Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round, 5/19/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round, 5/19/97

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

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[The weekly roundup is 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 4-97 of Main Events in the Great Lakes region covering the period 12-18 May 1997.

ZAIRE: Kinshasa Falls

After weeks of unsuccessful negotiations between Kabila and Mobutu, Zaire finally fell to the ADFL with relatively little resistance. ADFL soldiers arrived in Kinshasa on Saturday greeted by cheering crowds. Last ditch efforts early in the week for a peaceful transfer of power from Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko to an all-party transitional authority, were scuttled when rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila, citing security concerns, refused to attend the talks scheduled to take place on a South African ship docked at the Congolese port of Point Noire. However, concerns of a bloody fight for the control of Kinshasa dissipated when Mobutu announced he was stepping down on 16 May. Military Prime Minister Likulia Bolongo speaking on state radio on Saturday, appealed for calm amongst the members of the FAZ, ordering all army units back to their barracks and civilians to stay at home. Bolongo then fled to neighbouring Congo following the precedent set by several high ranking FAZ officers. As of Sunday, some 1,000 members of the DSP handed over their weapons to ADFL troops. Localized fighting continued in some areas of the capital with reported looting by both soldiers and civilians.

Kabila declared himself head-of-state on Saturday, promising a government of national salvation within 72 hours and the formation of a constituent assembly within 60 days. He also announced that Zaire would revert to its old name: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Kisangani was earlier changed to Stanleyville. Following talks with Kabila on Sunday, South Africa was among the first of several international powers to officially recognize Kabila as the Head of the DRC.

ZAIRE: Settling of Scores

Despite the relatively peaceful fall of Kinshasa, local residents reported limited looting and settlings of scores that have resulted in the deaths of several hundred people. Popular military officer and army chief-of-staff General Mahele Lyoko Bokungu was among those killed. He was assassinated by a member of the presidential guard (DSP), allegedly under orders from Mobutu's son Kongolo, reported AFP. He was assassinated at the DSP camp Tshatshi while attempting to restore order among the DSP, following the flight of their commander to Congo.

ZAIRE: The End of an Era

President Mobutu is expected to leave his jungle palace in Gbadolite to fly to Morocco, whose government has indicated that it is not opposed to welcoming him. On Sunday, a plane carrying 110 of Mobutu's family members was refused landing rights in Gabon and turned back to Brazzaville.

Zairean prosecutors based in Goma have requested international co-operation to freeze Mobutu's vast fortune. The estimate includes 20 properties valued at US $37 million and an unknown number of secret accounts in Western banks. Swiss authorities impounded Mobutu's US $5.6 million villa near Lausanne and have frozen all his and his family's assets in Swiss banks.

ZAIRE: The Kabila Question

Kabila's track record, which has included a variety of political and ideological positions, has promted much speculation among diplomats as to whether democracy or a Mobutu-style autocratic rule will win out. In an effort to influence Kabila's choice, international powers are already moving to put pressure on Kabila. According to the 'Los Angeles Times' on 12 May, the US government has pledged US $10 million and promised to convince the EU to contribute a further US $50 million if Kabila promised elections within two years. The French government has said that it will wait for Kabila to make his first move before taking an official stance.

Despite his success at the frontlines, Kabila is facing growing discord at his back door. In the Kivu area, ethnic tension within the ADFL forces are reportedly becoming more apparent. Local Babembe and Bavira tribes in South Kivu continue to express their frustration over Tutsi control of both the ADFL administrative and military structures.

ZAIRE: Access to Refugees Still Blocked

Despite having received official ADFL permission to travel to the refugee sites south of Biaro, humanitarian agencies have been repeatedly refused access by ADFL soldiers for "security reasons". UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Sergio de Mello was also blocked from visiting sites more than 42 km south of Kisangani. According to UNHCR, some 338,500 Rwandan and 44,000 Burundian refugees may remain in Zaire, most of whom are not accounted for in known refugee sites. The air repatriation of refugees from Kisangani reached 26,000 by the end of last week. Humanitarian sources claimed 63 refugees died during the transit, underlining previous concerns regarding the speed of the repatriation process.

Following the failure of the UN Human Rights mission to gain access to eastern Zaire, the Hutu refugee organization Rally for the Return of Refugees called for a full investigation of reported massacres and the disappearance of more than 300,000 refugees. Reports from AFP, local missionaries and the French Foreign Ministry continued to warn of further ADFL massacres among the 20,000-30,000 Hutu refugees in the Mbandaka area, on the Zaire river near the Congo border.

ZAIRE: UNICEF Personnel Brutally Attacked by ADFL Soldiers

UNICEF international and local staff in Goma were severely beaten in an attack on their compound on 12 May. Soldiers in ADFL uniforms, who gained entry on the pretext of searching the premises for arms, robbed and beat several of the staff members before escaping. The UNICEF compound was situated near the governor's home in a high security area. The UN said it planned to suspend its activities on Monday if security concerns were not addressed by the ADFL rebels.

