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IRIN Update 96 for 7 February 1997
# A WFP spokesperson said that their UN compound in Lubutu, Zaire has been surrounded by Zairean soldiers (FAZ). Six Zairean staff members remain in the compound and are being denied permission to leave and one staff member was reportedly beaten by soldiers. The spokesperson said that WFP understands that the situation in Lubutu was delicate "but hoped the situation would be resolved quickly and be sympathic to the fact these people are aid workers." The FAZ has reportedly confiscated radio equipment.
Following the mass exodus of refugees and humanitarian staff from Shabunda, a joint UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, and Federation mission visited the governor of Maniema to discuss the situation and receive authorization to do overflights to locate the fleeing Shabunda refugees. Flying over the area en route to Kindu, small population movements were sighted near Matili located en route to Kalima. The governor authorized more surveillance flights for today.
No NGOs were able to get to Amisi yesterday and some were turned back en route to Tingi-Tingi by Zairean army soldiers (FAZ), who claimed that the FAZ was engaging ADFL rebels near Lubutu. A decision was taken to reduce the presence of humanitarian workers at Tingi-Tingi. A further withdrawal of remaining expatriate and national workers is in progress today. In the event that the refugees become trapped in rebel held territory, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region, Martin Griffiths, has initiated discussions with concerned agencies and authorities on contingency planning for a movement of refugees from the areas of Tingi-Tingi and Amisi through rebel-controlled areas to Rwanda, should the opportunity arise.
Sources on the ground reported that at least some of the local population of Shabunda welcomed the ADFL rebels as a "liberating" force. However, other sources reported civilians fleeing. The rebels reportedly left a small military presence in Shabunda before moving on. According to sources in Punia this morning, the town had not yet fallen to ADFL rebels. In Lubutu, military sources indicated that two military helicopters had delivered 76 wounded FAZ soldiers to the local hospital yesterday. Sources on the ground report an increase in the incidence of vehicles being "borrowed" by the FAZ to evacuate their families. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the elements of the refugee population are being armed by the FAZ to fight the rebels. Moreover, with the retreat of FAZ forces, humanitarian sources also noted a resurgence of the anti-UNHCR sentiment among former DSP/Contingent soldiers, who had been previously employed by the UN to provide security for the refugee camps in the Kivu regions. UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, arrives in Kinshasa today, and discussions on outstanding issues regarding the Contingent were already planned with the Zairean authorities.
Zaire began reinforcing troops and equipment on two fronts, near Kisangani and Kalemie, on Wednesday to block ADFL advances, a senior defence ministry official told Reuters. The mercenaries fighting with the FAZ remain deployed further north at the Watsa airport, although the town itself had fallen to ADFL rebels late last week. A director of the Sizarail company told Reuters at its headquarters in Kinshasa that trains were getting no further than Nyunzu, 150 km west of Kalemie and east of the Kabolo T-junction on the Lubumbashi-Kindu line. Sources from the area believe that the ADFL may find reinforcement or encouragement among a local Banyarwanda ethnic group, the Batabwa, settled south of Kalemie, who have historic links to the Banyamulenge.
According to local sources, both Lubumbashi and Kinshasa remain calm despite the significant rebel advances. Reuters reported that the recruitment campaign to enlist 26,000 teenage soldiers got off to a slow start in Kinshasa. Mobutu, who spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Morocco, is reported to be on his way back to Zaire.
Radio 'Voix du Zaire' in Kinshasa announced that Gerard Kamanda wa Kamanda, the deputy prime minister in charge of foreign affairs, this morning received the Angolan ambassador to Gabon, Bernardo Dombele M'Bala, who bore a message of friendship from his foreign minister to his Zairean counterpart. The Angolan government reportedly expressed solidarity with the Zairean people who are facing foreign interference in Zaire's internal affairs.
# ADFL leader Laurent Kabila continued to call for a negotiated solution to the conflict. According to the Kinshasa opposition daily 'Le Potentiel', Kabila has proposed former and fellow Lumumbist Antoine Gizengo as interim-president, opposition leader Etienne Tshisikedi as interim prime minister and himself as vice-prime minister and minister of defence. Both Gizengo and Tshiskedi, whose political roots date to the 1960 independence, are members of the opposition forces in Kinshasa and have advocated for a negotiated solution. Zaire has repeatedly dismissed Kabila's offer to negotiate, saying Zaire does not negotiate with "puppets".
# Radio 'Voice of Israel' in Jerusalem reported that Israel is freezing its defence ties with Zaire in view of the difficult domestic situation in that country. This clarification was made after a senior official at the Kinshasa Defence Ministry said that China and Israel would assist Zaire in setting up and training new commando units to fight rebels in eastern Zaire. Isreal initially trained Mobutu's elite presidential guard (DSP).
# US Secretary of State Madeline Albright urged neighbouring countries, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, to stay out of the escalating conflict. A senior US official said: "President Museveni's position yesterday was that, well, there were just some border clashes because actually there were insurgents on the Zairean part of the border attacking Uganda and therefore Uganda had to respond -- it's kind of a hot pursuit issue," said Reuters.
# Humanitarian sources reported three attacks on agency compounds situated in Kigali, Rwanda on Tuesday night. Two guards were beaten in one attack, but no other injuries were reported. ICRC Nairobi confirmed that it is freezing its operations in Rwanda, for ten days as of yesterday. Some non-essential staff will be put on stand-by on Nairobi while others will remain in Rwanda. ICRC, until this decision, had around 120 expatriate staff in Rwanda, its largest programme in Africa. It will continue to evaluate the security situation.
Nairobi, 7 February 1997, 12:30 gmt [ENDS]
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Date: Fri, 7 Feb 1997 16:13:20 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 96 for 7 Feb 1997 97.2.7 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970207161127.4270Uemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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