Zaire: IRIN Update 6 on Eastern Zaire, 11/4/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 6 on Eastern Zaire, 11/4/96

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 6 on Eastern Zaire (4 November 1996)

A three week ceasefire has been announced by the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) to allow international aid agencies to repatriate 1.2 million refugees. Laurent-Desire Kaliba, ADFL spokesman speaking from Bukavu, said the unilaterally-declared ceasefire would take effect from 5pm local time. According to a BBC report, he said that the rebels would not hesitate to strike back if attacked - but that the three towns controlled by the ADFL (Bukavu, Goma and Uvira) were "calm' because Zairean soldiers and government officials had fled. If the ceasefire holds, refugees have been given three weeks to repatriate to their country of orign; Kabila said those who refused to leave would be "re-grouped" and put in camps away from "exiled" Hutu extremists implicated in the Rwandan 1994 genocide.

Late reports from Swiss media say that Mobutu left Switzerland today aboard a private plane to an undisclosed location.

A UN official reported after visiting a feeding centre in Gatumba (Burundi) for returnees from Eastern Zaire that some of the children were "skin and bone". He told IRIN that severe malnourishment in the under 5s was probably because "some children were not in great shape before they had to spend five or more days in the bush".

The rebel announcement of a ceasefire will be welcomed by the international community, though there will be pressure to secure a mutually agreed one. UN Special Mediator Raymond Chretien is seeking an immediate ceasefire - but will not be in the region until after November 5 (US presidential elections). European Union's Irish presidency today also issued an appeal for a ceasefire, from Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring. Officials of the European Union and international humanitarian organisations will meet in Brussels on Thursday. UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Sergio Vieira de Mello is anticipated to arrive in Kigali today. The UNDP resident coordinator in Kigali held a meeting of representatives today (4pm local time) from NGOs, UN, donors and diplomats to further discuss the setting up of humanitarian corridors. An Organisation of African Unity (OAU) peace mission arrived in Rwanda on Sunday, and Rwanda's president visited Uganda. France has issued a number of statements, including calls for an immediate ceasefire. French presidential spokeswoman Catherine Colonna said today that France had "increased diplomatic and humanitarian efforts" in search of a solution. France's secretary of state for humanitarian aid, Xavier Emmanuelli, said on Saturday that France was ready to "put everything into a humanitarian operation coordinated with Europe and United Nations agencies", and were studying access routes. The French NGO Medicins Sans Frontieres issued a statement from Paris today calling for immediate international military intervention, to create safe havens and disarm the fighting forces - which is what the French military did in 1994 in Rwanda. The MSF statement said, however, that "by calling for international intervention, MSF does not call for a repeat of Operation Turquoise which was politically biased and inadequate". Speculation continues about the willingness of France to militarily intervene in the conflict - Reuters and AFP both report today that France has "implied" it is ready to send in troops, possibly dependent on the outcome of the regional head of states meeting in Nairobi tomorrow (Tuesday). Spain said on Monday it would support any UN-approved military intervention in Zaire and "would consider the possibility" of sending troops. Italy has also called for "suitable measures of protection".

Reports of fighting have diminished. This morning Goma was reported as quiet, but other reports suggest sporadic fighting around Bukavu airport - expected to effect three more refugee camps. Of the two largest camps Kashusha 37,000, and Inera 54,555, Kashusha camp was reported on Friday as still being controlled by the Interahamwe. There are different opinions on whether dispersed refugees are moving predominantly north or west; according to Paul Stronber, regional spokesman for UNHCR, most are heading west, but there are also reports from NGOs of movement north, into the Zairean hills. BBC reported that rebels had taken control of Ishasha border post on the Ugandan border.

Statements from Kinshasa continue to accuse both Rwanda and Burundi - whose governments are Tutsi-dominated - of sending forces in to help rebels in Zaire. Zairean Prime Minister Kengo Wa Dondo said on Saturday that negotiations to end the fighting can only procede once Rwandan troops had withdrawn from the area. Rwanda rejects persistant reports by journalists and diplomats that its forces entered Goma (Zaire) to support Tutsi rebels, but Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu called last week for a revision of borders agreed during the colonial era - referring to "natural borders". In response, the Zairean Prime Minister has said he is willing to discuss frontiers; but pointed out that colonial borders were revised in 1910 when Zaire (during a meeting between Belgium, Germany and Britain) was obliged to cede land to Rwanda and Uganda (including the border town of Gisenyi). He said the portion of territory ceded should be "returned".

Both Uganda and Rwanda have offered to "help" resolve the conflict. Rwanda says it will work with the international community to solve the "internal crisis" in Zaire. Rwanda is reportedly insisting that negotiated humanitarian corridors must be for repatriation purposes only, and not to support "exile Hutu extremists". So far, returning refugees to Rwanda are very few.

Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi is due to host a regional summit on the crisis on Tuesday (heads of state from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia were anticipated). Foreign ministers are meeting in Nairobi today (Monday) in preparation - Zaire is boycotting the meeting. The Rwandan Foreign minister is in Nairobi for the pre-summit meeting; the Minister for Rehabilitation and Social Integration will represent Rwanda at the summit on Tuesday (November 5). Kenyan state radio reported on Sunday that President Daniel arap Moi had told President Nelson Mandela (South Africa) by telephone that it would be "prudent" for him to suspend all arms sales to Rwanda (referring to a recent 18 million dollars arms sale agreed, but subsequently reconsidered by South Africa). Regional meetings like tomorrow's summit have gained new weight since regional sanctions were effectively imposed for the first time, following the July Burundi coup.

Zaire radio reported on Sunday that presidential advisor Ngbanda Nzambo ko Atume had left Kinshasa to carry personal messages from President Mobutu to the presidents of Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. Rebel spokesman Kabila said in a BBC interview on Monday (today) that Zaire was "leaderless".

Other countries touched by the regional crisis are: Zambia, which has reported the arrival of more than 1,000 Rwandan refugees since the fighting started; Sudan, which claims that fighting may affect some 145,000 Sudanese refugees in Zaire - Sudan's commissioner general for refugees, Mohammad Ahmad Hussein Abdul Aleim, said in the same statement that Sudan is expecting Hutu refugees; and Uganda, which said in a statement from the foreign ministry that it was assisting discplaced Zaireans by providing safe passage. A WFP report (WFP Eastern Zaire Situation Report 4 November) says that people continue arriving at Kigoma, Tanzania and other ports - "unconfirmed reports put arrivals at about 2,000". World Vision on Monday put the number at 4,500 over the last five days. WFP also reports 10,000 people arriving at Ishasha and 6,800 at Kisoro in Uganda - WFP and World Vision say the vast majority of these people are Zairean nationals - often Hutu. Peter Kessler, UNHCR Nairobi, told IRIN there were a total of 9,000 refugees on the Ugandan border at Kisoro, Ishasha and Butogota.

Eye-witnesses to the fighting report a reluctance of Zairean troops to fight, as well as ill-discipline. Laurent-Desire Kabila, rebel spokesman, claims the Zairean army is "in disarray", leaving weapons behind as they flee. The Zairean armed forces chief General Eluki Monga Aunda has complained (Saturday) that the government is failing to provide the national army with the means to resist. The press reports executions of civilians in the fighting zones by unidentified soldiers/militia - and eccentric behavior (stripping naked) by armed men has been televised.

Nairobi, 4 November 1996, 16:10 GMT


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Date: Mon, 4 Nov 1996 19:02:03 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 6 on Eastern Zaire 4 November 1996 96.11.4 Message-ID: <>

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

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