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IRIN Emergency Update No. 20 on Eastern Zaire (13 November 1996)
Shots were fired at a small plane flying over Goma this morning, reports AFP and BBC. AFP say anti-aircraft guns fired at the plane as apparent warning shots, and say the rebels have also threatened to shoot at French troops if they come into territory held by the rebel Alliance of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL).
Rebel commander Andre Kissasse-Ngandu issued the threats at a press conference today in Goma, when he said a small unidentified plane had been seen flying over the Sake region, about 25 kilometres west of Goma on Tuesday. Planes known to have been flying in eastern Zaire since rebels took about 300 kilometres of border territory, include those conducting aerial surveys for aid agencies and military planes attempting to evacuate retreating Zairean soldiers. A flight chartered by Associated Press filmed refugees congregated at Mugunga and deserted sites at Kibumba, Kahindo and Katale.
United Nations Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, Raymond Chretien, is exploring access routes to eastern Zaire from within Zaire. The Zairean government is emphatic that aid passing through rebel territory would be unacceptable and would constitute a violation of territorial integrity.
Aid through Zaire would have to come through western Zaire, and poses major logistical problems. A WFP representative told IRIN that an estimated 500 tons of food a day would have to moved out of Kisangani, eastern Zaire, to areas in Kivu, some 500 kilometres away. This would require a fleet of C130s doing 32 rotations a day into Kisangani, with a huge trucking fleet. There would also be an immediate need for storage, logistical backup and fuel - all of which is not available in eastern Zaire. A UN assessment mission this year in Zaire came to the conclusion that large scale relief operations from inside Zaire were not feasible. The Zairean government denied permission to a proposed UN assessment mission to Kisangani this week. Kisangani currently has a growing number of fleeing Zairean soldiers, which has raised tension in the town and caused insecurity.
ICRC plans to send a flight from Kinshasa to Kisangani today with limited relief goods and staff to strengthen their delegation there. Further flights are planned if permission can be secured.
In the context of an aid distribution in Goma, the inter-agency assessment mission met on Monday, 11 November, with one of the local leaders in order to set down the principles which would govern possible UN assistance missions. It was agreed that the presence of UN agencies and contacts with the authorities do not represent a recognition of any sort or an infringement of Zairean sovereignty, and that UN missions and staff would be regarded as neutral. An independent assessment of the needs and the prevailing security conditions in the area is to be carried out as a priority. Practical issues such as the return of UN and NGO property, the reduction of border formalities and verification of aid brought into Goma were raised and will be resolved in collaboration with local authorities, who agreed to name a single liaison officer to facilitate procedures. Local authorities requested that staff hired by aid agencies and NGOs - aside from expatriate personnel, whose nationality or past assignments will not be taken into account - be natives or residents of the Goma area and that the agencies and NGOs not visit military installations; the UN mission acceded to these requests. An NGO representative was present during most of the discussions and it was understood that these conditions apply also to the NGO community. A meeting between rebel spokesman Kabila and NGOs wishing to operate in Goma was planned for this morning.
UNHCR says it finds itself "in the midst of a quandary of humanitarian, political and security challenges". In a statement to the Organisation of African Unity, David Lambo, UNHCR Regional Liaison Representative for Africa said on Monday that the "complex and unfolding drama is unprecedented in the history of UNHCR". He said reports confirm that many thousands have died, or face death, after fleeing camps and going deep into the hills and forests of Zaire. A small number of Rwandan refugees have fled to neighbouring Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia, he said.
He said the OAU meeting was crucial to push forward plans to allow effective delivery of aid, and there was need for a sustainable cease-fire. The UNHCR representative listed immediate delivery of humanitarian assistance, orderly repatriation of refugees, the establishment of return corridors, and separation of intimidators from bona fide refugees as the top priorities. He also said that UNHCR and other agencies would monitor reintegration of returning Rwandan refugees. He warned that failure to find a solution to the present crisis may lead to even greater political instability and humanitarian problems, and that no-one should underestimate the enormity of the humanitarian crisis - "the picture of over a million refugees going deeper into Zaire, wandering aimlessly around, dying of starvation, disease and exhaustion, is a very frightening prospect indeed."
Burundian refugees have also been affected by the eastern Zaire crisis, many having fled the Uvira area. Reports of increased violence and conflict in Burundi continue, believed to be related to the eastern Zaire crisis (see previous IRIN updates). State-run Burundi radio reported yesterday that security forces had engaged in a three hour fight with an armed group on the Bujumbura-Jenda road. It said armed groups had also been reported in Muhuta, Mugamba and Burambi in Bururi Province. Security forces say they captured Kalashnikovs and a rocket launcher.
Burundian refugees in Kigoma have been advised not to engage in any political activities, and to live peacefully, reported state-run Tanzania radio yesterday. An aid representative who had visited refugees in Kigoma told IRIN today that the number of new arrivals had dropped to about 400 a day. From November 9th, the number of refugees at Kigoma is said to be 14,400. They are predominantly Zaireans. Refugees - who include local aid workers - told the aid representative that an estimated 50,000 refugees remained in the Uvira area. Refugees who first arrived by small fishing boats were said to be carrying televisions, computers and household goods - referred to as "middle class refugees" by one NGO. The refugees are in relatively good condition. A fee of about $100 was charged to this first catagory of refugees, with three or four boat-loads of about 400 refugees a day. The price has apparently dropped, as has the number of refugees arriving; aid workers say they are not clear whether this is because there are fewer people fleeing the area, or whether it is because those left behind are less able to get to Kigoma. Aid agencies also report that many of the refugees have landed on the beaches and are staying in inaccessible fishing villages. Tension is apparently high between locals and the dependent refugees.
Nairobi, 13 November 1996, 11:45 GMT [ENDS]
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Date: Wed, 13 Nov 1996 13:45:22 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 20 on Eastern Zaire for 13 Nov 1996 96.11.13 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.961113134210.1902Demail@example.com>
Editor: Ali Dinar, firstname.lastname@example.org