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Update No. 96/2 on ICRC activities in Zaire

04-11-1996 Operational Update

An unprecedented human tragedy is unfolding in eastern Zaire. Hundreds of thousands of victims - displaced Zairians, Rwandan refugees and Burundian refugees - are caught up in a raging conflict and have been left without any form of protection or assistance. In the prevailing anarchy and given the hostile attitude towards foreign media and relief workers, access to the victims is a major issue, and there is growing fear that the current violence may escalate into a massacre.

On 1 November the ICRC appealed to the belligerents to allow it to carry out its humanitarian activities and to ensure that it is given immediate access to the victims of the conflict.

The ICRC is in contact with the parties involved and is negotiating ways of ensuring minimum security conditions and resolving practical problems in order to be able to resume its operational activities in eastern Zaire as quickly as possible. A first attempt to reach the conflict zone from the southern fringe, via the town of Kalemie, has so far been blocked by the hostilities and looting taking place in the city. Access from the western as well as the northern borders of the affected region is currently under evaluation. An ICRC team is posted in Lubumbashi, ready to intervene in the region of Kalemie when possible.

The ICRC is also very concerned about the situation developing in Kinshasa and other cities in Zaire and has intervened with the authorities to ensure protection of minorities and humanitarian treatment of persons arrested, and for ICRC delegates to be given access to prisons.

 ICRC relief stocks and logistical support in the region  

At present the ICRC has at its disposal 11,000 tonnes of food and non-food relief items for 360,000 beneficiaries and water and sanitation equipment for at least 200,000 persons. These stocks are stored in ICRC warehouses in Bujumbura, Kampala, Kigali, Mombasa and Nairobi. A fleet of over 70 trucks is at its disposal. ICRC-chartered aircraft in Kenya are ready for use in the Great Lakes region if overflying and landing rights can be obtained.

 Personnel  

The ICRC's expatriate staff currently working in the region is distributed as follows: 40 in Kenya, 107 in Rwanda, 7 in Tanzania, 5 in Uganda, 13 still in Zaire and 1 in Bujumbura. Personnel will be assigned according to need and the possibility of access. The ICRC initially intends to send only expatriates under direct ICRC contract into Zaire in view of the prevailing high-risk situation.