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IRIN Emergency Update No.88 on the Great Lakes (Tuesday 28 January 1997)
# As fighting continues in eastern Zaire, ministers from six African states and the OAU are holding talks in Pretoria, South Africa, to prepare for a summit on the Great Lakes crisis. The talks - which began on Monday - follow a summit in Nairobi on December 16 1996 where Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Cameroon were mandated to spearhead peace efforts. Kenya's Foreign Minister Stephen Musyoka chaired the meeting; others attending were South African Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo, Zimbabwe's Stanley Mudenge, Cameroon's Deputy Foreign Minister Francis Nkwain, Tanzania's Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete, Congo's Destin Tatsa- Mboungou, and the Organisation of African Unity's assistant secretary general, Daniel Antonio. Reuters report that South African foreign ministry officials hope to set up a summit of the presidents of the so-called "peace quartet", which are those of South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Cameroon. The four presidents hope to enter into dialogue with leaders in Zaire, Burundi and Rwanda.
# The "massive counter-offensive" threatened by the Zairean army appears to be severely hampered by the logistics of re-supply, report AFP. AFP say local sources link the slow-down of the government's counter-offensive to problems of resupplying troops with weapons and ammunition by air, as no ground corridor has been established. Observers also point to controversy regarding soldiers' salaries, as the end of the month approaches. Demoralised Zairean soldiers, who earn an average of one dollar a month, have not been paid in months and have already staged two rebellions in Kinshasa. Fourteen soldiers were sentenced to death in Kinshasa for cowardice last week (January 21).
# Rwandan Defence Minister and Vice-President Paul Kagame remarked today that while he was taking threats regarding the Zairean counter-offensive seriously, the Zairean government seemed to be "more talk than action". Kagame told journalists at Kigali airport that the ADFL rebels appeared to be winning. He was seeing off Benjamin Mkapa, President of Tanzania, following two days of talks on the Great Lakes region.
# Belgian Christian Taverniers, leader of the 280 white mercenaries reportedly spearheading Kinshasa's counter-offensive, has been quoted as calling for Kigali and Kinshasa to "reach a political solution before the hostilities really start". The Belgian daily Le Soir printed an interview with Taverniers on Monday, in which he suggested former Belgian Prime Minister Leo Tindemans as mediator. Taverniers claimed the white mercenaries were funded by Kuwait and consisted of "specialists" in bush and counter-guerrilla warfare; he said the force included Serbs and Croats but claimed there was no European power involved and that there were no Angolans or South Africans "in the game". The interview took an aggressive stance towards Rwanda, with Taverniers warning Rwandan Defence Minister Paul Kagame that Rwanda would not be attacked "if he withdraws his troops from Zaire". Taverniers was quoted by Le Soir as saying "even if there are Zaireans in the opposing forces, I consider that Rwanda and even Uganda are leading the dance". Christian Taverniers is reported to be a friend of one of Africa's most notorious mercenaries, Bob Denard, who twice briefly took over the leadership of Comoros Island in the last decade.
# US-based Refugees International says that continued fighting in eastern Zaire prohibits mass repatriation of remaining refugees and complicates the delivery of even the most basic assistance. According to a bulletin issued by Refugees International yesterday (Monday January 27) there are at least 200,000 refugees from Rwanda in Lubutu and Shabunda, eastern Zaire, "clinging tenuously to life", as well as unknown numbers of Zairean displaced persons. RI say those affected have been cut off from regular relief supplies of food and water and that declining health has led to deaths among the most vulnerable. Recommendations made by an RI assessment team include: immediate efforts by UN Special Representative for the Great Lakes Mohammed Sahnoun to negotiate a cease-fire; to avoid creation of permanent camps but supply minimum temporary assistance through an ad hoc structure created by relief agencies; expand access for relief fights; increase emergency assistance and equipment. RI documents the considerable obstacles in getting supplies into eastern Zaire, describing the poor condition of airstrips, the laborious transportation of sacks by bicycle and canoe, and the need for refugees to carry the sacks on their backs where vehicles fail to pass.
