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Great Lakes Policy Forum—Meeting Summary—October 9, 1997

Speakers: Dawn T. Calabia, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Jean Marie Etter, Foundation Hirondelle, Philippe Dahinden, Foundation Hirondelle, and Richard Bogosian, Special Coordinator for Rwanda and Burundi
October 9, 1997
Council on Foreign Relations

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[Note: A transcript of this meeting is unavailable. The discussion is summarized below.]

The meeting featured a report from Dawn Calabia of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Jean Marie Etter and Philippe Dahinden from Foundation Hirondelle, and Ambassador Richard Bogosian, the Special Coordinator for Rwanda and Burundi.

Democratic Republic of Congo

  • UNHCR and aid agencies were ordered to halt activities for Rwandan refugees in North Kivu. The Congolese say that UNHCR and other aid agencies are contributing to instability in the east of the country. Most UNHCR staff has already been pulled out.
  • The U.N. investigation team in the DRC was recalled to New York for consultation by the U.N. secretary general. The U.S. government will send a special envoy to Kinshasa to push for the U.N. investigation. Human Rights Watch released a report denouncing the human rights violations by the Rwandan and Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL) troops.
  • One participant mentioned that Kabila does not see any reason why this investigation should proceed. If Kabila does not allow the U.N. team to investigate, he will not receive any assistance; but he will not receive assistance either if he does allow the investigation, and is found responsible for human rights violations. The international community needs to find a way to pressure both the Rwandan and the Congolese governments. Another participant noted that it would be easy for the international community to label Kabila as another evil force replacing Mobutu, but that it is not ready to find an alternative to Kabila.
  • One participant also stressed that the countries surrounding the Congo are more concerned with development and political stabilization for DRC than they are with human rights and accountability.

Rwanda

  • The situation in northwestern Rwanda continues to be volatile. There are reports of relatively large numbers of ex-FAR coming into the region and fighting. However, a number of people asked whether the ex-FAR insurgency is in its death throws. On the one hand, the fighters seem well equipped, on the other, they do not have open supply lines. Apparently, hundreds have turned themselves over to Congolese or Rwandan troops. Some people think that the insurgency might gradually diminish to the point where it will become banditry.

Burundi

  • Incidents have occurred on the Burundian-Tanzanian border, but both governments have prevented them from escalating.
  • UNESCO sponsored a meeting in Paris on the future of Burundi that was attended by almost all parties.
  • The hard-liners have toughened their position because they believe that they are in a good position militarily. The Burundian army is much larger today that it was a year ago.

Other

  • Angola is reported to be involved in the situation in Congo-Brazzaville.
  • One participant pointed out that the creation of the Burundi Policy Forum, now Great Lakes Policy Forum, was aimed at formulating a strategy for policymakers. Almost three years later, it seems that the international community still does not have a strategy and limits itself mainly to human rights and humanitarian issues.
  • Radio Agatashya is an independent radio station based in the region and was broadcasting programs in Kinyrwanda, Kirundi, Swahili, French, and English from August 1994 to November 1996. It was able to be heard in Burundi, Rwanda, and Kivu. The goal of the radio station was to address the need for objective and professional information in the region.

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