Great Lakes: IRIN Update 91, 1/31/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 91, 1/31/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 91 on the Great Lakes (Friday 31 January 1997)

# Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni admitted on Thursday that Uganda was on the brink of war with neighbouring Sudan, reported AFP. "We have run out of solutions. We are now seeking a solution on the battlefield," he said. Sudan has routinely accused Uganda of aiding Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels, declaring earlier this week that Uganda was a "third party" to a "plot" by Eritrea and Ethiopia to destabilize the country. Uganda, as well as Ethiopia and Eritrea, continues to deny involvement in the civil war. Kampala in turn has accused Khartoum of supporting the Ugandan rebel group Lord's Resistance Army (LRA); most recently with air drops of food on 21 January. Museveni's recent remarks followed allegations from Sudan, that Uganda and Ethiopia were backing the SPLA rebel forces, which claimed on 29 January to be moving closer to the strategic Roseires power station, in the Blue Nile province 475 km southeast of Khartoum. A military spokesperson for Khartoum denied the rebels' claim that they were within 30 km of the power station.

Museveni has not excluded the possibility of a last-minute peace conference, but efforts to resolve the growing crisis through the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional grouping, have been unsuccessful, said AFP. The SPLA, lead by John Garang, claim their objective is to end the dominance of the Arabic and Moslem north over the largely Christian and animist south. In recent years the SPLA has found further support among northern Sudanese opposition politicians who oppose the current Islamist government. Taking advantage of the dry season, SPLA rebels began their advance on 12 January from Eritrea and Ethiopia into the Blue Nile province in an offensive that has claimed two towns, Kurmuk and Qessan. The governor of the Blue Nile state told the government daily 'Al Engaz al-Watani' that hundreds have been killed and some 45,000 people had fled the two towns, reported AFP.

# The Zairean Minister of Foreign Affairs Kamanda wa Kamanda on Africa No 1 radio, Libreville, repeated his remarks to the UN Security Council on 29 January, "Zaire is not an isolated country on the planet. This is also not the first time that Zaire has had to cope with an aggression. While the Security Council organizes itself, reassesses the situation and finally makes the necessary decisions demanded by the circumstances, Zaire has the right to defend itself, and this is precisely what we are doing." According to AFP, Honore Ngbanda Nzambo, President Mobutu Sese Seko's security adviser, also called on the international community to act saying, "Now that our neighbours put us in a war situation they must assume responsibility for their actions."

ADFL leader Laurent-Desire Kabila denied Zaire's allegations that Ugandan and Rwandan troops had recently joined forces with the ADFL but admitted that "they (Rwanda and Uganda) support us politically," and were "very friendly." He also admitted, according to AFP that arms had reached the ADFL through "neighbouring countries". Kabila further denied any ties with the Tutsi-dominated Burundi government saying the allegations were an attempt to internationalize the conflict.

According to an AFP report, Zairean forces are deployed on two fronts from Kisangani to Bukavu in the south, and around Bunia or Butembo in the north. Citing the Kinshasa press, AFP reported that General Mahele, the armed forces chief of staff, was still in Kinshasa and continued to face serious logistical problems for the counter-offensive.

ADFL rebels claim to have repulsed FAZ forces at Lulimba south of Bukavu. On the western front they claim to be just outside of Shabunda, west of Bukavu. On the northern front Kabila claims his troops are heading for Nia Nia and Watsa, which are close to the Ugandan and Sudanese borders. Given the restricted access to these zones, none of the claims cannot be independently confirmed. However, the mercenary leader Tavernier himself, according to diplomatic sources, alleges that Watsa in northeast Zaire is "under attack". Humanitarian sources in eastern Zaire confirmed that there was fighting along the Bukavu-Shabunda axis and near Amisi. Rumours and actual fighting have also resulted in a significant movement of refugees from Kibereketa and Kasese, 150 to 190 km west of Walikale, through the transit centres at Punia on to the Lubutu area.

