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IRIN Emergency Update No. 52 on eastern Zaire (9 December 1996)
WFP and UNHCR report that some 15,000 refugees have left the Kagenyi and Rubwere camps in the Karagwe region. According to some reports, they are said to be heading north and east. The exodus took place between Friday and Sunday night, and more people were reported to be on the road today although heavy rains appear to have temporarily stalled the refugee movement. Some media accounts say aid workers have put forward the theory that Hutu hardliners may be organising mass departures in response to the repatriation preparations.
Some 300 Rwandan refugees returned home from Tanzania on Sunday and many more were expected to follow on Tuesday, according to UNHCR, quoted by AFP. Earlier, UNHCR announced the return of about 1,118 refugees on Friday. It said a mass return was expected tomorrow after the food rations were distributed to refugees today. A UNHCR update, issued on Friday, said preparations for the return included setting up two way stations on the 30km road from the camps to the border and four water points, which would also be used as a collection point for children separated from their parents. WFP said it was distributing food to refugees in the greater Benaco and Ngara camps. The rations, consisting of cereals, pulses and vegetable oil, will be distributed to camps in the Karagwe region later in the week.
Rwandan radio said a planned operation to repatriate some 1,000 refugees from Tanzania on Saturday was scrapped. Rwandan military and civilian officials who went to the border to welcome the returnees were told the operation had been cancelled, but no reasons were given. The radio also reported that 163 Rwandan refugees arrived back in Kigali from Brazzaville, Congo, on Friday. It said 800 Rwandans had fled to the Congolese capital from Kinshasa last month after being "harassed and tortured" following events in eastern Zaire. More returnees were expected in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the refugee influx from Zaire and Burundi in Tanzania's Kigoma region has slowed down, UNHCR reported. In its Friday update, it said that over the last five days 5,200 refugees had arrived from Burundi and 550 had come by boat from Zaire. Some 100,000 refugees have arrived in Kigoma since last month.
Schools were due to reopen in the south Kivu area of eastern Zaire today after the regional authorities held a meeting last week to discuss the issue. Municipal and educational authorites would visit educational establishments in the course of the day to learn more about the situation, rebel Radio of the People announced.
Recent visitors to Zairean President Mobutu say his health is deteriorating and doubt whether he will ever return home, Associated Press reported yesterday. The news agency said it had been told privately by Mobutu's chief aide, Bosco Kassoubia, that the president "is very sick ... and he is very tired. He is incapable of having more than one visit a day." On Saturday, Kassoubia announced that all photo opportunities of the president would cease. Mobutu, who has not been in Zaire since August, is convalescing from cancer surgery at his villa in the south of France.
A report in the Washington Post said State Department officials believed Mobutu was negotiating with the South African Executive Outcomes security firm to supply mercenaries to put down the eastern Zaire rebellion. Rumours have been circulating of mercenary involvement on the side of the Zairean army. According to South African radio, French newspapers reported last week that 300 mercenaries were fighting alongside the Zaireans. However Executive Outcomes has denied the allegations. The radio reported the firm's owner as saying he had been approached to help in the Great Lakes region, but had declined.
French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette reiterated the call for an international conference on the Great Lakes region. In an interview with Radio France Internationale on Friday, he stated that Zaire's territorial integrity was a prerequisite for regional peace. He said a "latent civil war" was taking root in Zaire, with increasing political problems, and a conference should be convened as soon as possible, under UN and OAU auspices.
Leaders of Red Cross groups from the five Great Lakes countries were due to meet in Nairobi today to discuss the humanitarian crisis in the region. The two-day meeting, comprising representatives of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from Burundi, Rwanda, Zaire, Tanzania and Uganda, will focus on strategic planning in the area, AFP said.
The Rwandan justice minister Faustin Nteziryayo met the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jose Ayala Lasso, on Saturday to discuss the human rights situation in the country following the mass return of Rwandan refugees. A report on Rwandan radio said the minister briefed Ayala Lasso on measures taken by Rwanda to improve human rights conditions, especially in the country's prisons. Steps taken included the temporary release of minor offenders and setting up committees to examine the cases of detainees. He also explained that "advanced preparations" were underway regarding the trials of genocide suspects. Official Rwandan sources, quoted by AFP today, said the names of 1,900 genocide suspects had been published, listed by commune and prefecture. They are suspected of "first degree" involvement in the 1994 genocide, which renders them liable to the death penalty under a new law introduced in September.
Nairobi, 9 December 1995, 14:50 GMT [ENDS]
[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: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 1996 18:21:50 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <email@example.com> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Update 52 on Eastern Zaire for 9 Dec 96 96.12.9 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.961209181217.11189Afirstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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