Zaire: IRIN Update 17 on Eastern Zaire, 11/11/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 17 on Eastern Zaire, 11/11/96

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 17 on Eastern Zaire (11 November 1996)

[IRIN Note: IRIN Update 16 wrongly reported that a UN mission had crossed into Bukavu around midday November 11. However, they did not cross until about 16:30 local time. We regret the error. IRIN's next information meeting in Nairobi will be held tomorrow, Tuesday 12 November at 9am at the IRIN offices on UN Avenue, Nairobi]

Aid workers crossed from Rwanda into Goma and Bukavu today. Among the aid workers crossing the border today were two UN interagency assessment missions into Goma and Bukavu. UNICEF and WFP supplies (mainly medicines and biscuits) were some of the goods supplied to Goma.

The convoy into Goma, according to a BBC correspondent in the group, was escorted by rebel soldiers and its reception in the town was "orderly". After an initial hold-up, the rebel authorities allowed aid workers to take relief goods into Goma stadium. Some of the supplies, from UN agencies and NGOs, including food, will be used in Goma's hospital. One UN official told IRIN that although aid workers had hoped to get supplies to refugees, rebels indicated that they would be used for the local population, at least initially. This could be an indication of the seriousness of the stand-off between the rebels and armed Hutu extremists west of the town, at Mugunga camp; or the desire of the rebels to "legitimize" their authority with international agencies and local people.

Aid workers are anxious that the political and physical needs of the rebels do not get in the way of getting urgent supplies to desperate refugees and internally displaced people. One aid worker told IRIN that the cross-border delivery of a token quantity of aid to Goma, directed by rebel forces was "a stage-managed photo-op". At least 70 international journalists reportedly went across with the aid workers, and relief workers were not allowed free movement once inside Zaire.

Zairean Information Minister, Boguo Makeli, said in Kinshasa today that aid agencies would be abetting "treason" if they dealt with rebel forces. He said that "if international organisations support a rebel, that would be real treason". He said the Zairean government would could withdraw the right of foreign aid organisations to work inside Zaire if they struck deals with the rebels. He also said that the rebel army was "not Zairean". Permission and access from Kinshasa is important for aid workers to legitimise operations and because many of the refugees and displaced people are believed to be behind rebel lines.

Four airlifts carrying 60 metric tons of High Energy biscuits (HEB) flew to Kampala (Entebbe) on Saturday, by the Belgium Airforce for the World Food Programme. Another airlift with 40 metric tons of HEBs were delivered to Kampala (Entebbe) today (Monday). The flights were organized by DHA's Military and Civil Defence Unit in Geneva.

Some aid representatives are concerned that little attention has been paid so far to Uvira, the first town to be taken by rebels in eastern Zaire. On Sunday, a UNHCR Burundi representative, Hitoshi Mise, said there were more than 100,000 Burundi refugees missing since fleeing camps around Uvira and Bukavu last month. Around 140,000 of the 220,000 refugees who fled the Uvira camps were Burundian Hutus. About 40,000 have been accounted for, many having to return to their homes - a policy that drew criticism from Medecins sans Frontieres because of security concerns inside Burundi. Some 75,000 Rwandan Hutus who fled the Uvira camps are also missing. There were 220,000 refugees in Uvira before the conflict, compared to some 717,000 in Goma, and 310,000 in Bukavu.

Guardian journalist, Chris McGreal, who went into Uvira when it was first seized by rebels writes of the brutal deaths of Banyamulenge (Zairean ethnic Tutsis). Finding bodies of murdered civilians, he writes "..mobs of young men have beaten, stoned or carved up people who until recently were their neighbours". He also describes how thousands of Zairean soldiers were flown into the the area as the Banyamulenge took up arms. As the Zairean soldiers fled, they killed as they retreated - meaning that Banyamulenge civilians who had managed to escape into the hills, suffered a second round of killings. Aid workers fear that many of the atrocities yet to be exposed are behind the front line or inaccessible.

According to Kenya's Sunday Nation, a local newspaper published in the lake port town of Kigoma, Tanzania, claimed an estimated 400 Zaireans drowed when an overloaded boat from Uvira (150 kilometres away) capsized in Lake Tanganyika on Saturday. According to the paper, another boat from Uvira is also reported missing. In Burundi, state-run radio reports an upsurge in conflict in the northern province of Kayanza, with about 30 displaced people killed in the Matongo commune. The increase in violence in Burundi is believed to be related to the conflict in Eastern Zaire because groups of Burundi Hutu extremists are now cut off from supplies in the camps in Eastern Zaire. Violence and insecurity is reported in the communes of Gatara, Gahombo, Muhuta, Butaganzwa, Rango and Matongo. Burundi is still restrained by regional sanctions, and the government has protested at not being involved in regional talks on eastern Zaire. Many of the Burundian refugees in Zaire come from insecure areas of Burundi.

