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IRIN Emergency Update No. 19 on Eastern Zaire (12 November 1996)
Canada has offered to lead a multinational force in eastern Zaire, confirmed UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in a press conference in Rome today. He said that under Canadian command, the international force would have both the multinational and neutral dimension needed. According to the BBC, the UN Special Envoy, Canadian Raymond Chretien said a force could be in place within seven days.
Raymond Chretien, UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, said in a BBC interview that both Rwanda and Zaire had expressed a willingness for an intervention force, but that it was a "huge endeavour" that would go beyond the humanitarian sphere. Chretien expressed concern about the number of armed groups in eastern Zaire and said the intervention force would have to work out questions concerning "rules of engagement". He said that such questions would not create further delay if the force was "flexible" and ready to adapt to the situation on the ground.
The UN Secretary General also confirmed that South Africa has agreed to participate in what will be their first committment of troops in an international intervention force. Canada had previously offered troops at an informal meeting, but said more troops were needed - particularly from the United States. A US State Department spokesman yesterday denied reports that the US was blocking the creation of an international force, but said no "coherent plan" was yet available. AFP reported today that a delegation of US Agency for International Development (USAID) crossed into Bukavu, eastern Zaire, today.
A UN team spent most of the day negotiating with rebel leaders in Goma to seek agreements on a number of issues relating to the restarting of humanitarian operations. Other negotiations were being pursued by Humanitarian Coordinator Vieira de Mello in Kinshasa.
Four African foreign ministers plan to fly to France tomorrow to talk with Zairean President Mobutu, Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka said in Nairobi today. On November 5, the Nairobi summit said four African diplomats would travel to Kinshasa to attempt to persuade the Zairean government to accept the resolutions of the Nairobi summit.
The Organisation of African Unity yesterday issued a communique calling for the setting up of an intervention force as recommended by the Nairobi summit (November 5), and stressing the importance of neutrality, and urging speedy deployment. The OAU Central Organ for conflict prevention said that African participation in such a force is "pivotal". According to the statement "the Central Organ underscores the need for the Security Council and the international commmunity at large to create a mechanism which would ensure an effective African participation." Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia said at the opening of the OAU summit yesterday that it is difficult for resource-poor African nations to participate if a multi-national force is to be paid for by the participants and through voluntary contributions, as recommended by the UN Security Council. His views expressed a concern voiced by other African leaders and commentators.
Aid workers say there are "hundreds" of soldiers congregating in Bunia, and local personnel describe it as "not very safe". IRIN was told of shelling at Adi north of Bunia, and missionaries evacuating staff today. Fleeing, looting soldiers are also reported to be a problem in the Beni area. Fighting reported in Bunia is now attributed to competing groups of fleeing Zairean soldiers. A plane was reportedly sent to Bunia to pick up some of the soldiers fleeing from the front, and accompanying family members. There has been one flight known to have ferried soldiers from Bunia to Kisangani. Some soldiers have apparently refused to leave as they fear being sent back to fight - underlining reports of a demoralised army.
Reuters reported two nights of shooting and looting in Kisangani on Friday and Saturday, and said the local military commander warned troops from the warfront on Sunday that if they carried weapons on the street they would be shot. The New York Times reported two other groups of Zairean troops had hijacked river barges and made their way towards Kinshasa, terrorizing towns on the way.
Fleeing Zairean soldiers from the Goma area have moved southwest to Minova on the western shore of the lake. Local aid staff have reported that the retreating soldiers took wives, children and other civilians from Goma to Minova. TMK airline moved a fleet of about 5 aircraft from out of Minova two days ago to Entebbe, Uganda, because of the threatening presence of Zairean soldiers. A British pilot who met with a retreating contingent in Minova on Sunday was held hostage and threatened with execution, but escaped in remaining aircraft.
Two reliable sources told IRIN that areas between Sake and the northern side of Bukavu - outside the town - are insecure, with continued fighting. Sources also say that heavily armed Hutu extremists (Interahamwe and former Rwandan forces) are believed to have moved further into the interior from Mugunga camp. It remains unclear whether those remaining in the camp include armed elements. Anti-refugee sentiment is reported to be high among local Zaireans.
In an article in The Times (UK), Sam Kiley reports finding "the charred bones of several Zairean women and children coated with molten plastic from the roof...where they were burnt alive by the Interahamwe ... in the Katale maternity clinic". One journalist who visited the abandonded camps on the Goma northern axis, said they had found "very little". Some journalists, like Kiley, yesterday were able to travel up to twenty kilometres outside Goma town. There is still no access west, towards Mugunga camp. Kiley writes in The Times that shelling from the direction of Mugunga camp towards Goma town has been "a daily occurence at about 6pm". He attributes the bombardments to Hutu militia.
Concern increases over the effect of the eastern Zaire conflict on Burundi, which is still gripped by regional sanctions since the July coup. The Third Arusha Regional Summit, on 14 October 1996, said all parties to the conflict in Burundi should make a start on a negotiated settlement within a period of a month - a deadline which ran out today, without any visible progress made. The Arusha summit said it would take further measures against Burundian factions if they refused to participate in the negotiations. The next Arusha Summit is expected to meet on Thursday November 14.
The situation in Burundi has deteriorated because of the eastern Zaire crisis; but Burundi has not been invited to participate in regional talks. One NGO said that Burundi is now "as bad as it's ever been". There has been an upsurge of fighting and violence in Burundi, which may be related to the fact that fighters who used to be based in and around the refugee camps in Uvira, eastern Zaire, are coming back into Burundi.
A UNHCR nutritionist told IRIN that refugees in the Uvira camps had been in poorer shape than other refugees in eastern Zaire before the conflict broke out. Good nutritional indicators were reported in other camps in Goma and Bukavu, but Burundian refugees could now be one of the most vulnerable groups.
In Kigoma, since November 7, refugee figures are: 7,252 Zaireans; 2,332 Burundians; 40 Tanzanians (who had been residing in eastern Zaire), 455 Rwandans; and 1 Kenyan. The 2,332 Burundian refugees include six members of parliament. About half of these refugees (total 10,040) are at the Ministry of Home Affairs holding centre and half are in the Kigoma football stadium. Reports say they arrived in reasonable condition, but 8 were treated for gunshot wounds.
Nairobi, 12 November 1996, 15:40 GMT
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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 1996 18:41:29 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 19 on Eastern Zaire for 12 Nov 1996 96.11.12 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.email@example.com>
Editor: Ali Dinar, firstname.lastname@example.org