UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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IRIN Emergency Update No. 97 on the Great Lakes (Saturday 8-Monday 10 February 1997)
# Aid workers and journalists in eastern Zaire are ringing alarm bells about the deteriorating nutritional status of refugees in eastern Zaire, after expatriate workers were evacuated from the largest camp on Friday evening. Expatriate aid workers in Lubutu, servicing Tingi-Tingi camp, were evacuated following an increase security incidents linked to government troops (FAZ). On Friday, all humanitarian aid workers had evacuated with the exception of some localstaff from World Food Programme and a local NGO, CEZPA - who remained behind to attempt continued delivery of food aid to an estimated 130,000 Rwandan refugees in Tingi-Tingi camp. As of Monday, aid agencies had permitted their staff to return to Tingi-Tingi during daylight hours only. Although no reasons were advanced, CEZPA announced that it was pulling out of Tingi-Tingi. A WFP staff member said it will now be assisted by UNHCR and CARITAS in its food distribution. Thousands of refugees have been arriving at Tingi-Tingi from the Amisi camp. They are being regrouped by the FAZ at a seperate site from the Tingi-Tingi refugees and no agenices has been able to verify their numbers or condition.
Some 15-20,000 refugees who fled Shabunda last Wednesday have been located in Kalima, 145 km east of Kindu. A joint UN mission, which landed at Kalima airstrip, is in contact with the Kindu governor and local missionaries to determine the refugees' health and food security situation and to examine possible assistance options. In an overflight of Punia another 2,000 possible refugees were identified. The whereabouts of the remaining 20-25,000 refugees is at present unknown.
AFP reports that government troops were "undisciplined". The World Food Programme issued a statement from Lubutu on Sunday expressing concern over "the precarious condition" of people in Kisangani and Tingi-Tingi camp, following a visit by a UN delegation on Friday. WFP said efforts to deliver food were being hampered by logistical problems, insecurity and financial constraints.
# UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, visited Tingi-Tingi camp and Kisangani on Saturday. The Commissioner negotiated the visit after holding talks with senior Zairean officials in Kinshasa on Friday. AFP reports refugees staging a hostile reception, carrying accusatory banners and demanding greater protection and assistance.Hundreds of refugees - primarily from vulnerable groups - are reported to have died in the overcrowded camp. Reuters, however, described the Commissioner as recieving "a heroines welcome". Mrs Ogata in a press conference after the visit said the ultimate solution was for the refugees to return to Rwanda. She said UNHCR was holding talks with the Zairean authorities on facilitating access to the camps, and said that blaming UNHCR was "totally incorrect".
On Friday, the Commissioner was reported as saying that hundreds of thousands of displaced people should be assisted to return home, on planes or through security corridors. Last week Mrs Ogata floated the idea of a police force to patrol the camps and seperate the armed extremists from ordinary refugees; seperation remains a key issue. Mrs Ogata flew to Nairobi, Kenya, late Saturday and is scheduled to continue her tour of the Great Lakes region, including Bujumbura, Kigali, Entebbe and Dar Es Salaam.
# The United Nations Security Council, New York, Friday, held a formal meeting on the war in Zaire and called for "an end to the hostilities (in Eastern Zaire) and the withdrawal of all external forces, including mercenaries". The statement also demanded that combatants respect the rights of refugees - said to total some 560,000 - and called for "all concerned to respect the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law". The Security Council reaffirmed its "commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Zaire" and urged all states to refrain from cross-border incursions - "or any other act that would endanger refugees and displaced persons". Although the statement reflected consensus among all 15 members, Britian initially argued that the fundamental problem in Zaire was not destabilisation by the country's neighbours but domestic misrule. France, backed by Eygpt and Guinea-Bissau, resisted a US proposal to call for a ceasefire, apparantly fearing that "freezing" the situtation would benefit the rebels. AFP reports that the discussion on Friday highlights the divergence over Zaire between Britain and France.
The United Nations said on Friday it was looking at contingency plans to repatriate refugees in eastern Zaire but observers are skeptical that remaining Rwandans will cooperate as they fear retribution back home. When more than a million refugees went back to Rwanda last year, many hardline extremists opted to stay in eastern Zaire. Some extremists are reported to be fighting alongside the Zairean army, along with some 300 foreign mercenaries.
# Ailing Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko returned to Zaire on Friday. AFP reports a "discreet" return after a month-long absence in France, where he has been recovering from last years prostrate cancer surgery. President Mobutu headed straight to his home village of Gbadolite in northern Zaire without stopping in Kinshasa. AFP quotes "political sources" and the local media in speculating that Mobutu will return to the capital on Tuesday (tomorrow). Mobutu reportedly appealed to King Hassan 11, Morocco, for military assitance in a stop-over before his return.
# On Saturday, the French minister for emergency humanitarian action, Xavier Emmanuelli said France proposes holding a humanitarian conference on the refugee crisis. Emanuelli said the idea of the conference was to "bring together all the actors in the Great Lakes crisis together to come to the aid of a population in great distress". Emmanuelli met with UN special envoy to the Great Lakes region, Mohamed Sahnoun, in Paris over the weekend.
# Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni urged a regional solution for the conflict, noting that presidents Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe favoured a regional forum. Museveni made the appeal on Saturday, whilest speaking to UN diplomats and academics at a forum marking the 30th anniversary of the UN Capital Development Fund (United Nations, Geneva), and again denied that Ugandan troops were involved in the fighting. President Museveni had a meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan later on Saturday, regarding the Great Lakes crisis, before travelling on Sunday to Atlanta, USA, for talks with former US president Jimmy Carter. Today he is scheduled to meet French president Jacques Chirac in Paris.
# Kenya's President Daniel arap Moi called on Friday for rebels in Zaire to declare an immediate ceasefire and withdraw from the 1,000 kilometer-long swathe of territory they have captured. President Moi held a regional summit in December last year, which called for international intervention and regional dialogue to resolve the crisis.
On Saturday, Britain's minister for overseas development, Baroness Lynda Chalker, called in Nairobi for dialogue between Zairean President Mobutu and "those who feel the Kinshasa government hasn't given good governance to Kivu and other parts of Zaire".
# Rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila rejected all calls for international intervention and conferences, reported Reuters. Kabila was reported to have complained that UNHCR High Commissioner Sadako Ogata had not negotiated the fate of the refugees with the rebels. Speaking on Friday night from one of Mobutu's former "opulent residences" in Goma, eastern Zaire, Kabila insisted the war was an internal matter. He said he was willing to meet Mobutu on a one-to-one basis to discuss Mobutu's "hand-over of power". Kabila told journalists he was "not at all interested in the internationalisation of the Zairean conflict". Despite a government counter-offensive, the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) have continued fighting - and claimed late on Sunday they had taken another town, Bafwasende, 200 kilometers northeast of Kisangani, Friday.
Nairobi, 10 February 1997, 12:30 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: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 1997 08:57:22 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <email@example.com> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 97 for 10 Feb 1997 97.2.10 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970210152153.20669Afirstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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