Great Lakes: IRIN Update 89, 01/29/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 89, 01/29/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
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IRIN Emergency Update No. 89 on the Great Lakes (Wednesday 29 January 1997)

# Zaire said today that several thousand Ugandan soldiers had invaded eastern Zaire. A government communique, carried by AFP and Reuters, claimed that some 2,000 Ugandan troops had recently left Fizi, 300 km south of Goma, and where en route to Kalemie. The statement said, "two to three thousand men" were stationed on the Walikale-Kisangani axis in Haut-Zaire and a brigade of Ugandan troops armed with anti-aircraft missiles had positioned themselves in the Zairean town of Beni, 50 km from the Ugandan border. Ugandan authorities denied the allegations. The statement further claimed that the Allied Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) rebels had also received mercenary reinforcements from Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Diplomats in Kinshasa told Reuters that there have been several reports of both Rwandan and Ugandan troop movements into Zaire, but the numbers were significantly smaller than those reported by the Zairean government. On Tuesday, Belgium denounced the alleged presence of thousands of Rwandan troops in Zaire and reiterated its support for the territorial integrity of its former colony. "Over the past few weeks we have received a growing number of reports on the presence of Rwandan troops in Zaire," a spokesman for the Belgian foreign ministry told AFP. Humanitarian sources in Rwanda also report the movement of heavily armed troops towards the Rwanda/Zairean border. A Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman told BBC radio that the alleged Rwanda incursion was "totally unacceptable" and that it compromised Zaire's "territorial integrity". Claude Dusaidi, political advisor to Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame, also speaking on BBC, lashed back, saying the spokesman "probably doesn't know where Rwanda is", and said "he's gone mad", allegeing Belgium was "trying to draw Rwanda into a conflict with Zaire."

# Rwandan Vice-President and Minister of Defence General Kagame said he was concerned that the Zairean counter-offensive would spill over into Rwanda, said Reuters. He further stated, "At the moment it appears this is a fight the (ADFL) rebels are winning." ADFL rebels have allegedly been supported and financed by the Rwandan government.

In the event of a successful counter-offensive, analysts believe that the Rwandan prefectures of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi, which border on Zaire and are home to many thousand Hutu returnees, will become strategically important to the ADFL forces both as an area of retreat and a base for future operations. Sources in the area believe that the recent escalation in attacks and killings in the area involves both the Rwandan government and members of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe. While ex-FAR/Interahamwe forces have an interest in destabilizing and establishing contact points or bases in the area, the Rwandan government also has an interest in removing any potential support for ex-FAR groups hiding in Virunga Park some 70 km north of Goma.

According to Reuters, Rwandan troops have killed at least 80 people in a crackdown in Ruhengeri following last week's slaying of three Spanish nationals working for MDM. Little new information regarding the attack has surfaced as the guard of the MDM compound who was arrested by the FPR following the attacks is reported to have died in custody the following day.

Quoting a UN human rights report, Reuters stated that there had been a marked increase in the number of killings of Rwandan Hutus who had recently returned from Zaire and Tanzania. More than 60 returnees were murdered or gravely wounded in Rwanda from November 1996 to mid-January, with 42 killings occurring in January alone. In the bloodiest case, 31 returnees from Tanzania were reportedly beaten to death, killed with machetes, or hanged on January 9 by locals in southwest Rusumo Commune. In early December 1996, the report stated that Rwandan troops or state agents were behind the killing of 13 returnees to Kibungo region.

The UN report also said that since the mass return there were a number of reports of returnees being implicated in the killing of genocide survivors and witnesses.

Many former refugees have turned themselves in to local authorities for fear of reprisals. The number of arrests of suspected genocide perpetrators during the two-month period reportedly topped 6,800, said AFP. "The vast majority of these arrests...were carried out by non-competent authorities lacking proper warrants and have greatly exacerbated problems of overcrowding in certain local detention centres," the report said.

