Great Lakes Situation Report #6 Fiscal Year (FY) 1997

from US Agency for International Development
Published on 25 Nov 1996
Note: The last situation report was dated November 22, 1996.


The Banyamulenge and the Banyarwanda people, who are Tutsi of Rwandan origin, settled in the Mulenge hills of South Kivu, Zaire, and the Masisi region of North Kivu, Zaire, more than 200 years ago. Sporadic ethnic violence in the Masisi region has occurred since 1959, but it again escalated in the fall of 1995 as the former Rwandan army (the ex-FAR) and the Rwandan Hutu militia (the Interahamwe) targeted Banyarwanda Tutsi in an apparent attempt to create an area of Hutu control. In September 1996, the situation in the Uvira region of South Kivu, began to resemble that of the Masisi region, as government-sanctioned harassment of Banyamulenge Tutsis intensified. On October 8, 1996, the South Kivu Deputy Governor declared that Banyamulenge residents should leave the area within seven days or risk treatment as rebels. On October 14, fighting broke out between the Banyamulenge rebels and the Zairian Army (FAZ) near Runingo refugee camp, in South Kivu, forcing the roughly 220,000 refugees to flee. The Banyamulenge joined forces with other Zairian rebels to form the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL), and the fighting spread, moving up the eastern border of Zaire from Uvira to Bukavu, as well as south from Rutshuru (North Kivu) to Goma. As a result of shelling from Rwanda on October 26 and November 1, hundreds of thousands of refugees from Kibumba, Katale, and Kahindo camps near Goma, fled to Mugunga camp. Both the ex-FAR and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)-financed Zairian Camp Security Contingent (CZSC), became involved in the fighting. After suffering defeat, the FAZ and CZSC retreated to the west, looting villages along their path and displacing Zairians from Goma town and surrounding areas. Following Hutu attacks from Mugunga camp on Goma town, the ADFL counter-attacked on November 14, forcing the ex- FAR and Interahamwe to retreat to the west and compelling hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee.

Numbers Affected

Rwandan refugees: UNHCR estimates that 500,00 to 600,000 Rwandan refugees have returned from the Goma area camps to Rwanda. Tens of thousands of Rwandan refugees from the Bukavu and Uvira camps remain unaccounted for. One thousand Rwandan refugees have been reported in Zambia, as well as 1,200 newly arrived in Tanzania.

Burundian refugees: Of the 143,000 Burundian refugees originally in the Uvira area, UNHCR reports some 45,000 refugees have returned to Burundi and about 4,000 have arrived in Kigoma, Tanzania, by boat. The location of the balance from Uvira is unknown.

Newly Displaced: Fleeing continued fighting in Burundi, a new caseload of about 40,000 Burundian refugees has entered Tanzania. Approximately 30,000 Zairians have entered Kigoma by crossing Lake Tanganyika. One thousand Zairian Tutsis are reported in Brazzaville, Congo, and 17,000 Zairians are reported in Uganda.The U.S. Embassy in Zaire estimates that 170,000 Zairians have been displaced by the conflict in eastern Zaire, including 20,000 from Uvira, 60,000 from Bukavu, 40,000 from Goma, and 50,000 from rural areas.

Unknown Populations: An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people are moving north along the Mitumba mountains, west of Lake Kivu, another 25,000 to 30,000 people are in Shabunda, about 150 km west of Bukavu, approximately 2,000 - 4,000 are at Hambo, about 125 km northwest of Bukavu, on the road to Walikale, and an estimated 50,000 are west of Masisi. It is uncertain whether these populations are displaced Zairians, Rwandan or Burundian refugees or encamped militia.

Current Situation

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) reported that 1,000 returnees to Rwanda crossed at Gisenyi on November 24 and hundreds more are at Mugunga camp making their way towards Rwanda. They are reportedly in poor condition and UNHCR is sending trucks to assist them. USAID's Disaster Assistance Response Team (USAID/DART) reports that the number of Rwandans returning from the Bukavu area increased from about 250 to 650 refugees daily on November 20 and 21. WFP has pre-positioned supplies in the area and relief organizations are establishing way stations along the Cyangugu-Butare road in Rwanda to prepare for any influxes.

USAID's Administrator Brian Atwood, USAID Chief of Staff Richard McCall, and BHR/OFDA Director Nan Borton attended a donor meeting hosted by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in Geneva on November 23. Representatives from donor governments, the Government of Rwanda (GOR), and United Nations (U.N.) agencies met to discuss refugee reintegration in the Great Lakes region, in particular Rwanda.

While congratulating the GOR for its work so far on the repatriation process, participants called on the governments of the region and all parties involved to allow full humanitarian access to refugees and displaced persons in eastern Zaire. Participants also sought to support the GOR in promoting reconciliation and dialogue between all parties. To this end, participants agreed on the urgent need to deploy more trained and experienced human rights monitors in Rwanda. Donors also expressed strong support for the need to provide assistance that impacted genocide survivors as well as returnees to avoid creating further social divisions and disrupting national development objectives. Top reintegration priorities of the GOR include housing, justice, security, and human resources development.

Situation by Region

Uvira: Uvira is reportedly calm and under Banyamulenge control. However, relief agencies have not been permitted to cross into Uvira since expatriate relief workers evacuated on October 22. Very little information is coming from the town.

Bukavu: USAID/DART staff traveled to Bukavu with representatives of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) on November 20. They met with rebel leader, Laurent Kabila, who said he was aware of only one large concentration of people between Bukavu and Goma, consisting of about 1,000 ex-FAR soldiers and their families, a total of 4,000 - 5,000 people. USAID/DART was not permitted to travel outside of Bukavu town but did meet with journalists who were able to cover most areas within 40 km of Bukavu. The journalists found mostly displaced Zairians who had fled from the FAZ. Bukavu town residents interviewed by USAID/DART were not aware of any large concentrations of Rwandan refugees in the area.

On November 21, USAID/DART visited the central hospital in Bukavu. The hospital is out of medicines and medical supplies and its only ambulance was stolen by the ex-FAR. Doctors were beginning to see cases of malnutrition and malaria is also a growing concern. USAID/DART also reported that food was available, although in short supply, and non-potable water sources existed. Shops were closed and non-food items were scarce.

A U.N. assessment team crossed into Bukavu on November 20 but a second team was denied access to Bukavu on November 22. Representatives from five non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Amnesty International were permitted to enter on November 23.

Goma: UNHCR staff in Goma are providing water, biscuits, and medical care to small groups of several hundred emerging daily from the Virunga National Park. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also resumed activities in Goma. ICRC is providing medical assistance in the hospitals and evacuating unaccompanied minors, as well as the wounded, weak or sick remaining near the camps west of Goma.

Kisangani: WFP reports that some 2,000 displaced persons are reportedly in need of assistance in and near Kisangani, 500 km northwest of Goma. A convoy of UNICEF-ICRC-Medecins Sans Frontieres/International (MSF/I) trucks attempting to move relief supplies from Kisangani to Lubutu was stopped due to mechanical problems and looting. Because of the poor condition of the Kisangani-Lubutu road, WFP is considering airlifting relief supplies to those in need. UNICEF has pre-positioned relief supplies in Kisangani and ICRC is using Kisangani as a logistical base. A U.N. interagency mission left Kinshasa for Kisangani on November 23 and is expected to do an assessment in Walikale.

Rwanda: Some 500,000 to 600,000 Rwandan returnees have poured across the Zaire border since November 15. An estimated 75% have arrived in their home communes. According to the U.N., the road from Gisenyi to Ruhengeri is now almost clear. As a result, the GOR has requested closure of all way stations, which were set up by NGOs to address the needs of refugees in transit, from Gisenyi to Nkamira. Already the GOR has closed the health clinics at the way stations, transferring remaining patients to Gisenyi hospital.

WFP and NGOs have developed a geographic division of labor for food distribution to returnees in the communes. Returnees receive a one-week food ration, enough to last until they've been registered in their home communes. Upon registration they receive a one-month ration. On November 19, CARE began distributing weekly food packages to returnees in Ruhengeri, Butare, and Gikongoro prefectures. Distribution of monthly food packages to registered returnees is underway in Byumba and Kigali Rurale prefectures. Distributions in Kigali town began November 25.

According to the U.N. all members of the ex-FAR are required to register upon arrival and hand in any weapons. So far five communes have registered between 60 - 150 ex-FAR members each and only a few weapons have been turned in. There have been few arrests.

The U.N. Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda (HRFOR) reports that the GOR detained 20 returnees for their own safety, after they were denounced by people from their home communes. Currently there are 110 U.N. human rights observers in Rwanda, 65 in the field and 45 based in Kigali. Another 35 are due to arrive shortly. To address concerns about potential human rights abuses, HRFOR issued a draft appeal to fund an additional 200 human rights monitors.

The need for light trucks (10 tons) is great. The European Union (EU) has rented 100 trucks for one month and BHR/OFDA has agreed to support the trucking contract for the second month. WFP's 40 trucks from Kampala began to arrive on November 22. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has 12 trucks and ICRC has 12-20 trucks. UNHCR also leased 100 trucks, which began arriving in Rwanda on November 20.

Shelter is another great need. As Rwandan refugees return from two years in exile, some find their houses occupied by squatters. The GOR has given the squatters two weeks to vacate dwellings belonging to returnees and is attempting to provide shelter to those who are forced to move. Particularly urgent are shelter needs in Kigali Ville where UNHCR estimates that 30,000 people will return.

As of November 21, ICRC reported that 2,634 unaccompanied children had been identified and registered in Gisenyi. Most were transferred to four prefectures, where NGOs specializing in tracing would attempt to reunite family members.

