Zaire: IRIN Update on Eastern Zaire, 11/1/96

Zaire: IRIN Update on Eastern Zaire, 11/1/96

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 3 on Eastern Zaire (1 November 1996)

By mid-afternoon, there were reports of large-scale cross border shelling between Rwanda and Zaire at the border close to Gisenyi and Goma. Rwandan senior advisor Claude Dusaidi said that sixteen mortars fell on Gisenyi, including hits on the site of the former Petite Barriere Zairean Tutsi refugee camp, which had previously been evacuated. "We are being aggressed", he said in a BBC interview. Some reports say Rwandan forces were seen firing towards the Goma area from boats on Lake Kivu. Rwandan authorities allege that ex-Rwandan Government Forces and Interahamwe are getting involved in the fighting on the Zairean side.

Goma remained tense. Although aid agencies reported only limited fighting around the city during Thursday night, looting continued and armed youths were reported roaming the streets of some sections of the city. Both IFRC and UNICEF reported that armed individuals confiscated a large number of their vehicles. As efforts continued to evacaute a portion of the international humanitarian staff in the city, aid agencies took advantage of the lull in fighting Friday morning to congregate their staff at the UNHCR compound and other designated evacuation points. However, this operation was interrupted when fighting was again heard in the city late morning. It is still undecided when or how an evacuation will take place, if all international humanitarian staff would be evacuated, or if a skeleton humanitarian staff will remain behind.

Early in the day, there were reports that all 210,000 Rwandan Hutu refugees in the Katale camp north of Goma were fleeing Friday, caught in cross fire between Tutsi rebels and Zairean troops. The refugees were said to be moving southwest, possibly towards Muganga camp. However, late Friday afternoon, a UNHCR spokesman said the reports were incorrect and that the refugees were just moving into the interior of the camp. Katale is the northernmost camp and is 54km from Goma. The location of another 113,000 refugees who fled Kahindo camp yesterday is still unclear.

In the first international press reports from rebel-held South Kivu since the crisis began, Reuter reports from Uvira that thousands of heavily-armed Banyamulenge fighters were visible on the road from the town of Kamanyola, near Bukavu, to the town of Uvira, about 100 km south. The dispatch said that inhabitants of the town were returning on foot to their homes which were largely intact. In a speech delivered in Uvira, Laurent Kabila, chief coordinator of the newly formed Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, told a crowd of thousands of cheering people that "we must move Mobutu and throw him into the dustbin of history."

The BBC reported that up to 100 foreigners, mostly European missionaries, were trapped by fighting in the Roman Catholic cathedral in Bukavu.

In Burundi, another 2,000 Burundians have returned from Zaire to the Gatumba camp.

Three leading Zairean human rights activists have been detained for making inquiries into the plight of Tutsis detained by military authorities. A statement from The Voice of the Voiceless Organization said that their president and two other members of the organization were being denied both food and the right to receive visitors. According to Amnesty International, hundreds of unarmed civilians were arbitrarily and deliberately killed in fighting in South Kivu.

French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette on Thursday accused Rwanda of intervening militarily in eastern Zaire. The accusations were made in a foreign policy debate in the French Senate. There are persistant rumours that France intends to intervene in the eastern Zaire but the French government has denied any such plans. French Defence Minister Charles Millon that "France wants a clear reaction on the part of the United Nations", but that France did not want to be put in the "same position" as two years ago, when its Operation Turquoise in southwestern Rwanda was widely criticized.

MSF on Thursday called for the creation of a protected zone for refugees caught up in the fighting in eastern Zaire. MSF urged that a protected area be set up in Rwanda "at a reasonable distance from the conflict zone", through which refugees could pass and humanitarian agencies could safely operate.

International calls for a ceasefire continue. In a speech to UN delegates, Raymond Chretien, who was named UN Special Mediator on Wednesday, said his first priority would be to attempt to arrange a ceasefire. He is expected to arrive in the region on November 8. South African President Nelson Mandela said he too was ready to play a role in the region but did not specify what form this might take.

The Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response, a coalition of seven of the largest international NGOs has also released a statement calling on the international community to intensify diplomatic efforts to bring about a political settlement as well as to develop adequate contingency plans for a humanitarian response in the event of a widening war.

Zaire's Prime Minister Kengo wa Dondo said his country would refuse to negotiate over the fighting and refugee crisis while the "enemy" holds Zairean territory. On Thursday, the Zairean Transitional National Assembly called for the severing of Zaire's relations with Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda and the called upon the goverment to halt debt service payments to the IMF to pay for the military effort in the east. Tutsis in Kinshasa allege increasing harassment.

The Dutch government announced that it would provide WFP with $3.5 million to help the agency in its efforts to address the crisis in eastern Zaire. The bulk of the cash will go towards the transport and distribution of food in the region but money will also be set aside for the reconstruction - as soon there is sufficient security - of port facilities needed for the off-loading of aid in Bukavu.

Radio Rwanda reported that Bangilima fighters, a North Kivu militia group, stormed a church early Wednesday morning and released some 500 mainly Tutsi prisoners who had been held for several days. The raid enabled the "hostages" to cross the border into Gisenyi. The report did not specify who had been holding the people prisoners.

Nairobi, 15:45 GMT, 1 November 1996


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Date: Fri, 1 Nov 1996 18:40:01 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update on Eastern Zaire for 1 November 96.11.1 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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