Initial aid teams reach towns in eastern Zaire
Security problems delay full-scale relief
November 11, 1996
Web posted at: 9:50 a.m. EST (0250 GMT)
In this story:
KIGALI, Rwanda (CNN) -- Aid workers, carrying emergency
medical and food supplies, crossed Zaire's Rwandan border
Monday and reached the rebel-held towns of Goma and Bukavu,
U.N. officials said.
The Tutis-led Zairian rebels, who have taken control of much
of eastern Zaire, agreed Sunday to clear a corridor for
humanitarian aid to reach more than 1 million Rwandan Hutu
refugees and Zairians who fled the region when the fighting
began early last month.
A U.N. team made the trek to Bukavu, while a group of
international aid agencies reached Goma.
"They got thoroughly searched (by rebel forces) at the
border and they only took in emergency food supplies for
patients in hospitals and enough drugs to treat them,"
Samantha Bolton, a spokeswoman for Doctors Without Borders,
"Full-scale operations will only go ahead after they have
made their security assessments, in a day or two," she added,
speaking in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.
The Tutsi-led government of Rwanda also has authorized aid
agencies to deliver food and medicine from its territory to
Hutus in the rebel-held east.
Many of the refugees were Hutus who originally fled from
Rwanda to Zaire to escape Tutsi reprisals after Hutus
massacred up to 1 million Tutsis and others in 1994.
Hutu gunmen who led the genocide are with the Hutu refugees
and remain armed.
The latest crisis may precipitate a solution to the region's
refugee problem, aid workers hope. As Hutu refugees return to
Rwanda via the humanitarian corridor opened by the Tutsis,
they may wind up becoming separated from the armed Hutu
militants who are wanted for war crimes.
Even with rebel cooperation, the refugees confront a dire
situation. Aid officials estimate several hundred refugees a
day have died since fighting began three weeks ago, and that
80,000 infants will perish this month unless aid reaches
International officials Sunday expressed exasperation at
various delays that have held up implementation of an
international military force to stabilize the region and
guide the flow of aid.
The European Commission wants the U.N. Security Council to
call for the immediate creation of a multinational force, but
the council postponed a decision on deployment until November
The organization's Humaintarian Affairs Commissioner Emma Bonino, in Zaire to see the refugee crisis firsthand,
blasted the United State for holding up the force.
"The states who prevented a force being deployed are an
international scandal... an international disgrace," said
Bonino. "How can I tell them the Security Council doesn't
see... doesn't listen... doesn't care."
France vs. U.S.
The delays, in large part stem from the complex interplay
between global powers and the lingering effects of the
region's colonial legacy.
France, urging speedy action, has called for an international
force consisting of European, U.S. and African troops. But
the Rwandan Tutsis and their Zairian Tutsi rebel allies
oppose a role in the region for France, which they claim
supports their Hutu enemies.
Washington, whose reservations delayed action by the Security
Council, complained that the aid mission lacks clarity. And
U.S. officials are suspicious that France is seeking to
cement its influence in the region.
Meanwhile, 11 tons of aid from Spain -- food, blankets and
tents -- arrived in the Zairian capital Kinshasa Sunday.
Officials said it would be given to the national Red Cross
for distribution to the refugees.
Christiane Amanpour and
Reuters contributed to this report.
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