Zaire: IRIN Update 16 on Eastern Zaire, 11/11/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 16 on Eastern Zaire, 11/11/96

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

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

IRIN Emergency Update No. 16 on Eastern Zaire (11 November 1996)

UN agencies have crossed the border into Eastern Zaire from Rwanda with limited medical and nutritional supplies around midday today. Two UN interagency assessment teams looking at security and the general humanitarian situation reached Bukavu and Goma. They are expected back in Rwanda tonight. If security permits, more thorough assessements will be made tomorrow.

A group of NGOs also crossed into Goma today, among them Concern, Save the Children Fund (SCF-UK), Trocaire, MSF International and Merlin. Other NGOs have been given permission to carry out cross-border missions by Rwanda, but have not yet secured a go ahead from the rebel Alliance for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL).

Aid representatives say the Rwandan Minister of Health, Dr Joseph Karemera is involved in mediating with Zairean rebels on behalf of the aid agencies. Over the last two days, the Rwandan government has been calling for international representatives to hold talks with the rebels.

The Government of Rwanda have authorised a number of NGOs to work in Eastern Zaire from Rwanda. The government says it is anxious that missions into eastern Zaire preempt the arrival of any international military force; and that assistance to eastern Zaire should not be a feeding and maintenance programme which perpetuates the existence of the established (though mostly dispersed) refugee camps. A cabinet meeting was convened on Saturday (Nov 8) by President Bizimungu, which called for all those involved in humanitarian assistance to be facilitated with travel documents. President Bizimungu said on state-run Rwandan radio that the government was looking for ways to send food and medicine to the refugees inside Eastern Zaire, with the assistance of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator. Bizimungu called for talks with the rebels to allow access to the refugees, but he said that if the "militia" (Interhamwe) and former Rwandan forces resisted by arms then that would be the time for the international community to intervene militarily.

The Rwandan government says French, Belgian and Rwandan troops should not participate in an international intervention force. State radio continues to report "heavy fighting" around the Mugunga refugee camp, attributing it to Hutu militia and former Rwandan troops resisting the advance of rebel troops.

Spokesman for the rebel ADFL, Laurent-Desire Kabila, announced in Goma on Sunday that a humanitarian corridor should be opened to Mugunga camp. The site, west of Goma town, held about 350,000 refugees shortly before the conflict. He has called for an "absolutely impartial" international force - excluding French participation - and says humanitarian organisations must contact the ADFL for authorisation to enter the rebel-held zone. The BBC report the ADFL saying that no aid workers who have previously worked in Zaire will be allowed into eastern Zaire.

About 600 Rwandan refugees have managed to cross into Rwanda over the last two days, reported as being in a weak condition. Some of the refugees had wounds - including machete wounds from fights over food - and many have swollen legs from many days of walking. Refugees talk of the terrible plight of those left behind, but the international community still has no real information on the whereabouts and condition of refugees and internally displaced people in eastern Zaire. A UN official told IRIN that eventual access would "unlock horrors".

UN Coordinator Sergio de Mello, this morning was still negotiating for access from the Zairean government in Kinshasa. Unlike NGOs, the UN is tied by a mandate which normally needs governmental approval to operate on the territory of a member state. However, the UN Secretary-General has personally authorized today's cross-border assessment missions.

Some thirty foreign journalists were told to leave Goma this morning - although some are believed to remain in the town. They now wait with the aid agencies on the Rwandan side to go back into the town. Journalists said access at the border had grown more restricted over the weekend. Last week, journalists and some aid workers were given access to Goma town after the rebels unilaterally declared a ceasefire; but fighting between rebels and armed Hutu extremists some 15 kilometres west of the town re-started on Friday.

Most aid missions attempting to get into Goma town on Sunday were turned away by the rebel ADFL, with the exception of two convoys from the German NGO Christoffel-Blindenmission, carrying some medical supplies. Two members of MSF went into Bukavu on Sunday, but AFP reports they failed to meet with rebel authorities to get authorisation to take in relief supplies from Rwanda today.

New refugee figures are:

UGANDA 5,000 Zairean refugees in Ishasha and Butagota, of an original
9,000, have spontaneously repatriated. 4,000 have been moved to
a new site at Matanda.
4,500 remain at the Kisoro area, and will be moved to
BURUNDI 2,000 returnees have been counted by UNHCR at Gatumba, 370 newly
arrived yesterday.
8,000 from Gatumba have so far been returned to their home areas.
TANZANIA UNHCR reports 2,000 new arrivals a day at Kigoma, mainly
Zairean. There are now about 20,000 refugees at Kigoma since
the Eastern Zaire conflict began.

Foreign ministers from 17 African countries will meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, today on the crisis in Eastern Zaire. The OAU - which participated in the regional summit in Nairobi (Tuesday November 5) that made a clear call for international intervention - has been called on by the UN Security Council to work with the UN and regional leaders to help "draw up a concept of operations and framework for a humanitarian task force, with military assistance if necessary" (Security Council resolution, November 11). The OAU is expected to discuss plans for a neutral force to set up humanitarian corridors and temporary safe havens. France has called for a 5,000-strong force made up from troops from Africa, Europe and the United States, but French involvement is rejected by those involved in the conflict, except Zaire. France is seen as a long-term backer of several regimes in the region, and still expresses support for ailing President Mobutu of Zaire, now recuperating from cancer in France. AFP reports a top OAU official saying it is possible that intervention may only involve African forces. Several African countries, including Ethiopia, Senegal, Congo, Chad and Mali have said they will contribute troops, and South Africa is reported to be ready to offer assistance.

Sergio de Mello, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Great Lakes, is in Kinshasa today, hoping to convince the Zairean authorities to authorise cross-border humanitarian missions. UN Special Envoy, Raymond Chretien is in Kigali. European Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Emma Bonino with ministers from Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands, accompanied by EU officials, came from Kinshasa yesterday to Kigali. BBC quoted Emma Bonino as criticising the United States for holding up other member states prepared to go ahead with international intervention.

Nairobi, 11 November 1996 10:30 GMT [ENDS]

[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 13:30:34 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 16 on Eastern Zaire for 10-11 Nov 1996 96.11.11 Message-ID: <>

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

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific