Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round-Up Update 25-97, 10/10/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round-Up Update 25-97, 10/10/97


Department of Humanitarian Affairs

Integrated Regional Information Network

for the Great Lakes

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[The weekly roundup is based on IRIN daily updates and other relevant information from UN agencies, NGOs, governments, donors and the media. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original sources.]

IRIN Weekly Roundup 25-97 of Main Events in the Great Lakes region, covering the period 3-9 Oct 1997

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UNHCR quits Goma after government order

UNHCR pulled out its staff from the Goma area of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in compliance with a government order to leave. Nine UNHCR staff flew out of Goma airport on Monday for Nairobi on a Buffalo aircraft. They were searched before departure and were not allowed to leave with office equipment. A letter from the interior ministry was delivered to UNHCR via the office of the governor of North Kivu last Friday suspending the agency's operations. The authorities also initially demanded that all organisations dealing with refugees, including NGOs, leave the Goma area, but later modified their stance. On Tuesday, the vice-governor of North Kivu told a meeting of international humanitarian agencies that the order applied only to UNHCR. He said he had spoken to the interior ministry and that was now the government's official position.

Annan deplores anti-UNHCR campaign, supports Ogata

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan deplored radio and television broadcasts in eastern DRC which he said falsely accused UNHCR of arming Rwandan refugees. He reiterated his confidence in High Commissioner Sadaka Ogata and UNHCR staff in the region who he said had "performed with great courage and distinction in extremely difficult circumstances." The anti-UNHCR media campaign has been particularly noticeable in Uvira. However, UNHCR said its staff in other offices had been placed "in a very difficult situation."

Ogata denounces expulsions

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata on Monday "strongly denounced" the expulsion of hundreds of Rwandan refugees from the DRC. According to UNHCR, DRC soldiers trucked 830 Rwandan refugees, including 753 women and children, to the border over the weekend. Four of the refugees were arrested on their return to Rwanda.

The Kinshasa authorities announced on Sunday they had sent back 4,000 Rwandan refugees, but UNHCR said it had only seen the 830 Rwandans trucked to Gisenyi. The agency said it had no details that some 1,500 ex-FAR were also handed over to Kigali from DRC. The DRC government said it could no longer accept Rwandans in the area. "That's the reason why [UN]HCR is obliged to stop any activity in the Kivus," the statement said. UNHCR said it was "deeply concerned about the implications this announcement will have for Rwandan refugees who have begun crossing the border again in recent days to avoid renewed fighting in western Rwanda."

DRC says it has found 1,000 ex-Rwandan troops

Interior Minister Mwenze Kongolo announced the DRC had found more than 1,000 heavily-armed soldiers of the former Rwandan Hutu-dominated army and their Interahamwe militia allies in Equateur province in the northwest of the country. The minister told a press conference the soldiers were near Mbandaka and holding an unspecified number of Rwandan refugees as hostages. He added they were dangerous and military action would be necessary. On Tuesday, Rwanda and DRC pledged to put an end to armed groups operating in eastern DRC which threatened the security of neighbouring Rwanda, DRC television reported. Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame, on a visit to Kinshasa, and President Laurent-Desire Kabila were said to have concentrated on border security during their discussions. Kabila reiterated that the border with Rwanda would remain closed to prevent the arrival of more refugees. He claimed the refugees had come to DRC to "cause chaos" and should go home.

UN to decide on fate of investigative mission

Current Security Council President Juan Somavia said on Monday the UN would decide within 15 days whether human rights investigators should return to the DRC or the entire mission should be scrapped. Four recalled UN investigators met Secretary-General Kofi Annan during the week and were set to hold a series of meetings with other top UN officials. Annan recalled the four leading members of the mission after they had spent nearly six weeks in Kinshasa without being able to start their probe.

