DR Congo

DHA Summary of Media Reports

News and Press Release
Originally published
[This is a summary of current media reports. Their accuracy is solely the responsibility of the news sources cited. This is provided only as a service to the UN Secretariat and UN Agencies.]

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 01:10 PM) UNHCR Geneva spokeswoman Melita Sunjic said that despite information from aerial surveys and satellite images UNHCR had yet to establish which direction the refugees were heading.

(Associated Press, 22 November 1996, 09:22 AM) Ray Wilkinson (UNHCR)said there are five main refugee groups between Fizi on the shore of Lake Tanganyika in the south and Masisi, 185 miles to the north, with the largest concentration of 250,000 near Fizi. But he acknowledged it was impossible to differentiate between Rwandans, Burundians and Zaïrians. "We are saying there are people are on the move. There are Rwandans and Zaïrians and we can't split those up," Wilkinson said. The number and identity of the refugees will influence the decision on whether a multinational military force is sent to Zaire, he said.

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 01:10 PM) In Rwanda, the head of a US military assessment team told a news conference he could only be certain of one group of 150,000 to 175,000 refugees heading north from Bukavu. Major-General Edward Smith said they seemed to be bona fide refugees, not former Rwandan army soldiers or militiamen. The group was between 100 and 150 km (60 and 95 miles) from Goma, but he could not say where it was heading. "I can't speak for the UN, but I'm confident that with the data we have and the means of getting the figures that we have an accurate estimate," he said.

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 01:10 PM)"As for General Smith's claims in Kigali about the number of people moving 150 km (95 miles) south of Goma, this is absurd. Has the man never looked at a map?" Ray Wilkinson (UNHCR Spokesman in Goma) said.

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 01:10 PM) Samantha Bolton of the Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) medical aid group said Smith had told aid agencies of a second group of 100,000 people moving at a fast pace on foot towards the Masisi region, apparently heading for the town of Walikale. Smith said these people were soldiers of the former Rwandan army and their families, Bolton told Reuters in Nairobi. "We're concerned that there's a difference in the figures, we're not being given the full picture on this," she said.

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 01:10 PM) Wilkinson stressed that it was not clear refugees were returning towards Goma. "We have no confirmation, and no reports and no information about any refugees moving towards Goma from Sake or the other side of Sake," he said. "We know nothing about any supposed 50,000 refugees moving toward Goma, we cannot leave Goma, we have been told by Kassesse that the area outside Goma has been declared a military zone and no international staff are being allowed outside the town," Wilkinson said.

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 01:10 PM) A Reuters correspondent just back from the outskirts ofSake observed no refugees at all moving on the road except for about 150 being picked up outside deserted Mugunga camp. "This road is emptier than it has been for any time over the last two years," one aid official told Reuters.

(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 11:20 AM) Some 200,000 Hutu refugees from Rwanda are stranded in mountains on Friday near Nyabibwe after fighting blocked their trek from Bukavu to Goma, witnesses told AFP. The road to Goma is blocked by a kilometre (half a mile) long column of vehicles abandoned late Wednesday by Rwandan refugees following clashes with Tutsi rebels. The 200,000 refugees from Bukavu were Friday sheltering in mountains some 30 kilometres from Nyabibwe, witnesses said.

(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 07:45 AM) In a sign of movement, an AFP correspondent in Goma reported that Zaïrian rebels started on Friday transporting some of the refugees away from areas where fighting has been reported. Rebels organised a fleet of lorries to bring refugees down to the town from an area between Goma and Bukavu where the rebels were battling Rwandan Hutu militiamen, he said. The refugees were dropped off at the nearby border to be repatriated. (Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 07:02 AM) Several lorries hurtled up to the border, crammed full of refugees who had come down towards Sake west of Goma from forested hills where they had spent several days.


(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 10:05 AM) "The next area of action will probably be Cyangugu. We're ready with material and equipment to greet 100,000 people," said UNICEF Spokeswoman Marie Heuze. So far no Rwandan refugees have turned up in Cyangugu. UNICEF plans to shift personnel from Gisenyi in the north to Cyangugu and was due to transport Friday 60 tons of food and other supplies to the town. A breakthrough agreement reached with Rwandan authorities will allow the humanitarian body to help feed children much faster by distributing biscuits directly to those arriving. "At Gisenyi, when children arrived, whether accompanied or not...we did not have authorization to distribute biscuits," said Heuze.

(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 10:05 AM) An inter-agency team which visited Bukavu Thursday reported that there were very few children there and "no visible malnutrition," said Heuze. Though the camps were empty, a UNICEF medical dispensary at Nyakavogo camp three kilometres from Bukavu was found still functioning, she said. "That means the (Tutsi) rebels were using the medical supplies to care for their troops."


(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 10:05 AM) More than 100,000 Rwandan returnees are journeying from Gisenyi to their home villages, a UNHCR Spokeswoman told a press briefing. Nineteen people died during the exodus out of Mugunga camp, near Goma, that began one week ago and nineteen people were treated for a variety of sicknesses, said Spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume. Returnees who have already resettled in their villages have been well received, and no major incidents have been reported, she said. "So far so good."

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 01:42 AM) In the middle of a wrecked church in Nyamata, about 50 km (28 miles) south of Kigali, Tutsi workers were digging a mass grave to bury the bodies of around 2,000 people -- many of them members of their own families.


(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 09:06 AM) UNHCR, Sadako Ogata, has decided to send a Special Representative to Bujumbura. The man designated for the job, Dessalegn Chefeke, is to discuss measures to ensure the security of repatriated refugees with the authorities and humanitarian organisations.

(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 11:30 AM) UN human rights observers in Burundi on Friday confirmed that around 300 Burundian returnees from eastern Zaire were massacred last month in a church in western Burundi. The October 22 slaughter was brought to light by UNHCR but denied by Burundi's Prime Minister Pascal-Firmin Ndimira. (Associated Press, 22 November 1996, 11:00 AM) Christiane Berthiaume, Spokeswoman for UNHCR, told reporters that only sketchy details were available from the Oct. 22 attack. The victims, believed to be Burundian Hutus, were among the first refugees to return to Burundi when fighting broke out around UN refugee camps in eastern Zaire last month, Berthiaume said. About 100 survivors of the attack were being treated for wounds at a hospital, other relief officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Those officials quoted witnesses as saying about 400 refugees stopped to spend the night in the Seventh Day Adventist church in Murambi, a town in Cibitoke province in northwestern Burundi, after they crossed the Rusizi River from Zaire. Armed men reportedly entered the church and ordered everyone to lie down. Witnesses told relief workers the men then started shooting and bayoneting the victims. Authorities learned of the massacre weeks later when residents asked for disinfectant and to have the bodies removed, relief workers said. Berthiaume said she was unable to speculate on who carried out the attack.

(Associated Press, 22 November 1996, 11:00 AM) Fernando del Mundo, UNHCR Spokesman, said the massacre possibly was related to violence that increased after a governor the province was killed. At the time, rebel attacks on civilians stepped up. He said it was not clear who the victims were, but it was likely they were Hutus.

(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 02:50 PM) ) Relief workers brought a five-truck aid convoy to Nyamitanga, which is 34 kilometres (20 miles) northwest of Bujumbura in the province of Cibitoke Friday for refugees returning from east Zaire, but delayed distribution as they sheltered inside a UN personnel carrier from a nearby battle coming close. The aid distribution for some 3,500 returnees took place on a grassy patch. The distribution was delayed as the aid workers sheltered from the nearby automatic fire. Conspicuously absent were seeds for planting. A sanctions committee made exceptions about two months ago for fertilisers and seeds, but the relief agencies say that these are still blocked, and that the planting season is coming to an end, raising the prospect of serious food shortages next year. The returnees here are lucky compared to others. They come from one of the few villages in Cibitoke province which has not been destroyed, and are going back to their own homes rather than a displaced persons camp, but their fields are overgrown and they will have to start afresh after making handles for their hoes and using food grain as seeds.

(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 02:50 PM) ) A Burundian army lieutenant told AFP that he found international relief food in rebel hideouts every time he overran one of their positions in the mountain chain overlooking this village.