Rwandan state-run radio has reiterated rejection of Rwandan, French and Belgium troops in the deployment of an international intervention force, and points to Belgian interests in a Kenyan ammunitions factory. The Eldoret factory was reportedly set up in February 1996. Quoting a Flemish daily "De Morgen", Rwandan radio said that a Belgian armaments group, an affiliate of the French group GIAT, is reportedly supplying ammunition from the Kenyan factory to the Interahamwe militia in Zaire. However, it is unclear whether the factory is really operational. The Rwandan embassy in Kenya was closed down this year after a Rwandan diplomat was arrested and deported following the shooting of a Rwandan opposition leader in Nairobi. Rwanda has accused Kenya, since 1994, of hosting thousands of fugitives from the genocide.

A company of 120 French soldiers are reported as deployed today (Monday) in Congo near the border with Zaire, reports AFP. "Reliable sources" are quoted by AFP as saying the deployment was not linked to the refugee crisis in the east of the country, but a "precautionary measure" following the anti-government demonstrations in Kinshasa Zaire.

The Organisation of African Unity today called for the speedy deployment of an international force in eastern Zaire, with a "clear mandate". Zaire was not represented at the OAU's conflict prevention meeting, where officials from 17 countries gathered. The Secretary General of the OAU, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim said the crisis had arisen because of the failure to find a solution to the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, particularly the inability to seperate bona fide refugees from armed extemists. He pointed out that the Government of Zaire, with OAU suppport, had expressed its readiness to move all the armed elements - especially members of the former Rwandese army - and relocate them further inland. It was abandoned because the international community could not find the resources needed. He said "one cannot but lament the failure to act more decisively when the opportunity had presented itself". He said the effect of inaction was that refugees had been prevented from returning home, that destablilizing activities by armed elements had continued on the border, with kilings and counter killings, and an escalation of tension between Zaire and Rwanda.

President Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia expressed "deep disappointment" in an opening speech that the UN Security Council had fallen short of calling for a UN-led force as recommended by the Nairobi summit (November 5th). He said a multi-national force paid for by the participatants and through voluntary contributions would make it particularly difficult for resource-poor African nations to participate in any meaningful manner. He said the OAU meeting should focus on how African states could join the international community in effectively dealing with the situation in eastern Zaire, and said Ethiopia was ready to contribute in accordance with the principles outlined in the Nairobi summit. A spokesman in the Kenyan Foreign Ministry was quoted in today's East African newspaper as saying "If you look at it as an African force, you are saying leave Africans to themselves. Theirs is to die in Yugoslavia while others cannot die in Zaire".

The OAU meeting is also expected to try and reach a compromise between Zaire and Rwanda. So far, Zaire insists that the conflict is Rwanda-led and has not given permission to humanitarian missions for cross-border access.

Emma Bonino, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs said today that the international response is already too late for many of the 1.2 million refugees trapped in Eastern Zaire. She blamed the US for preventing other willing countries to procede with military intervention. A US State Department spokesman said today that the US is not willing to commit itself to involvement because "there is no coherent plan" for international intervention, reports AFP. The spokesman said there are "four to five competing proposals" for a multinational force. However, he is quoted as saying that the US "believes there will be a need for a humanitarian international force to care for the refugees". Member states are split over the issue of Chapter VII, which allows intervention without consent from the parties involved; and hold differing perspectives on whether priority should be given to repatriating refugees or to the civil war situation in Eastern Zaire - which includes various armed groups, and internally displaced people, as well as refugees.

Political discontent in Kinshasa continues, with Zairean security forces evacuating today two university campuses, believed to have initiated anti-government protests. Kinshasa was described by a BBC correspondent as being "at a standstill" this morning when students erected barricades on the outskirts of the city. Many offices were shut, either in sympathy with the protest or inability to get past the road blocks - which were taken down by the afternoon.

738 refugees, mostly ethnic Tutsis have arrived in Brazzaville, neighbouring Congo, from Kinshasa. AFP reports that the refugees have been transferred to a former military training camp, are being forced to pay $40 each to the militia controlling the port when they arrive.

Nairobi, 11 November 1996, 16:20 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: Mon, 11 Nov 1996 19:20:53 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 17 on Eastern Zaire for 11 Nov 1996 96.11.11 Message-ID: <>

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

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