Zaire: IRIN Bulletin: 15 November 1996

Zaire: IRIN Bulletin: 15 November 1996


Department of Humanitarian Affairs

Integrated Regional Information Network

Tel: +254 2 622147

Fax: +254 2 622129


IRIN Bulletin: Nairobi, November 15, 14:55 GMT

UNHCR reported that by 1pm local time that 15,000 people have arrived in Gisenyi, Rwanda. WFP said an estimated 70,000 others were backed up at the border. CNN reported "wildly fluctuating figures", but described the exodus as "countless thousands". Peter Kessler, UNHCR Nairobi said there was a 25 mile long stream of people, which included people from Mugunga, Lac Vert, Sake, Kahindo and Katale. UNHCR Geneva estimate that if refugees continue arriving at the present rate, 100,000 are expected by this evening.

The exodus is reportedly "orderly" at this stage, with aid agencies waiting to recieve the refugees/returnees in Gisenyi, Rwanda. The World Food Programme has at least 750 tons of food in Gisenyi, which can feed 200,000 people for ten days, said a WFP representative. There are also food rations (two month food packages) in Nkamira way-station nearby. The United Nations and NGOs have food stocks and preparations in Rwanda. UNHCR says there is a reception centre at Umubano which has the capacity for 15,000 people. There are two more reception centres at Nkamira and Gisenyi-College. UNHCR have additional relief stocks in Kigali (Rwanda) and Kampala (Uganda).

United Nations eye-witnesses report Mugunga camp empty. TV pictures have been shown of a massacre at the deserted camp of fifteen people, including women and children. First-hand accounts from refugees say that the Interahamwe and former Rwandan forces tried to make the refugees retreat with them into the interior yesterday, and began destroying the refugee huts. Some of the refugees who refused to go with the Hutu militants were reportedly killed, and an unknown number accompanied them into the interior. Refugees are also reportedly heading towards Masisi.

It is assumed that most of the people fleeing towards the border are Rwandan refugees, but they could also include internally displaced Zaireans. One journalist speculated that there could be members of the former Rwandan forces (ex-FAR) and the Interahamwe militia among them. The refugees returning to Rwanda are being screened and searched, slowing down the numbers crossing into Rwanda. One journalist in Gisenyi told IRIN that groups of Rwandan personnel - some identified as soldiers in civilian clothes - were taking details of families, numbers of children and wives and details of original commune and prefecture.

People arriving at the border are said to be in reasonably good condition, but medical personnel caution that the strongest people will arrive first. There have also been two confirmed cases of cholera at Goma hospital of people from Sake, according to WHO. Sake is one of the endemic cholera areas in Zaire.

Many of the Rwandan returnees will reportedly be trucked immediately back to their home communes, although a system of repatriation or screening has yet to be made public. One UN official told IRIN that it was essential that a huge mass of people should not congregate at the border as it would rapidly lead to problems of disease and sanitation.

Although some press reports portray the exodus as a "solution" to the eastern Zaire crisis, hundreds of thousands of refugees remain unaccounted for. Mugunga camp held about 400,000 refugees before the crisis, and the total number of refugees in the Goma area was 715,000. Reports so far indicate that the numbers heading for the border are likely to be around 100,000. First hand accounts from refugees arriving over the border describe long walks in the forest, over the last two weeks, indicating that many of those arriving have initially come from the Katale and Kahindo camps and not the original Mugunga population.

There are also some 490,000 refugees from Bukavu and Uvira who have not been accounted for. Concentrations of refugees - apparently mixed up with the internally displaced - remain inaccesible in the Zairean interior.


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Date: Fri, 15 Nov 1996 17:05:01 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Bulletin: 15 November 1996, 14:55 GMT 96.11.15 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Ali Dinar,