(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 11:24 AM) FAO said on Friday it was sending an advance team of experts to Rwanda to help coordinate emergency agricultural help for refugees and displaced people in central Africa. FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf will lead the team whose brief is to assess the needs of people in Rwanda, Burundi and eastern Zaire. The team will coordinate aid for more than a million people in the three countries. It will include experts in food security, agronomy and water control. FAO technicians would follow next week to help Rwanda's Ministry of Agriculture and livestock rehabilitate the entire sector. FAO said some $5 million dollars in emergency agricultural aid was needed for some 2.3 million people in the Great Lakes region and Eastern Zaire. "We have had the World Food Summit. Now we have to play our part in the countries and in the field and one of the places we have to be now is clearly Rwanda," Diouf said in a statement.


(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 11:24 AM) Pope John Paul made another appeal for international aid and for a stop to fighting in eastern Zaire. "Once more, I appeal forcefully for a rapid return to peace," he said in an address to Zaïrian bishops visiting the Vatican. "Nothing is resolved with violence, which only increases the sufferings and misery of the most poor," the Pope said. "It is necessary to be put an end to this tragedy."

(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 10:44 AM) Israel is to provide 60 tonnes of food and medicine to refugees in Rwanda, it was announced after the government's weekly cabinet meeting here on Friday. The aid is to be transported in the next week on two planes in coordination with United Nations organizations and requests by the Rwandan government. Israel will also continue cooperation with Rwanda in the medical area and the construction of housing for refugees. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the decision "reflects the humanitarian policy of the state of Israel during a period of great financial difficulty."


(Agence France-Presse, , 22 November 1996, 02:39 PM) In Stuttgart, delegates clashed Friday over how many people are in need (in eastern Zaire). (Reuters, 22 November 1996, 12:55 PM) Another international political meeting will be required to decide whether to send a military force into Zaire, Canadian Defence Minister Doug Young said. "There is no other way to determine it except by a meeting of the countries who would be involved," he told reporters, answering a question on whether a new political gathering would be needed. "It's obvious that there is still a need for humanitarian aid. The question will be whether or not military intervention is required to be able to provide that," he said. He said political assessment could begin this weekend or early next week on the basis of the Stuttgart talks, but gave no details about possible dates or venue for a new meeting."The recommendations, which will really as far as I'm concerned only provide an array of options in terms of the military situation, would then be submitted to the various participating countries for political assessment. That will be done after the meeting in Stuttgart, I expect over the weekend and perhaps into the beginning of next week," he said.

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 11:47 AM) Lieutenant-General Maurice Baril of Canada told a news conference that estimates presented at the meeting of the number of refugees in need of help varied between 100,000 and 500,000. "We're going to find out (how many there are) before we commit any troops," he said. "By the end of the weekend I would hope we will have developed a full slate of options." "A firm commitment (to send troops) can only be made later by governments after they have considered all the options," he told a news conference. Baril refuse to be drawn on how many troops, if any, such a mission might require, but he said there appeared to be between 100,000 and 250,000 refugees requiring help.

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 11:47 AM) Barril did narrow the scope of a potential mission, saying: "The mandate we have is to open a (relief) corridor to those who really need it...We're not here to feed and transport them, but to open the corridor." Baril said the first task for the Stuttgart planning meeting would be to get together with relief and multinational organisations to try to get a better idea of the size of the problem.


(Agence France-Presse, , 22 November 1996, 02:39 PM) US officials are watching the chaotic flow of refugees in Zaire "day by day", National Security Adviser Anthony Lake said Friday. Asked when Washington would decide whether to join a possible multinational humanitarian mission to the embattled region, Lake said, "I don't want to predict that." "We look at it day by day, and thus far every day we have seen movements that are encouraging," he said. "This is a very difficult issue." At the same time (of the return of refugees to Rwanda), scores of thousands of people -- Rwandans and possibly some displaced Zaïrians -- have begun moving en masse in the region, their destinations frequently unclear. "Apparently their movements are reflecting their choice of where they want to go," Lake said. Citing aerial surveillance this week, he mentioned two groups of about 50,000 refugees each moving around a volcano near Lake Kivu, and another group of about 35,000 refugees apparently headed west from near the same area. But American authorities have been most closely following a third group of some 200,000 people that had camped near Lake Kivu, he said: "The big question is where they're heading."

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 04:06 PM) "The decision is not driven by processes or meetings. The decision will be driven by the situation in eastern Zaire," Lake said. Lake said the general trend of the movement of several large groups of refugees indicated they were not under pressure from hostile paramilitary groups operating in the area. "One of the best things about it, I think, is that apparently their movements are reflecting their choice of where they want to go, and they are sorting themselves out," Lake said. He said it was possible the force would no longer be needed but quickly added, "I'm not predicting that."