# According to a UN human rights report released today, the Burundian army has massacred hundreds of women and children in the last two months, said AFP. At least 1,100 people have been killed by the military or by Hutu rebels in the seven weeks from December 1 to January 22. Human rights observers said civilians had been the main victims of the increase in violence and military operations in the past two months.

# Speaking at a news conference on 28 January, Mohamed Sahnoun, the new UN-OAU envoy for the troubled Great Lakes region said he would seek to persuade Zairean Foreign Minister Kamanda wa Kamanda on the need for dialogue with the ADFL rebels. Although Sahnoun was not optimistic about the prospects for peace, he underlined the need for the international community to develop a "mini-Marshall plan" for the region, which could be implemented once the fighting had abated. A western diplomat told AFP that the international community, which has differing views and political interests in the outcome of the conflict in eastern Zaire, was likely to "look the other way" during the Zairean counter-offensive.

Ruling out negotiations with ADFL rebels, Kamanda wa Kamanda stressed that his government planned to recapture the rebel held territory. "We want to recover our territorial integrity, in order to organize elections this year throughout the entire country," he told AFP. Zaire's Foreign Minister is considered to be anti-Tutsi and was a key force behind the withdrawal of Zairean nationality from Tutsis living in the Kivu regions; a decision that helped to escalate the conflict that led to the 1996 flight of Zairean Tutsis to Rwanda and the creation of the ADFL. According to AFP, Kamanda wa Kamanda in his meeting with the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday, again reiterated his government's accusations that the fighting in eastern Zaire was an act of "aggression" by Rwanda and Uganda.

Sahnoun's mandate, which includes the promotion of peaceful settlements of the conflicts in the ethnically torn Great Lakes region, also provides for him to "help preserve the unity and territorial integrity of Zaire and to help restore that country's national institutions, including through support for the electoral process." Sahnoun is expected to report back to the UN Security Council, in a month and to prepare an international conference on the Great Lakes. Kamanda wa Kamanda said that his government favoured such a forum but the conference could only be held "after the withdrawal of all the occupying forces" from Zaire, said AFP.

Sahnoun plans to meet with Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko who is convalescing in France before heading to the Great Lakes region where he would see all the players in the conflict, including Zairean rebel leaders.

# The "peace quartet" of foreign ministers from Kenya, Zimbabwe, Cameroon and South Africa, who met in South Africa, announced they would hold talks with the Zairean government towards a resolution of the civil war, said AFP. The aim of the proposed "wide-ranging consultations" would be to entice all the implicated parties to the negotiating table. They hope to follow up with visits to Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, countries allegedly supporting ADFL forces. "At the moment that (the involvement of the other three countries in the conflict) is just speculation ... part of our investigation will be to ascertain the truth of these reports," the South African minister said. They have also not excluded the possibility of talks with ADFL rebels.

According to AFP, the ministers dismissed the possibility of a request for outside military intervention. Moreover, they called on "all countries, organizations and foreign nationals to refrain from military involvement in the conflict, which could lead to a further escalation of hostilities." The ministers are planning a fact-finding mission to Zaire and the conflict area but recognized that this may be difficult because of the restrictions imposed by the war. Following the fact-finding mission the ministers plan to arrange another summit, for which the date and venue have not yet been specified.

# A spokesperson for the Belgian foreign ministry condemned all mercenary activity in Zaire after Belgian mercenary Christian Taverniers admitted recruiting some 280 mercenaries to help the Zairean government recapture rebel-held territory, reported AFP. The spokesperson said that a 1979 Belgian law bars any Belgian subject from recruiting troops, enlisting in a foreign army or operating in foreign territory.

# The body of a white mercenary was returned to Kisangani over the weekend, witnesses told Reuters. Contrary to military claims that the mercenaries are in Kisangani to train Zairean soldiers, security sources said that many of the mercenaries had already been sent to fighting positions at the front. Sources close to General Mahele also claimed that European pilots were flying newly acquired MI12 Russian combat helicopters. Hundreds of veteran gendarmes who fought in the 1960's secessionist rebellions in Shaba have also been re-armed to fight alongside their former foe, the Zairean army. Kisangani inhabitants who were in radio contact with Bunia told Reuters that rebel positions in their town had been bombed over the weekend.

