Zaire: IRIN Update on Eastern Zaire, 10/31/96

Zaire: IRIN Update on Eastern Zaire, 10/31/96

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 2 on Eastern Zaire (31 October 1996)

Fighting in and around Goma, the capital of North Kivu, intensified during the morning, having started around 3 am local time. Aid agencies reported escalating artillery shelling throughout Thursday morning and Zairean soldiers and Tutsi-dominated rebels battled for control of Goma airport. Aid workers and local people kept off the street as insecurity increased. Aid agencies have had some 35 cars looted during the day.

The airport is one of the most strategic assets in the Kivu region, and its security will be crucial for delivering humanitarian aid. Although some reports said Zairean authorities had lost control of the airport earlier in the day, by late afternoon it appeared to be under Zairean military control. AFP reported Zairean troops on the runways and around the airport's perimeter. WFP had hoped to use the airport today to begin an emergency airlift of food supplies but the effort has been postponed. It appears that the airport is unlikely to be accessible even for an evacuation of foreign workers in the immediate future.

With Goma airport closed, and relief activities almost completely halted due to insecurity, UN officials are considering an evacuation by road of 107 international humanitarian aid staff trapped in the city. Of this number, 42 are UN staff and the rest work with NGOs. The UN is seeking safe passage and escort to the border from Zairean authorities and also is pursuing other options for a rapid exit. The Rwandan side of the border is open.

UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali on Wednesday appealed to Zairean President Mobutu and Prime Minister Kengo wa Dondo to allow the staff members to leave. International staff are generally confined to their offices and houses. Zairean soldiers raided the UNICEF compound several times, looted and drove away three utility vehicles and a truck. ICRC also report looting of their offices.

To the north, aid workers said that all 113,000 residents of Kahindo camp north of Goma fled the camp, starting in the middle of the night. Many of Kahindo's residents appear to be headed for Muganga camp. Mugunga camp is already one of the world's largest refugee camps with over 350,000 residents. But UNHCR officials now say the camp is dangerously overcrowded with limited water and sanitation facilities. The BBC quoted a UNHCR spokesman saying inhabitants of the camp faced an "apocalyptic" future. Camp residents have reportedly already taken to drinking lake water and health officals fear cholera and dysentery epidemics may soon hit the camp. Mugunga camp was already trying to accomodate 195,000 new arrivals from Kibumba who arrived during the last few days. There is also a severe shortage of wood with which to build shelters or cook food. The potential conglomeration of over half a million people without clean water or sanitation - let alone food and medical care - is a recipe for disaster. Local Zairean people continue to take refuge in Mugunga.

The last remaining camp on the northern axis, Katale, has a population of 202,000, but its position is precarious, as it is hemmed in by fighting to the north and south. Further north, the number of recently-arrived refugees in southwestern Uganda is estimated to be 7,000. Despite the worsening situation, only a trickle of Rwandan refugees are choosing to return home, where aid agencies and the Rwandan government are prepared for a major influx.

In South Kivu, Roman Catholic Archbishop Munzihirwa was killed during an ambush in Bukavu on Tuesday. He had been an outspoken critic of the rebellion. His body was found on 30 October. Two European priests are also being held captive by rebels. The Banyamulenge-domainted forces have yet to exert complete control over Bukavu, according to accounts of some of the 424 refugees reported to have arrived in southwestern Rwanda. The rebels now claim to comprise four political groups, including parties from Shaba and Kasai, gathered under a multi-ethnic umbrella party called the Alliance des Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Congo-Zaire.

UNHCR reported earlier today that some of their local staff may have been killed and injured during an attempt to flee from Bukavu. No further details are available. Local Zairean relief workers have played a key role in maintaining life-saving services and communication links after the evacuation of international staff in many parts of eastern Zaire.

Reports indicate that bodies are washing up on the Burundian side of Lake Tankanyika, probably having been dumped in the Rusizi river, which marks much of the border between Burundi and Zaire. The number of victims and their identities have not been established, but a Reuter report mentions sighting 13 bodies and hearing of 50 more buried by local fishermen.

About 5,500 Burundians have so far returned home and are at the Gatumba camp near Bujmubura. Two thousand of these arrived today. UNHCR and Burundian authorities are planning to start a relocation back to home communes beginning Monday. Thousands more returnees are expected over the coming days.

International journalists have entered rebel-held South Kivu from Rwanda today for the first time, and report relative stability on the road north of Uvira.

Diplomatic efforts continue to attempt to forestall a worsening of the crisis. UN Special Mediator, Raymond Chretien, should arrive in Kinshasa next week, and the OAU's Conflict Resolution Organ today issued a statement in Addis Ababa appealing for a cessation of hostilities and urging respect for the territorial integrity of Rwanda and Zaire. Zaire's Prime Minister, Kengo wa Dondo today said Zaire would not negotiate while "the enemy" holds part of Zairean territory. President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya announced plans to convene a regional summit on Zaire next Tuesday.

Nairobi, 21:00 GMT


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Date: Thu, 31 Oct 1996 23:00:23 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update on Eastern Zaire for 31 October 96.10.31 Message-ID: <>

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

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