IRIN Update 678 for 25 May [19990525]

IRIN Update 678 for 25 May [19990525]

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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IRIN Update No. 678 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 25 May 1999)

BURUNDI: DRC threatens to attack Bujumbura

DRC army chief Major Faustin Munene on Monday threatened to "attack Bujumbura" in retaliation for what he described as the "active role of Burundian forces in the war". DRC state television reported him as claiming Burundian military helicopters had been flying over Baraka, near Fizi. It said Munene "warns that Congo, having thus been placed in a position of collective and legitimate self-defence, will not hesitate to attack Bujumbura which, incidentally, is only a few kilometres away from Uvira".

"Legitimate" protection measures taken

Burundi reiterated it was not involved in the DRC conflict, but said it had taken "legitimate measures" to protect its borders. A government statement, sent to IRIN on Tuesday, again stressed Burundi had no territorial claims on DRC. "However terrorist groups are spreading insecurity along the common border and infiltrating Burundi from the DRC," the statement said. It added that hundreds of Congolese refugees had been arriving in Burundi. "The government of Burundi appeals to the DRC to be calm and to stop intimidatory manoeuvres."

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Growing insecurity around Uvira

Humanitarian sources told IRIN on Tuesday of growing insecurity in the Uvira area, and rebel-controlled Uvira radio on Monday said "armed unpatriotic people in uniform" were killing people and burning houses in villages near the town. It said seven people were killed in the village of Gomba. Residents living in the lower plateau area and along the road to Fizi were "living in fear", while others were fleeing into Uvira town. There have been reports of increased Mayi-Mayi activity in the area. Sources say they believe Mayi-Mayi, opposed to reconciliation meetings currently underway in Uvira and Fizi regions, are responsible for the unrest.

Priests missing from Baraka

The missionary news agency MISNA says two Catholic priests are missing from Baraka. It said the mission was seized by DRC troops earlier this month and the two priests went missing shortly afterwards. There has been no news of them since. According to MISNA, rebel forces recaptured Baraka a few days later. The two priests may have been forced to follow the retreating DRC soldiers, the agency added.

DRC, ROC, Angola discuss refugee issues

The DRC, Angola and Republic of Congo (ROC) have expressed concern over the large number of refugees on their territories. A joint communique signed by the three countries' interior ministers following a meeting in Kinshasa on Saturday also noted the presence of "hostile armed gangs" along their common borders. According to the communique, broadcast by DRC television, they decided to sign an accord with UNHCR aimed at planning joint visits to refugee camps and identifying those who wanted to repatriate voluntarily. Measures would be taken to avoid the camps being used as rear bases for "subversive activities" against the three countries.

The three ministers also expressed concern over smuggling across the common borders and agreed to facilitate the free movement of goods and people. They also agreed to cooperate in training policemen in a bid to address the "threat" to their common borders.

RWANDA: Foreign minister visits Kisangani after clashes

Rwandan Foreign Minister Ismael Amri Sued visited the DRC town of Kisangani on Monday to assess the losses following clashes between supporters of ousted rebel leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba and those of his successor Emile Ilunga. Uvira radio quoted Sued as saying the losses were "minimal" and had "trimmed Wamba dia Wamba to size". He said Wamba had gone to Kisangani to seek the protection and support of Ugandan troops, and that he was "very unpopular" within the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD). Sued said his country and Uganda were "far from engaging in disputes", but accused Ugandan Chief of Staff James Kazini of having "committed atrocities" and of proclaiming Rwandan support for Jean-Pierre Bemba's alternative rebel Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), currently fighting in Equateur province. The radio added that "it is worth noting the two RCD allies, Rwanda and Uganda, are each going their own way in a bid to overthrow the strongman of Kinshasa".

UGANDA: Minister denies shootout in Kisangani

Ugandan Defence Minister Steven Kavuma on Monday denied there was a shootout in the DRC town of Kisangani between Ugandan troops supporting Wamba dia Wamba and rebels loyal to the new RCD leader Emile Ilunga over the weekend, the independent 'Monitor' newspaper reported. Rwandan government spokesman Wilson Rutayisire was also quoted as saying Rwandan troops were not involved. The RCD's first vice-president Jean-Pierre Ondekane told Radio France Internationale on Sunday that both sides in the clashes lost four soldiers each, and two Ugandan soldiers were captured.

Disease control "uncertain" in Bundibugyo

The control of an outbreak of cholera and several other diseases among the displaced populations in the western Bundibugyo district is "uncertain" due to the rebel insurgency. WHO's community and water sanitation adviser in Uganda Collins Mwesigye told IRIN on Tuesday access to the area was difficult. Rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) had blocked roads and any relief supplies had to be militarily escorted. "It's a tricky situation because it is not easy to tell when rebel activities will stop in the area," he said. "This makes it uncertain to know how far diseases have been controlled, new cases and needs, and how to reach patients." Mwesigye added that living conditions in the camps were poor and there had been cases of malaria, diarrhoea, cholera and respiratory diseases, coupled with malnutrition.

Uganda's 'Sunday Vision' quoted a health official Charles Mugero as saying over 30 people were suffering from cholera every week, most of them displaced people. He blamed the outbreak on poor hygienic conditions in the camps, saying up to 40 people were sharing a latrine.

Increase in displaced people

Humanitarian sources said the number of persons displaced by violence in Bundibugyo was still on the increase. An estimated 130,000 people are displaced and the humanitarian community is moving in "cautiously" due to the uncertain situation.

A team from Medecins sans frontieres (MSF) has been in nearby Nyahuka, carrying out measles vaccinations and ensuring adequate water supplies for Bundibugyo town.

Church group mediates between government and LRA

The Italian Sant Egidio community, which specialises in peace mediation, has been brokering President Yoweri Museveni's 13 May amnesty offer to Joseph Kony, leader of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), 'The EastAfrican' weekly reported in Nairobi on Monday.

Citing unnamed security sources, the paper said the Catholic order had impressed on the Ugandan government the need to talk peace with the LRA and its alleged backer, the Sudanese government. A number of senior Uganda government officials and security agents have reportedly been involved in discreet contacts with Kony's representatives.

Nairobi, 25 May 1999, 14:25 gmt


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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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