Great Lakes: IRIN Update 98, 2/11/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 98, 2/11/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
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IRIN Emergency Update No. 98 on the Great Lakes (Tuesday 11 February 1997)

Fighting continues in eastern Zaire, with the army and rebel forces swapping claims and counter-claims. Increased insecurity and interrupted relief efforts have provoked refugee movement, with reports of refugees abandoning Amisi and setting up camp some five kilometers southeast of the largest camp, Tingi-Tingi - which houses some 120,000 Rwandans. Reuters also reports internally displaced groups, with Zairean civilians abandoning villages around Tingi-Tingi and Lubutu. Aid agencies estimate only 15,000 arrived of the original 40,000 in Amisi arrived in Tingi-Tingi, leaving some 25,000 unaccounted for.

Sources in eastern Zaire reported that ADFL rebels had rounded up an unknown number of the Shabunda refugees and were directing them back towards Bukavu, in the direction of Rwanda. There are unconfirmed reports in Shabunda of rebels seperating out young refugee men, and subsequent shots heard outside the town.

Rebel radio (Bukavu) reported that rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila had ordered his troops to stop advancing towards Tingi-Tingi camp. Aid workers remain concerned that continuing conflict may soon provoke refugees to abandon Tingi-Tingi camp, forcing large numbers into hostile and inaccessible places.

UNHCR High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata appealed yesterday for refugees to be given safe passage back to Rwanda. In a press conference held in Nairobi, she reiterated that "Separation of the refugees from their armed colleagues remains one of the major problems faced by the UNHCR". She said it could be done by "some neutral force". Analysts believe this would be difficult given the reported alliance between ex-FAR and Zairean soldiers. Before leaving Nairobi, the Commissioner said pledges of support she received during her trip needed further discussions by UNHCR officers on the ground with local authorities in the region. She said she had reached a basic agreement in Kinshasa that the refugees should go back to Rwanda, but that they need to be provided with food and other emergency assistance first.

Kenya's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kalonzo Musyoka - who held talks with Commissioner Ogata - said Kenya was unhappy with the follow-up to a regional summit held in Nairobi in December 1996 on the eastern Zaire crisis. He said in a broadcast on Kenyan television that Kenya and other African nations were excluded by the UN: "We had this Canada-led initiative as you remember, which totally left out Africans".

The Zairean army says it intends to use aircraft and helicopter gunships against rebels in eastern Zaire. Despite reports of the much-touted counter-offensive faltering, a Defence Ministry official said that it had not yet "got into high gear" and that the army was "ready for very decisive action", reports Reuters. Helicopter gunships and attack aircraft have been seen at Kisangani airport for several weeks. According to rebel claims, the Zairean army has already used helicopter gunships to attack rebel positions near the town of Lubutu, about 200 kilometers from Kisangani. Observers point out that an air attack has limited effect when used against guerrilla armies in thick jungle cover.

An opposition call for 'un jour mort' - a dead city day -in Kinshasa was reported to have closed down much of the capital; but its effectiveness was difficult to assess as it coincided with the end of Muslem celebration Idd Mubarak, taken by some as a public holiday. The central bank stayed open, some traders were operating on the outskirts of the city, but the business district of Kinshasa was reported "quiet", and some government offices were closed.

The strike was called by Sacred Union the alliance of radical opposition parties (USORAL) demanding the removal of Prime Minister Kengo wa Dondo. A student march has been called for February 14th. Opposition papers continue to support a negotiated solution to the conflict. Following a weekend conference, opposition leader Tshisekedi's party, UDPS, has also called for tripartite negotiations involving Mobutu and his crisis government, Tshiskedi and the UDPS, and Kabila.

United Nations Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region, Mohamed Sahnoun, arrived in Nairobi today. He is expected to stay in Nairobi for two days before going on to the Great Lakes region.

An inter-agency mission visited Bunia yesterday - the first such mission since conflict escalated in October last year. Bunia was said to be quiet, but had suffered destruction from heavy shelling.

MSF reports a total of 350 cholera cases in Tingi-Tingi. Ten cases of cholera were also reported among a group of internally displaced people, fleeing by train from Kalemie to Kablo, which intersects with the Lubumbashi-Kindu line.

European Union special envoy to the Great Lakes, Aldo Ajello, said in Kinshasa on Monday that the European Union wants to see elections take place in Zaire as soon as possible. Ajello told Zairean Foreign Minister Gerard Kamanda wa Kamanda that Brussels wished to organize a referendum on a constitution to enable elections to go ahead. He also said the EU was determined to call an international conference on security and cooperation in the Great Lakes region, and that the current problems should be solved through negotiations and not by force.

According to one diplomat, however, elections in Zaire will be "impossible" unless the conflict in the east is resolved. In eastern Zaire, North and South Kivu regions account for 14% of the population, and are considered an opposition strong-hold.

The UN election team has been reinforced in Kinshasa and is currently conducting pilots of the registration procedure. The transitional government mandate ends on July 9th.

The report on the international conference on "Understanding the Great Lakes Crisis", convened by ACTIONAID in Nairobi during December, is now available. The conference, attended by academic specialists, policy makers and representatives of NGOs and UN agencies, spent two days debating the evolution of the crisis in Rwanda, Burundi and Kivu and examining the implications for humanitarian organisations. Anyone requiring a copy of the conference report should contact Robert Dodd <> specifying whether they want to receive a hard copy or by e-mail.

Nairobi, 11 February 1997, 14:30 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: Tue, 11 Feb 1997 18:47:27 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 98 for 11 Feb 1997 97.2.11 Message-ID: <>

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

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