Zaire: IRIN Update 21 on Eastern Zaire, 11/13/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 21 on Eastern Zaire, 11/13/96


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IRIN Emergency Update No. 21 on eastern Zaire (13 November 1996)

Fourteen US military personnel arrived in Entebbe at 2 pm local time today. A further 40 personnel arrived later in the afternoon, and are setting up antennae and logistical backup for the relief effort for eastern Zaire at Entebbe airport. The advance team is called the Humanitarian Force Support Assistance Wing, and is expected to stay in Entebbe to set up a logistical base. The team arrived with two maritime surveillance aircraft and a C-141 transporter.

A Pentagon official said yesterday that the deployment of the team "enhances the military's ability to respond but does not represent a commitment by the US to deploy other forces". AFP reports that the team was expected to be accompanied by representatives from Britian, France and Canada. It will include medical specialists, engineers, civil affairs and security experts. The United States has been criticised for stalling plans for an multinational force, and was publicly blamed for holding up "other willing countries" by European Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, Emma Bonino, on Monday.

United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said today in Rome that he believed the UN Security Council would give a mandate for an intervention force "within days". BBC quoted him as saying that "every moment was precious" and the eastern Zaire crisis was an "all-out emergency".

Decisions to be made about the mandate of the intervention force include questions about establishing law and order in the area of conflict and deciding on rules of engagement concerning armed groups. Apart from urgent facilitation of humanitarian assistance, the multinational force would be faced with the problem of how to seperate intimidators from bona fide refugees, and how to deal with those committing "war crimes" in the area of conflict. Other dilemmas relate to how the force would deal with the long-term political problem of the Interahamwe and the former Rwandan forces who are reportedly heavily armed and have been using eastern Zaire as a base since 1994.

Thousands of refugees from the deserted Katale camp (north of Goma) are reported in the forests around Masisi, and hundreds are dying every day. Their location is described as being 65 to 75 kilometres away from Goma. An NGO working in Katale camp before it dispersed (population: 202,000) has information from local staff travelling with the refugees. The refugees are reportedly surviving on food found in villages and fields, consisting mostly of tree roots and rotten sweet potatoes, and are suffering mainly from dehydration and bloody diarrhoea. Much of the dehydration is attributed to the onset of diarrhoea. Increasing cases of dysentery and cholera were also reported. Another group from the dispersed Katale and Kahindo camps were caught up in fighting around Tongo (north west of Katale). About 200 people are reported killed from the fighting in the last twenty four hours, and most of the refugees have scattered and are travelling in small groups. Katale camp was mortared on October 28th, and international staff evacuated on November 2.

Aid representatives in Goma said today that shelling in the hospital compound forced aid workers to retreat as the first relief truck was unloading. A WFP representative told IRIN that today's events demonstrated how difficult it had been to get a token amount of aid into eastern Zaire: "it's taken three days to move ten tons. It is very slow and insecure". A BBC correspondent described Goma town as tense, with mortar guns firing from Mugunga area west of the town.

UN Special Envoy Raymond Chretien and Humanitarian Coordinator Sergio Vieira de Mello are in Kinshasa today, continuing talks with the Zairean government on access routes to eastern Zaire. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said on Tuesday that Canadian and US military officers and senior government officials have been discussing the details of the formation of a multinational taskforce in Washington. AFP reports that Lieutenant General Maurice Baril is taking part in the discussions and is expected to lead the multinational force. Prime Minister Chretien said a multinational force of between 6,000 and 10,000 is needed for eastern Zaire. France, who led the calls for international intervention, proposed 5,000 - but faced objections from the Rwandan government and Zairean rebels who accused France of lacking neutrality. Chretien said Canada could have a team of 350 military personnel on the ground in eastern Zaire "within 48 hours" of the Security Council agreeing on a mandate.

The Security Council faced international and regional criticism when it failed to decisively authorise a multinational intervention force on Sunday November 10. Momentum for intervention appeared to wane, until Canada offered to lead the force yesterday. United Nations Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Raymond Chretien said yesterday that he thought the force would arrive within the next seven days.

The Rwandan government has objected to use of French troops, but reports say it is willing to accept France taking part in a multinational force on a logistical level. AFP quotes diplomatic sources in Kinshasa today as saying Rwanda has given consent to Canada leading the force. Rwandan vice president and defence minister Paul Kagame said on state-run radio yesterday that the neutrality of the force was crucial. He said the eastern Zaire crisis was an internal problem for Zaire, and that the force should not interfere with it. He said a multinational force should instead concentrate on the humanitarian aspect of of getting assistance to the refugees and facilitating repatriation.

Leader of the European Union delegation Joan Burton said on state-run Rwandan radio yesterday that the government had expressed concern about the future of the Banyamulenge people and others in Zaire of Tutsi ethnic origin. She also said the EU delegation had discussed with the Zaire government in Kinshasa the transition to democracy, and especially questions of citizenship. This would relate to the issue of the nationality of the Banyamulenge (ethnic Tutsis) in eastern Zaire.

Persistent sources indicate some 100,000 displaced people congregating in Fizi, including internally displaced people and refugees. One aid representive told IRIN that many who had fled to coastal villages report they were attacked by fleeing Zairean soldiers. There are also reports from those who fled Uvira that Zairean soldiers targetted ethnic Tutsis.

The UN World Health Organisation said today that it could not confirm cases of cholera reported in eastern Zaire. Spokesman Philippe Stroot said that although all the elements seem present for an outbreak, due to bad sanitation, there were no confirmed cases of cholera. WHO is planning to send a specialist from Geneva to the region.

Kinshasa was reported as uneasy as residents stayed at home yesterday - students had given Tuesday as an ultimatum for Prime Minister Kengo wa Dondo to step down. AFP say the streets of Kinshasa were deserted yesterday, after a week of demonstrations and student unrest.

Seven African countries have offered to contribute troops or support to a military intervention force for Zaire. Botswanan foreign affairs acting permanent secretary Charles Ntwaagae said today his country could send between 600 and 800 troops to the region, joining Ethiopia, Senegal, Congo, Chad, Mali and South Africa. Western involvement in the form of military support or humanitarian aid so far has been pledged by Canada, USA, the EU, Italy, France, Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and the Nordic countries.

Nairobi, 13 November 1996, 16:00 GMT


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Date: Wed, 13 Nov 1996 19:04:51 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 21 on Eastern Zaire for 13 Nov 1996 96.11.13 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Ali Dinar,