Zaire: IRIN Update 26 on Eastern Zaire, 11/16/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 26 on Eastern Zaire, 11/16/96


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IRIN Emergency Update No. 26 on Eastern Zaire (15-16 November 1996)

One hundred thousand people have so far crossed the border at Gisenyi as of 10:30 am local time, according to the UN Humanitarian Coordinator's spokesperson, Paul Stromberg.

In spite of the massive return, the United Nations Security Council has mandated a multi-national force to use "all necessary means" to facilitate a humanitarian operation in eastern Zaire. On November 15 (Friday) the Security Council authorised deployment of troops under Chapter VII, which allows for intervention without the consent of the affected governments, and the use of force. The operation is to end on 31 March 1997 unless the Council decides on an earlier date. Details of a follow-on operation to succeed the multi-national force are to be considered.

The cost of the operation is to be borne primarily by the participating member states, but the Security Council welcomed the establishment by the Secretary General of a voluntary trust fund to support African participation in the force. It also called for an international conference on peace, security and development in the Great Lakes region under the auspices of the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity.

Controversy among member states about whether to disarm or engage the various armed groups continues. The powerful mandate remains open to interpretation. Chapter VII is the same mandate that was invoked for Somalia in 1992.

Both the Canadian and US government have made it a condition of participation that they will not attempt disarmament. The Security Council resolution welcomed the offer of leadership by the Canadian government. The US - which has already deployed 40 troops to neighbouring Uganda - has gone further by asking for a "de facto ceasefire" and says it does not wish to put troops into a "hostile" enviroment. However, regional leaders and humanitarian organisations continue to stress the need to separate out armed Hutu militants from genuine refugees, and remain concerned about the numbers of refugees and internally displaced people still in areas inaccessible because of armed groups.

Yesterday's massive exodus of thousands of people into Rwanda, which had prompted comments in the press that there was no longer need for a multi-national force. Estimates of Rwandan refugees heading for the border fluctuate wildly between tens and hundreds of thousands. Some journalists report that registration systems in Rwanda and on the border are breaking down. However, even if the highest estimate is taken, it still means that at least half a million refugees remain inside Zaire - along with unknown concentrations of internally displaced persons.

Zaire presented objections to the authorisation of the force. Zaire's representative, Lukabu Khabouji N'Zaji, said that the Zairean government "should be formally consulted on the composition and mandate of the force and the measures needed to implement the decision". He reiterated the stance that Zaire has maintained since fighting broke out in eastern Zaire, namely that Zaire was the victim of agression by regular armed forces of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. He said that Zaire believed the force should have its headquarters in Zaire, and objected to planning done in Kigali. The representative said the force should have a political as well as humanitarian mandate, and should be able to move around to defend itself militarily if blocked by armed aggressors. Zaire also insisted that there should be no recognition of rebel administration.

Rwandan representative at the UN, Gideon Kayinamura, said the proposed multi-national force "is no longer relevant as far as rescuing Rwandan refugees in eastern Zaire is concerned". He said plans for the proposed force should be altered to adapt to the changing situation on the ground, and should include a new mandate. The representative said a new mandate should consider disarming the ex-Rwandan Government soldiers and militia, as well as "availing adequate resources to facilitate the rehabilitation and re-integration of the returning refugees."

In a statement to the Security Council, the Canadian representative, Robert Fowler, said there was still need for a force despite the "heartening news" of returning refugees. In reference to the mandate, he interpreted it as not including disarmament or engagement with armed groups. He said it was important to be clear about what the multinational force was seeking to accomplish, which was facilitation of humanitarian assistance - "We do not, therefore, envisage disarmament or interposition as elements of the Force's mandate. Indeed, disarmament cannot be part of this mandate, as it would require a much larger and robust force which would need to engage in a war with those who most evidently do not wish to be disarmed." Canada anticipates a multi-national force 10 - 15,000 strong. Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy yesterday claimed that the exodus of refugees across the border was a "direct consequence" of the plan to send a Canadian-led multi-national force to the region, reports AFP.

US representative Madeleine Albright welcomed the formation of a force with Canadian leadership, but said "some outstanding questions concerning the organisation and operation of the mission remain to be worked out". The United States has faced criticism for dragging its feet over the multinational force, until Canada offered to lead on Tuesday November 12th.

