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IRIN Emergency Update No. 69 on the Great Lakes (Tuesday 31 December 1996)
# Zaire's crisis government has confirmed the launching of a counter-offensive operation against Laurent Kabila's ADFL from a point south of Uvira in eastern Zaire. There is still no confirmation of the previous counter-offensive reportedly lauched from Bunia in the north. Reuter reports that Kabila claimed that his forces had repulsed the southern attack in towns of Fizi and Itomwe, respectively 130 km and 40 km south of Uvira.
Kabila claimed that the Burundian Hutu rebel group Forces for the Defense of Democracy (FDD), who had been driven from their bases in eastern Zaire and their headquarters at Uvira by the ADFL, had set ambushes for vehicles on the Goma-Bukavu road. No information was given on casualties.
Reuters interviewed a local official in Upper Zaire who confirmed that fighting was taking place at Nia Nia and Bafwasende, respectively 200 and 250 km northeast of Kisangani. Reuters reported that rebels were advancing westward from Walikale, some 350 km east of Kisangani on the Bukavu-Walikale-Lubutu-Kisangani axis. A Zairian government representative and the governor of Kisangani both dismissed this and earlier reports that claimed Walikale had fallen to Kabila's ADFL.
A government representative in Kinshasa and the governor of Upper Zaire confirmed that Zairian soldiers had mutinied in Isiro but were reserved about the details. Reuters reported that soldiers had looted businesses and killed a German priest and other people before heading west where they looted their way along the road to Buta, 600 km west of Bunia, causing local inhabitants to flee into the forest.
Deteriorating security conditions in Lubutu and the nearby refugee camp at Tingi-Tingi have added to growing tensions in the area. Local inhabitants have fled their homes into the surrounding forest and refugees are preparing to flee further westward.
According to a humanitarian worker, the Zairian government has tightened up on access to the conflict zone by humanitarian workers coming from areas outside of Zaire. The government regulation requiring all expatriates to have a travel authorization from Zairian authorities in Kinshasa is being strictly enforced. Aid agencies operating in Kinshasa claimed that direct flights by NGOs who are not operational in Kinshasa from another country to the affected area under Zaire control have strained government-NGO relations, further complicating the humanitarian aid operations.
# Reuters reported that the administrative bureaucracy in rebel occupied territory continues in its pre-occupation fashion, the only exception being the presence of new senior management officials. Like the previous Zairian administration, Kabila has been unable to pay the civil servants - encouraging them to work for the good of the "revolution". Accustomed to going for months without a salary, public officials are continuing the traditional practice of self-compensation through unofficial charges for services. Financing for the ADFL would receive a large boost with the capture of Kilo Moto west of Bunia, an area of land covering 83,000 square km rich in gold reserves.
According to a Reuters report, differences between Kabila's ADFL and the Mai Mai warriors, which had caused rumors of the latter's defection, have been resolved.
The Ugandan New Vision paper reported that Ugandan traders are engaged in a booming cross-border trade with Zairian towns under rebel control.
# The Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs (which includes prison administration) has created a camp at Mwisa, Tanzania for Hutu refugees who adamantly refuse to return to Rwanda because their names appear on the Rwandan list of 1,900 genocide suspects to face the death penalty or because they were prominent members of the former Rwandan Army (ex-FAR). The camp is located 37 km northwest of Kayanga in northern Tanzania.
According to a report by the UN High Commission for Human Rights no major or systematic human rights violations were reported during the repatriation of refugees from Tanzania, although there were a few recorded cases of abuse and attacks upon returnees.
# Swiss authorities approved the transfer of Alfred Musema, who is accused of involvement in the 1994 genocide, to the UN International Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania. He has 30 days in which to appeal the request for extradition. Faoduald Karamira, former vice-president of the Hutu extremist group MDR and senior official of the Interhamwe militia, did not appear in Kigali court as expected on Monday. No reason was given for the delay. Mr. Karamira is notorious not only for his prominent role in the genocide but also because he is a Tutsi who rejected his ethnic ties to be accepted as a Hutu. At the request of both the prosecutor and the defense, the trial of Munyagishali in Kigali was also adjourned on the grounds that the former prosecutor could not be fairly tried in a jurisdiction where he had practiced. His hearing has been relocated to the nearby jurisdiction of Gitarama for an unspecified date.
The Rally for the Return of Refugees and Democracy to Rwanda (RDR) and the exiled opposition party the Resistance Forces for Democracy (RFD) continued their criticism of the Rwandan justice system. According to RFD member, Chris Nzabandora, the "Tutsi-dominated" justice system is incapable of meting out an impartial judgement. He stated, "It would be like asking a Moslem court in former Yugoslavia to try a Serbian genocide suspect." RDR has appealed to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to become more active in the trials.
The Belgium defense lawyer representing accused genocide suspects in Kigali, Luc Walleyn, said he was positively surprised by the granting of requests for adjournments stating that it showed a willingness on the part of the judicial system to conduct itself correctly. Mr. Walleyn did level criticism at the poor quality of investigations, stating that cases were weak and that several prisoners were not aware of their rights to engage foreign legal council given that there are only 16 practicing lawyers in Rwanda.
# A joint WFP/FAO crop and food supply assessment mission estimated that food aid requirements for the first six months of 1997 will be approximately 114,000 tons.
# The Egyptian Foreign Ministry and the Burundian army both denied accusations from the National Council for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD), the main Hutu rebel group in Burundi, that an Egyptian plane carrying 34 tons of military equipment had been off-loaded in Burundi on 27-28 December.
Nairobi, 31 December 1996 12:10 GMT
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Date: Tue, 31 Dec 1996 15:26:52 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 69 for 31 Dec 1996 96.12.31 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.961231151416.3267Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Ali Dinar, firstname.lastname@example.org