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IRIN Emergency Update No. 12 on Eastern Zaire (7 November 1996)
Fleeing Zairean soldiers are reportedly arriving in Kisangani, the first major town about 500 kilometres northwest of Bukavu and Goma and looting has taken place. Many uniformed soldiers have made their way to Kisangani from the war front, driving up to fifty vehicles - including commandeered UN cars. Some Zairean soldiers have fled into Uganda. There have been reports of rising food prices and health problems in Kisangani. Hundreds of students burned "Rwandan-owned" property in the town yesterday protesting the government handling of the rebellion.
Thousands of students in Kinshasa have taken over the parliament building during a planned debate on prime minister Kengo wa Dondo.
The rebel Alliance des Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Congo-Zaire (AFDL) is reportedly faced by Zairean troops and Hutu militia, west of Goma. Hutu militia - possibly with Zairean troops - are said to be defending Mugunga camp.
A special European Union meeting is discussing plans for emergency action in Eastern Zaire. The EU plan calls for protection of both refugees and aid workers. Experts are studying the practical means of large-scale intervention, with an inventory of available food and medical supplies and a survey of access roads and airports in the region. Aldo Ajello, EU Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region strongly backs the resolutions of the Nairobi heads of state Summit (Tuesday) and stressed the importance and future role of the grouping of regional states - sometimes known as the "Arusha Club". Ajello also said the quick reaction of regional leaders was a precedent.
France has proposed to send in about 1,000 troops as part of the proposed force, while Spain has said it would send fewer than 1,000. A minimum of 5,000 troops is said to be needed. Ethiopia has also pledged troops, and South Africa says it is willing to assist. France proposes that a multinational force would eventually be replaced by African troops. British Development Minister Lynda Chalker responded angrily to French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette's comment that the international community's response so far was "spineless". Chalker said there could be a need to send international observers to the region.
Cameroon's President Paul Biya, currently chairman of the OAU, implicitly blamed Rwanda in a radio interview (Wednesday) for stirring up the conflict in Zaire. He did not mention Rwanda by name, but said "when you respect the sovereignty of a state, you don't invade it. You don't even infiltrate it".
There have been no overt negotiations with the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) over proposed intervention. Laurent Kabila, ADFL spokesman, rejects French involvement. Rebel leader Andre Ngandu Kassasse in Goma said the international community had misunderstood the rebellion, which he described as a popular uprising against Mobutu. He dismissed speculation that the rebels wanted to secede from Zaire, or that there was an ethnic objective to create a "Tutsi land".
Responses to the proposal of intervention seem to differ between the Rwandan government and the rebels, and contradict reports that the rebels are simply proteges of the Rwandan army. There is a new concern about a front line west of Goma town, where fighting reportedly continues. The Zairean government has responded to diplomatic efforts concerning the international conflict between Rwanda and Zaire, but has so far not acknowledged a civil war. Refugees are possibly behind the front line, with refugee camps reportedly being defended by Hutu militia. The rebel ADFL announced on Wednesday plans to push on with an offensive, despite declaring a unilateral three week ceasefire - journalists today reported preparations in Goma to attack Mugunga camp. The Zairean army and the Rwandan Hutu militias are blamed for the killing and wounding of civilians as they flee west into the interior.
Kigoma in Tanzania increased its caseload of refugees (mainly Zaireans) from 4,800 to 7,000 as of today. World Vision International have set up a temporary centre for the refugees and say about 30 of the incoming refugees have suffered gunshot wounds, many of which are infected. Tanzania already hosts 650,000 Hutu refugees in camps along its borders.
UNICEF has been able to reach its local staff in Goma and report no epidemics, but looted medical supplies.
There is growing criticism that international response is too slow, and that the it has been limited to meetings and diplomacy. Reuters quoted a UN official saying "A blur of international meetings and words is masking the fact that no power capable of saving 1.2 million refugees scattered in eastern Zaire has given them a single cup of water, let alone a foreign protection force". Oxfam director, David Bryer, said in a statement yesterday that it seemed there was a growing international consensus that refugees could be starved back to Rwanda, and said it was a dangerous and simplistic assumption. He said that two years of international indifference (following the Rwandan genocide) had left the world "impaled on the horns of a moral dilemma". Oxfam called on the EU ministerial meeting in Brussels to endeavour to secure a ceasefire, resolve the refugee question and help regional negotiations to address the underlying causes of the conflict.
Civilian airlift companies say the lack of a ceasefire and firm information on the state of lcoal airports was holding up the chartering of cargo aircraft to airlift relief supplies. Reuters quoted one air cargo charter broker saying there had been many requests for flights to Zaire.
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Zaire has called for urgent international humanitarian and political action in eastern Zaire. Cardinal Frederic Etsou-Nzabi-Bamungwabi said he was in favour of any attempt to open humanitarian corridors, and warned that "the longer the delay, the more inhuman the damage".
Martin Griffiths, Director, Department of Humanitarian Affairs, who is assisting Special Coordinator Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Sergio Vieira di Mello (appointment announced yesterday, Wednesday) left Nairobi today to join both Ambassador Raymond Chretien and Mr di Mello in Kigali tomorrow. He told IRIN that "As the days go by both the condition of the refugees and internally displaced inevitably get worse, and the political and security context is becoming more complicated. Our job now is to ensure that coordination mechanisms are in place for when we get the green light to go ahead. One of the first priorities is to make sure there is a prompt and coordinated response once circumstances allow humanitarian agencies in Kigali to return to Kivu." US Special Envoy Ambassador Bogosian met with aid agencies in Nairobi to discuss the emergency today. Jose Ayala-Lasso, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Monday that at least 200 observers were needed in Rwanda, and another 35 in neighbouring Burundi, and urged his staff to step up the monitoring of Hutu returnees fleeing the Zairean conflict. The UN human rights body made an urgent appeal to Western donors to find funding to boost the numbers of observers in the field and encourage the refugees to come home.
Nairobi, 7 November 1996, 15:30 GMT [ENDS]
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Date: Thu, 7 Nov 1996 18:23:38 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 12 on Eastern Zaire for 7 Nov 1996 96.11.7 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.961107182329.10638Yemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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