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 11:47 AM) US Brigadier General John Casey said (at the Stuttgart meeting) part of the problem was finding out how many of the displaced people who had been located in aerial reconnaissance were Rwandan Hutu refugees rather than extremist Rwandan militias or Zaïrians displaced within their own country.

(Agence France-Presse, , 22 November 1996, 02:39 PM) US officials want to ensure that any international aid effort won't aggravate disputes between governments and factions in the region.(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 04:06 PM) A White House official said: "What's encouraging is they are returning home, they are repatriating themselves without outside intervention. What you have is a society reaching political reconciliation without the necessity of outside assistance. That is always preferable to imposing solutions from the outside."

(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 01:50 PM) The United States resumed reconnaissance flights over Zaire Friday, the Pentagon said. A P-3 reconnaissance plane flew a single mission Friday but was unable to get images of the situation on the ground because of poor weather, a Pentagon spokesman said.


(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 11:54 AM) EU Development Ministers agreed on Friday to put up a further 169 million Ecus ($217 million) in humanitarian aid to help refugees in the Great Lakes region. They agreed to send 10 million Ecus immediately to provide food, shelter and protection for refugees returning to Rwanda from eastern Zaire, and a further 15 million in the coming weeks. Once an assessment team returns from the region a further 144 million Ecus will be made available, Ireland's Overseas Aid Minister Joan Burton told a news conference.

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 11:54 AM) The European Commissioner responsible for humanitarian aid Joao De Deus Pinheiro said the Commission would draw up an overall action plan for the region in early December, as aid was not enough. "The basic idea is that humanitarian aid is important but was not enough. The political situation is highly complex and if you want peace and stability in the region you have to address the whole puzzle," De Deus Pinheiro told a news conference.

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 11:54 AM) The EU ministers formally asked the Western European Union to provide support for an eventual humanitarian aid effort the region. A formal decision was needed for the EU's fledgling defence arm to act.


(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 06:09 AM) A multinational force proposed to help refugees in eastern Zaire should only be deployed in the Great Lakes region if both Rwanda and Zaire consent, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi said in Nairobi. Moi said it was important that the size of the force to be deployed in the Great Lakes region be reviewed owing to changing circumstances on the ground. "When the idea of the peacekeeping force was mooted, the situation was at that time worse than it is presently," a statement released by the Presidential Press Service (PPS) on Friday quoted Moi as saying. "However, what is important now was to ensure the refugees were given food aid and at the same time taken care of while on their way home," Moi noted.

(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 06:09 AM) On Friday, the Ethiopian Herald newspaper quoted Prime Minister Meles Zenawi as having said that Ethiopia will only participate in a multinational force to help refugees in Zaire if its mandate also included the separation of Rwandan Hutu militias and troops from the bonafide refugees. Meles told Canadian minister of state for Africa Christine Stewart that his country could withdraw its offer of troops if the UN Security Council failed to revise a resolution backing the force, which currently makes no reference to separating Rwandan gunmen from genuine refugees.

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 07:07 AM) Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday met Rwandan Defense Minister Paul Kagame and Burundi ruler Pierre Buyoya to seek common ground on the refugee crisis in eastern Zaire and regional economic sanctions on Burundi. Kagame, Rwanda's, arrived in Uganda on Thursday. Buyoya arrived early on Friday. "Kagame and Buyoya want to seek common ground on the refugee question. They want Museveni to use his influence to get their opinions on the matter listened to," a Foreign Ministry official said. "That is why they requested this meeting."

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 07:07 AM) On Tuesday, Museveni said he wanted Buyoya removed and it was an insult for anyone to claim he backed the Burundian. But at Entebbe Airport on Friday, Ugandan Foreign Minister Eriya Kategaye said: "Uganda recognises Buyoya as the de facto leader of Burundi and he is here in that capacity." Buyoya and Kagame also wanted their positions on an intervention force in Zaire amplified for them by Museveni.

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 06:26 AM) Museveni, saying Zaïrian President Mobutu was ailing and unaware of events along their common border, pledged to pursue "dissidents and invaders" back to their bases in Zaire. At Lubiriha, Museveni said: "If the rebels dare attack the country again, they will be crushed and followed up to their bases in Zaire. We will go into attack." He added: "Mobutu must find a solution to this problem." Museveni said that although the rebels and Zaïrian troops operated from Zaïrian territory, their logistics and funding came from the Sudan.

