Zaire: IRIN Update 7 on Eastern Zaire, 11/5/96

Zaire: IRIN Update 7 on Eastern Zaire, 11/5/96

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 7 on Eastern Zaire (5 November 1996)

Despite diplomatic efforts, the Kenyan government appears to have failed to convince Zaire to participate in today's regional summit on eastern Zaire. Early hopes that Zaire Prime Minister Kengo wa Dondo would attend have proved false, which undermines the potential of the meeting. Zaire state-run radio said today that Zaire will not attend - on Monday it reiterated that its leaders will not attend any meetings on the crisis until "the aggressor" (Rwanda) has left the country. Kenyan government diplomatic efforts to persuade Kengo to attend were reflected in a statement by Froeign Affairs Minister Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka that Kenya expected representation even if the meeting began without Zairean representation. Musyoka acknowledged today that Kengo would not be attending (Reuters).

Despite fears of on-going fighting, the unilateral ceasefire declared yesterday by the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) is reportedly holding. BBC reports indicated that journalists and aid workers have begun taking advantage of the ceasefire to cross the Zairean border. Negotiations have not yet extended to the rebel ADFL. The BBC reported UNHCR's Ray Wilkinson as saying that aid agencies needed more than the ceasefire to cope with the humanitarian crisis.

Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu is attending the heads of state meeting, along with host president Daniel arap Moi of Kenya. Tanzania's Benjamin Mkapa, Ethiopia's Meles Zenawi, and Eritrea's Issyas Aferworki had arrived by 12.00 noon (local time). Others expected are Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, Zambia's Frederick Chiluba, and Cameroon's Paul Biya - the current chairman of the Organisation of African Unity. Mediator in Burundi's civil war, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere has also arrived.

The failure of Kengo to attend is as likely to be interpreted as further evidence of his difficult political situation, as a reflection of Zaire's refusal to negotiate. Kengo is under pressure to resign, with opponents focusing on his part-Tutsi origin to associate him with the eastern Zaire crisis. The transitional parliament last week summoned Kengo to explain his conduct of the war publicly, and recommended that anyone of Tutsi origin be expelled from public service employment. (There have also been attacks on ethnic Tutsis living in Kinshasa). Kengo was voted into office in 1994 as a "compromise candidate" by the transitional assembly, after seven other prime ministers fell from grace during domestic and international pressure for a "democratic transition" in 1990. Kengo's attempts to reform Zaire's economy stirred domestic resentment but blunted international criticism - and he continued to command sufficient backing from President Mobutu Sese Seko. President Mobutu still enjoys a majority in the transitional national assembly, and is described by many journalists and analysts as "the sole symbol of national unity". Successful regional and international negotiations will depend on who Kengo is seen to represent and whether he has sufficient political power to influence the crisis.

Rwandan representative, President Pasteur Bizimungu, is Rwanda's official head of state. Rwanda continues to deny reports that Rwandan soldiers crossed the border into Zaire during the fighting; Zaire accuses Rwanda of supporting rebels and crossing the border. Rwanda insists on describing the crisis as an "internal Zairean crisis". This was underlined by initially chosing Rwandan Minister for Rehabilitation and Social Integration to attend the summit (with the Rwandan Foreign Minister attending the pre-summit meeting on Monday). Both Rwanda and Zaire have said the issue of borders and colonial territorial boundaries should be discussed.

The Zairean government acknowledged in a statement released on Monday in Kinshasa that it was no longer in control of Goma and Bukavu in eastern Zaire. An anti-government student demonstration scheduled for today has been banned, and state radio on Monday said that troops had been ordered to open fire if it went ahead.

There are a number of UN and international diplomatic initiatives planned and in action, including: UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner Sergio Vieira de Mello dispatched to Kigali; an Organisation of African Unity peace mission (arrived in Kigali from Kinshasa yesterday); UN Special Mediator Raymond Chretien due in France tomorrow; and a scheduled meeting of the European Union and international humanitarian organisations in Brussels on Thursday (November 7th). The United States State Department has pointed to the UN to "take the lead", but no UN organisation has been appointed to date to lead and coordinate humanitarian initiatives. There was hope that today's regional summit would be one of the first productive initiatives in the crisis.

Apart from the concern over disputed territory, the conflict includes crucial issues relating to the Rwandan genocide of 1994. In a paper issued November 4, Oxfam states a long term political settlement must include "an end to impunity in the aftermath of genocide and atrocities across the region". Many of the refugees now fleeing fighting were either directly implicated in the genocide, or have been under the control of armed Interahamwe militia and former Rwandan army ("exiled" Hutu extremists). Failure of the international community to stop the genocide remains an issue with the Rwandan government; and sharp divisions of opinion relating to events in Rwanda will be a factor in the regional and international response - as well as the conflict itself. One UN official told IRIN that there were fundamentally two different policies being advocated - one focusing on providing assistance to those in need in Zaire, and the other as getting the refugees back to Rwanda. The humanitarian players in Nairobi are mainly focused on needs, and the Rwandan government lead the "return" approach. According to the UN official, those who feel the conflict arises from the failure to resolve the 1994 genocide situation, generally feel that the loss of significant numbers of lives to fighting and lack of assistance is "inevitable" and possibly "the price to pay for a resolution".

There is also considerable difficulty for aid organisations, journalists and diplomats to match information from Rwanda with information from Zaire - which suffers from poor communications and is relatively inaccessible.

There are reports that two personnel from a Medecins Sans Frontieres (Holland) mission are stuck on board a boat on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. They were unable to reach their destination, travelling to Kalemie (Zaire).


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Date: Tue, 5 Nov 1996 13:49:14 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 7 on Eastern Zaire for 5 Nov 1996 96.11.5 Message-ID: <>

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

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