UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
U N I T E D N A T I O N S Department of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network
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This is number 31 in a series of weekly reports from IRIN on general developments in the Great Lakes region. Sources for the information below include UN agencies, NGOs, other international organisations and media reports. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original sources.
Given the events in Eastern Zaire over the last few days, this Weekly Round Up includes events up to and including Monday 21 October.
Weekly Roundup of Main Events in the Great Lakes region 14 - 21 October 1996
# Thousands of Hutu refugees are reported as arriving near Bukavu town after having fled refugee camps in the Uvira area on Monday. Yesterday (Monday 21 October), UNHCR declared that the 12 camps, home to 220,000 refugees, two thirds of whom are Burundian, had been deserted and that refugees were heading into neighbouring hills or north towards Bukavu town. Their flight was prompted by fighting between armed groups, including the Zairean Army and Banyamulenge militia, which flared up on Friday and lasted through the weekend, claiming at least 78 lives. The fighting was reported to be particularly intense in the area around the Kiliba airstrip, 20 kms north of Uvira town. [WFP evacuated 48 humanitarian workers from Uvira on Tuesday 22 October 1996.]
The current crisis is the most serious to have affected Eastern Zaire since refugees began to flee Burundi following the killing of President Ndadaye in October 1993. The fighting which compelled the refugees to leave is a clear sign of the escalation of the conflict, which has been sparked off by claims to Zairean nationality by people of Rwandan descent who migrated into the region over several centuries. The recent upsurge in hostilities follows the 8 October statement by the deputy governor of South Kivu, Lwasi Ngabo Lwabanji, in which he said that the Banyamulenge had one week to leave Uvira for neighbouring countries. The statement prompted Zaire's Prime Minister, Kengo wa Dondo, to suspend the deputy governor for overstepping his authority.
Zaire and Rwanda continue to trade accusations of responsibility for the crisis, with Kengo wa Dondo claiming on Wednesday that the Rwandese Patriotic Army had supplied the Banyamulenge with heavy weapons. The Rwandese Government, for its part, has denied Zaire's allegations and accused the Zairean authorities of instigating the conflict. Meanwhile, responsibility for the attack on Runingo refugee camp during the weekend of 12 and 13 October, which resulted in four deaths and 6 injuries, continues to be unclear, with Banyamulenge spokesmen alleging that the Zairean Army carried it out and the Zairean authorities blaming the Banyamulenge.
The escalating insecurity in the Uvira area has been matched by a growing number of incidents near Goma town in North Kivu. On 21 October there were reports of an attack on the ZCSC contingent base at Katale camp and on villages in the area, while an attack near Kibumba camp on a bus carrying a local football team was reported to have resulted in several deaths. On 6 October a rocket against a bus near Kibumba camp left 7 local people dead and 6 injured. Responsibility for these attacks remains unclear.
The escalating insecurity in the Kivu Provinces prompted expressions of concern from aid agencies and diplomats working on the region. On Thursday the EU's Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, Aldo Ajello, said that the EU was extremely concerned about the tension between Rwanda and Zaire and warned the Zairean Government not to confuse the "limited problem of possible infiltration by young armed Banyamulenge with the much larger problem of the legal status of the Banyamulenge who have long lived, sometimes for several generations, on the plateaux of the Uvira region." He said any such confusion would "spark off a campaign of ethnic hatred". On Friday the ICRC called for restraint by the parties to the conflict and urged them to respect the laws of war and ensure the safety of the staff of humanitarian organizations.
Meanwhile, two senior UN officials are on mission in the region. Ibrahima Fall, the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy to Zaire, is undertaking discussions with the Zairean authorities to quash repeated allegations that the UNHCR has assisted Banyamulenge to infiltrate from Rwanda. These had previously been retracted by the Zairean Government but had later been repeated by General Eluki, Zairean Armed Forces Chief of Staff. The Secretary-General on 14 October dismissed the repeated allegations as "baseless and outdated". Roberto Garreton, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Zaire is also on a two week mission to the region, which began on 14 October.
# Burundi's leader Pierre Buyoya said again at the weekend that the new regime will not be forced into peace talks with rebels while regional economic sanctions on Burundi remain in place. Buyoya told a visiting delegation of foreign ministers that he was committed to eventual negotiations, but would not hold talks "while there was a noose around his neck". The sanctions were imposed by regional leaders shortly after July's military coup in an effort to force Buyoya to unban political parties, restore the constitution and meet rebel groups for peace talks. Buyoya has, to some extent, met two of the three conditions.
