Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round Up, 4/28/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round Up, 4/28/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for the Great Lakes

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[Following requests from a large number of subscribers, IRIN has reactivated its weekly news roundup of main events in the Great Lakes region, beginning today. These reports were discontinued in late 1996 following the Zairean crisis which necessitated a daily report. Daily updates will be continued until deemed no longer necessary. In addition, to assist busy decision-makers, the weekly roundup will be made available in English and French (contact to subscribe). The weekly roundup, as in the past, will be based on IRIN daily updates and other relevant information from UN agencies, NGOs, governments, donors and the media. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original sources.]

IRIN Weekly Roundup 1-97 of Main Events in the Great Lakes region covering the period 21 - 27 April 1997.


Fears for the survival of some 85,000 Rwandan refugees who disappeared this week from camps south of Kisangani grew over the weekend after a relief mission to Kasese and air reconnaisance flights failed to find all but a few of them. The mission, comprising UNHCR, WFP, Rwandan government representatives and the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL), took place on Thursday amid increasing international condemnation of the rebel handling of the refugee situation. Villagers near the camps have accused the ADFL of killing hundreds of refugees. The camps had been sealed off by the ADFL for three days prior to the departure of the refugees. Relief officials on Thursday's mission said that no bodies had been seen in Kasese but gun-fire and grenade explosions prevented them from inspecting a large mound of earth which appeared to be freshly dug.

The rebels dismissed the accusations as "total nonsense" and say that they only intervened in the Kasese area because of looting and heavy fighting between refugees and Zairean residents. During the week, residents robbed WFP food depots and looted a train carrying relief supplies destined for refugees at Biaro, 42 kms south of Kisangani. The rebels say the attacks are in retaliation for the killing by refugees of up to eight local people.

International officials met with ADFL leader, Laurent-Desire Kabila, in Kisangani on Saturday and Sunday to demand an explanation for what happened to the refugees. Kabila strenously denied that his forces were responsible for attacking the refugees and told agencies that they had 60 days in which to repatriate them or "he would do the job himself" (see Monday's IRIN report). Some 55,000 refugees, including around 9,000 too ill to walk, had been located in Kasese and a further 30,000-32,000 at Biaro. Aid agencies believe that many of the refugees have fled into dense forest where they cannot be seen by aerial surveys.

ICRC has expressed serious concern about another 75,000 vulnerable Rwandan refugees who are reported to be wandering through Equateur province or heading towards the Angola border. Many of these groups came originally from the Bukavu area of South Kivu, the first region captured by rebels following their advance in October last year. Agencies fear that these groups may be "forgotten" as concerns for the missing Kasese refugees mount. Aid agency MSF claimed on Friday that serious human rights abuses have been committed by the ADFL in the Shabunda-Bukavu region, including the deliberate killing of refugees. A report issued earlier this month by the UN's Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Zaire also listed numerous allegations of similar killings west of Bukavu. A UN Commission of Inquiry, to begin next month, is to probe the alleged massacres. The ADFL has consistently denied these allegations. ZAIRE - GROWING INTERNATIONAL CONDEMNATION The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan accused the ADFL of carrying out a "slow extermination" policy of Rwandan refugees, according to his spokesman on Friday. Earlier in the week, Annan said that the rebels were starving the refugees and that he was "shocked and appalled by the inhumanity of those who control eastern Zaire to these refugees, most of whom are innocent". Annan's remarks followed the reports of killings in Kasese and incidents which some sources say are part of a concerted effort to destabilise aid operations and prevent a planned airlift of refugees to Rwanda. The airlift has been put on hold until 5 May because of security incidents and rebel concerns about outbreaks of cholera in Kasese and Biaro camps. Rebels also requistioned aviation fuel needed for the airlift.

Strong statements condemning the rebel handling of the refugee situation were made in the week by Amnesty International, Refugees International, other concerned aid groups and Western governments. The UN Security Council issued a statement Thursday expressing alarm over reports of massacres and human rights abuses. The Council called on the rebels to ensure unrestricted and safe access for humanitarian agencies and for Kabila to "cooperate fully" with the UN Commission of Inquiry. The US government warned that the failure of the ADFL to facilitate repatriation efforts would seriously affect future relationships between the rebels and the US. Other governments and the EU have echoed similar warnings. Kabila's initial response on Wednesday to the condemnations was to blame problems on UN inefficiency and the ex-FAR and Interahamwe, whom the rebels say instigated the attacks. At the weekend Kabila said that the charges made by Annan were "gratuitous" and that he would be seeking a personal apology from him.