ADFL, Rwanda accused of refugee massacres

More accusations of massacres were levied at Kabila's army and its Rwandan allies during the campaign to overthrow the late president Mobutu Sese Seko. A human rights report, released on Thursday, alleged the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) and Rwandan soldiers were responsible for the massacre of Rwandan refugees in the former Zaire. The report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) was the product of a six-week mission to eastern DRC. The report contained photographs of what are believed to be mass graves. HRW and FIDH said some roads were also "littered" with the decomposed bodies of refugees. The report also quoted eyewitnesses as saying US troops had been deployed in DRC between November 1996 and August 1997, although US officials have denied any involvement.

RWANDA: After heavy fighting, army says it controls Gisenyi

The Rwandan army said it was in control of the situation in Gisenyi after heavy fighting with Hutu rebels. Army spokesman Richard Sezibera told AFP "several rebel attacks" were repulsed around the northwestern town on Wednesday. The army had "beaten the rebels and pursued them," he added. The bulk of the fighting was concentrated around the airport, he explained, but denied reports it was at one time in rebel hands. At least 80 rebels and two soldiers died in the clashes, according to the spokesman. A further six soldiers were injured. Humanitarian sources have indicated a number of civilians were also wounded. A Rwandan government official told IRIN on Wednesday the attacks were launched by a "coalition of Interahamwe, ex-FAR and their allies". The army is now reportedly carrying out mopping up operations in the area.

Houses vacated for former refugees

Some 8,000 families in Rwanda's southeastern Kibungo area began leaving houses and shelters they have occupied since 1994 to allow other former refugees to regain their homes. Each family has two weeks to move out of the houses they have used since 1994 when most of them returned to the country they fled in the 1960s. They are each being given a plot of land to build a new home, except those moving to cities, who are being given plastic sheeting. Sex crimes to be added to genocide court charges

Sexual offences will be added to the charges against some Rwandans facing trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, the UN court announced. Prosecutor Louise Arbour told reporters they could be levelled against defendants already charged with other crimes.Hundreds of thousands of women and children are believed to have been raped and otherwise abused during Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

Indictment confirmed on editor, Kenya hands over suspects

ICTR Judge Lennart Aspegren confirmed three counts out of four in the indictment of Hassan Ngeze, former editor-in-chief of the 'Kangura' newspaper, the court said in a press release. Ngeze is currently detained at the ICTR's detention facility in Arusha. The indictment alleges that Ngeze knowingly, with his consent and at his direction, published or allowed to be published certain materials which were used in the preparation of genocide against Tutsis; incited to kill and/or cause serious bodily or mental harm to Tutsis; and persecuted Tutsis and certain Hutus.

The Kenyan government handed over five genocide suspects, four Rwandans and one Burundian, to the tribunal. The Rwandans, who were arrested in Nairobi in July, were named as Colonel Laurent Serubuga, Major Emmanuel Neretse, Bonaventure Habimana, former general secretary of the ex-ruling party - the Republican National Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND) - and Maurice Ntahobali, former speaker of the national assembly. The name of the Burundian was not made available.

In Kigali, a Rwandan court-appointed lawyer specialising in defending suspected Rwandan war criminals, was on Tuesday charged with committing acts of genocide. AFP said sources in Kigali described the arrest as a political move. Andre Bimenyimana was among a handful of people, with or without legal training, willing to defend war crime suspects. He is being held in Kigali's main prison. Last week the head of the Rwandan bar association said the independence of the legal profession was essential for "building a state of law."

Opposition party accuse Kigali of murdering activist

A Hutu opposition party accused "elements" of the government army of murdering one of its activists, Jean-Baptiste Safari. The Forces of Resistance for Democracy (FRD) said Safari was gunned down at the gates of his home in Kigali. A statement from the group said he was killed for his political views. The statement was signed by former Rwandan interior minister Seth Sendashonga.

Finance minister sacked

Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu sacked Minister of Finance and Planning Jean-Berchmans Birara. Donta Kaberuka, secretary of state at the ministry has been nominated as his replacement, the private Rwanda News Agency reported. No official reason was given for Birara's dismissal.