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 11:00 AM) (Zaïrian)Radical opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi told Radio France International on Friday that Mobutu had given him a mandate to form a national unity government. Mobutu's Spokesman in Kinshasa, Professor Kabuya Lumuna, expressed astonishment. "Mr Tshisekedi's obsession is to be Prime Minister. The obsession of every other Zaïrian at the moment is to win the war in the east," he told Reuters. "Clearly he has taken his own thoughts for the thoughts of the President."

(Reuters, 22 November 1996, 11:00 AM) Tshisekedi, speaking after talks with Mobutu late on Thursday, said dialogue was the only way to end a revolt by Tutsi and other Mobutu opponents who hold towns in the east. "It must be resolved through negotiation because we have already shed too much blood of our people," he said, playing down the role of neighbouring Rwanda and adding that the month-old revolt was essentially an internal problem. Tshisekedi said rebel leader Laurent Kabila should have a role in Zaire as he too was party to the decisions of a 1992 sovereign national conference which Mobutu had re-endorsed. The conference elected Tshisekedi Prime Minister in 1992. "With this reconciliation that we have just had, President Mobutu... will respect the constitutional act so that I lead what we call a government of national unity," Tshisekedi said.


(Associated Press, 22 November 1996, 09:22 AM) "There is no longer a need for an intervention force here," rebel commander (ADFL) Andre Kassesse said Friday. "What do they want to do here, help those people who are fighting us?" Kassesse said thousands of displaced Zaïrians are returning to their homes, and that the remaining Rwandans are fighting and should not be helped. He said only a few thousand Rwandan Hutu refugees remain in the hills around the border town of Goma, and they are heading home. He said hundreds of Rwandan Hutu militiamen and Zaïrian troops remain in the area, fighting his forces.


(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 07:45 AM) Lionel Rosenblatt, President of the NGO Refugees International, said in Bukavu, eastern Zaire, that the plight of the mainly Rwandan Hutu refugees was desperate. They were running out of goods they had used to barter with civilians for food and were now reduced to scavenging, he said. "They are increasingly desperate," Rosenblatt said. "We have reports of deaths among different groups and we expect the mortality rate to increase significantly." "We can deduce that probably thousands are very near death now if aid does not come in quickly, and at risk are tens or even hundreds of thousands," the aid agency chief said. "Many are on the brink of death," he added. "The Interahamwe still control some of the camps but that seems to be breaking down in some cases," Rosenblatt said. "It's hard to judge but our hope is that the militia control is receding."


(The Los Angeles Times - Washington Post News Service, 22 November 1996, 02:06 AM) Zaïrians interviewed along the winding dirt road that links tiny Walungu with the border town of Bukavu 30 miles to the northeast reported that wave upon wave of people whom they presumed to be Rwandan Hutu refugees had moved westward in recent weeks, stealing whatever food, beer, local currency and livestock they could find. Gun battles have broken out within the refugee groups, witnesses said. Twenty-two refugees were treated for gunshots and other injuries at the hospital here, said Bahati Robert, the hospital's manager. "They started killing and fighting each other for food and medicine," said Robert, who witnessed the mayhem that broke out here as refugees streamed through in groups for nine days beginning Nov. 4.


(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 02:50 PM) ) The lieutenant commanding the infantrymen of the Burundian army fighting the Hutu rebels said the guerrillas had attacked the market in Nyamitanga, which is 34 kilometres (20 miles) northwest of Bujumbura in the province of Cibitoke. He told an AFP correspondent travelling with the convoy that the market attack caused no casualties, but that he had counter-attacked, and that the clash lasted about three hours. He claimed his men had killed "about 10 rebels," leaving the bodies where they fell, with no casualties among his own troops.

(Agence France-Presse, 22 November 1996, 02:50 PM) ) The drive from Bujumbura to Nyamitanga, and Buganda, a few kilometres (miles) beyond it, showed all the signs of a country at war. Mud huts were destroyed, the occasional wrecked vehicle lay blackened at the side of the road, the convoy had to detour over a ford to bypass a downed bridge, and the people along the way were sullen, neither waving nor smiling.