Friday's visit by the Ministers followed the 14 October Arusha III Summit where it was agreed that sanctions would continue but that a review would be carried out in Burundi by foreign ministers. The ministers postponed the visit from Wednesday after Buyoya announced that it would not begin talks with rebels until the blockade was lifted. At the Summit, Burundi was given a month's deadline for the start of unconditional all-party negotiations. The next meeting of the sanctions monitoring committee is due to be held in Lusaka on 7 November and there are strong indications that another regional Summit may be held shortly afterwards, perhaps on the 12th. The National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD), meanwhile, has stated that it is ready to enter into talks but has urged an extension of the sanctions to cover supplies of arms and ammunition.
Earlier last week, the Prime Minister of Burundi called the sanctions "illegal, unjust and biased" and said that it had already cost Burundi a loss of income of more than US$ 162 million. Food prices in Bujumbura are reported to have stabilised and a steady supply of black market fuel has helped to bring down the cost of petrol and diesel. Burundi's main brewery which suspended distribution last month after two of its staff were killed in ambushes on beer trucks may have to stop operations altogether because of shortages of fuel and spare parts. The brewery is one of the main sources of government revenue.
# The World Health Organisation (WHO) is sending 50,000 doses of vaccine to Burundi in a bid to halt the spread of meningitis which has claimed almost 40 lives. As of 17 October, 131 cases had been registered. Medical supplies were amongst the first items to be exempted from sanctions and over 100,000 doses of vaccine have already been delivered. Doctors say that an early response by the health ministry has averted a crisis on a much larger scale.
# The European Union's special envoy to the Great Lakes region, Aldo Ajello said on Thursday that he hoped for positive results over the repatriation of Rwandan refugees in Zaire. Mr. Ajello said that a plan had been drawn up by UNHCR but that this could be carried out only with the cooperation of the international community, the concerned nations and "above all, cooperation from the nations concerned themselves". Zaire's Prime Minister, Kengo wa Dondo said on Wednesday that Zaire will systematically close the camps before elections scheduled for next year.
# Rwanda has appointed a new Minister of Justice, Faustin Nteziryayo, a university professor and former consultant to the International Monetary Fund. He replaces Marthe Mukamurenzi who resigned last month after being accused of bad management. The appointment coincides with the start of an information campaign on the new legislation designed to facilitate the trial of those accused of genocide. The law was adopted by parliament in August. Over 81,000 people are currently in Rwanda's prisons and places of detention, mostly on charges relating to the 1994 genocide.
# Israel and Rwanda have joined forces to build a memorial in Rwanda for the victims of the 1994 genocide. Following a five day visit to Israel, Rwanda's Vice-President and Minister of Defence Paul Kagame said that he had reached an agreement with Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Memorial to build a similar memorial in Rwanda. Kagame told Radio Rwanda: "We have to perpetuate the memory of the 1994 massacres, reform our judicial system so that criminals will be judged and educate our people to build a united nation". Israeli groups specializing in dealing with genocide have offered assistance to Rwanda and discussions have taken place about Israeli technical aid in training and irrigation, as well as fertilisers and pesticides. Rwanda broke diplomatic ties with Israel in 1976 but restored them after the 1994 genocide.
# Some 84 UN and NGO staff were pulled out of Pakele, northern Uganda after the UNHCR/Lutheran World Federation offices were attacked and ransacked. The armed gang burned vehicles and communications equipment and is reported to have also attacked military installations in the area. The UNHCR office supports about half of the 229,000 Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda.
Over the last few weeks, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has been accused of kidnapping 300 Ugandans from villages in northern Uganda and taking them to their training camps in Sudan. On Monday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni launched a new attack on the Sudan government whom Uganda accuses of supporting two rebel movements, including the LRA, in an effort to destabilise Uganda. Sudan has denied the charges and accuses Uganda of supporting the southern Sudanese rebel groups. The two countries broke off diplomatic relations in April 1995, but signed a normalization accord in September during talks brokered by Iran. Since the peace talks began, there has ironically been a marked escalation in rebel activities in northern Uganda. Museveni's recent comment that he had "no faith in the current negotiations" have cast doubts on the talks.
# Tanzania hopes to reach agreement shortly with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on the release of funds frozen in 1994. Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, who met with IMF and World Bank officials in Washington last week, said that the IMF and World Bank were "satisfied" with Tanzania's reform programme. He said both agencies had agreed to resume talks for a three-year Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (US$ 200 million) and Structural Adjustment Credit (US$ 100 million) for 1996/97 and 1998/99 to help rehabilitate the country's economy. Mkapa said that agreement with the IMF and World Bank would lead to the release of aid withheld by other donors amounting to US$ 1.2 billion as well as open the door for negotiations on debt relief. Tanzania's external debt stands at US$ 7.8 billion and its servicing consumes 32.5% of the government's income.
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Date: Tue, 22 Oct 1996 18:15:55 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round Up #31 October 14-21 96.10.22 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.email@example.com>
Editor: Ali Dinar, firstname.lastname@example.org