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13.10.97_AFP/REUTERS:UNHCR IN PROTE
US: UNHCR CHIEF EVOKES CRISIS IN HUMANITARIAN PRINCIPLES
By Tani Freedman
GENEVA, Oct 13 AFP - UN refugee agency chief Sadako Ogata today
lambasted governments for placing self interest above humanitarian
principles, saying the flouting of human rights ideals had serious
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) faced its greatest
protection challenge in the Great Lakes region of Africa, where
civil wars in Rwanda, Burundi and the former Zaire had created
massive refugee populations.
Ogata told delegates at the opening of the annual UNHCR
executive committee session that support in the region from the
international community had been scant.
Refugee camps should have been located way from border areas,
armed militia separated from genuine refugees in the camps, and
those who had committed crimes against humanity brought to justice.
The UNHCR's request for a multinational force to speed the safe
return of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the former Zaire
to Rwanda was also rejected.
"Our repeated proposals to implement such measures in a manner
consistent with the exigencies of security and stability went
unanswered," Ogata said.
"These failures, not the (humanitarian) principles themselves,
have contributed to further insecurity and violence.
"Had States fufilled their responsibilities as stipulated ...
and supported our actions more firmly and decisively, I believe
some of the problems we encountered could have been avoided," Ogata
The Democratic Republic of Congo, as Zaire is now called, has an
estimated 250,000 Rwandan refugees lost in its hinterland. These
are the remaining caseload from more than a million that entered to
escape the aftermath of a 1994 genocide of Tutsis by Hutu
Rwandan refugees are scattered in 11 Central African countries.
Tanzania hosts over 70,000 refugees from DRC and roughly 230,000
The UNHCR was faced with an "excruciating dilemma" in DRC of
repatriating Rwandans to unsafe areas in western Rwanda or leaving
them to die of hunger and violence in the forests, Ogata said.
Integrating the two million Rwandans who had returned from exile
since last year was key to restoring peace in the region, Ogata
said, adding that the 53-member executive committee had adopted
"the challenge of refugee repatriation" as its central theme this
Ogata called for a two-way dialogue with governments, regional
organizations and particularly the Organization of African Unity,
saying she was open to discussing "practical measures" on ways to
get humanitarian principles respected on the ground.
Ogata also reprimanded Western countries for violations in their
own countries, saying she was particularly worried by the clampdown
in the West on asylum seekers, who were increasingly being rejected
at borders and interdicted at sea.
"I am concerned that if we do not attempt to resolve the
apparent contradictions between humanitarian principles and state
interest, countless more innocent persons will suffer."
Fundamental refugee rights like asylum were "non-negotiable,"
Ogata also broke some good news. The number of emergency refugee
crises appeared to be declining, with the number of persons under
UNHCR scrutiny down 1.3 million since early 1996 to 22.7 million in
The UNHCR had completed the repatriation of almost 300,000
Togolese refugees, helped 20,000 internally displaced Chechens go
back home, and others to return to countries including Burma,
Tajikistan and Guatemala.
Improvements in the political landscape in Angola, Liberia, the
Horn of Africa and in Western Sahara could open up the possibility
of mass returns in the months to come, she said.
ASIA: PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT ARRIVES IN RANGOON
RANGOON, Oct 15 AFP - Philippine President Fidel Ramos arrived
here today at the start of a two-day landmark visit, as the first
ASEAN head of state to visit Burma since its controversial entry
into the Southeast Asian grouping earlier this year.
The Philippine president was welcomed at the airport by Senior
General Than Shwe, chairman of the ruling State Law and Order
Reconciliation Council (SLORC), and the Rangoon-based diplomatic
He received a 21 gun salute from an honour guard and was cheered
by hundreds of uniformed school children waving flags along the
road to a state guest house, a kilometre from leading dissident
Aung San Suu Kyi's residence.
Two bilateral agreements and two memorandums of understanding,
covering drugs control and economic cooperation, will be signed
PRIVATE US MISSION MEETS BURMA MILITARY LEADERS
RANGOON, Oct 16 Reuters - A private US delegation met senior
officials of Burma's military government today in what analysts
said was a bid to persuade them to open a dialogue with opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The four-member delegation, headed by former US ambassador to
Japan and the Philippines Michael Armacost, met with Secretary
General One of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC)
Khin Nyint for two hours, government officials said.
No official comment on the progress or content of the talks was
available but local political analysts said the delegation was
seeking to persuade the SLORC and Aung San Suu Kyi to enter into
The delegation met Suu Kyi at her Rangoon residence yesterday,
members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party said.
Kent Wiedemann, charge d'affairs of the US embassy in Rangoon,
also attended that meeting, they said.
The NLD won a landslide election victory in 1990, which was
never recognised by the SLORC.
The SLORC has repeatedly ignored Suu Kyi's requests for talks
but has recently met with some other senior NLD members.