Great Lakes: IRIN Update 87, 01/27/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 87, 01/27/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

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IRIN Emergency Update No.87 on the Great Lakes (Saturday-Monday 25-27 January 1997)

# Well-placed sources informed IRIN today that there has been intensive fighting around Walikale, including fixed-wing aircraft bombing raids. The sources indicated that the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) were still putting up resistance to the Zairean counter-offensive, and that the effect of bombing raids on the forested area was minimal. Many inhabitants of Walikale town have reportedly fled to the surrounding areas.

The ADFL strenuously denied that Walikale had fallen to government troops. Two reports in quick succession, broadcast by rebel radio (monitored by the BBC) on 24 and 25 January, accused the government of "psychological warfare". The commander of the rebel Armed Forces for the Protection of the Congolese People, a little-known ally of the ADFL, Col Francois Kipulu Waluwalu, asserted that Walikale was still under rebel control and claimed Zairean forces had lost 3,000 men since the war began. On 24 January, the radio said the government was "engaged in a war of nerves through a media campaign". Rebel radio also reports fighting at the Oso river bridge between Walikale and Lubutu.

Mystery surrounded the whereabouts of rebel commander Andre Ngandu Kissasse, described by Col. Waluwalu earlier this month as "equivalent to 21 Zairean generals". Sources in eastern Zaire reported that Kissasse had been evacuated to Kampala along with Kisase, who according to rebel radio reports, had been wounded. Some reports say that Kisase had died in the Ugandan capital.

According to Belgian daily Le Soir, a Belgian mercenary, Christian Taverniers, has admitted leading a force of 280 soldiers of fortune, equipped with combat helicopters in eastern Zaire. France continued to deny military involvement in Zaire and a foreign ministry spokesman contended that any French mercenary in Zaire was operating on a private basis and had no connection with French policy. AFP reported that some Zairean press reports accused the western media of "hypocrisy" by highlighting the fact that Zaire was using mercenaries while ignoring the alleged use of Rwandan, Burundian and Ugandan troops by the rebels.

Zaire meanwhile again rejected holding any dialogue with the rebels and a statement broadcast on national radio Saturday following a cabinet meeting, reaffirmed Kinshasa's resolve to recapture all territory under rebel control. The statement also again accused Rwanda and Uganda of aiding the rebels. Regional analysts point out that should the rebels start losing ground to government forces, it may be unlikely that Rwanda and Uganda will stand by and watch.

Aid agencies continue to experience logistical problems in the refugee camps around Lubutu and Shabunda. WFP reported that some 550 families from Kaseke/Shabunda arrived in Tingi Tingi on 17 January, and refugee groups were still arriving in Shabunda from Katshungu. About 150 cases of diarrhoea are being diagnosed every day in Tingi Tingi, some of which are reported to be cholera cases. Humanitarian agencies are still being denied road access from Bukavu to Shabunda, and access to northern areas from Bukavu is restricted to 115km along the Bunyakiri road. Lack of access to affected populations and insecurity have been identified by UN agencies as the key operational problems in eastern Zaire at present.

In Shabunda, refugees are spontaneously settled at three locations on the left bank of the Ulindi river, while displaced Zaireans are said to be living in poor conditions among the local population. Between 13-19 January, 12,855 people repatriated from Bukavu - an increase of almost 30 percent compared to the previous week, WFP said. However, further north in Goma, the rhythm of repatriation appeared to have been slowed down by general insecurity. In the same week, a total of 864 refugees repatriated, signifying a decrease of 43 percent compared to the previous week.

WFP also reported that the first overland consignment of food from Zambia (200 tonnes) arrived in Kisangani today. Another 250 tonnes are on the way. The food travelled 2,000 km by train, truck, barge and ferry.