# In a meeting between humanitarian agencies and the Zairean government this morning, Zairean authorities have requested the suspension of humanitarian activities in Lubutu, eastern Zaire. Food aid to Tingi-Tingi and Amisi had already been severely curtailed because of a recent increase in the trend of military "borrowing" of the privately leased cargo aircrafts. Food aid to the refugee site at Amisi, sheltering some 40,000, has become almost impossible as private companies are afraid their planes would be commandeered by the Zairean military.

Moreover, the Zairean government's restriction on flights from Entebbe, Uganda to Kisangani, the operational base for humanitarian aid to refugees trapped in eastern Zaire, has also hindered food aid deliveries. A WFP spokesperson said an alternative arrangement to fly food out of Mwanza, Tanzania, direct to Kisangani is being implemented. WFP has also arranged to exchange its contracted Boeing 707 for an IL-76 which has a larger cargo capacity. The necessary authorizations have been secured for the Mwanza/Kisangani route and the first flights are expected in about a week. In-country food stocks at Kisangani are estimated at 500 tons, which will cover some of the needs until the operation out of Mwanza can commence. Humanitarian aid workers have expressed concern for refugees in Amisi, which is near the frontline. The Zairean government had previously refused to move the refugees, requesting instead that Tingi-Tingi refugees be relocated to Amisi. UNICEF reported that the number of refugees in the camp outside of Lubutu had grown from 120,000 to 150,000, following an escalation in fighting between ADFL and Zairean forces. Most of the new arrivals who passed through Punia are from Mugunga camp near Goma and the Bukavu camps. The main problem continues to be malnutrition resulting from a shortage of food. From January 23 to 26 one hundred deaths were recorded, 99 of which were children under the age of five. Several new cases of cholera have also been reported.

# ICRC has expressed concerned about the state of health of thousands of Rwandan returnees who continue to emerging from hiding near Bukavu, Zaire and have been crossing at the Cyangugu border post in south-west Rwanda since 8 January. According to ICRC, some 300 people were admitted to Cyangugu's two hospitals, which are now full. Most of the vulnerable people were children, some 60% of whom were showing signs of malnutrition, according to ICRC. Humanitarian workers in Bukavu report that ADFL rebels have issued orders limiting the refugees' stay in the Bukavu transit camps to two days before being forced to move on to Rwanda.

# The trial of Froduald Karamira, former vice-president of the Hutu party MDR-Power and a leader of the Interahamwe militia, began on Tuesday amid heavy security. Karamira who was extradited from Ethiopia in June 1996 is the most senior genocide suspect tried to date by the Rwandan justice system. The trial is being conducted in Kinyarwanda and translated into French for Karamira's lawyer, a Beninois. Karamira's trial was followed on loud speaker by crowds outside the courthouse and is expected to be closely watched by many in Rwanda who view him as a traitor. Karamira was born a Tutsi but changed his ethnicity to Hutu. Rwanda's history is rich with such changes, mainly Hutu converting to Tutsi ethnicity, when the label 'Tutsi' and 'Hutu' were more representative of an economic status than just ethnicity. Charged with category one genocide crimes, Karamira will face the death penalty if found guilty.

Reporting on Thursday's proceedings Reuters said witnesses accused Karamira of inciting violence through repeated radio broadcasts. "Karamira not only killed people during the genocide but even before. I would say that he caused all the attacks purely through his broadcasts on RTLM (extremist Radio Mille Collines) and all his political announcements through MDR-Power," Safili, a former deputy leader of a moderate wing of MDR told the court. Karamira, earlier told Reuters he doubted the court's ability to dispense justice. According to humanitarian sources, during the trial today, Karamira alleged in court that it was the RPF that was trying him, not the state. He said there were no other parties functioning in Rwanda. Moreover, he said he was appearing as a politician (vice-president of MDR) and therefore rejected any civil damages. Lawyers representing genocide survivors also appeared in court, seeking damages.

The first nine cases to be tried have all been convicted and received the death sentence for genocide. Some 90,000 suspects remain in Rwanda's overcrowded prison system. ICRC reported about 1,900 new arrests over the last recorded week, more than double the previous average. # The Tanzanian authorities yesterday confirmed their 27 January agreement for a new shipment of fuel for humanitarian agencies working in Burundi. This is first such exemption to the regional embargo since late October 1996. UN agencies and NGOs working in Burundi had used up most -- and in some cases all -- of their fuel supplies, and some operations had been scaled down as a result. One example is the postponement of the third round of a UNICEF-supported national vaccination campaign.