TANZANIA: Amnesty International Concerned for Refugees' Safety

Amnesty International raised concern for the plight of Zairean refugees, mainly former Zairean officials and FAZ soldiers, whom they claimed were being pressured to return to Zaire without adequate assurance for their safety. The Tanzanian government said that the refugees, most of whom have taken up residence in Kigoma, must go to the refugee camps like other refugees.

CONGO: Refugee Influx Limited

With the exception of top ranking Zairean officials and military officers, the stream of refugees crossing the Zaire river to the Congo has been relatively limited. As of Friday, aid workers reported the presence of some 1,300 Malians in Brazzaville from Kinshasa. Refugee traffic across the river was heaviest on Friday but slowed down over the weekend. Earlier last week traffic between the two countries was slowed when a bomb exploded on the ferry. By the end of the week, the Congo government had closed its river border to passenger traffic from Zaire. Zairean immigration workers also slowed the flow when they staged a strike demanding 14 months of back-pay.

As of Sunday, the Congolese government still had not taken an official position regarding the Rwandan refugees entering via Zaire, but has sent out a military mission to assess the situation. Despite fuel shortages which are hampering aid efforts, six barges carrying aid were sent from Brazzaville to Liranga and Makotipoko, where several thousands of Rwandan Hutu refugees, who fled ADFL advances near Mbandaka in Zaire, are stranded in swampland with no drinking water, food or shelter. Earlier this week a helicopter was used to air-drop food into the inaccessible areas. A DC-3 is also being used to transport assistance to Loukolela.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Hutu Refugees Strain CAR-Rwandan Relations

Rwanda has accused the CAR of welcoming armed Rwandan Hutu refugees, including former ex-FAR chief Major-General Augustine Bizimungu. A Rwandan presidential aide told Reuters that "Rwanda reserves the right to take whatever action it deemed necessary to bring the killers under control." Several groups of Rwandan, Zairean and Sudanese refugees arrived in Mboki, south-east CAR, early last week. The UNHCR has relocated the Rwandan soldiers to a camp at Obo. Zairean army deserters, many of whom have refused to surrender their weapons, have been moved to a camp in Rafai. Some 300 Rwandan refugees also arrived in the capital, Bangui, on 15 May and some 3,000 more are believed to be en route.

ANGOLA: UNHCR Allowed Access to Refugees

On 12 May, the Angolan government announced it was increasing security along its border with Zaire to contend with the influx of Hutu refugees. A UNHCR team was finally allowed to carry out a mission on 13 May to assess the needs of the refugees. UNHCR has also requested that the Angolan government allow it to establish a humanitarian corridor to rescue the estimated 12,000 refugees stranded in an isolated area of Zaire, near the Angolan border.

RWANDA: Preparations for Executions Underway

Of the 40 suspects sentenced to death, five have had their appeals rejected to date. In preparing the ground work for carrying out the first death sentences, the Rwandan government approved a decree specifying that the executions would not be done in public. The UN Security Council has raised concerns about the poor judicial system and the deteriorating conditions faced by the estimated 100,000 prisoners in Rwanda's prisons and detention centres.

BURUNDI: Trial of 1993 Coup Plotters

After a long wait, the trial of 53 officers accused of planning the 1993 attempted coup in which the then president Melchior Ndadaye was assassinated began last week. The death of the first Hutu president sparked waves of inter-ethnic killings.

BURUNDI: Government and Rebel Negotiations Heighten Tension

Early last week, President Buyoya announced that he had been participating in secret talks in Rome with leaders of the Hutu rebel group the National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD). He said they had agreed in principle to a cease-fire and that he was ready to undertake political dialogue with "all armed factions". Later in the week he also held talks with Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa and former president Julius Nyerere regarding the increase in rebel infiltrations into Burundi from Tanzania. Despite international support for the talks, hundreds of Tutsi university students held a demonstration on Friday, protesting President Buyoya's recent negotiations with Hutu rebel groups.

SUDAN: OLS Flights Resume

After a week of negotiating and political pressure, the Sudanese government has agreed to allow Operation Lifeline Sudan to resume aid flights into southern Sudan. Aid workers believe that the ten-day suspension of activities was related to recent advances by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), who now control the towns of Warap, Yei, Rumbek and Tonj. John Garang, leader of the SPLA, said he did not support the April peace treaty signed by the Sudanese government and six rebel splinter groups and would continue his advance.

SUDAN: Uganda-Sudan Agreement

In accordance with the two-week old agreement between the Ugandan and Sudanese governments, captives on both sides are soon to be released. However, Uganda said the agreement is subject to the release of 35 school girls abducted by the Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).


[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: Tue, 20 May 1997 08:34:28 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round Up 4-97 12-18 May 97 97.5.19 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.95.970520083943.3324B-ength: 12298

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

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