DR Congo

Refugees arrive in Kisangani

DATE=3/9/97
TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT
NUMBER=5-35896
TITLE=ZAIRE REFUGEES
BYLINE=SCOTT STEARNS
DATELINE=WALIKALE
CONTENT=
VOICED AT:
INTRO: REFUGEES AND REBELS ARE HEADING TOWARD ZAIRE'S THIRD-LARGEST CITY. AS SCOTT STEARNS REPORTS, FIGHTING CONTINUES TO DISPLACE ZAIRIAN CIVILIANS AND RWANDAN REFUGEES WHO HAVE BEEN
ON THE MOVE FOR THE PAST SIX MONTHS.

TEXT: THE LATEST RWANDAN REFUGEES ON THE RUN IN EASTERN ZAIRE ARE HEADING FOR KISANGANI. DESPITE EFFORTS TO GROUP THEM AWAY FROM THE FIGHTING IN UBUNDU, THE UNITED NATIONS SAYS MANY HAVE ALREADY ARRIVED IN KISANGANI AND MORE ARE ON THEIR WAY FROM THE TINGI-TINGI CAMP CAPTURED BY REBELS LAST WEEKEND.

FIGHTING IS DRAWING CLOSER TO KISANGANI, WITH REBELS ADVANCING ON THREE FRONTS. A REBEL SPOKESMAN SAYS THEY INTEND TO RALLY RE-INFORCEMENTS AROUND TO THE RIVER CITY BEFORE MAKING THEIR FINAL ASSAULT.

IN THE MIDDLE, AS THEY HAVE BEEN SINCE THE START OF THE CONFLICT, ARE RWANDAN REFUGEES -- SOME INNOCENT CIVILIANS, OTHERS MEMBERS OF THE FORMER GOVERNMENT ARMY AND EXTREMISTS MILITIAS RESPONSIBLE FOR RWANDA'S 1994 GENOCIDE. EACH TIME THIS WAVE OF REFUGEES BREAKS AHEAD OF ANOTHER REBEL VICTORY IT SHAKES OUT (LEAVES BEHIND) CIVILIANS AND CARRIES MORE SUSPECTED KILLERS FARTHER WEST.

TINGI-TINGI CAMP LEADERS FLED TO KISANGANI TO JOIN ZAIRIAN TROOPS IN DEFENSE OF THE CITY. REBELS SAY THE CAMP LEADERS HAVE ALREADY FLOWN ON TO THE CAPITAL -- KINSHASA.

LEFT BEHIND IN THE CAMP ARE PERHAPS A HUNDRED PEOPLE TOO SICK OR TOO OLD TO KEEP MOVING. THEY HAVE RETURNED TO ABANDONED CLINICS AND FEEDING CENTERS WAITING FOR HELP THAT IS NOT THERE. OTHER REFUGEES LIVE IN THE FOREST. LAST WEEK MORE THAN 500 BEGAN THE LONG WALK HOME. SOME HAVE BEEN ON THE ROAD SINCE SEPTEMBER. ALMOST ALL ARE IN WORSE SHAPE THAN THE MORE THAN ONE-MILLION RWANDAN REFUGEES WHO RETURNED FROM BORDER CAMPS IN ZAIRE AND TANZANIA LATE LAST YEAR.

REBELS CONTROL TOWNS MORE THAN 600-KILOMETERS SOUTH OF KISANGANI ALONG THE LUALABA RIVER -- INCLUDING KINDU, KABALO, AND MANONO. HERE TOO, RETREATING GOVERNMENT TROOPS AND RWANDAN MILITIAMEN HAVE LOST CONTROL OF SOME OF THE REFUGEES WHO WANT TO GO HOME.

AID WORKERS ARE LOOKING TO OPEN A RECEPTION CENTER IN KIGALUBE --ABOUT 175-KILOMETERS WEST OF BUKAVU. THEY HOPE TO HELP REPATRIATE 40-THOUSAND PEOPLE WHO LEFT A CAMP IN SHABUNDA AND ACT
AS A MAGNET FOR (ATTRACT) OTHER REFUGEES IN SOUTH KIVU.

EARLY REPORTS SAY THE REFUGEES ARE DEHYDRATED AND MALNOURISHED. MANY HAVE MALARIA, EDEMA, AND FOOT INFECTIONS.

HOW TO HELP THESE PEOPLE HAS BEEN THE PROBLEM FROM THE BEGINNING.THE U-N PROPOSED HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS AND A MULTI-NATIONAL INTERVENTION FORCE, BUT THAT PLAN FELL APART WHEN ZAIRIAN REBELS FORCED MOST OF THE REFUGEES BACK OVER THE BORDER. MILITARY PLANNERS FOR THE PROPOSED MISSION CONCLUDED THERE WAS NO SAFE AND RELIABLE WAY TO AIR DROP FOOD TO THE REMAINING REFUGEES MOVING WEST. NOW THEY ARE MORE THAN 400-KILOMETERS FROM THE BORDER.

REBEL LEADER LAURENT KABILA SAYS THE REFUGEES CAN MOVE FREELY THROUGH AREAS HE CONTROLS. TINGI-TINGI REFUGEES GOING BACK TO RWANDA HAVE NOT BEEN HARASSED.

U-N SECRETARY GENERAL KOFI ANNAN SAYS THE INTERNATIONAL FORCE SHOULD BE RECONSTITUTED TO PROTECT REFUGEES AND AID WORKERS. HE IS LIKELY TO FACE STIFF OPPOSITION ON THAT PLAN BECAUSE THE POLITICAL CLIMATE HAS CHANGED, BUT THE LOGISTICS HAVE NOT. MANY PEOPLE FEEL THE REFUGEES ON THE RUN IN EASTERN ZAIRE DO NOT WANT TO BE HELPED, THAT THEIR LEADERS ARE FLEEING JUSTICE IN RWANDA.

AN INTERNATIONAL FORCE WOULD FIND SOME OF AFRICA'S WORST ROADS DEEP INTO THE EQUATORIAL FOREST, PASSABLE AT ABOUT FOUR-KILOMETERS AN HOUR. THE ROAD TO THE PROPOSED RECEPTION
CENTER IN KIGALUBE HAS NOT BEEN MAINTAINED SINCE THE MID 1970'S WITH FIVE MAJOR BRIDGES IN NEED OF REPAIR AND PARTS NOT PASSABLE IN HEAVY RAIN. (SIGNED)

NEB/SS/GKT-T/RAE

09-Mar-97 10:06 AM EST (1506 UTC)