Great Lakes: IRIN Update 269, 10/14/96

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 269, 10/14/96


Department of Humanitarian Affairs

Integrated Regional Information Network

for the Great Lakes

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 269 on the Great Lakes (Tuesday, 14 October 1997)

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Cobra militia seize airport, presidential palace

Forces loyal to Congo-Brazzaville's former military leader Denis Sassou Nguesso today (Tuesday) claimed they had captured the presidential palace and were pushing west through the south of the city, Reuters reported. Sassou Nguesso's Cobra militia are also allegedly in control of Brazzaville's Maya Maya international airport. President Pascal Lissouba's troops, backed by the Ninja militia of Prime Minister Bernard Kolelas, claimed they had retaken the airport at the weekend. AFP reported from Kinshasa that refugees "poured out" of Brazzaville as southern districts controlled by presidential forces came under attack by the Cobras. Meanwhile, the French consul in the southwestern port city of Pointe Noire said that "Congolese military authorities" had for three days "prevented" some 50 French nationals from leaving the town, AFP said.

Cobras advance in southwest

Sassou Nguesso's forces said they had also seized three strategic sites in Lissouba's southwestern home region. Rebel radio said the town of Dolisie, on the border with Angola's oil-enclave of Cabinda, had been captured along with Loudima and Bouansa, AFP reported. Dolisie is 150 km from the country's second city of Pointe Noire. Radio-Liberte claimed the airstrip at Bouansa had been used by Lissouba's helicopter gunships to attack Brazzaville. There has been no independent confirmation of the Cobra claims. However, a Congolese journalist recently in Pointe Noire told IRIN panic was mounting in the city.

Mediator's envoy arrives in Luanda

An envoy of Gabonese President Omar Bongo arrived in the Angolan capital Luanda late yesterday to discuss the widening civil war in Congo-Brazzaville, AFP reported. The visit follows allegations of Angolan involvement on both sides of the conflict. The envoy brought a message from Bongo - who has been mediating in the four-month long war - for Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

Angolan government troops were accused of striking into Congo's oil-rich southern region from Cabinda at the weekend in support of Sassou Nguesso. The Angolan defence ministry said it was responding to attacks on Angolan territory by Lissouba's forces. The former Angolan rebel movement UNITA is also believed to be fighting alongside Lissouba. Regional experts say a potential target of the Angolan army are UNITA's bases and those of the separatist Cabinda Enclave Liberation Front (FLEC-Renewed) in the southern region. "The interests of the Angolans are quite clear," one regional analyst told IRIN. "If Lissouba chooses UNITA to fight for him, the Angolan government is on the other side."

No UN peacekeeping force until peace agreement

The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations is reviewing its contingency plan for Congo-Brazzaville, but there will be no deployment until an effective ceasefire is in place, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said yesterday. The UN plan calls for the despatch of a total of 5,000 peacekeepers in two stages. The troops would be under Senegalese command and drawn mainly from African countries with western logistical support. "It must be clear that we are not sending anyone to Brazzaville unless the security conditions are guaranteed," a western diplomat told AFP. Mohamed Sahnoun, the Joint UN/OAU Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, left New York for Gabon yesterday for talks with Bongo. Eckhard told AFP that Secretary-General Kofi Annan is waiting to hear from Sahnoun before presenting concrete proposals to the Security Council on the peacekeeping force.

French guard wounded in shelling

A French guard at the French ambassador's residence in southern Brazzaville was wounded in shellfire, AFP reported today. Two shells destroyed a house next to the residence in the Bacongo district of the city on Monday. Meanwhile, Russian-made MiG-21 warplanes belonging to the forces of Sassou Nguesso streaked over the Makele-Kele district late on Monday and two loud explosions were heard, AFP quoted sources in Kinshasa as saying. The news agency said today that 20 people were killed in the raid. Bacongo and Makele-Kele are the strongholds of Kolela's Ninja militia. The two sectors had been relatively untouched by the fighting which has devastated the rest of the city. At the weekend Kolelas dropped his neutrality and joined forces with Lissouba.

