. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

aUN Urges Humanitarian Aid for Zaire

GOMA, Zaire -- With food shortages in eastern Zaire already acute, the United Nations Security Council on Saturday called on UN members to lay the groundwork for a multinational force to help feed the hungry.

But the resolution did not authorize an immediate force, and it seemed there would be no respite soon for the starving.

In Goma, the biggest eastern Zaire city captured by rebels in a growing insurrection against President Mobutu Sese Seko, Red Cross officials predicted catastrophe, and some 120 exhausted, hungry refugees arrived after walking for more than a week.

UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who has spoken of "genocide by starvation" in eastern Zaire, was asked by the Security Council to draw up a "concept of operations and framework for a humanitarian task force."

This would bring aid to more than a million refugees from ethnic violence in Rwanda and Burundi, and plan their voluntary repatriation. He is to report to the council by Nov. 20.

Many council members hoped for a resolution immediately authorizing a multinational force. This proved impossible after the United States said it was still studying whether it could take part and, if so, in what way.

Fighting in eastern Zaire has spread death, fear and misery across a vast stretch of territory in the biggest country in Central Africa. Hundreds of thousands of Zaireans are also on the move, and food is increasingly scarce.

About 120 Rwandan Hutu refugees arrived in Goma on Saturday after walking for more than a week without food or water except what they could scavenge by the roadside.

They had fled the refugee camps of Katale and Kahindo, which were attacked by rebels a week and a half ago, but were not prevented by Interahamwe Hutu militiamen from making for Rwanda.

"There were people who died of thirst and exhaustion on the way, but we did not see anybody with any traces of cholera yet," said Charles Kairwa, 32.

All the refugees moved from the center of Goma to the border with Gisenyi, where they were attempting to cross to Rwanda.

Rioting Zaireans seized the last food from a UN warehouse in Goma on Friday.

Tabo Dufina of the International Federation of the Red Cross, or IFRC, said earlier on Saturday: "There will be no distribution of food today because there is no food to distribute."

Goma was captured by rebels a week ago after battles that killed about 500 people, according to local IFRC estimates.

Zaire hardened its tone Friday, saying it would no longer allow the Rwandan and Burundian refugees on its soil.

Most existing camps for Hutu refugees who fled to Zaire from Rwanda and Burundi in 1994 after Hutu-led genocide of Tutsis have been abandoned in three weeks of battles between rebels and the army in eastern Zaire.