IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 20-1999 [19990521]

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 20-1999 [19990521]

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa

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Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 20 covering the period 15-21 May 1999

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Ilunga appointed as new RCD leader

The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) on Wednesday named medical doctor Emile Ilunga as its new leader after Ernest Wamba dia Wamba was ousted on Sunday in an internal power struggle. The movement retained military commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane and Moise Nyarugabo as first and second vice-presidents respectively. Wamba said he was a victim of a "coup", unilaterally ousted by his opponents within RCD.

Reacting to the reshuffle, Uganda's senior presidential adviser for media and public relations John Nagenda told IRIN on Thursday the move "is none of our business". "It does not concern us, it is for the Congolese to decide," he said. In Nairobi, DRC embassy official Deo Safari told IRIN the new leaders were "puppets" of Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame who was "hiding behind the rebellion to achieve his plan to occupy our country".

"Forced parade" marks Kabila's second anniversary

President Laurent-Desire Kabila, marking two years in power on Monday, gave a national address calling for a "general crush the invaders" and prevent turning the country "into a nation of slaves". News organisations described Monday's anniversary as "bitter", characterised by arrests and a "forced parade".

The main DRC human rights group, ASADHO, depicted Kabila's rule as two years of "violence and disintegration". In a statement, received by IRIN on Tuesday, ASADHO said: "The human rights situation in two years of the Kabila regime closely resembles that of 30 years of the Mobutu regime, only much more worrying and ominous".

Government ready to talk to rebels

The DRC is ready to hold "direct talks" with the RCD, according to a statement issued in Sirte, Libya on Saturday. According to the television report, the sides involved in the conflict "narrowed their points of view" at a meeting brokered by Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. However, Rwandan news organisations quoted government officials as saying "no accord was signed in Sirte" and "Rwanda cannot sign anything until guarantees on its concerns, particularly regarding our security, have been taken into account".

RWANDA: ICTR sentences two genocide suspects

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda on Friday sentenced two genocide suspects - bringing to five the number of convictions since it began operating four years ago. The Hirondelle news agency reported that Clement Kayishema, 45, the former governor of Kibuye prefecture, received life imprisonment and Obed Ruzindana, 37, a businessman from Kibuye, was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. Both were found guilty of genocide crimes.

Extradition hearing again postponed

The Tanzanian court hearing for the extradition of a genocide suspect to Rwanda was deferred on Wednesday, after a previous deferral on Monday, pending a decision on the defendant's request for a bilingual lawyer, the Hirondelle news agency reported. Major Bernard Ntuyahaga is wanted in connection with the murder of ex-Rwandan premier Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers. The hearing is now scheduled to take place next Wednesday.

ICTR judge's term extended

Meanwhile the UN Security Council has approved the extension of a judge's term at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha to allow him to complete two cases over which he has been presiding. Judge Lennart Aspegren of Sweden was due to end his work on 24 May, after he was not re-elected for a second term. The ICTR intends to complete the cases against genocide suspects Georges Rutaganda and Alfred Musema by 31 January 2000.

Nutritional improvements in northwest

Relief agencies working in the northwest have reported a "significant improvement" in nutritional conditions among hundreds of thousands of displaced people recently relocated from camps to new grouped settlements, the latest monthly report from the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Rwanda said. Malnutrition rates in new settlement sites were declining, while the number of people at therapeutic and supplementary feeding centres had decreased in recent weeks, the report said.

Troops to stay in DRC for "as long as it takes"

Rwandan army chief of staff Kayumba Nyamwansa has reiterated that Rwandan troops will stay in DRC "as long as it takes" to oust Interahamwe rebels from their bases in that country. He would not divulge to AFP news agency the number of Rwandans fighting in DRC, but noted there were enough to counter any offensive by the allied forces of DRC, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia.

BURUNDI: Death sentences in Ndadaye murder trial criticised

The leader of the rebel CNDD-FDD faction, Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye, has criticised five death sentences handed down by the Supreme Court in the murder trial of ex-president Melchior Ndadaye. In a press statement, received by IRIN, he claimed the sentences "only affect those who carried out the killing, while those who planned it ... have not been troubled". The five were among 79 people sentenced by the court; another 38 people, including high-ranking officials were acquitted.

Rebels reportedly threatening nickel prospecting

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) says Burundian rebels operating from Tanzania are trying to prevent an Austro-Canadian mining company from carrying out a feasibility study of nickel resources in the Musongati area of southern Burundi. The resources are believed to be the third largest in the world. Meanwhile, UNHCR has denied mounting claims that armed rebels are hiding in the refugee camps of western Tanzania. A recent article in the Tanzanian 'Guardian' daily said police in the Kasulu district of Kigoma had impounded 55 firearms and 1,212 rounds of ammunition from refugees residing in the camps.

UGANDA: Fourteen killed by ADF rebels

Rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed 14 people in the western Bundibugyo and Kaborole districts, the independent 'Monitor' newspaper reported on Thursday. It said the incidents occurred on Monday and Tuesday. A further 20 people were abducted. The security forces say they are conducting mopping-up operations in the area.

Defence spending to overshoot budget by over US $30m

Uganda's defence spending is set to overshoot its US $106 million budget by almost a third for the year ending 30 June, a public expenditure review by Finance Minister Gerald Sendaula has revealed. Sendaula said "the non-wage bill" would push Uganda's defence spending 30.6 percent over budget to US $142 million, AFP reported on Wednesday. The news came just two days after the semi-official 'Sunday Vision' announced government plans to cut defence expenditure, under pressure from donors, by 22 percent in the next financial year.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: 13,000 "hostages" return to capital

The army has "freed" more than 13,000 civilians held hostage in the Pool region by Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas, the Inter-Press Service (IPS) said on Tuesday. The civilians, mostly women, children and the elderly, were transported back to Brazzaville in government-hired trucks over the past two weeks, it said.

