Weekly Round Up of Main Events in The Great Lakes Region, 15 - 22 July 1996

News and Press Release
Originally published
Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
Tel: +254 2 441125
Fax: +254 2 448816

This is number 18 in a series of weekly reports from IRIN on general developments in the Great Lakes region. Sources for the information below include UN agencies, NGOs, other international organisations and media reports. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original sources.

UNHCR has accused the Governments of Burundi and Rwanda of colluding in the forced expulsion of thousands of Rwandan refugees from camps in northern Burundi. The forced closure of Kibezi camp (estimated population 15,000) began on late Friday when the Burundi authorities moved into the camp and began trucking refugees to the Rwandan border. The camp was looted by local residents on Saturday and refugee huts burned. As of late Sunday, some 8,000 refugees are reported to be in a football stadium in the vicinity of the camp. On Sunday, the Army moved into a second camp, Ruvumu. Some 7,000 people are reported to have fled into the hills, with about 8,000 refugees remaining in the camp. Both Kibezi and Ruvumu camps have been cordoned off by the military. The UN has been denied access to the two camps since the operations began.

Reports from Butare in Rwanda are that the processing of the refugees once they have crossed the border is proceeding smoothly. Following registration by UNHCR, returnees are provided with repatriation kits and transported by UNHCR/IOM directly to their communes. As of Sunday evening, some 5,400 returnees from Burundi had been registered by UNHCR.

Following Tripartite meetings earlier in the year, the Burundi Government had indicated that three out of the four camps for Rwandan refugees in the north would have to close by 30 June and that those not willing to return to Rwanda would be relocated at the fourth camp - Magara. Some transfers from the other three camps had already taken place prior to the expulsions. The Magara camp population currently stands at around 42,000. So far, no forced movements are reported from Magara or the third camp Rukuramigabo in Kirundo (pop. 12,000). The total Rwandan refugee population in Burundi before the expulsions was approximately 85,000.

Burundi's Army has accused Hutu rebels of slaughtering 312 displaced Tutsis, many of whom were widows, orphans and old people, at Bungendana camp in Burundi's central Gitega region. Witnesses said that they counted 304 bodies on Sunday - one day after the massacre - and that more than 100 more people had been injured. Thousands of Tutsis protested the massacre in a demonstration in the capital on Sunday. Burundi's Prime Minister Antoine Nduwayo addressed the nation on state radio and television late Sunday and called on the people to remain calm and desist from acts of vengeance. A mass funeral for the victims is planned for Tuesday (July 23) in Bungendana.

The National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD) and its armed wing, the FDD, have denied responsibility for the massacre saying that the accusation was part of a stepped up propaganda campaign to discredit the CNDD forces. In March the Burundi Army was accused of killing more than 300 Hutus during military operations in the Gitega region. Aid agencies estimate that at least 1,000 civilians are being killed each month in Burundi.

Former Tanzania President, Julius Nyerere, is said to have told western donors on Friday that regional states will not send peacekeeping troops to Burundi without a formal ceasefire. The statement came after a closed door meeting in Dar es Salaam attended by OAU Secretary General, Salim Ahmed Salim, US and EU Special Envoys to Burundi and other senior diplomats on the stalled Burundi peace process. No formal statement was made following the meeting but diplomats said that a ceasefire was discussed at length.

The security assistance plan, proposed last month in Arusha, calls for the deployment of troops from Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia and has been endorsed by the OAU and backed by Western countries. The Burundi Army and the main Hutu rebel groups, however, have said they will forcibly oppose any such deployment without their agreement and conditions being met. During the week thousands of youths demonstrated in the streets of Bujumbura, denouncing the plan as a foreign invasion. One of the two main political parties, UPRONA has called for a new head of state and a new government.

On Monday, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi expressed doubts about the security assistance plan and ruled out sending Kenyan troops to Burundi saying that extremists were putting the plan in jeopardy. An official from the OAU accused both sides on Friday of "pushing for absolute power" at great cost to civilians.

During the first ten days of July, 4,567 refugees arrived in camps in Uvira in Eastern Zaire at a rate of more than 450 a day. All but a hundred were from Burundi. Some 50-100 Burundians have also continued to arrive in Kigoma, Tanzania every day. A further 500 Burundian refugees were registered between 9 and 15 July in Cyangugu Prefecture, Rwanda, bringing the total as of 15 July to 3,427.

A meeting planned for Saturday between the foreign ministers of Zaire and Rwanda to discuss the return home of Rwandan refugees from Zaire was postponed "due to transport problems" and is to be rescheduled for the coming week. Zairian Foreign Minister Kititwa Tumansi had said on Thursday that the Saturday technical meeting would prepare for the meeting between the Prime Ministers of Rwanda and Zaire in Kigali later this month. Kititwa, stressing that the deadline for the voluntary repatriation of Rwandan refugees from Zaire was prior to the elections in 1997, said that Zaire would be obliged to resort to force if it found evidence of bad faith on the part of Rwanda or the international community.

