Great Lakes: IRIN Update 95, 2/6/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 95, 2/6/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
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IRIN Emergency Update No. 95 on the Great Lakes (Thursday 6 February 1997)

# Tens of thousands of refugees yesterday fled the Shabunda camp in eastern Zaire after reports that ADFL rebels had captured the nearby town of Katshungu, some 45 km to the northeast. According to UNHCR, some 40,000 Rwandans packed up their belongings and were thought to be heading west in the direction of Kalima and Kindu. A UN-chartered plane was expected to overfly the area today to try and locate the refugees. A small UNHCR plane bringing in blankets and food was surrounded by about 150 people demanding to be flown out and police twice fired into the air to disperse the crowd. UNHCR, which has been the only agency working in Shabunda since late December, said the mass exodus occurred a day after four days' worth of food had been distributed. A food warehouse and hospital in Shabunda were looted, allegedly by local people, as the refugees were leaving. About 7,000 Zaireans were also reported to have fled Shabunda. The town reportedly fell to ADFL rebels at 17:00 yesterday, two and half hours after the final evacuation of humanitarian workers. WFP announced that a joint WFP-UNHCR mission was on its way to Kindu to meet the local governor and attempt to determine the exact location of the fleeing refugees.

An unconfirmed report from humanitarian sources in the area reported that Punia had also fallen around 15:00 yesterday. Punia was the site of four refugee transit sites sheltering refugees fleeing from fighting in the east towards Lubutu, 130 km further north.

Small groups of refugees are said to be leaving Amisi camp, but as yet there has been no indication of a mass departure from the camps of Tingi-Tingi and Amisi, despite reports that the rebels are closing in on the area. WFP said that a 3-4 day food distribution to these refugees started on 31 January and ended yesterday. WFP yesterday yesterday welcomed a decision of the Zairean government to allow the use of foreign-registered aircraft to deliver food within the area, and the granting of permission to resume flights from stockpiles in the region to Kisangani. According to unconfirmed reports, two aid agencies working in Amisi were turned back or pulled out of Amisi today due to insecurity.

# This latest development in eastern Zaire's refugee situation comes ahead of UNHCR chief Sadako Ogata's visit to the Great Lakes region today. Ogata, who will spend 10 days in the region, told Reuters on Tuesday that the world had lost interest in the plight of the remaining refugees. After the mass exodus at the end of last year, the international community "breathed a collective sigh of relief", she said. Pointing out that UNHCR's work in eastern Zaire was not easy, she expressed the need for international support. "But I don't see very active international support. All this time, the world has lost interest in these refugees."

# As the rebel advance appeared to be gaining momentum, Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko held talks in Rabat with King Hassan of Morocco late yesterday. No details of the discussions were immediately available, but Mobutu is widely thought to be requesting military aid from the Moroccan government to help put down the rebellion. In 1977, Morocco helped Zaire quell an uprising in Shaba province, then known as Katanga.

# Condemnations of the murder of five UN human rights monitors in southwest Rwanda began flowing in, amid discussions by aid officials in Kigali on how best to handle the increasingly precarious security situation. The Rwandan government, which blames Hutu insurgents for the killings, expressed disgust over "the action of these thugs". Vice-presidential adviser Claude Dusaidi claimed the attack had been targeted against government ministers who were in the area on a sensitization mission. The government has launched a campaign to try and reconcile Hutu returnees with their Tutsi neighbours. Dusaidi urged the UN not to suspend operations in the unstable western areas of the country. "What the United Nations should do to assist in finding these people and controlling them, is to give us more funds and more help. We need this for security purposes - radios, communications and fighting equipment," he said. "It would mean we could have more gendarmes, more communal police and be in more places." He warned of further attacks. "These people are criminals. I do think they will come back and it could happen again."

France paid tribute to all those working to restore peace in Rwanda and said it "strongly condemned" the upsurge in violence, while the American ambassador in Kigali expressed regret that "terrorist violence" had claimed the lives of more humanitarian workers. "We deplore this senseless act, which appears to be designed to draw Rwanda further into a circle of violence," he said, according to Rwandan radio. He added that the USA remained committed to working with the government and people of Rwanda to bring about peace and reconciliation. Few details have emerged about the killings, which occurred two days ago when gunmen opened fire on two UN vehicles transporting the observers in Karengera commune, Cyangugu. The UN is holding an investigation, as are the local authorities in Cyangugu prefecture, according to Rwandan radio.

In response to the insecurity, aid agencies began scaling down their operations in Rwanda. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies announced it was relocating most of its delegates from Kigali. Twenty-five staff members would leave for Nairobi in the next two days, the Federation said in a press release issued yesterday. A skeleton staff of six delegates would remain in Kigali until operations could be resumed. Following the government limitations on using NGOs to monitor and distribute food in the communes, the Federation was already in the process of scaling down its emergency operation.

The international aid group Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) told AFP it has also pulled its expatriate workers out of two western Rwandan provinces, Cyangugu and Kibuye. "The programs are continuing, as far as possible, with local staff," said Alex Parisel, an MSF official in Kigali. MSF will be meeting in Brussels on Thursday to decide on their future course of action.

Nairobi, 6 February 1997, 14:50 GMT


[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: Thu, 6 Feb 1997 18:00:06 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 95 for 6 Feb 1997 97.2.6 Message-ID: <>

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

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