Refugees expelled from Tanzania

Tanzania expelled 181 Rwandan refugees, some of whom had been living in the country since 1951. Protais Musoni, Rwandan government representative in the southeastern town of Kibungo, said the refugees had been brought to the border in military trucks, and were now in a transit camp. "Most of them are old caseload but some just left in 1994," news organisations reported Musoni as saying. All of the refugees had been living in the Biharamuro area of northern Tanzania.

WFP says malnutrition rates on the increase

WFP in Rwanda said that, although the country was not yet in the throes of a full famine, food shortages had pushed prices two or three times higher in recent weeks. According to WFP, malnutrition rates were on the increase. The UN food agency said that in Gikongoro area the NGO Sanitaire had recorded a rise in rates of 10 percent over the last few months.

BURUNDI: Burundi and Tanzania trade accusations

Burundi called on South Africa and Mozambique to join in efforts to solve its crisis and once again refused the help of Tanzania as a mediator. News organisations quoted Foreign Minister Luc Rukingama as repeating accusations the current mediation, led by former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, was not neutral. "We would like two or three other countries to join in," he was quoted as telling reporters at the UN's New York headquarters last Friday. He cited South Africa and Mozambique as countries which could help, as well as the European Union, which has already sent a special envoy to the region. "We would like the issue (of the crisis) to be discussed in the sub-region in order to change the location (of the negotiations) and expand the mediation, which is not neutral," Rukingama added.

Meanwhile, a pro-government Tanzanian newspaper last weekend renewed an allegation that Burundi was planning to attack refugee camps in the west of the country housing Burundian Hutu refugees. AFP reported from Dar es Salaam that the Swahili-language paper Mzalendo, which is controlled by Tanzania's ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, said the Burundian army was planning incursions into Tanzania to kill Burundian Hutus.

Monitors report increase in rebel attacks

Human rights monitors reported an upsurge of rebel attacks in September in the provinces of Bubanza, Makamba, Cibitoke and Bujumbura Rural, triggering immediate reprisals from the army during which civilians were killed. Between the end of August and end of September, they said they believed some 100 people were killed in incidents in those provinces. They added that during the weekend of 20-21 September, two incidents in Gitaza and Mubone left 26 people dead and over 30 injured. Meanwhile, they also reported an increase in armed robberies in the capital Bujumbura which they said had seen on average one armed attack per week.

The Burundi army said it killed 12 rebels on Tuesday during mopping up operations in southern Burundi. Army spokesman Lt-Col Isaie Nibizi said the rebels, who have rear bases in neighbouring Tanzania, were trying to establish themselves in Kazirabagemi in Makamba province.

Report shows low nutritional levels in conflict-hit populations

WFP in Burundi said a report by the NGO Children's Aid Direct found extremely low nutritional levels among conflict-affected populations in Bubanza province. A nationwide assessment of Caritas nutritional programmes also indicates serious nutritional problems in areas of conflict.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Rivals in fresh clashes, Kinshasa warns combatants

Fighting between rival militias supporting President Pascal Lissouba and Denis Sassou Nguesso intensified. Witnesses said the fighting between the two forces, which has continued on and off for the last four months, appeared to concentrate in the centre of Brazzaville and an eastern sector of the city previously held by Sassou Nguesso. DRC meanwhile sent military observers to the city to assess the situation and also warned Congo (Brazzaville) that shelling of the DRC capital amounted to a "declaration of war" and would not be tolerated. Government spokesman Raphael Ghenda said two soldiers were killed and another seriously when shells hit the city on Wednesday. DRC retaliated by shelling the Congolese capital.

Nairobi, 10 October 1997, 11:10 gmt


[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this report, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the WWW at: or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to]

Date: Fri, 10 Oct 1997 14:19:02 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round-Up Update 25-97 3-9 Oct 1997 97.10.10 Message-ID: <>

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

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