ANGOLA: US envoy arrives to assess peace progress

A special envoy of US President Bill Clinton arrived in Angola on Monday to begin evaluating progress towards peace between the Luanda government and former UNITA rebels, AFP reported. The envoy, Paul Hare, will hold talks with Dos Santos and is expected to go to the central region town of Bailundo to meet UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi. The UN Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA) considers that the government has almost fully complied with the 1994 peace accord. However, UNITA has still to relinquish strongholds such as Bailundo and Andulo in the centre and its diamond-rich territories in the northeast, AFP said. Meanwhile, Angolan government forces have halted their advance in the Cuando river valley in the northeast province of Lunda, AFP quoted a UN spokesman as saying on Monday. The advance had been sharply criticised by UNITA, which accused the government of deliberately stoking up tensions. The halt, 50 km from the town of Cuango, was negotiated in UN-mediated talks between Luanda and UNITA.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Continued fighting in the east

Humanitarian sources report that at least 100 people died in clashes between the DRC army and Mai-Mai militia along the Lubutu-Kisangani axis on the night of 7-8 October. Troop reinforcements were sent to the area from Kisangani. The bodies of "several" Rwandan soldiers killed in action were flown out of Kisangani airport on an Antonov 26 aircraft, the sources said.

Continued military operations are reported in the vicinity of Kavumu airport near Bukavu, and the road between Bukavu and Kavumu has been temporarily closed by the military on at least two occasions during the past week. Fighting is also taking place in the Bunyakiri/Katana area of South Kivu.

According to humanitarian sources, young Banyamulenge are being targeted in a new recruitment drive by the military in the Haut Plateaux near Uvira. This coincides with rumours that groups of Mai-Mai rebels are "hunting" Banyamulenge both north of Bukavu and northwest of Fizi.

UGANDA: Rebels attack prison

Rebels in northern Uganda attacked a prison, killing two inmates and abducting several others, the privately-owned 'Crusader' reported today. The rebels, believed to be fighters of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), attacked the prison in Adjumani on Monday after government soldiers stationed in the town left to escort a convoy of cars heading to another town. The two prisoners were killed because they resisted rebel attempts to march them off to the bush, according to the newspaper. It did not say how many inmates were taken away. SUDAN: WFP food barges head down Nile

Barges loaded with relief food have left the central Sudanese river port of Malakal towards Juba, the main city in war-torn south Sudan, WFP said today. "Most of the people have been forced to flee their homes and have been left with no access to agricultural land, making them rely heavily on food assistance," WFP said in a statement. The agency has chartered a convoy of barges to transport 2,664 mt of food aid down the Nile across the front-line in the civil war, according to a spokeswoman. WFP has staff on-board who will distribute food along the way, in both government- and rebel-held areas, to an estimated 370,000 people.

Meanwhile, according to the Kenya daily 'The Nation', thousands of people are fleeing Juba complaining of food shortages and accusing the Islamic government of persecuting Christians and other southerners. A siege by the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has closed land routes to the city.

GREAT LAKES: Ogata calls on governments to respect humanitarian principles

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata opened the 48th annual meeting of UNHCR's Executive Committee on Monday in Geneva with an appeal to governments to respect humanitarian principles. "The greatest and gravest challenges to protection have occurred in the Great Lakes region," she said. Ogata traced the root of the problem back to "the inability or unwillingness of the international community [in 1994] to separate those who deserved international protection from those who did not." Ogata stressed that repatriation involves more than just logistics. It can only be sustainable if basic human rights and justice are restored.

Nairobi, 14 October 1997 16:00 gmt


[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this report, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the WWW at: or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to]

Date: Tue, 14 Oct 1997 19:24:53 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 269 for 14 Oct 1997 97.10.14 Message-ID: <>

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

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