Zaire: IRIN Update 8 on Eastern Zaire, 11/5/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 8 on Eastern Zaire, 11/5/96

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

Tel: +254 2 622147
Fax: +254 2 622129

IRIN Emergency Update No. 8 on Eastern Zaire (5 November 1996)

Details of killings are emerging as journalists take advantage of the first day of the ceasefire declared by the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL). Journalists in Goma report that local members of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have collected more than 400 bodies and are burying them in mass graves near the airport. Most are believed to be civilians, although some are described as wearing items of military uniforms. The dead include women and children. Local aid workers are reportedly prevented from moving out of town to get to refugees - and sporadic gun fire has been heard (although the ceasefire is described as "largely holding").

Reports concerning the condition of Burundian returnees arriving in Gatumba from eastern Zaire include 52 non-accompanied minors handed into the care of UNICEF and UNHCR. In a camp of approximately 12,000, there have been ten deaths, and MDM reported on Saturday that 95% of their medical consultations have severe bloody diarrhoea.

A UN official confirmed to IRIN that bodies continue to be washed up on the shores of Lake Tanganyika (near Bujumbura), and said he found two bodies yesterday (Monday) - a man and a woman. He said the woman's hands and feet had been bound and twine or hemp was still tied to her wrist and ankles. According to the UN official, local people say they have buried many bodies over the last week. Reuters also reports evidence of violent deaths on corpses washed up at the mouth of the Rusizi River (running into Lake Tanganyika).

The following leaders attended the regional summit today: President Benjamin Mpaka (Tanzania), Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (Ethiopia), President Issayas Afewerki (Eritrea), President Frederick Chiluba (Zambia), President Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Dr Salim Ahmed Salim. President Pasteur Bizimungu of Rwanda attended - but there was no representation from Zaire or from the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL). The summit began with an informal lunch at President Moi's official residence in Nairobi.

In a press conference given by Bizimungu on Monday, he said there were three fundamental issues to be sorted out - the legal and political programme of Zaire and the denial of citizenship to the Banyamulenge; the former Rwandan government army and militia who he said were armed and fighting alongside the Zairean troops, and should be denied refugee status; and, thirdly, the humanitarian crisis of scattered refugees threatened by starvation. He called on all Rwandan refugees to come back to Rwanda. Rwandan Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana said today that Rwanda was opposed to any military intervention for humanitarian purposes.

In Burundi, state-run radio carried an interview with Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Leonidas Havyarimana, on Monday, who complained that Burundi had not been invited to the regional meeting in Nairobi (today). He said Burundi, as a neighbour and an affected country, should have attended if a regional solution was to be found (Burundi remains under regional sanctions, imposed after the July coup). Burundi says it is concerned about the implications of opening corridors. Rwandan opposition group Rally for the Return of Refugees and Democracy in Rwanda (RDR) sent a memorandum to the regional summit saying that fighting in eastern Zaire is backed by Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda and is aimed at the Hutu refugees.

President Mobutu of Zaire is in France and says he will return to Zaire "in a few days". Press sources claim he was forced to leave Switzerland when, embarassed by his presence, the Swiss government refused to allow him to act in an official capacity or issue statements. UN Special Envoy Raymond Chretien will met Mobutu on Wednesday in his French Riviera villa. Mobutu has ruled Zaire for 31 years.

BBC reported that President Moi is believed to have received a communication from Kengo wa Dondo as to why he could not attend, and also reported that President Mobutu has been in direct contact with a number of African leaders since arriving in France.

An anti-government student demonstration went ahead in Kinshasa today despite threats by the government that troops would open fire. A BBC reporter in Kinshasa described the capital as "tense and chaotic" with groups of soldiers in the streets; and speculated that Mobutu would return to his home rather than directly to the capital in the next few days.

The Zaire Government says it has sent the presidential special advisor on security matters, Mbanda Nzamboko Atumba, on an African diplomatic tour to explain its position on the conflict (state-run radio, Monday). Also by radio, the government accused the USA of assisting "aggressors", alleging US patrol boats supplied to Rwanda and Uganda for non-military purposes were used in the fighting. In Zaire, there are reports of tension in other regions of the country. Reuters report that troops have been moved into Mbuji-Mayi, the centre of Zaire's Kasai diamond mining region (diamonds have become Zaire's main foreign currency earner). Kasai (west of the disputed eastern Zairean region) has used different currency from the rest of the country since 1993 and is considered a "hotbed of opposition". Regions such as copper-producing Shaba and Kasai are described as enjoying de facto autonomy.

The UN Security Council is due to hold consultations today (Tuesday) about the humanitarian crisis, but is not expected to discuss plans for military intervention. Britian, France, Belguim and Italy all support the idea of humanitarian corridors; France is reported to have called for an urgent security meeting to be held between its African, North American and European partners to set up corridors that would guarantee the provision of aid under the eye of foreign troops. France and Spain have called for the use of military intervention. The British government on Monday said it was cautious about the creation of a multinational force to protect civilians, said to be advocted by France. French Foreign Minister Herve De Charette has called for "security forces" to channel aid through humanitarian corridors. A British foreign office spokesman said London was seeking more details about the French proposal, and said it would be essential for any military deployment to be under UN auspices. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said today that Germany would find it "very difficult" to deploy troops in Zaire, but said foreign involvment was necessary. He called on the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to act (OAU is generally seen as not having the capacity to influence conflicts).

South Africa reports it is under increasing pressure to take an active role in resolving regional conflicts, and asked for observer status at todays regional summit in Nairobi. The South African government is reportedly split over the arms contract with Kigali - with Mandela insisting that Rwanda has a right to defend itself against the continuing threat of exile Hutu extremists - and has decided to wait for the outcome of today's summit. Mandela was quoted today as saying he would scrap arms sales to Rwanda if so appealed by leaders at todays regional summit; but tacitly rejected appeals from the international community (notably Amnesty International) to stop the deal, by saying he would only listen to those "involved in the situation".

Other diplomatic initiatives include a US envoy, Ambassador Bogosian who will travel to Rwanda and Zaire to hold talks with both governments (Monday) and US State Department said US envoy Howard Wolpe would be attending today's regional summit.

Eye-witness accounts from journalists crossing the border into the rebel-held towns in Zaire report incidents of ill-discipline and violence by the rebel ADFL. Ten western clergymen were taken hostage on the outskirts of Bukavu, in rebel-held eastern Zaire, according to the Belgian foreign ministry. There is no information on who is holding the clergymen (Canadian, French, German and Belgian).

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies launched an appeal today for $10.4 million to assist 500,000 refugees. "The only thing we are sure of is the enormity of the crisis and the grave potential risks for refugees," said East Africa Delegate Christer Aqvist. The IFRC said that 1,300 Zairean Red Cross volunteers are still working in Eastern Zaire under very difficult conditions.

Nairobi, 5 November 1996, 15:35 GMT


[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, 5 Nov 1996 18:31:28 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 8 on Eastern Zaire for 5 November 96.11.5 Message-ID: <>

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

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific