Zaire: IRIN Briefing, 10/26/96

Zaire: IRIN Briefing, 10/26/96

Zaire: IRIN Briefing, 1
Date Distributed (ymd): 961026

This posting contains a background briefing on the conflict in South Kivu, from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN). The next posting contains an update, also from IRIN.

[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.]
Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

7 October 1996



During September 1996 a growing number of reports testified to human rights abuses against Zairean Tutsis, known as Banyamulenge, by the army and local people in and around Uvira in South Kivu, Zaire. It soon became clear that at the same time a conflict between the Banyamulenge and the army was taking place, and as refugees began to arrive in Rwanda and Burundi, the Governments of Zaire and Rwanda traded accusations over responsibilities for the escalating crisis. As tensions between the two countries mounted, mortar fire was exchanged between Bukavu, Zaire and Cyangugu in Rwanda over several days.

This briefing describes developments in September and seeks to put them in their historical context. It gives an account of the immigration of Banyamulenge into Zaire, examines their claims to Zairean nationality and describes how they have been stripped of their nationality and targetted by the local authorities, army and local people since April 1995. Drawing parallels between this crisis and developments in Masisi and Rutshuru over the past year, it examines the accusations of both Zaire and Rwanda, as well as the humanitarian and regional implications of the crisis.


On 9 September local people in Uvira town mounted a demonstration against Banyamulenge, declaring Uvira a `ville morte', calling on the `foreigners' to leave the country and attacking their homes and property. The demonstration followed a weekend in which soldiers from the Zairean Army had broken into several religious establishments in the town, arresting local church members and missionaries and seizing vehicles, documents and communications equipment. The events prompted the German arm of Caritas to announce it had suspended its activities in the town. Reports soon emerged that during the weekend of 6 - 8 September, five Banyamulenge had been killed by Zairean soldiers. One man, Bolingo Karema, was allegedly beaten and stoned to death in Uvira town, while four others were killed in surrounding villages. The offices of a local Banyamulenge NGO, Groupe Milima, had allegedly been looted by soldiers, while its director, Muller Ruhimbika, was in hiding after a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Mr Ruhimbika had played a prominent role in drawing attention to the situation in Uvira during 1995 and the first half of 1996 (see the following section), and is currently living in exile.

Over subsequent days the army sought out Banyamulenge, arresting men while allowing women and children to go free. The arrests were reportedly carried out at the instruction of the District Commissioner of Uvira, Shweka Mutabazi. Amnesty International singled Mr Mutabazi out for criticism, citing reports that he had encouraged the takeover of Tutsi property and authorized the enrolment of youths into the armed forces to fight the `Tutsi armed group'. Amnesty also undertook to investigate reports that more than 35 Banyamulenge had been `extrajudicially executed' by the Zairean authorities and more than 50 others `disappeared' at the start of the month.(1)

Reports of fighting between Banyamulenge militia and Zairean soldiers also began to emerge, with three soldiers reported killed during the week beginning 9 September. The Zairean Army declared the Uvira area a `military zone' and was reported to be reinforcing its presence with troops from Goma, Bukavu, Shaba and Kinshasa. On 13 September the Zairean Government accused Rwanda of having enrolled 3,000 Banyamulenge in its army and of training and infiltrating them to destabilize eastern Zaire, with Burundi providing them with rear bases. Both Governments categorically rejected the charges.

At the same time Banyamulenge, some of whom had been held in detention, were refouled or fled the country and began entering Rwanda and Burundi. Several hundred refugees were reported as having reached Cyangugu in Rwanda and others as having gone to Cibitoke and Bubanza provinces in Burundi. At the end of the month UNHCR estimates put the number of recent Banyamulenge arrivals at over 500 in Rwanda and over 400 in Burundi. Of this number 535 people had been `refouled' by the Zairean authorities and the rest had left Zaire spontaneously.

During the weekend of 14 and 15 September Zairean television reported accusations by the authorities that the UNHCR and IOM (International Organisation of Migration) had been assisting armed groups to infiltrate Zaire from Rwanda and Burundi with the aim of destabilizing Kivu. Following these accusations two UNHCR staff were beaten up by Zairean soldiers. On 17 September the claims were dismissed by the UN Secretary-General, as being `completely unfounded'. The Secretary-General subsequently sent Ibrahima Fall as a UN Special Envoy to Zaire to seek clarification on the allegations. The Zairean authorities, meanwhile, confirmed that the activities of IOM throughout Zaire had been suspended.

On Sunday 22 September the growing tension between Rwanda and Zaire manifested itself in an exchange of mortar fire between the two countries. This was repeated during the following two days, killing one Zairean and injuring five others. It also prompted the United Nations to relocate 23 `non-essential' expatriate aid agency personnel to Nairobi and the International Federation of the Red Cross to evacuate three of its delegates, after two shells landed in the garden of a hotel where IFRCS staff had been staying.

Rwanda and Zaire accused each other of having started the exchanges of fire. On 23 September the Government of Rwanda released a statement detailing its version of events. It accused the Government of Zaire of targetting Kabembe town in Cyangugu prefecture with automatic weapons fire and artillery shelling between 6pm and 11pm on 22 September. These attacks were said to have caused neither injuries nor material damage.

The Rwandan Government linked this alleged `act of aggression' with an attack in mid-September on the prison in the neighbouring commune of Gishoma, in which a group of infiltrators had sought to free prisoners. According to the statement, the RPA `repulsed the attackers, who fled under cover of automatic weapons fire from the Panzi camp in Zairean territory.'(2) The dispute over who had started the attacks continued, however, although a ceasefire was agreed on 25 September. Zaire alleged that Rwanda broke the ceasefire on 26 and 29 September, a claim denied by Rwanda.

At the same time a Banyamulenge spokesman in exile reported that on 22 September the Zairean authorities had executed 40 Banyamulenge being held in detention. They had been arrested by the authorities the previous week at Baraka in Fizi zone. The summary executions were said to have been in retaliation for the killings of Zairean soldiers by Banyamulenge militia. Independent confirmation of this incident has yet to be obtained.

On 22 September the Zairean authorities also repeated allegations that soldiers were infiltrating into Kivu from Rwanda and Burundi in order to support the Banyamulenge militia. Government spokesman Oscar Lugendo was quoted in the press as saying that Zairean troops killed three `Rwandan' soldiers and captured five others at Kiringye in Uvira region on 31 August. He claimed that the infiltrators were being commanded by Banyamulenge who had been officers in the Zairean Army but had gone to Rwanda after the victory of the RPA in July 1994. (3) The authorities said the soldiers had infiltrated Uvira via Cyangugu in Rwanda and Cibitoke in Burundi.


Different historians give different dates for the migrations of Tutsi pastoralists from the historic kingdom of Rwanda to what is now Zaire. All of the estimates, however, date the migrations between the 16th and 19th centuries (4). The atlas of the Republic of Zaire produced by Jeune Afrique in 1978 provides a map showing the routes of the major historical population movements into and within what is now Zaire, and dates the movement of pastoralists from Rwanda into Kivu between the 17th and 18th centuries. This was part of the migration which also brought Rwandan Tutsis to Masisi and Rutshuru zones in what is now North Kivu.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Zaire states with confidence that `ever since 1797, under the rule of Yuhi IV Gahindiro, Rwandan Tutsis have emigrated to the Congo, settling in Kakamba, in the plain of Ruzizi and in the higher regions (Mulenge Hills), because of the climate and to feed their cattle.' (5)

These Tutsis established their first settlement at Mulenge and became known as Banyamulenge (people of Mulenge). They settled in Uvira, Mwenga and Fizi zones, where they are to be found to this day (although there are now Banyamulenge living further south, in Shaba, and in major towns around the country). Establishing their own settlements they lived side-by-side with indigenous Bantu ethnic groups - the Babembe, Bafulero, Banyindu, Barega, Barundi and Bashi. They speak a variant of Kinyarwanda (the language of Rwanda), recognized as a separate dialect by linguistic authorities (6). Today estimates of their number range from 250,000 to 400,000 people, roughly comparable with other ethnic groups in the area (the Barega have been estimated at 400,000, the Babembe at 252,000 and the Bafulero at 275,000).(7)

The Banyamulenge lived in relative peace and harmony with their neighbours for most of this century. It was not until the Mulele rebellion in Kivu in 1964 that Banyamulenge found themselves in opposition to other local people. The Mulelists, espousing a variant of communist philosophy in which property, land and cattle were to be shared among local people, drew support from other ethnic groups in South Kivu. The Banyamulenge, however, did not share their neighbour's enthusiasm for these goals and helped the then Congolese National Army to crush the movement in South Kivu. This episode instilled a deep and lingering resentment against the Banyamulenge within other ethnic groups in the area.

The Banyamulenge, however, continued to prosper economically and also succeeded in securing political representation at both the local and national levels. In 1980 however, Mr Gisaro, the sole Banyamulenge MP in the Zairean Parliament, died in a car crash. In 1981 the Zairean Parliament passed new legislation relating to Zairean nationality. This sought to nullify the 1972 legislation under which all persons of Rwandese origin who established their residence in the Kivu province before 1 January 1950 and who had continued to reside in Zaire were collectively granted Zairean nationality as of 30 June 1961.

Henceforth nationality would be acquired on an individual basis only and any other mode of acquisition of Zairean nationality was null and void. In effect, people of Rwandese origin in Zaire were rendered stateless persons. According to informed legal opinion, however, the 1981 law was arbitrary and discriminatory and therefore unlawful under international conventions to which Zaire is a party. If this analysis is accepted, the Banyamulenge retained a strong claim to Zairean citizenship.

They were, however, refused permission to stand as candidates or to vote in the 1982 Parliamentary elections. Banyamulenge in Mwenga zone protested against the decision by burning ballot boxes being used in the elections. The same was true for the 1987 Parliamentary elections, when again the Banyamulenge could neither stand for office nor cast a vote. This time there were protests in Uvira and Fizi and again ballot boxes were burnt. The tensions aroused by these disputes were further exacerbated by the refugee crises of 1993 and 1994, when Hutu refugees first from Burundi and then from Rwanda, flooded into the area. Local people are said to identify themselves with Hutus and to hold Tutsis responsible for heaping the refugee problem upon them through the coup of October 1993 in Burundi and their struggle for power in Rwanda after the RPF invasion of 1990. In this analysis the genocide of 1994 was characterized as the culmination of a war rather than the planned and purposeful extermination of Rwanda's Tutsi minority.

On 28 April 1995 the High Council of the Transitional Parliament passed a Resolution in order, ostensibly, to prevent Rwandan and Burundian refugees from acquiring Zairean nationality. The Resolution followed a visit to Kivu by the Vangu commission of inquiry, which had been established to look into these questions. The most surprising aspect of the Resolution was that it treated the Banyamulenge as recent refugees. The Resolution included a list of people to be arrested and expelled, the cancellation of any sale or transfer of assets which benefited `immigrants who have acquired Zairean nationality fraudulently', the replacement of existing governors and commanders with new officials, and the banning of Tutsis from all administrative and other posts. (8) The Resolution was signed by the Speaker of the Parliament, Anzuluni Bembe Isilonyonyi, who claims to come from Uvira and have Babembe ancestry.

It wasn't long before the Resolution was put into action. On 19 September the District Commissioner of Uvira, Shweka Mutabazi, wrote to the official responsible for urban planning in Uvira telling him to make a list of the properties and land owned by Banyamulenge, that all building work by Banyamulenge was to be brought to a halt and that all abandoned Banyamulenge houses should be identified and itemized. He also charged the same official with informing the head of the Banyamulenge community about these developments.

During late 1995 and early 1996 acts of harrassment as well as evictions of Banyamulenge were an increasingly common occurence. On November 21 1995 the authors of a petition to the authorities were detained, shortly after one of their number, Muller Ruhimbika, had been interviewed by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Zaire, Roberto Garreton. During his January 1996 report Mr Garreton noted that some Banyamulenge had already been expelled from Zaire while others were under an expulsion order. The Special Rapporteur also reported that he had been informed that `local tribes were arming in readiness for a struggle against the Banyamulenge, forcing the latter to do the same.'(9)

The immediate precursor to the events of September was the banning of Groupe Milima, the non-governmental organization run by Mr Ruhimbika, on 9 August, again at the instigation of the District Commissioner for Uvira. Groupe Milima, a rural development organization which had lobbied for the nationality rights of Banyamulenge to be recognized, was clearly proving to be a thorn in the side for the authorities. The letter announcing the ban accused Mr Ruhimbika of political lobbying, travelling without the permission of the authorities and drawing the nationality issue to the attention of the Carter Centre. It also alleged that Mr Ruhimbika had been trafficking arms to the Banyamulenge.


In many respects recent developments in Uvira bear an uncanny resemblance to developments in Masisi since November 1995. There too, Zairean Tutsis have been targetted by the local authorities, army and local people and forced to flee their country. In the case of Masisi there is substantial evidence that Rwandan Hutu refugees, in particular members of the interahamwe militia and the former Rwandan Army, have fuelled the conflict by bringing arms and hatred to an already volatile situation (10). In the case of Uvira the alleged involvement of Hutu refugees in targetting the Banyamulenge remains just that - an allegation. With Masisi as with Uvira, the conflicts have resulted in mutual recriminations between Zaire and Rwanda.

Yet the obvious difference between the two conflicts is that in the case of Masisi the Tutsis were forced out of their country without putting up a fight. This is not proving to be the case in Uvira, where the Banyamulenge have been arming and preparing themselves for the current confrontation. As one Banyamulenge spokesman in exile explained, "They have seen what has happened in Shaba with the Kasai who were unarmed. They saw what happened to their `brothers' in Masisi and Rutshuru, who were defenceless and were killed and evicted. The Zairean authorities say the Banyamulenge must go. The only option they had was to get arms. They are saying, `we're not going to allow this to happen to us'."

How the conflict will evolve is a matter of speculation. While reports from the area do support claims that Rwandan Hutu refugees are assisting the Zairean Army, it is unclear to what extent local people from other ethnic groups in South Kivu are willing to take up arms against their neighbours. In the case of Masisi, it was the involvement of local Hutus in league with refugees and occasionally the army that really made the position of the Tutsis untenable and forced them to flee. Again, there is evidence to support the claim by the Zairean authorities that the Banyamulenge are receiving military support from Rwanda and Burundi. This allegation is not entirely improbable in terms of the interests of Rwanda and Burundi in avoiding a major inflow of refugees and coordinating actions to hinder attempts to destabilize their own countries. The more nebulous claims of Tutsi ethnic solidarity may also have a role to play. Unless the status of the Banyamulenge can be peacefully resolved, and tensions between Rwanda and Zaire reduced, South Kivu will continue to be a potential flashpoint in an already volatile region.


1. Amnesty International, `Zaire: Amnesty International condemns Human Rights Violations against Tutsi', 20 September 1996.

2. Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Rwanda, 23 September 1996.

3. Arthur Malu-Malu, Reuters News Service, `Zaire hits out at aid groups, neighbours, 22 September 1996.

4. Kagame Alexis (1972), Maquet, J and Hiernaux, J (1954), Weis (1959), Depelchin (1974), cited in `Memorandum on the Tragedy of the Rwandaphone Zaireans with some Proposals and Recommendations', June 1996.

5. Mr Roberto Garreton, `Report on the situation of human rights in Zaire', 29 January 1996.

6. Barbara F. Grimes, Ed., `Ethnologue: Languages of the World', Summer Institute of Linguistics, Inc., Dallas, Texas, 1992.

7. As for 6.

8. Le Haut Conseil de la Republique - Parlement de Transition, `Resolution sur la Nationalite', Kinshasa, 28 April 1995.

9. As for 5.

10. UN DHA IRIN, Situation Report on Masisi and Rutshuru, 10 May 1996 and Update on Masisi, Rutshuru and Lubero Zones, 15 August 1996.


Zaire: IRIN Briefing, 2
Date Distributed (ymd): 961026

[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.]

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Department of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network


The information in this report is current as of early this morning (26 October 1996). An evacuation of international aid staff from Bukavu is likely today. The situation is very fluid, and events may overtake this report over the next hours.


1.1 The conflict in South Kivu is reaching a peak as the provincial capital, Bukavu, is squeezed by military advances from the south and land routes for aid and trade are blocked. An attack on Bukavu is regarded by the Zairean Camp Security Contingent as within the capacity of the Banyamulenge-dominated forces at any time.

1.2 Despite urgings (and even appeals for contributions for the war effort) from the Zairean Prime Minister and President, it appears clear that the FAZ are losing territory and retreating, sometimes even before engaging the rebels. Zairean forces have been pushed back beyond Nyangezi, less than 30 kms south of Bukavu, where some 10 Zairean Camp Security Contingent soldiers were captured mid-week. The Banyamulenge-dominated forces opposing them now control most of the area between Uvira and Buakvu, including Kamanyola and part, if not all of the border with Rwanda. Zairean forces occupying Uvira have apparently been defeated by the rebels during Friday night and Saturday morning after shelling was reported on the night of the 24th October and in the morning of the 25th. BBC carried an interview with a spokesman for the "Alliance of Forces for Democracy and Liberation of Congo-Zaire", who claimed to be in Uvira, having won the town with a force of 400 fighters.

1.3 The FAZ have mounted roadblocks in Bukavu city for checking identification papers and the number of car-jackings by Zairean soldiers is high - 10-15 UN and NGO vehicles were seized on Tuesday alone. While the Governor declared himself "serene" earlier in the week, the FAZ have reportedly set up defensive positions around the city. A 8pm to 6am curfew was enforced on Wednesday.

1.4 While the Banyamulenge forces control most of the Rusizi plain and probably parts of the Haut Plateaux in the west, some observers expressed surprise that they had climbed the escarpment road and taken highland areas around Nyangezi on Wednesday.

1.5 The ultimate objective of the Banyamulenge-dominated forces is unclear, as the conflict obstensibly began as an exercise in self-defence. The possibility of some kind of "master-plan" linking attacks in North Kivu and the South Kivu conflict is hard to discount entirely.

1.6 Zairean state radio announced that military aircraft are to be deployed in the South Kivu conflict. Further ammunition was supplied to the FAZ during the week. Accusations and denials continue to fly between Kinshasa and Kigali as to the alleged involvement of Rwandan Patriotic Army forces in the fighting. Zaire has also protested to the UN Security Council. There remains no conclusive evidence of RPA involvement nor of Burundian forces taking part. Other allegations include reports of anti-Zairean forces using Burundian and Rwandan territory in the campaign.

1.7 Prompt diplomatic initiatives by the EU, UN and OAU have yet to bear fruit but talks hosted by Belgium have started in an attempt to broker a meeting between Zairean Prime Minster Kengo wa Dondo and either Rwandan Prime Minister Pierre Celestin Rwigema or Vice President and Minister of Defence, Paul Kagame. The US, France and EU Special Envoy have lent weight to Belgian efforts. The UN Secretary-General and the Chairman of the OAU, have lent their support to the idea of a regional Conference for Peace, Security and Development in the Great Lakes Region. UN Special Envoy, Ibrahima Fall, is reported to have made progress in persuading Uganda and Rwanda of the usefulness of the Conference. The UN Secretary-General has further proposed a mediator to negotiate a ceasefire. Zairean President Mobutu is reported to remain in very poor health in Switzerland, adding to the general uncertainty.

1.8 Opposition groups from Rwanda (the RDR) and Burundi (CNDD) have weighed in with statements alleging an over-arching plan for a "Tutsiland" beyond the borders of Rwanda and Burundi. Muller Ruhimbika, exiled Banyamulenge leader of the newly-named Democratic Alliance for the People, said that Shaba and Kasai-based Zairean opposition groups now support the Tutsi rebels. This raises the possibility of an even broader conflict within Zaire. Also the Banyamulenge were ready for talks, he said in a BBC interview on Thursday. On Friday, he upped the stakes by saying to "We are not fighting for the Kivu region, but for the whole of Zaire...Mobutu must go."

1.9 The widening conflict in North Kivu includes border areas between Uganda and Zaire. Uganda's Major-General Salim Saleh, Special Presidential Advisor on Military and Political Affairs in the North has asked parliament to allow government Ugandan People's Defence Forces to pursue and assault bases of Ugandan rebels in Zaire and Sudan.


2.1 As the crisis broke, all 220,000 refugees grouped in the Uvira camps were reported to all have fled. Now, however, it appears that some camps remian more or less intact and the refugees are still in residence. Those that were abandoned have since reportedly been burnt. As far as anyone can tell, four or five camps to the north of Uvira are the ones which have been abandoned. Figures being used by the humanitarian community in Bukavu indicate that there are up to 80,000 mainly Rwandan refugees from the Uvira camps on the move. But some refugees from the Uvira camps have reportedly fled westwards - and some may have returned to Burundi. Since the deterioration in security and the evacuation of relief workers, as many as 140,000 refugees may remain around Uvira and are unlikely to receive any supplies in the near future.

