Multinational force delivers aid to Tanzania
KIGALI, Dec 1 (Reuter) - The Canadian-led multinational force for eastern Zaire, so far unable to deliver any aid to refugees in Zaire itself, has flown its first consignment of aid to Tanzania, a spokesman said on Sunday.
"The multinational mission's first operation took place and there was a shipment of medicine and cholera vaccine for MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres - Doctors Without Borders) to Kigoma, Tanzania on Saturday," said Major Rod Babiuk.
"This is the first humanitarian airlift by the force," Babiuk said. There were no details of the size of the consignment or where it was flown from.
Refugee camps at Kigoma in western Tanzania swelled in November with the influx of 25,000 Zaireans and 5,000 Burundian Hutus who crossed Lake Tanganyika to flee fighting in eastern Zaire. More than 40,000 Burundians have also sought refuge in Kigoma from fighting in southeast Burundi, U.N. workers say.
But analysts pointed out that Kigoma remains accessible to normal aid flights and there appears little need for deliveries by the multinational force which was given the go-ahead at a meeting in Ottawa on Friday.
More than 20 countries, including the United States, France, Britain, Belgium, Senegal and South Africa, will contribute to the mission, more likely to comprise 1,000 or 2,000 troops than the 10,000 originally planned.
Zaire refuses to grant the international force permission to overfly or enter its territory.
Zairean rebel leader Laurent Kabila, whose forces control a swath of eastern Zaire, has said that any multinational intervention would have to be extremely limited. His backers in Rwanda are also opposed to foreign military intervention.
The conflict in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa, especially in eastern Zaire, where Kabila's rebel coalition is fighting a shaky alliance of Zairean troops and exiled Rwandan Hutu forces, appears to be widening.
The Ugandan army, in which most of Rwanda's top Tutsi army commanders once served, has joined the fray, the Ugandan government paper New Vision said.
Ugandan troops crossed into Zaire on Thursday close to the northern limit of the rebel zone and seized the town of Kasindi and parts of the Virunga hills, it said.
It quoted local Ugandan army commander Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Muheesi as saying it was an operation against Ugandan rebels who have been attacking from Zaire.
"We are fed up with these bandits. We are going to finish them," he said.
Further south the main rebel Hutu group in Burundi which is fighting the Tutsi military government there said its forces were engaging army positions in five main regions and fierce fighting was driving thousands of refugees into Tanzania.
In the Zairean border town of Bukavu, trucks packed with new recruits to the Zairean rebel force roared through the streets on Saturday. The mainly Tutsi recruits, an important element in the Rwandan-backed force, were singing victory songs.
Aid workers say Zaire, weakened by the absence of ailing President Mobutu Sese Seko, is pressing for full-scale military ntervention to take back much of eastern Zaire after a lightning campaign against the Zairean army in October.
The rebels, known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, moved on Saturday deeper into southeastern Zaire from Bukavu on the Rwandan border.
They said their target was the Kamituga area, where they expect Zairean troops to make a stand to protect the rich gold and diamond diggings nearby. A convoy of trucks, buses, cars and motorbikes packed with heavily armed rebel troops was on the move near Chimanga, about 100 km (60 miles) southwest of Bukavu.
According to U.N. refugee agency statistics as many as 700,000 Rwandan and Burundian refugees could be missing in eastern Zaire after fleeing border camps. Many Zaireans were also displaced by the fighting.
Around 500,000 Rwandan Hutu refugees returned home from the Goma area of eastern Zaire last month after rebels defeated Hutu militia who had been controlling their camps.
More than one million Rwandan Hutus fled to Zaire in 1994.
Many had taken part in the genocide of up to one million people, mostly minority Tutsis, before Tutsi rebels drove them out.
Copyright (c) 1996 Reuters
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