Referring to the appointment of a UN special representative for the Great Lakes, Zairean Foreign Minister Gerard Kamanda wa Kamanda stressed his government wanted domestic issues, such as the democratisation process and elections, treated separately from Great Lakes issues. Zaire, therefore, had told the UN Secretary-General it wanted separate envoys to tackle the two issues. Kamanda wa Kamanda was in New York last week and was due to meet the prospective UN/OAU special envoy for the Great Lakes, Mohammed Sahnoun.

# Residents and bar owners in Bujumbura have hailed an announcement to ease the curfew in the Burundi capital. In an apparent indication of reduced tension in Bujumbura, national radio on Saturday said the curfew had been relaxed by two hours and would now begin at midnight local time. The measure coincides with a national debate which kicks off in Burundi tomorrow. Speaking on Gabonese Africa No.1 radio, a government spokesman said the debate "excludes no-one", although the authorities have said that groups, such as the banned National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD), must renounce violence before they can participate. According to the radio, the main opposition party FRODEBU and three other parties grouped under the Forces for Democratic Change have refused to take part in the debate.

Rwandan radio meanwhile reported yesterday that a FRODEBU delegation, led by its chairman Jean Minani, had just paid a visit to Rwanda and held talks with President Bizimungu and Vice-President Kagame, during which they discussed the economic embargo against Burundi. They agreed that solutions could not be found through fighting. Minani said FRODEBU would also be visiting other countries of the region such as Uganda and Kenya, noting this did not mean mediator Julius Nyerere had been bypassed, only that the Burundi issue was of concern to all countries who imposed the embargo.

Nyerere himself, in an address to mark the 25th anniversary of the International Peace Academy in New York, acknowledged that peace efforts in Burundi had been largely unsuccessful. He argued that ethnicity was not a sufficient explanation for the conflict as ethnic groups had previously lived side by side and intermarried. He said he believed the root of the conflict lay in economics. "The fight for power is mainly a fight for economic resources. Ethnicity is simply being exploited," he claimed.

The authorities in Burundi have denied allegations that troops massacred 400 civilians in the province of Muramvya earlier this month. Army spokesman Isaie Nibizi described the reports, which quoted alleged eyewitnesses, as "absolutely and completely false". On January 5, the eyewitnesses said, soldiers and displaced Tutsis allegedly shot or hacked to death the civilians in Bukeye commune. "Nothing happened in Bukeye on January 5," Nibizi affirmed.

# Insecurity continued to dominate news from Rwanda with reports late Friday that a gang of some 21 unidentified gunmen attacked a secondary school in Bumba, Mabanza commune, Kibuye prefecture, killing a night watchman. Radio Rwanda said local residents were cooperating fully with the security forces. In the troubled northwest Ruhengeri area, UN human rights monitors were still assessing the extent of the government's security sweep and terror acts by armed gangs.

# Major Western donors have written off one billion US dollars' worth of foreign debt, owed by Tanzania, expressing satisfaction with Tanzania's economic reforms. Acting Finance Minister Daniel Yona said the decision was taken by the Paris Club countries last Tuesday. He added that the remainder of the debt - $17 million US - would be repaid before the end of June. However, the move by the Paris Club would be meaningless if the government failed to collect revenue fully and if production continued to be low, he warned.

# In a bid to persuade Ugandan rebels inside Sudan to surrender, the Ugandan army has delivered thousands of letters to rebel camps stating that a presidential amnesty still stands, the state-owned New Vision newspaper reported Saturday. An army officer told the newspaper that the armed forces would give protection to any member of the West Nile Bank Front (WNBF) who gave himself up. AFP said the army's attempt to talk the rebels out of the bush comes amid reports of escalating rebel activity in the West Nile. Sixty members of another rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), managed to reach the outskirts of Kasese town in the southwest, but were beaten back by the army, a Ugandan military official said on Saturday.

Nairobi, 27 January 1997, 15:40 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: Mon, 27 Jan 1997 18:57:55 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 87 for 25-27 Jan 1997 97.1.27 Message-ID: <>

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

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