Burundi: UNHCR reports that of the 45,000 Burundian refugees who have returned to Burundi from Zaire, 30,000 spontaneously repatriated to Cibitoke province and 15,000 arrived through the Gatumba transit center outside Bujumbura. WFP is distributing returnee packages to both populations. UNHCR has transported all but 2,500 of the Gatumba returnees to their home communes.

Members of the U.N. Human Rights Field Operation in Burundi (HRFOB) visited Cibitoke province on November 21 where they learned of a massacre of Burundian returnees that occurred one month earlier. Reportedly, 258 people were killed immediately, while 40 died later from wounds. Seventy others were wounded. NGOs and the HRFOB are concerned that returnees are being channelled into Cibitoke and Bubanza provinces, areas where fighting has occurred and aid workers have only limited access. HRFOB currently has five human rights observers and two officers providing technical assistance in Burundi.

Tanzania: Tanzanian refugee camps are burgeoning, as a result of influxes from Burundi and from eastern Zaire. Approximately 1,200 Rwandan refugees from South Kivu have also arrived in Kigoma. In light of large scale repatriation from Zaire, UNHCR and the Government of Tanzania have increased negotiations with Rwandan refugee populations regarding their return to Rwanda. Refugees have stated that they will require confirmation that their land is unoccupied prior to returning.

Political/Military Situation

Representatives of some 35 countries and organizations met at the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany on November 22 and 23 to discuss the mission of a possible multinational humanitarian force (MNHF). According to General Maurice Baril of Canada, who has been named to head an MNHF, military leaders discussed several options for a multinational force. The options will be presented to the involved governments for a decision.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1080, approved on November 15, allows the MNHF to deliver relief to the region and assist in the voluntary repatriation of refugees, and authorizes the deployment of troops under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. The operation is authorized through March 31, 1997.

Relief Efforts

On November 18, the U.N. announced a Flash Appeal for U.N. programs in Rwanda and eastern Zaire, amounting to $259.5 million. UNHCR issued an appeal on November 19 for $66.9 million to support its emergency operations for refugees and people displaced in the fighting in eastern Zaire and the immediate integration of more than 500,000 returnees in Rwanda.

On November 15, ICRC launched an appeal for $38.5 million to support its eastern Zaire operation for three months. ICRC has Government of Zaire (GOZ) permission to operate throughout Zaire and has the capacity to provide non-food relief for 525,000 people and food for 250,000 people per month. The GOR has sanctioned U.N. agencies and ten NGOs to provide cross-border assistance to refugees in eastern Zaire. Approved NGOs include Concern International, MSF/Holland (MSF/H), American Refugee Committee (ARC), Trocaire, Oxfam, Save the Children Foundation/United Kingdom (SCF/UK), African Humanitarian Action, Merlin, International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

USG Assistance

On October 26, USAID/BHR/OFDA deployed a USAID/DART to Kigali, Rwanda, to conduct assessments, supply information updates, and provide funding to NGOs, U.N. agencies, and international organizations for programs to assist with repatriation efforts in Rwanda. On November 7, 1996, U.S. Ambassador Robert Gribbin declared a disaster in Rwanda, noting that the refugee crisis in eastern Zaire poses a humanitarian emergency for Rwanda. On November 12, 1996, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Simpson declared a disaster in Zaire, as a result of the violent break-up of refugee camps in eastern Zaire. By November 23, USAID/DART had received 675 rolls of plastic sheeting (sufficient to shelter 12,000 families) and 13,300 blankets, valued at $493,675, including transport costs. The commodities are consigned to UNHCR. BHR/OFDA is also shipping 20 complete World Health Organization (WHO) emergency health kits which contain enough medical supplies to assist 200,000 people for three months. The kits are valued at $205,013, including freight costs, and are expected to arrive the week of November 25. On November 18, the USG pledged $140 million in humanitarian and development assistance to address needs in the Great Lakes region.

RWANDA: USG FY 1997 Humanitarian Assistance (to date):

BHR/OFDA has set aside $20 million for humanitarian and rehabilitation assistance inside Rwanda for FY 97. The funds will be used to address immediate needs in the way stations, as well as to support seeds and tools programs, assist in the care and reunification of unaccompanied minors, provide shelter materials, and continue programs for rehabilitation of health centers and water systems. USAID/DART has already received $10 million to fund NGOs, international organizations, and U.N. agencies.

BHR/OFDA Assistance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $698,688

BHR's Office of Transition Initiatives (BHR/OTI) Assistance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $408,000

USG FY 1997 HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE TO RWANDA (TO DATE) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,106,688

GREAT LAKES REGION: USG FY 1997 Regional Humanitarian Assistance (to date):

In FY 1997, BHR's Office of Food for Peace (BHR/FFP) has committed 96,000 MT of P.L. 480 emergency Title II commodities for WFP. These commodities, valued at $72,000,000, will assist refugees and displaced persons in Rwanda, Zaire, Burundi, and Tanzania.