# A statement issued by UNHCR (24 January) stresses the problems of delivering aid to more than 200,000 refugees in Shabunda, Tingi-Tingi and Amisi. High Commissioner Sadako Ogata says that despite "best efforts" it is impossible to meet "even the life saving needs of the most vulnerable refugees". UNHCR says many refugees, especially children, have already died from malnutrition and disease. The statement underlines the fact that many refugees "remain under the control of the former Rwandan leadership, elements of which are armed". UNHCR states that seperation of refugees from armed elements "is even more difficult now than in the previous camps". The statement says that many of the refugees have indicated to UNHCR that they wish to repatriate to Rwanda, but are trapped by the conflict zone.
In the view of an unclassified cable from the US embassy in Rwanda, dated 21 January 1997, agencies should pull out [from Tingi-Tingi] and "stop feeding the killers, who will then run away to look for other sustenance leaving their hostages behind." The dispatch concludes "If we do not, we will be trading the children in Tingi-Tingi against the children who will be killed and orphaned in Rwanda". Having faced widespread accusation that aid to refugee camps between 1994-1996 in eastern Zaire was fundamental to sustaining armed groups and preventing repatriation, humanitarian organisations and donors feel sensitive about appearing to re-create similar situtions. Moreover, since the crisis of repatriation from eastern Zaire last year, the Rwandan government has stressed the need for available resources to go to re-integration.
UNICEF records deaths in Tingi-Tingi as a total of 27 on January 21 and a total of 21 on January 22. Out of these 48 deaths, 21 were under the age of five. 250 severely malnourished children are being fed in the therapeutic centre in Tingi-Tingi, and 2,300 children are receiving supplementary feeding.
# Burundian politicians opened a debate today to discuss the country's three year civil war; the debate was declared "national" but major parties, including all predominantly Hutu groups, boycotted the session. Rebels from the National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD) were not invited to the talks, and have been told to first renounce violence. Burundian leader, Pierre Buyoya, opened the four-day meeting in Bujumbura, which is intended to be the first step in a national debate lasting until March. Buyoya has been told he must talk to rebels before regional sanctions are lifted - which he has not complied with, but not ruled out. Buyoya said that regional sanctions were "killing' chances for peace rather than encouraging it.
Spokesman for CNDD, Jerome Ndiho, claimed in a statement sent to Nairobi today from Brussels that CNDD's armed wing had killed 61 army troops in the past nine days, reports AFP. Ndiho dismissed claims by the government that its forces had seized large numbers of rebel weapons in an offensive in Kibira forest, northwest Burundi, a known rebel hideout.
# A UNICEF-led inter-agency assessment mission visited northeast Kenya last week to investigate the current drought situation and its effects on the population, assess current relief assistance efforts and determine the scope of a future UN response. The mission, which visited Garissa, Isiolo, Wajir and Mandera districts, included the UN Resident Coordinator and representatives of the Office of the President, USAID, WFP and UNDHA/IRIN.
The failure of successive rains in the northeast has inhibited the regeneration of vegetation and led to water shortages for both humans and livestock. Water is scarce in the aridland of the northeast, and pans and dams are swiftly drying up, while boreholes are coming under pressure because of overuse and the inability of communities to afford diesel and spare parts. The lack of vegetation and water has lead to worsening livestock health and a dramatic fall in livestock prices, eroding the purchasing power of pastoralist communities. Malnutrition is on the increase and there are growing concerns over the health of vulnerable groups.
The mission recommended an escalated relief programme to address the drought situation, including interventions in the food, water, health and livestock sectors. The team have also set forth recommendations to the Government of Kenya, including the lifting of the import tax on maize, road improvements before the onset of the next rainy season, and measures to subsidize communities' efforts to pay for the costs of food transport, health care and education during the crisis period. A full mission report will be made available to the donor community in the coming weeks. Nairobi, 28 January 1997, 15:25 GMT [ENDS]
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Date: Tue, 28 Jan 1997 18:27:14 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 88 for 28 Jan 1997 97.1.28 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970128182448.20525Yemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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