesterday of the capture of Walikale from rebels of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL). The Zairean defence ministry announced that 100 rebels, including one of their leaders, were killed in the fighting, with 20 soldiers wounded on the government side. According to the statement, Zairean forces (FAZ) used air cover to deal a "deadly blow to the enemy". Gabonese Africa No.1 radio, in a broadcast from Kinshasa, said FAZ troops were now heading for Bukavu and Goma. It quoted a FAZ communique as calling on people to vacate the battle zones. "The counter-offensive will not spare anybody, and the war will be fought to the end, whatever the price," the statement said. Sources in Kisangani told AFP late yesterday that Zairean helicopter gunships staged raids on rebel supply lines near Walikale, destroying several trucks carrying ammunition to the rebels.
Commenting on the widely-reported presence of foreign mercenaries in eastern Zaire, the French daily 'Liberation' today alleged a Belgian was heading a force of 280 white mercenaries in Kisangani to fight alongside Zairean troops. The paper's correspondent in Kisangani said the Belgian, named Christian Tavernier, was a friend of French mercenary Bob Denard, and had been in touch with advisers of President Jacques Chirac, as well as with President Mobutu. The paper said Tavernier, described as in his sixties, had set up base at Watsa, a mining town 700km northeast of Kisangani. The mercenary force allegedly financed by Kuwait, included Serbs, Croats, Russians, Poles, Belgians, Italians and a "significant number of French".
Speaking ahead of the reported capture of Walikale, Zairean rebel leader Laurent Kabila had urged Goma residents to stop panicking over Zairean Prime Minister Kengo wa Dondo's announcement on Monday of a major counter-offensive in the east. "It seems people in Kinshasa will counter-attack, but why are you running away," Kabila told a news conference in Goma on Tuesday. However some aid agencies in north and south Kivu have begun scaling down their operations and some western embassies called on relief organisations to pull out altogether. Aid sources in Goma say the rebels have been requisitioning aid vehicles.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people trapped in eastern Zaire will be the worst-affected victims of a Zairean counter-offensive, coupled with reduced relief operations. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator Martin Griffiths described the plight of refugees and IDPs in the Shabunda and Lubutu regions as "dire" and warned that the situation could reach crisis proportions if the Kinshasa authorities prevented aid agencies from operating outside Kisangani. Humanitarian operations are being seriously hampered by the Zairean government's decision not to issue "sauf-conduit" permits due to the military operation. UNICEF said a total of 88 people, 47 of them children under five, had died in Tingi-Tingi between 15 and 19 January, mostly from malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea. It reported 5,907 unaccompanied children in Tingi-Tingi, and 1,500 in Amisi.
Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi yesterday urged ADFL rebels to withdraw from the key towns of Goma, Bukavu, Uvira and Bunia to avert "imminent war" in the area, Kenyan radio reported. Once the rebels had moved out of these areas "it will enable those concerned to seek solutions to the problem facing the Great Lakes region without further bloodshed," he was quoted as saying. He added that he was opposed to foreign intervention in eastern Zaire as this would escalate existing problems.
# The foreign ministers of four countries charged by the Nairobi-II regional meeting last month to oversee the Great Lakes conflict will meet in Pretoria, South Africa, on Monday and Tuesday. The Kenyan, South African, Zimbabwean and Cameroon foreign ministers will be joined by their Congolese and Tanzanian counterparts for what a Kenyan official described as a "brainstorming session". The OAU secretary-general has also been invited to the gathering.
# Diplomatic contacts with Burundi continued yesterday as Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu met Burundian leader Pierre Buyoya in the southern Rwandan town of Butare. Buyoya, who was accompanied by his foreign minister Luc Rukingama and defence minister Firmin Sinzoyiheba, held talks on the regional economic sanctions against his country. The two leaders also discussed the Great Lakes conflicts in general.
Meanwhile, concern continues to be expressed over the lack of fuel and difficult operating conditions for NGOs and the UN in Burundi. The existence of some 200 displaced people's camps has been reported in the country and there are heightened worries over conditions at the Maramvya camp, near Bujumbura. Over the past few weeks, hundreds of people have gathered spontaneously at the camp, with many suffering from severe malnutrition.
# Four major suspects in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 arrived in the Tanzanian town of Arusha yesterday where they will be tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The four, who were extradited from Cameroon, include Theoneste Bagasora, former defence ministry cabinet director who is accused of directing events in the first days of the massacres. The other three are a former transport minister Andre Ntagerura, a senior official of the extremist Mille Collines radio, Ferdinand Nahimana and a former lieutenant colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva. The four are now in detention in Arusha. Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour said the transfer of the four from Cameroon "marks a capital turning point for the credibility of the international tribunal".
Nairobi, 24 January 1997, 15:00 gmt [ENDS]
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Date: Fri, 24 Jan 1997 18:14:26 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <email@example.com> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 86 for 24 Jan 1997 97.1.24 Message-Id: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970124181110.490Afirstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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