The Security Council has been strongly criticised by Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi for not consulting African nations about preparations for an intervention force in Zaire. In Rome, at the UN World Food Summit, President Moi said yesterday he expected the UN to consult with regional leaders through the OAU, but had only learned of authorisation for intervention "through the media". President Moi hosted the November 5th Nairobi Summit which brought together regional leaders and affected states (except for Burundi, still under regional sanctions). The Nairobi Summit, which called for a multi-national force with a strong African component and peace talks, was widely seen as the first main step taken to address the eastern Zaire crisis.

Burundi on Friday said the main objective of the multi-national force should be to disarm the former Rwandan forces and Interahamwe militia. A statement issued by Burundi's UN ambassador said they should be held in centres far from the borders with Burundi and Rwanda. The statement warned that otherwise, the mission would be a repeat of 1994 in Rwanda when UNAMIR "helped unleash the genocide". The statement also called for an international conference on the Great Lakes region, under UN and OAU auspices, aimed at triggering a massive return of refugees to their countries. It added that while world attention was focused on Zaire, Burundi which was toiling under economic sanctions, had been forgotten.

UN Special Envoy Raymond Chretien met Burundian leader Pierre Buyoya on Friday to discuss the multi-national force. According to Chretien, Buyoya said he had no objections to the force but that he needed more details of the mission before he would allow the establishment of a base in Bujumbura. He described Buyoya's attitude as "extremely practical."

A senior UN official said today he was concerned about the military's apparent lack of consultation with the humanitarian community regarding the scope of operations in regard to humanitarian needs. He said it appeared the military were planning deployment and operations in isolation, as in Somalia in 1992.

Thousands of refugees continued to stream across the Rwandan border at Gisenyi today after spending a rainy night in the open or under makeshift shelters. A spokesman for the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Kigali said they were crossing at the rate of 12,000 an hour. According to UNHCR, a further 300,000 people were on their way from Mugunga and further west. A UN refugee official reported first thing this morning, two long columns of people could be seen snaking into Goma from the west. UNHCR expects a further 250,000 people to cross the border today. Five hundred unaccompanied children have been registered so far.

Rwandan president Pasteur Bizimungu and his cabinet were at the border yesterday to welcome home the refugees. He told them they would be able to reclaim their property in Rwanda, and that only the guilty would have anything to fear. CNN showed pictures of the refugees applauding Bizimungu.

Many of the returnees are being encouraged to continue to the Nkamira transit camp, 25km from the border, for onward trucking to their home communes. Along the way, they are being supplied with nutritional biscuits and water. At Nkamira, aid agencies hope to separate the refugees into groups according to the distance of their home communes. Food packages will be handed out at prefectural level, before the refugees return to their communes. Fifty trucks organised by UNHCR are available, with more on standby, and the first truckloads are expected in the home communes today. The refugees will receive plastic sheeting, jerry cans and blankets. Screening by the Rwandan government will now take place in the home communes, apart from the search for weapons at the border. Other refugees are being housed at the Umubano camp near the border crossing, which has a capacity for 30,000 people.

UNHCR estimates it has supplies for 50,000 people in Gisenyi and additional stocks are being brought in for another 20,000 people. UNHCR stocks of food and non-food items in Rwanda are sufficient for 200,000 people. The World Food Programme meanwhile says it has 30,000 MT of food in Rwanda, enough to feed 700,000 people for 45 days, and NGOs have emergency relief for another 250,000 people.

Heavy weapons fire was heard in eastern Zaire from the Gisenyi area around 10:00 local time today, AFP reported. It said a UN agency official described how a small plane flying over Goma and Gisenyi came under anti-aircraft fire, although it was not hit.

Sixty-five "invaders" and three Ugandan soldiers have been killed in two days of fighting in western Uganda, according to the New Vision today. The invaders were still in control of Mpondwe border post by yesterday afternoon. A Ugandan newspaper reported today that Health Minister Crispus Kiyonga narrowly escaped death in a rebel ambush on the Ugandan-Zaire border Thursday. According to the Monitor, he was forced to abandon his car and run on foot for one kilometre as rebels fired bullets in his direction. Fighting has been raging in the Kasese border area since Wednesday between Ugandan troops and Zairean-backed rebels.

Nairobi, 16 November 1996, 11:05 GMT


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Date: Sat, 16 Nov 1996 14:07:56 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 26 on Eastern Zaire for 15-16 Nov 1996 96.11.16 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Ali Dinar,