# UN agencies told Reuters it was concerned about the plight of the 40,000 Rwandan refugees trapped in Shabunda, now situated in the war zone in eastern Zaire. UNICEF said refugees were moving in small groups towards Punia, 100 km northwest of Shabunda. Some 17,000 refugees had already arrived by Saturday. Aid workers said that conditions in Punia were worse than Tingi-Tingi, the refugee site near Lubutu, which shelters some 120,000 refugees and has recently been hit by an outbreak of cholera -- 25-30 new cases daily.

# On 28 January, the same military court which last week sentenced 14 Zairean soldiers to death for "cowardice", sentenced a Zairean doctor to death for passing military secrets to ADFL rebels. Joseph Kanku Pinganay, who was arrested in 28 December, ran a dispensary in Nia-Nia, about 100 km east of Kisangani, where he had also founded a political party. He pleaded not guilty to the charge of informing ADFL rebels of government army positions during the government advance in the east, the head of the military tribunal told AFP. He has 24 hours to appeal the sentence.

# Amid persistent rumors that the government was about to unleash an air raid on the rebel stronghold of Goma, ADFL rebels claimed on Tuesday to have captured the southern town of Lulimba, 78 km south of Fizi near Lake Tanganyika, and were heading towards Kalemie -- the last government controlled port on the lake and a rail head to Shaba, said AFP. If confirmed, this would be the first successful rebel advance since the end of 1996.

Witnesses on Tuesday told AFP that about 50 armed men attacked two lorries transporting diesel fuel on Saturday, near Tongo some 60 km north of Goma. Observers said the unidentified assailants could be members of the ex-FAR or Interahamwe. They are believed to have taken refuge in this area after fleeing refugee camps more than three months ago.

Humanitarian sources report the circulation of the persistent, but unsubstantiated, rumour that inhabitants of the rebel-held towns will be treated as co-conspirators by the Zairean government. Bukavu inhabitants are reportedly preparing to flee into the surrounding forest while those in Goma are expected to flee to Rwanda.

# According to a communique from the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) the wife of exiled Zairean journalist Benjami Sham Shamg Lapong, was arrested with her three children by Zairean Security Service agents at her Kinshasa home during the first week of January 1997. The Security Service has refused to disclose her location. The arrest is believed to be in connection with articles written by Lapong that were published in the independent newspaper "La Tempete de Tropics". Lapong the former political editor of "Le Grognon", was arrested by the then army chief of staff, General Eluki, following a July 1995 article in which he predicted a war between Rwanda and Zaire. He escaped from prison a week after his arrest, fleeing to England where he applied for political asylum and has continued to write articles about Zaire for "La Tempete de Tropics".

# According to Gabonese Africa No 1 radio on 29th January, Zairean Prime Minister Kengo wa Dondo, citing the war and financial constraints, went before the High Council of the Republic-Transitional Parliament (HCR-PT) to announce the government's decision to postpone the constitutional referendum previously planned for February. As a result, the entire electoral timetable is expected to be substantially modified with the possible delay in the general elections scheduled for May. Opposition forces have denounced the postponement.

# President Moi of Kenya yesterday called a meeting of the representatives of diplomatic and UN missions in Kenya to appeal for international assistance to drought-affected areas in the country. The President stated that the number of people requiring famine relief is estimated to rise to 2.5 million and that interventions will be required in terms of food, seeds and fertilizer, transportation and distribution. He appealed to donor governments and agencies to assist in these sectors. During the meeting the President announced that the import tax on maize would be lowered by 30% between now and 30 June 1997. Donor governments and agencies have repeatedly expressed concern that the complete lifting of the tax would be required to stimulate commercial importations of maize and meet an estimated shortfall of 1.3 million tonnes over the coming months.

Nairobi, 29 January 1997, 16:30 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: Wed, 29 Jan 1997 19:50:42 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 89 for 29 Jan 1997 97.1.29 Message-ID: <>

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

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