Meanwhile, a total of 32,000 people have crossed to the DRC's western province of Bas-Congo from the Pool region since the refugee influx started late last year, a regional UNHCR spokesman told IRIN on Thursday. The rate of the influx into Bas-Congo remains at about 750 people a day, he said.

Arrests of returnees reported

A human rights researcher with Amnesty International told IRIN that the organisation was investigating reports that "many people", particularly men of fighting age, had been arrested by the authorities upon their arrival in Brazzaville from the DRC. Some 5,000 refugees have repatriated from the DRC to Brazzaville with UNHCR assistance since 25 April, and thousands more have returned by their own means.

IDPs returning from Pool severely malnourished

The health and nutritional situation of people arriving in Brazzaville from the Pool region is "catastrophic," MSF-France's head of office, Thierry Allafort Duverger, told IRIN on Wednesday. He said about 600 severely malnourished children under five years of age had so far received emergency help at an MSF therapeutic feeding centre opened on 6 May in southern Brazzaville's Makelekele hospital. About 75 percent were suffering from kwashiorkor, he said.

An estimated 50,000 of the 200,000 residents of southern Brazzaville's Bacongo and Makelekele districts - all displaced by conflict in December - have returned to their homes, some from the Pool region and others from northern Brazzaville, humanitarian sources told IRIN. An estimated 8,000 people remain in displaced centres in northern Brazzaville.

GREAT LAKES: Over 300,000 new displaced reported

The number of people reported affected by crises in the Great Lakes region has increased by some 390,000 since mid-February, according to the latest data compiled by the Office of the UN Regional Humanitarian Adviser. The sharpest increase was in the number of internally-displaced persons (IDPs), with over 308,000 new IDPs reported during the period. This increase was largely due to a series of assessment missions carried out in the Republic of Congo and in DRC, which identified new pockets of displaced persons, the report said.

The total number of affected people in the region was now estimated at 4.12 million, according to the report, which is dated 6 May. This figure includes a total of 2.38 million displaced persons, 902,047 refugees, 828,735 vulnerable people and 12,193 unaccompanied children.

SUDAN: Aid workers "stable" after attack on food convoy

Two aid workers were "stable" in hospital in Khartoum after an armed attack on a river barge carrying food supplies in Unity State, a WFP spokeswoman told IRIN on Thursday. The barge, one of three returning north from Juba after delivering 3,300 mt of food for 359,000 people in southern Sudan, was attacked by unidentified raiders near the town of Adok on Tuesday morning. The co-pilot was killed and two of three WFP workers aboard shot during the attack. Three UNICEF staff emerged without injury.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Sergio Vieira de Mello, on Wednesday expressed "profound outrage" at the incident. WFP has suspended barge convoys pending a review of the security situation. Khartoum blamed the attack on the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which has denied involvement. SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje in turn held government forces and Riak Machar's Southern Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF) responsible.

Secretary-General expresses concern at fighting

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday expressed concern over recent outbreaks of fighting between government troops and rebels in southern Sudan - and particularly the bombing of villages in Bahr el-Ghazal province on Sunday and Monday, attributed by observers to government forces. He called on both sides to "respect fully" the ceasefire agreed upon in April, and ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance to "extremely vulnerable" populations in the region.

Decline in meningitis cases

A total of 23,997 meningitis cases have been notified to the Federal Ministry of Health of Sudan, of which 1,662 people have died, according to the latest available figures. The WHO representative in Khartoum, Abdulla Assa'edi, said a mass vaccination campaign together with the onset of rain in some states had brought about a sharp decline in new cases, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

SOMALIA: Egal decries international "imposition" of aid

The president of the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, Mohamed Egal, on Saturday hit out at the international community, saying that aid was being imposed without the involvement of local people which it was intended to benefit. "We are very grateful for the crumbs we are given here, but it is not benefiting us: it is being imposed," he told journalists in Hargeisa.

Faction leaders meet in Ethiopia

Some 10 Somali faction leaders meeting with Ethiopian government officials on Monday and Tuesday are reported to have been strongly urged by Ethiopia to collectively agree on the establishment of an umbrella body - similar to the National Salvation Council that emerged from negotiations in Sodere, Ethiopia, in December 1996 - and a complete strategy for challenging Hussein Aideed, politically and militarily. Aideed on Wednesday decried what he called Ethiopia's meddling in Somali affairs.

ERITREA-ETHIOPIA: US regrets Ethiopian "escalation" of border war

The US embassy in Asmara on Tuesday released a State Department statement regretting Ethiopia's bombings of Eritrea - at Massawa port, Binbina and Zalambessa - in the previous days and urging both sides to end the fighting. An embassy spokesman told IRIN on Wednesday that the US was deeply concerned by the recent bombings, which it described as an escalation of the fighting, and considered a ceasefire between the two sides a top priority.

Mubarak continues efforts to broker peace

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak held talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Tuesday in Cairo on Wednesday, after hosting Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki in the Egyptian capital on Monday, in an effort to broker a peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Egypt said the talks were an attempt to halt the fighting and establish peace within the OAU framework agreement.

Asmara denies evicting Sudanese opposition

Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki on Sunday denied reports that Asmara was evicting the Sudanese opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) from Asmara in an effort to improve relations with Khartoum. Sudanese media reports said the Eritrean government, which signed a reconciliation agreement with Khartoum earlier this month, had ordered the NDA out of the Sudanese embassy which it has occupied since Eritrea broke off diplomatic ties with Khartoum in December 1994.


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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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