The Air Zaire Boeing 737 seized by the Rwandan authorities in April continues to be stranded at the Rwandan town of Kamembe. Zaire has said the plane had been on a flight from Kinshasa to Bukavu via Goma and was forced down by bad weather. The Rwandan authorities have accused the plane of carrying weapons.

In a report to be released shortly, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Zaire, Roberto Garreton will examine the responsibility of the Zairian authorities in the events in North Kivu, Zaire which have led to massive internal displacement and refugee movements. Mr. Garreton recently visited camps for Zairian refugees in Rwanda, but his request to visit North Kivu went unanswered by the Zairian authorities. In his last report to the Commission of Human Rights, Mr. Garreton drew attention to the plight of people of Rwandan origin who were born and raised in Zaire but who are denied Zairian nationality. He also pointed to the surge in anti-Rwandan feeling over the past 30 years with its corollary of statelessness.

The overall situation in Masisi and Rutshuru, meanwhile, remains relatively calm with some displaced families returning to their home areas. In many areas homes are reported to have been pillaged and livestock stolen or slaughtered. The UN recently launched a special appeal requesting US$ 863,000 for emergency assistance for the victims of the violence in North Kivu.

More than 120 people are reported to have been killed in cordon and search operations and confrontations with Interahamwe in the western border areas of Rwanda. In a status report issued 15 July, the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda (HRFOR) states that it had received reports of over 60 people being killed in the course of search operations carried out by the RPA in the communes in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri Prefectures in Rwanda. The affected communes included Ciciye commune which was the scene of the single largest massacre of genocide survivors on 27 June. According to reports, up to 3,000 men were rounded up in Giciye commune in Gisenyi and Nyamutera commune in Ruhengeri on 9 July. Most were released the following day. The Rwandan Ministry of Defence has stated that operations have been launched in areas where unarmed civilians have been attacked. Rwandan radio reported on Thursday that RPA troops killed seven Hutu rebels and seized ammunition in a security operation in Kigali's rural area - the scene of at least 34 recent killings. The radio also reported that two local government officials were assassinated on Tuesday in Rutsiro village in Kibuye. An agricultural official, his wife and two children were killed in nearby Kivumu village.

Belgium has said that it is ready to comply with a request by the UN International Tribunal for the extradition of Joseph Kanyabashi, a former mayor in Rwanda's Ngoma district. Kanyabashi has been held in a Belgian jail since the beginning of the year. Another genocide suspect held in Switzerland has also been indicted. A total of 20 suspects have been indicted so far by the Tribunal.

Food production in Rwanda in expected to rise by 15% this year, but almost 600,000 people will need emergency food aid during the second half of the year. The FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission which visited Rwanda 7-15 June notes an increase of 7% in the areas planted from the previous season but that overall production remains well below the pre-crisis level. The improvement, says the joint report, reflects improved stability in the interior of Rwanda and resumption of regular activities by a considerable number of returning refugees. The Mission estimates the output of this season (1996B) to be 181,000 metric tonnes of cereals and pulses. Import requirements total 64,000 metric tonnes, of which some 44,000 metric tonnes are required as food aid.

A report prepared by FAO with the United Nations Population Fund for a World Food Summit in November notes that Africa will need to boost food production by 300% by the year 2050 to satisfy growing population needs. The report also notes that sharing the world's food more fairly would probably eliminate most cases of undernourishment.

Donor nations have pledged some US$ 1.2 billion to Tanzania for 1997, the World Bank announced after a Consultative Group meeting in Paris Thursday and Friday this week. The World Bank statement said that donors were expected to hand out about US$ 560 million in 1997. Donors froze balance of payment support to Tanzania in November 1994 after the World Bank uncovered an import tax exemption scandal costing the treasury around US$ 70 million per year.

Most of the 2,000 Sudanese refugees who fled during the attack by Christian fundamentalist rebels on Acholi Pii camp in northern Uganda have returned to the camp, but have requested a transfer to a safer location. Latest reports are that the death toll in the attack on 12 and 13 July has risen to over 150. The UN Secretary-General issued a statement condemning what he called "wanton acts of murder" and urged the Uganda Government to reinforce measures to ensure the safety and protection of the Sudanese refugees in the area. Amnesty International condemned the massacre on Thursday and said that the recent massacre brought the number of Ugandan civilians and refugees killed in deliberate attacks by the rebel groups, the Lord's Resistance Army and West Nile Bank Front, to more than 300 since Match 1996.

Following a recent four day state visit to Kenya, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni said that Uganda and Kenya are to expel each other's political dissidents. One individual who may be affected in Kenya is the Lord's Resistance Army spokesman, Dr James Obita.


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