Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round Up #36, 11/25/96

Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round Up #36, 11/25/96

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

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This is number 36 in a series of weekly reports from IRIN on general developments in the Great Lakes region. Sources for the information below include UN agencies, NGOs, other international organisations and media reports. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original sources.

Weekly Roundup of Main Events in the Great Lakes region 18 - 24 November 1996

# The international community wavered over sending an international force to the Great Lakes region as hundreds of thousands of refugees returned to Rwanda, and meetings on the issue proved inconclusive. Officials from various countries and international organisations met in Stuttgart over the weekend, and discussed options for a proposed military intervention to be studied by individual governments. The Canadian commander of the proposed force, Lt. Gen Maurice Baril, after the meeting closed, again stressed the need for such a force, saying it would be politically and militarily neutral. Another meeting in Geneva, to discuss humanitarian aspects of the crisis, called for action and pledged to work with the Rwandan government to facilitate the integration process.

As the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Goma into Rwanda slowed to a trickle, concern grew over the plight of large concentrations of refugees and internally displaced people still inaccessible in eastern Zaire. Various estimates spoke of at least 700,000 people still on the move. Major population movements were reported on five main axes: 1. north of Goma, from the Katale camp and Rutshuru area westwards to Walikale-Lubutu-Kisangani 2. northwest from Sake to Masisi 3. south of Goma and north of Bukavu 4. westward from Bukavu to Katshungu-Shabunda-Kindu 5. Uvira and surroundings.

The Rwandan government which, along with the rebels, has expressed its opposition to a multi-national force, issued a statement on Thursday saying that numbers given by aid agencies of Rwandan refugees remaining in eastern Zaire "are totally incorrect and misleading". In a meeting called by the Rwandan Minister of Rehabilitation and Social Integration, the Rwandan government based its assessment on the fact that neither the UNHCR nor the Government of Rwanda had done a physical count of returnees following last week's exodus from eastern Zaire, and that all the camps in North Kivu were empty.

The ICRC on Thursday announced a massive tracing programme to deal with one of the major casualties of the exodus - the number of unaccompanied children arriving in Rwanda. It said that thanks to a "lightning action" programme, thousands of lost children should be reunited with their families within 48 hours. ICRC put the number at 2,634 but UNICEF's figure was much higher at 4,125. Concern was expressed over tens of thousands more lone children still believed to be in eastern Zaire.

[see IRIN daily updates for more details.]

# Rwanda, after intially welcoming a multi-national force and hosting international agencies dealing with the eastern Zaire crisis, dismissed the non-political, non-combative mandate of the proposed force as "irrelevant" and said Rwanda could not be used as a base for such an intervention. The Rwandan government has appealed for $739 million to assist re-settlement of Rwandan returnees from Zaire and Tanzania.

# The International Organisation for Migration said that since 19 November, the Rwandan government had taken over a total of 91 trucks managed by the IOM. It said IOM staff and others witnessed returning refugees being loaded onto the trucks some 300 at a time, instead of the maximum capacity of 80 passengers per vehicle, and escorted by the military to unknown destinations.

# A statement issued by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said United Nations Human Rights Field Operation in Burundi (UNHRFOB) observers visited Cibitoke province on Thursday where they learned for the first time that refugees returning from eastern Zaire had been massacred in a church on October 22 1996. After speaking to civilians, local authorities and the military, they ascertained that a total of 258 people were killed outright at Muramba church in Buganda commune and a further 40 died from injuries they sustained. Seventy others were wounded. Those responsible for the attack used guns and hand grenades, the observers said. On Friday, Burundi's premier Pascal-Firmin Ndimira strongly denied an Amnesty International report alleging the security forces were responsible for the massacre. The day before a spokesman for Pierre Buyoya accused AI of having its own agenda regarding Burundi.

HRFOB expressed concern to the Burundi authorities that refugees were being channelled to the volatile Cibitoke and Bubanza provinces, areas of severe confrontation between Hutu rebels and the armed forces where access for relief workers is very limited. UNHCR however pointed out that approximately 30,000 refugees had returned spontaneously to the Cibitoke region. AFP reported that fighting in Cibitoke province was delaying aid distribution to refugees returning to the embattled province. Relief workers on Friday brought a five-truck convoy to the village of Nyamitanga, on the border with Zaire. A member of the Tutsi-dominated army told AFP that Hutu guerrillas had attacked the local market, and the ensuing clash had lasted three hours. Some 10 rebels had reportedly been killed. Burundian leader Pierre Buyoya meanwhile held talks in Uganda on Friday with President Museveni to discuss the crisis in Burundi, specifically the lifting of sanctions which were imposed by neighbouring countries in July. According to Ugandan foreign minister Eriya Kategaya, Museveni pledged to press for a suspension of the blockade. Buyoya, in an interview with the EastAfrican weekly, described the talks as the start of a regional diplomatic offensive.

