Zaire: IRIN Update 24 on Eastern Zaire, 11/15/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 24 on Eastern Zaire, 11/15/96


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IRIN Emergency Update No. 24 on Eastern Zaire (Friday 15 November 1996)

Mugunga camp is reported by UN eyewitnesses as "empty". Journalists and aid agencies report tens of thousands of refugees fleeing through Goma and arriving at the Rwandan border. Thousands have already crossed. CNN reported that rebel forces appear to have pushed the former Rwanda forces (ex-FAR) and Interahamwe militia back, causing the flight of refugees who had been contained inside the camp. However, people fleeing towards the Rwandan border are said to include Zairean displaced, and, according to CNN, also ex-FAR and Hutu militia. It is not yet clear whether all refugees from Mugunga camp are fleeing towards the Rwandan border. Mugunga camp was said to contain about 400,000 before dispersal. Other refugees may have fled into the interior with the ex-FAR and militia, or been casualties of heavy fighting in the camp. The condition of people arriving at the border has been reported as "generally good". Refugees from Mugunga would have only about 15 kilometres to flee, once out of the camp, and had reportedly been recieving some food from existing stocks inside the camp as recently as last week. Mugunga hospital had also been reported last week as functioning at a rudimentary level.

Reports by the American Refugee Committee told IRIN that Mugunga camp had been displaced about four kilometres yesterday because of heavy fighting. Sources in Goma and Sake alledge that rebels surrounding the camp had included an elite force of Rwandan soldiers. Rebels last week reportedly managed to push back the ex-FAR behind Mugunga, and now control the road up to Sake. Displaced Zaireans from Goma - who moved west when Goma was first taken by rebels - have been forced to flee towards Minova (south west of Sake). Retreating Zairean soldiers congregating in Sake have fled north to Kisangani. Fighting is primarily between the ex-FAR and the rebel Alliance of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL). American Refugee Committee say Kirotshe hospital admitted 60 wounded Zaireans yesterday - believed to be from fighting around Sake.

Heavy fighting reported around Goma and Sake yesterday held up aid assessment missions. UNHCR and other agencies have been preparing for an influx of returnees into Gisenyi, Rwanda.

A multinational intervention force still awaits a mandate from the UN Security Council, which should decide on the matter today or Saturday. An advance party of twenty-five Canadians is expected in Nairobi today. The US government, which sent an advance team of forty personnel to Entebbe, Uganda, says its forces can only be inserted into a "non-hostile" environment before US troops will proceed into eastern Zaire. The US also would prefer to have "complicity" from governments in the region. Both the US and the Canadian government say they will not attempt to disarm the armed groups.

The rebel Alliance of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) instituted a unilaterally declared ceasefire on November 4, which held tenuously in areas accessible to aid workers and journalists. Securing a ceasefire is difficult in that there are a number of different armed groups involved in the conflict: they include the rebel ADFL; the Zairean armed forces; Zairean militia groups (inlcuding the Bangilima and the Mai-Mai); and the former Rwanda armed forces (ex-FAR) and Interahamwe militia. Other armed groups reported to have been involved in the conflict are Rwandan government forces, and the Zairean Camp Security Contingent (previously guarding the camps).

It is generally agreed by the United Nations and aid agencies that the number, condition and location of refugees and internally displaced persons is not known, and that lack of information continues to be a major problem. Requested satellite images of the refugees' locations are said to be too indistinct to be of assistance. Different reports of the last week put the refugees in the following approximate locations:

GOMA refugees from Mugunga camp reported today as fleeing towards the

Rwandan border as rebels push back ex-FAR and the Interhamwe.

TONGO From the Kahindo and Katale camps north of Goma, who reportedly

split into smaller groups when caught up in fighting earlier

this week.

MASISI From Sake, and also from the Kahindo and Katale camps, who are

now concentrated mainly in the forest near Masisi town.

NYIRAGONGO there are other reports of refugees from Kahindo and

Katale who fled through the lava fields or skirted round by

the edge of the forest, and are heading towards the Goma area.

BUKAVU Many Bukavu refugees reportedly west of Bukavu, towards Chimanga.

Internally displaced people are also of concern, and are reportedly mixed with the refugees in some areas. The Fizi area, south of Uvira, reportedly contains a concentration of internally displaced, as well as the fishing villages along the coast line. High tension is reported to exist between the local population and the refugees. Refugees and internally displaced in the interior are believed to be surviving on what produce they can find from village fields and gardens. Although water is available in many areas, many internally displaced people and refugees are reportedly suffering from dehydration because of the onset of diarrhoeal diseases.

The United Nations World Health Organisation is distributing an information sheet for aid organisations on protocol for the treatment of Shigella (bloody diarrhoea) and cholera - the two epidemics which decimated massive concentrations of refugees who crossed into eastern Zaire in 1994. Anticipation of massive numbers of deaths in the present crisis are now being treated with more caution. Senior UN nutritionists gave IRIN the following "statistical background" to help estimate the scale of the crisis: Before the crisis, there was an average rate of 84 deaths per day, based on an estimated crude death rate of 0.7 per 10,000 per day in a refugee population of 1.2 million. The birth rate would add about 137 live babies each day. This is considered acceptable by nutritionists and aid workers. Alarm bells ring once the death rate rise about 1 per 10,000 per day; if it reaches 2 per 10,000 per day it is considered a crisis. During the peak of the diarrhoeal disease epidemic in Goma in 1994, the death rate was 25 per 10,000 per day. There is an unprecedented paucity of information on the condition of the refugees in the current crisis, and conflicting estimates of deaths, but death-rate calculations indicate about 480-960 deaths per day. A senior nutritionist warned that the death rate is likely to increase as soon as refugees start congregating in large numbers, because of sanitation problems. The nutritionist speculated that refugees in the interior may have a better chance of survival if they were travelling in small groups.

Nairobi, 15 November 1996, 11:00 GMT


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Date: Fri, 15 Nov 1996 14:05:05 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 24 on Eastern Zaire for 14-15 Nov 1996 96.11.15 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Ali Dinar,