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IRIN Emergency Update No. 14 on Eastern Zaire (8 November 1996)
Heavy artillery fire west of Goma town has been reported by AFP this afternoon, with the road to Mugunga closed to civilians. Fighting started last night, with gunfire heard about 15 to 20 kilometres from the town. A rebel official was quoted as saying armed Hutu extremists were "holding out" and trying to attack Goma. This follows reports yesterday of rebels preparing an offensive against Mugunga camp. Reuters reported yesterday that armed Hutu extremists had seized more than a hundred Zairean children from a nearby village this week, and were holding them hostage at Mugunga camp to deter a rebel attack.
New fighting marks the end of a tenuous three week ceasefire unilaterally declared on November 4 (Monday) by the rebels. Rebels claimed to AFP however that the ceasefire still holds, as they were simply defending Goma against attacks from Mugunga.
A new site of conflict emerged today in Nyakunde, 50 kilometres southwest of Bunia, on the Ugandan border. Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) have been evacuating aid workers today, and 300 Zairean refugees have crossed the border to Kasese as a result of the fighting. Zairean soldiers are reportedly regrouping in Bunia. This new site of rebellion is more than 250 kilometres north of the strip of border territory known to be held by the AFDL rebels. Aid workers say they need to clarify whether fighters are from a different group.
The rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL) have been protesting that their movement is "misunderstood" by the international community, who describe it as a "Tutsi-led" rebellion. According to the ADFL, it comprises different political and ethnic groups fighting to overthrow President Mobutu. Yesterday AFDL spokesman Laurent Kabila, in Bukavu, was reported by AFP as urging crowds to join the movement, saying young people would recieve weapons "as soon as tomorrow". The rebels were also reported as attempting to set up an administration in the three main towns they occupy, and appointing "political commissars".
Yesterday saw the third demonstration in a week in Kinshasa against prime minister Kengo wa Dondo. Thousands of protesters occupied the main parliament, despite a ban on demonstrations, and accused Kengo of "high treason", associating his part-Tutsi background with the rebellion in eastern Zaire. Troops did little to restrain protesters; Zaire's army chief of staff General Eluki Monga Aundu publicly protested against the government's handling of the crisis last week.
State-run Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) said yesterday that President Moi had recieved an apology by Kengo wa Dondo, who said he could not attend regional talks on Tuesday because he was prevented by a parliamentary resolution demanding that all foreign troops withdraw from Zairean territory before any participation in talks. This was a reference to Rwandan troops, which journalists continue to report as present in rebel-held eastern Zaire.
A British and French summit today discusses planned intervention. British Prime Minister John Major was quoted on BBC World Service saying that military intervention and the contribution of British troops was "a possibility", but he said it was important to have consent from people in the region. He also said the force should have a large contingent of African troops. Britain has been described as acting as a brake on French enthusiasm to intervene, and there is division among member states over the use of Chapter VII - which allows intervention without consent of the parties involved.
BBC World Service talked of the difficulty of getting consensus for intervention from actors involved when there appeared to be "no organised government" in the area of conflict. The BBC also ran reports from Goma describing hungry local residents being beaten back by rebels as they tried to seize food in town warehouses. Concern focuses on the situation beyond the town, with new reports of dying refugees trapped behind the front line.
The International Committee of the Red Cross called today for armed intervention. Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu today said Rwanda was opposed to French, Belgian and Rwandan participation in the intervention force.
The three Special Rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Commission for Burundi, Rwanda and Zaire have expressed concern for the fate of Burundian refugees trying to return home from eastern Zaire. There have been reports of hundreds of people being killed while trying to return to their villages via the Gatumba transit point. In a statement issued in Geneva, the rapporteurs expressed concern that rebels in eastern Zaire and the Burundian army were conspiring to allow only women and children into the Gatumba transit camp, in an effort to push the men into Burundi's interior. Burundian refugees are primarily Hutus, and the refugee camps were regarded as bases for rebellion within Burundi. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jose Ayala Lasso, said he was concerned that no human rights groups or humanitarian agencies were authorised to enter the "no man's land" transit zone to monitor the situation.
No new returnees have been reported arriving at Gatumba over the last three days, and the total of arrivals remains 11,000. WFP reported about 3,000 arriving north of Gatumba yesterday, with a further 500 arriving today. Returnees are being moved back to home communes, even in insecure provinces such as Cibitoke. An assessment mission to northwestern Burundi by UN agencies and NGOs today confirmed the arrival of at least 15,000 returnees in addition to the arrivals at Gatumba.
The Burundi government denied on Wednesday it was responsible for killings on the border. Refugees, aid workers, diplomats and human rights organisations say bodies washed up on the shores of the lake is evidence of the killings; but the Burundian government say the bodies are a result of anarchy in eastern Zaire.
New figures on refugee movements are:
TANZANIA there are now 10,080 registered refugees, with a futher 3,000 at the port - most of whom are said to be Zairean. UGANDA new arrival points: Butagota 2,761, Ruenchane 500 (Zairean), Kisesi 300
UN DHA figures on UN humanitarian assistance to the Great Lakes reveal that $555 million has been made available for UN emergency operations in 1996 so far, which is approximately 80% of needs estimated before the new crisis. USA and the European Union are the largest contributors, providing 33% ($187m) and 14% ($79m) respectively. Church World Service issued a US$500,000 appeal yesterday, for "massive relief programs in new camps" in Zaire, including the resumpion of medical operations. Immediate needs are listed as distribution of medecines and medical services, food, clothing, health and sanitation kits, blankets and related shelter items, kitchen utensils and agricultural tools. The appeal says refugees are emphatic they would "rather die in Zaire than in Rwanda".
UN Special Mediator Ambassador Raymond Chretien flew into Kigali today and held a meeting this afternoon with Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu. The newly appointed UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Great Lakes, Sergio Vieira de Mello also attended. The officials, along with were Deputy Coordinator Martin Griffiths, held meetings with the donor community, UN agencies and the heads of NGOs. Four top officials from the European Union plan to visit the Great Lakes region tomorrow (Saturday) - European Commissioner Emma Bonino will travel with representatives from Ireland, Italy and Netherlands.
Nairobi, 8 November 1996, 16:20 GMT
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Date: Fri, 8 Nov 1996 19:15:22 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 14 on Eastern Zaire for 8 Nov 1996 96.11.8 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.961108191513.20912Kemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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