2.2 The second group of affected people are the refugees of the southern Bukavu camps, in particular the two at Nyangezi. A total of 37,000 refugees from those two camps left beginning Tuesday 22 October. In addition, it appears that Nyantende camp may also be abandoned (approximately 9,000 more "displaced refugees" may have moved out).

2.3 The third group of affected people are local Zairean populations displaced by the fighting. In the whole of South Kivu, a current "guesstimate" of the numbers suggests 15,000 displaced in Fizi Zone, south of Uvira, 30,000 between Uvira and Bukavu and 10,000 in the environs of Bukavu. Some urban Zaireans in Uvira and Bukavu are also leaving town to seek sanctuary in the countryside. These figures are little better than guesses, and needs among this group are likely to be talken care of by relatives. However, the strain of accomodating displaced family members will, in the medium term, begin to take a toll on local services in health and other sectors.

The hospital in Bukavu is full, with wounded soldiers still armed, causing disruption.


3.1 Table of current population estimates

Displaced refugees (frm Uvira): 80,000
Displaced refugees (from Bukavu): 46,000
Remaining refugees (at Bukavu): 264,000
Remaining refugees (at Uvira): 140,000

Total: 530,000

3.2 Additional non-food needs are likely for Zairean displaced in the mid-term.

3.3 Up to 16,000 of the estimated displaced refugees from both areas listed above have re-appeared at other Bukavu camps.

3.4 These figures shoiuld of course be treated wiuth caution, as they are "best available" estimates.


4.1 The activities of humanitarian agencies are severly restricted by looting of vehicles in the town, the possibility of ambushes outside and the threat of a rebel assault on the town. WFP had a warehouse looted on Wednesday and a staff member assaulted on Thursday. It is questionable whether the current level of insecurity can be tolerated by the majority of aid agencies, and a planned pull-out is being reviewed constantly. Within these limitations, aid agencies are trying to assist the displaced refugees on arrival at the Bukavu camps, continue services to established refugees and give some support to local structures.

4.2 The displaced refugees are beginning to arrive in westerly Bukavu camps, giuded by Zairean soldiers along the route. This group are - in general - prevented from entering Bukavu by Zairean security forces. As many of the Bukavu camps are effectively "full" (no unused or suitable land is adjacent), UNHCR is encouraging those who wish to stay, to move to emptier camps, and Chimanga in particular.

4.3 Chimanga, managed by CARE, is the most westerly of the Bukavu camps, and had a population of about 18,000 before the crisis broke. So far, about 2,000 displaced refugees have arrived there. Larger numbers of refugees (7,000-14,000) have arrived at camps along the route, but protest at having to move further. They are building shelters on the edges of the current camps, and are accepted by the other refugees. Aid agencies are planning to porvide water and high-protein biscuits along the road if security permits.

4.4 The UNHCR, however, has urged the Rwandan refugees to seriously consider retunrning home in a message from Ms Ogata braodcast to the region on 25 October.


5.1 The current land routes to Bukavu seem likely to be closed or unreliable for the near future. If the roads to Uganda, north of Goma become safer, Bukavu could then be supplied by barge from Goma. The road between the two provincial capitals is unsuitable for any truck carrying more than 10 metric tonnes, and even then it is a rough road.

5.2 The southern route through Uvira (itself supplied either by barge from Kigoma, Tanzania, or in the past, overland through Burundi) seems likely to be closed for some time unless there is a resolution to the fighting one way or the other. There are alternative land routes - through Rwanda, but since April 1995, the Rwandan Government has blocked the transit of refugee relief supplies through its territory. On its past record, it would be surprising if Rwanda were to relent now.