Rebel claims that they had seized Ilebo and Tshikapa, towns en route to the Zairean capital of Kinshasa, without a fight were confirmed Thursday by a senior Zairean church official. The rebels also claimed that a third town, Bowete, had fallen and that they were advancing on Kikwit, the economic capital of Bandundu province and the last significant town before Kinshasa. In announcing the capture of the three towns, rebel "justice minister, Mwenze Kongolo denied reports that ADFL troops had passed through Angola to attack Tshikapa - some 100 kms from the border, but said that Angola was "a friendly country".

In Kinshasa, press reports at the weekend said that ADFL forces were poised to take the villages of Idiofa and Gungu, 80 kms from Kikwit. Kikwit, the focal point of the deadly Ebola disease more than a year ago, is reported to be in a "state of chaos". Rebels are said to be advancing on Kinshasa on two fronts, with a possible third around Matadi - 300 kms southwest of the capital. Zairean troop reinforcements, including members of the elite presidential guard, are reported to have been sent to Bandandu region. Kabila has said that he expects to be in Kinshasa by June. Fears of a bloody battle for the capital mounted after the commander of the presidential division, General N'Zimbi Ngbale, ordered his troops to "fight to the death" against advancing rebels.

Foreign diplomats reported this week that the ruling elite in Kinshasa were making plans to leave Zaire and on Saturday the heads of Zaire's main religious groups called on the international community to help bring about an immediate ceasefire to "save the innocent population fron unnecessary suffering". The US and other governments have advised their nationals to leave Zaire. Negotiations on the release of some 46 Lebanese, held by rebels in Mbuyi-Mayi, were resolved at the weekend. ZAIRE - REPORTS OF SPLITS IN REBEL RANKS

Reports this week have indicated increasing cracks in the cohesion of the ADFL due to continued strife between non-Tutsis and the Banyamulenge Tutsis. Sources say that Goma is experiencing a lack of control since Kabila's departure and that a resistence group has been set up in Tanzania by the Banyalmenge's traditional rivals, the Babembe (see IRIN daily report of 24 April for more details). Some sources say there is also a growing rift between the ADFL and Rwanda over conflicting objectives.


After a week of dwindling prospects for peace talks between Mobutu and Kabila with both sides procrastinating over the venue, the two have agreed in principle to a face to face meeting, probably early next week, South Africa's deputy president, Thabo Mbeki told reporters. Although various sites have been proposed for the meeting, Libreville, the capital of Gabon, is seen to be the mostly likely. Mobutu is reported to have agreed to the venue, but as of Saturday, rebel aides said Kabila was still undecided. South African President, Nelson Mandela, has offered the chair the meeting wherever it takes place. The US government is dispatching its Ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson, to help speed up the talks. Sources said that Richardson will try to persuade Mobutu to step down gracefully and urge Kabila to adopt a more flexible approach. Zaire's main opposition group, led by ousted prime minister Etienne Tshisekedi, on Saturday called for the lifting of the state of emergency and for non-payment of electricity and water bills in a bid to force Mobutu and his government to step down and Mobutu's political allies were due to meet in Kinshasa on Sunday to discuss the crisis. Meanwhile, regional support for the rebels appeared to be growing. Zimbabwe's ruling party, ZANU-PF, congratulated Kabila on his campaign in a statement made to commemerate Zimbabwe's 17th independence celebration. In Geneva, Francois Lumumba, son of Zaire's first post-war premiert, Patrice Lumumba, expressed his support for the ADFL.


The Zairean government claimed on Saturday that Angola had invaded its airspace, charging that two helicopters had landed at Kinvula and Kipangu in the Bas-Zaire region close to Angola's border. On Friday, the Zaireans accused Angola of massing 1,400 troops near the Angolan enclave of Cabinda and in the Tshipaka region of Western Kasai province. Rebels have claimed that Tshipaka fell to their forces on Wednesday. A rebel source said that some 30,000 Rwandan refugees, including 7,000 armed men, were trying to cross into Angola from Tshikapa. The oil rich enclave of Cabinda is reported to be one of three possible launching points for an attack on Kinshasa. Angolan soldiers have reportedly been sighted in Lubumbashi. The Angolan government has announced it is taking measures to stop acts of destabilisation along its border with Zaire following what is calls "intense movement of foreign citizens" towards the country's northern and northeast border with Zaire. Earlier in Lome, Togo, Jonas Savimbi, leader of UNITA (the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), denied sending troops to Zaire, although several reports have implicated both UNITA and the government in the conflict. On Thursday, the US Assistant Secretary of State, George Moose, expressed deep concern over the Angolan involvement in Zaire and said that this could represent a "complicating factor in both Zaire and Angola. South African Deputy Foreign Minister, Aziz Pahad, also warned that the Zairean conflict could spill over to neighbouring countries, especially Angola, while Congolese opposition leader, Jean-Felix Demba-Ntelo said that Congo would "inevitably" be dragged into the war if fighting started in Kinshasa. He also warned of dire consequences for Brazzaville if large numbers of Kinshasa residents fled across the border into the Congo capital.