The exemption allows for 100,000 litres of diesel, 50,000 litres of petrol, 25,000 of kerosene and small quantities of oil, grease, brake and transmission fluids and cleaning solvent to be delivered overland from Tanzania. These amounts -- once they arrive -- represent much less than a months' supply for operations in Burundi, and are intended only to bridge the gap until the next regional sanctions meeting, due to be held in Lusaka, Zambia on 9-10 February 1997. The Regional Sanctions Coordinating Committee (RSCC) is expected to agree on a monthly quota for humanitarian agencies at the Lusaka meetings. Black market prices of fuel in Burundi have tripled since the imposition of the regional embargo.

# In a statement read on Radio Burundi on Thursday, the Burundian government criticized the recent report by the UN human rights mission in Burundi. The government claimed that the UN experts had not travelled inside the country to verify their information but wrote whatever they "heard in telephone conversations or read in articles" criticizing Burundi. According to government spokesperson Ndayicariye, "the first thing which surprises us is that most of the report's content is false. Secondly, we say that those who wrote the report disregard the fact that Burundi is at war. Some of the authors seem not to want the war to end."

Amnesty International claimed that hundreds of refugees returning to Burundi from Tanzania and Zaire in recent weeks have been massacred. The statement followed the visit of an Amnesty International delegation, lead by former Canadian Foreign Minister Flora MacDonald, to the region. The subsequent report argued that the "events of the past few months have been marked by a shocking disregard for the rights, dignity and safety of refugees." The report claimed that the repatriation of refugees from Tanzania and Zaire was not voluntary, that the conditions in Rwanda were not "ripe" for a large-scale repatriation and that UNHCR "encouraged and welcomed" these developments, thus failing in its protection mandate. The report also drew attention to the large number of refugees and displaced people currently within Zaire and set forth recommendations for their protection. [IRIN is seeking comment from UNHCR for inclusion in a later update.]

Burundian officials continue their efforts to woo neighbouring countries in an effort to remove or circumvent the sanctions imposed following the military coup in July 1996. Congo is the only country to date to openly resume commercial ties with Burundi. As a result, Air Burundi now offers a twice weekly commercial flight from Bujumbura and Brazzaville.

The state owned Air Burundi has also demanded that MSF-Belgium pay the company $7,000 US in "royalty" fees or be denied the right to fly medical supplies into Burundi. The four MSF chapters support health centers and hospitals in eight of the fifteen provinces. MSF has issued a press release protesting the demand for royalties and has said it will be reconsidering its assistance to the Burundian health care system if it does not receive an exoneration for the fees.

A WFP spokesperson said the UN agency would, by the end of this week, finish food distributions to some 80,000 "regroupees" being held in regroupment camps in Burundi's Kiruzi province. The distributions were initiated following a recent study, which indicated that the nutritional situation among regroupees would deteriorate rapidly without food aid intervention.

As part of its strategy to eliminate Hutu rebels, the Burundian government has initiated a programme of regrouping thousands of peasants, primarily of Hutu ethnicity, into "regroupment' camps while military operations are conducted in the area. The regroupees held in these camps have little or no access to food or proper sanitation and water facilities. The detainment has also prevented many from harvesting or planting their fields. Humanitarian agencies have expressed concern for the people held in other regroupment camps many of which they have been unable to access due to insecurity or government restrictions on their movements.

# The Government of Kenya has declared that the drought in northern and eastern Kenya is a state of natural disaster. The decision enables the government to waive import duties on essential relief commodities and an announcement was expected today clarifying which commodities will be exempt from import taxes. UN agencies and donors have pressed for the tax on maize imports to be lifted to encourage commercial importation of maize to meet an estimated shortfall of 1.3 million tons over the coming months.

Nairobi, 31 January 1997, 15:30 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: Fri, 31 Jan 1997 19:21:29 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 91 for 31 Jan 1997 97.1.31 Message-ID: <>

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

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