5.3 Monthly food requirements for the 310,000 refugees of the Bukavu caseload plus the additional displaced refugees from Uvira could be over 6,000 metric tonnes per month. The World Food Programme intends to operate an airlift from Uganda to Bukavu, using a C-130 transport aircraft. The first flight of food was planned for Saturday, carrying nutritional biscuits or CSB. However, the supply of the current caseload in South Kivu with a general raytion would be prohibitively expensive. An attempt to supply even a half ration by air could cost well over $100,000 oer day. A single C-130 flight from Entebbe to Bukavu costs between $12,000 to $15,000.

5.4 Other relief items may be deliverable by barge from stock in Goma, but in general, further supplies will have to come by air. However, Bukavu airport is a 40-minute drive north of the town and so is vulnerable to being cut off too.

5.5 The delivery of food and other relief items to Bukavu is only one part of the story. If Bukavu remains cut off, the effects of a de facto blockade will begin to show in fuel shortages, inflation and perhaps additional population displacement and looting. Diesel is already in very short supply.

5.6 The contortions required to "classify" the affected populations in South Kivu are one aspect of the humanitarian system's sometimes overlapping mandates: refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and recipients of "development aid".

5.7 The UNHCR message urges Rwandan refugees to make a virtue of a necessity, and go home where their security and dignity are assured by the Rwandan government and attested to by the international community. While reassuring them that the choice is theirs, in a "terrible" situation, UNHCR urges them to ignore "malicious rumours" when deciding where to go. If the rebels control the southern land border between Rwanda and Zaire, however, there may not presently be a safe corridor for refugees willing to return.


6.1 Reliable information on the number and location of the displaced and refugees of all groups is very scarce. Also, details of the progress of the fighting is almost non-existent. The few foreign journalists in Bukavu are constantly harrassed and asked for bribes. A foreign correspondent (with a valid visa) leaving Bukavu on Friday had to pay a total of $500 in bribes at seven checkpoints along the airport road and at the airport itself. Another journalist, fully accredited with Kinshasa was locked up overnight earlier in the week.

6.2 The size, composition and location of rebel forces is also hard to confirm. Even displaced refugees interviewed at Nyamirangwe could not report actually seeing rebel troops. Several camp populations made decisions to move on hearing shooting or after the Zairean troops pulled out. They do not seem to have fled in panic in disarray, but rather with trepidation, planning and forethought.

6.3 While the situation for the displaced refugees appears precarious, the needs of the remaining Uvira caseload (mainly Burundian Hutus) may in fact be greater and more urgent, given their location near the centre of the conflict, and the complete absence of international aid or monitoring.

6.4 Insecurity may increase in Bukavu, either from a direct attack, or a breakdown in discipline by already jumpy Zairean troops, and trigger an evacuation of aid workers. Already, armed soldiers are paid by agencies when moving around the city, but car-jackings continue. Soldiers are sometimes reported to want the cars to move themselves and their families out of the area.

6.5 Humanitarian agencies should continue to seek access to populations in need, and insist on their impartiality, and state their intentions and modus operandi clearly and publicly. However, given the experience of aid agencies in Uvira, it may be impossible in the short term to deliver even basic life-saving services in South Kivu. The principle of maintaining a joint approach to evacuation and/or suspension of activites among the UN agencies and partners seems well-established. External assessment missions (a two-man French team arrived Friday from Paris) will no doubt proliferate.

6.6 Options open to humanitarian agencies are extremely limited. The current crisis is a "litmus test" of the willingness of Rwandan refugees to return home. The humanitarian community may wish to consider ways to guarantee safe corridors for the refugees to reach Rwanda. For the displaced refugees in South Kivu, there is no easy route to the Rwandan border.

6.7 The real crisis is not about refugees - they, in the widening conflict, are both a symptom and a cause of the problems of the Great Lakes. The status of the Banyamulenge has been an issue for at least 200 years, but the arrival of Burundian and Rwandan refugees over the last three years - caused by internal conflicts - has brought the Banyamulenge's predicament to a climax, and potentially drawn others into the conflict.

6.8 Eastern Zaire - lush, fertile and well-watered, is now the theatre of many unresolved regional political problems. The widening conflict, unless cooled by talks, external military intervention or ceasefire has the potential to generate a new spiral of crises, putting more and more civilian populations at risk, and at worst, breaking into full-scale war.


Message-Id: <> From: Date: Sat, 26 Oct 1996 12:21:46 -0500 Subject: Zaire: IRIN Briefing, 1

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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