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday came out in support of Buyoya's regime and also called for the lifting of sanctions. Odinga, who leads a faction of Ford-Kenya, told the press in Nairobi that the blockade was affecting the entire Great Lakes region, not just Burundi. Burundian Premier Ndimira told a Paris news conference on Thursday he believed the French government had recognised his country's leaders as the "de facto government". France declined to comment on his remarks, but Reuters pointed out that the fact French officials had met Ndimira was in itself a breakthrough. Ndimira also estimated Burundi had no more than 120,000 refugees remaining in eastern Zaire and urged them to return home.

The Burundian government on Thursday estimated its losses due to sanctions would amount to 52 billion Burundian francs (163 million US dollars at the official rate) by the end of the year, according to an AFP report. It said the biggest single loss would be three billion francs in spoiled perishable goods. Most staples have risen in price between 60 and 150 percent since the embargo, and smuggling is rife, the agency said.

# The Speaker of Burundi's parliament Leonce Ngendakumana was called before the state prosecutor on Friday where he was accused of having participated in the the massacres of Tutsis in Bujumbura Rurale three years ago. He was later allowed to return home, but is under surveillance. Ngendakumana left the German embassy early in October, where he had been hiding since the Tutsi takeover of power in July, to preside over the first session of parliament since the coup.

# NGOs working in eastern Burundi have said the past week had seen heavy fighting in the Moso region of Ruyigi province. Although numbers of dead or injured were unclear, about 43,000 people had fled the region for Tanzania over the last 10 days. Virtually the entire population of Nyabitsinda commune and about half the population of Kinyinya and Butegenswa communes had gone across the border. On 17 November a military truck was destroyed by a mine in Butegenswa and at least two people were killed. Suspicion fell on the Hutu rebel Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD), who were also believed to have set up bases in southern Gitega and Ruyigi provinces as they crossed Burundi en route for Tanzania. There was a high concentration of Burundian troops in the area.

# UNHCR said the rate of Burundian refugees arriving at Kibondo in Tanzania was much higher than before - 5,000 per day - after 15,395 were turned up on 17, 18 and 19 November. Tanzanian radio on Thursday said 29 refugees from Zaire, who arrived in Kigoma region, had died, mostly as a result of diarrhoea, malaria and tetanus. According to the Kigoma immigration officer, there were 19,691 Zaireans, 3,650 Burundians and 1,360 Rwandans in the town.

Aid agencies agreed that for the time being there was no indication of a major exodus of refugees from Tanzania (to Rwanda), with refugees apparently adopting a "wait and see" attitude. According to ICRC, the Tanzania government wanted to transfer newly arrived refugees from Zaire to new camps which are to be established nearer the border. ICRC said it was willing to manage these camps, provided it had full authority over them, which Tanzania has not yet been willing to grant.

# Britain approved a 25 million pound (41 million US dollars) grant to support Tanzania's economic reforms and the laying-off of redundant civil servants, Reuters reported on Sunday. In a statement, the British government said the aid was agreed during talks earlier this month between President Mkapa and British Overseas Development Minister Lynda Chalker.

# Key donor countries meeting in Paris on Friday indicated that Uganda could expect external aid totalling about 750 million dollars in the next financial year, AFP reported. Jim Adams, the World Bank country director for Uganda, who chaired the meeting, said Uganda had been commended for its continued good record of economic management and reforms. However, reports from the east of the country indicated a serious food deficit there due to poor rains coupled with non-existent food stocks, and the prices of staple foods were at a record high. The reports also warned of problems in the north, despite good rains and expected high yields, because thousands of farm families were displaced due to continuing insecurity in the region.

Ugandan President Museveni visited Mpondwe on the border with Zaire on Thursday, after fierce clashes in the area over the past week, and warned that Ugandan troops would follow rebels into Zaire if they attacked Uganda again. "If the rebels dared to attack the country again, they will be crushed and followed up to their bases," he told journalists, according to the New Vision paper. A BBC journalist in the area said there were signs of a big battle - houses were empty and there were no civilians on the streets. Displaced people were gradually returning to Mpondwe from Kasese. The Ugandan government also said it would soon send a delegation to Kinshasa, according to Ugandan press reports. Meanwhile, an NGO warned of a huge threat further north in Arua where Zairean troops were said to be massing across the border and giving support to the pro-Idi Amin West Nile Bank Front (WNBF).


[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.]


Date: Mon, 25 Nov 1996 18:38:59 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: Ben Parker <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round Up #36 18-24 Sep 1996 96.11.25 Message-ID: <>

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

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