Although sanctions were eased at a regional summit in Arusha last week, the spiral of violence in Burundi has continued. The Burundian Army reported a massacre of some 100 civilians which it said was carried out by members of the CNDD/FDD. The slaughter is alleged to have taken place at Kayogoro in the southern province of Makamba. A defence ministry statement said that CNDD/FDD rebels, backed by elements of the former Rwandan armed forces and fugitives from the Zairean army, had infiltrated from Tanzania. CNDD denied the claim.

BURUNDI - OPPOSITION PARTY AND TANZANIA CALL FOR PEACE TALKS The Burundian opposition party, FRODEBU has called on mediator, former Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere to convene an urgent meeting to discuss peace in Burundi with a view to stopping the killings. Following the Arusha Summit, Tanzania has also called on Burundi's leader to step up the pace of peace talks with opposition groups. INCREASED FORCES DEPLOYED ALONG TANZANIA BORDERS

Tanzania has reinforced border security in the Kigoma region following reports that Burundian rebels will sink ships transporting goods across Lake Tanganyika to Burundi. The Tanzania government has also decided to deploy paramilitary forces along its borders with Zambia to prevent arms smuggling, saying that the action has been prompted by rising banditry due to increased influxes of refugees from Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire.


The South African government has admitted selling a "limited number" of unspecified arms to Uganda, but says that this should not interfere with the peace process. Zaire's government has accused Uganda and Rwanda of supporting the ADFL with arms and troops. Both countries have denied direct involvement.


Nine suspects accused of genocide and other crimes against humanity appeared before the Specialised Chamber of the Tribunal of the First Instance at Nyamirambo in Kigali, Rwanda on Friday. The trials were postponed until 16 May after some suspects asked for more time to prepare their cases and another changed his plea. Some 121 suspects have been charged in Rwandan courts since December last year. Fifty-two have been sentenced - 32 to death, 14 to life imprisonment, 3 to shorter prison sentences and three were acquitted. RWANDA - APPOINTMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS ENVOY

The UN Commission for Human Rights has appointed a Special Representative to Rwanda to help the government improve the human rights situation in the country. The Commission has expressed serious concern over the deteriorating human rights situation since the start of the year and the way the first trials on genocide charges have been conducted. The three-year-term of the Commission's former Special Rapporteur, Rene Degni-Segui was not renewed.


Relatives of some victims of Rwanda's 1994 genocide have lodged complaints with the Belgium Supreme Court against former foreign minister, Willy Claes. A similar complaint was lodged last year against the former defence minister. The relatives say that the former ministers knew that massacres were planned but failed to act to protect people in danger.


The Government of Sudan signed a peace agreement with southern rebel groups on 22 April, providing for a referendum on the future of southern Sudan in four year's time. However, the agreement does not include the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), under John Garang's leadership which has recently taken control of the border area in southern Sudan and territory in eastern Sudan. The SPLA dismissed the agreement as `a sham, concluded with factions already obedient to Khartoum'. In recent weeks the SPLA's offensives have taken it to within striking distance of Juba, the main Government garrison in southern Sudan. In eastern Sudan, the SPLA and the Sudan Alliance Forces (the military wing of the National Democratic Alliance) are now within striking distance of the Er Roseires Dam at Damazin and the road between Khartoum and Port Sudan, Sudan's major sea port and link with the outside world.


Uganda has been chosen by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as the first beneficiary of a new multilateral debt scheme. The plan, which provides for cancelling some debts of the poorest countries, as long as they implement macreconomic reforms, will cancel a Ugandan debt of US$ 338 million from April next year. Critics have said that the delay in cancelling the debt sends "wrong signals" to countries undertaking economic reforms.


WFP will extend its refugee feeding programme in Kenya for one year to cover mainly 158,000 Somali and Sudanese refugees. The latest extension of food aid, beginning in July this year, will cost some US$ 17.8 million in food, transport and monitoring.


[Via the UN DHA Integrated Regional Information Network. The material contained in this communication may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN DHA IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts from this report should include attribution to the original sources mentioned, not simply "DHA".]


Date: Mon, 28 Apr 1997 18:28:50 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round Up 1-97 21-27 Apr 97 97.4.28 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.95.970428183108.12738F-ength: 17514

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

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