UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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IRIN Emergency Update No.188 on the Great Lakes (5 June 1997)
* A US aid official visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) yesterday expressed cautious optimism over the country's future, indicating it could receive early assistance from the US government. Anthony Gambino of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), who arrived in DRC late Tuesday, headed the first western aid mission to Kinshasa since the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL) took control of the country. He said he was looking forward to meeting officials to sense how things were progressing.
* France has denied allegations by DRC that it is arming soldiers loyal to ousted president Mobutu Sese Seko in a bid to topple ADFL leader Laurent-Desire Kabila. Finance Minister Mawapanga Mwanananga claimed that 2,000 troops from the former presidential guard had taken refuge in Brazzaville, capital of neighbouring Congo, and had been supplied with weapons from the contingent of French soldiers stationed in the city. The allegations were rejected by the French ambassador in Kinshasa, Michel Rougagnou.
* World Vision announced it was evacuating its international staff from Goma following an attack on its compound by a group of armed men in civilian and military attire. Equipment, personal goods and cash were looted. Reports from the town said heavy shooting last night, believed to be between the culprits and police, lasted for two hours.
* Fighting raged throughout the day in the Congolese capital Brazzaville, reportedly triggered by an attack against the residence of former president Denis Sassou Nguesso by Congolese troops and armoured vehicles early this morning. Battles then ensued between the troops and Nguesso's militia forces. An eyewitness told IRIN that the city centre was empty and all businesses had been closed. In a radio broadcast yesterday, Congolese President Pascal Lissouba urged political leaders to distance themselves from political clashes in the north of the country which have claimed over 15 lives. He described as "absurd and inadmissible" the violence, which pits Nguesso supporters against those of former premier General Jacques Yhomby-Opango, and told politicians to "pull themselves together".
* The Congolese (Brazzaville) authorities have called for the repatriation of thousands of Rwandan refugees ahead of elections next month, the ICRC in Brazzaville announced yesterday. An ICRC official, quoted by AFP, said Congolese foreign ministry officials visited Rwanda recently to discuss the security of refugees upon their return. UNHCR said it would assist those who wanted to be repatriated, but all refugees would first be screened. Ex-FAR members, who are believed to constitute a high proportion of these refugees, will be placed under an appropriate aid agency in the meantime. UNHCR added that refugees were still arriving in the country, around the Liranga-Loukolela area, at the rate of 300-600 a day. Two days ago, the authorities called for the repatriation of a first batch of refugees from Bilolo site, just north of Brazzaville. They had been brought down from Liranga by barge and more were expected to follow.
* DRC's northern neighbour, Central African Republic, which was close to the former Zairean authorities, has said it hopes to have "privileged relations" with the new government, AFP reported. President Ange-Felix Patasse acknowledged the presence of thousands of refugees from the former Zaire in his country, but denied that members of the Mobutu's presidential guard were among them. He said he would not allow his country to be used as springboard for attacks against "another African country". The CAR authorities say they have granted temporary asylum to 9,000-10,000 DRC refugees - many of whom have announced their intention to return home soon - and 600 Rwandans, mostly ex-FAR/Interahamwe who have surrendered their weapons.
* Mortality rates among Rwandan refugees in Kisangani, eastern DRC, and Mbandaka, western DRC, are giving cause for concern. According to UNHCR, in Kisangani - where refugees were on the whole in better shape than those in Mbandaka - 45 out of 10,000 refugees are dying per day, mostly from malnutrition, severe dehydration, diarrhoea, anaemia and malaria. In Mbandaka, the death rate at the airport transit centre was put at 100 per 100,000 per day.
* UNHCR staff are due to fly from Kisanani today to investigate reports of large numbers of refugees in the Bokungu region, between Boende and Ikela. A visit will also be made to Mbandaka.
* UNHCR said at least 13,011 Burundian refugees fled to Tanzania last month, mostly from the Makamba and Bururi provinces where there has been heavy fighting between the army and rebels.
* According to UNICEF, two displaced people's camps in Burundi's Nyanza Lac area have been affected by an outbreak of cholera. By May 25, MSF-France had identified 319 cases with 29 deaths attributable to the disease. The camps house 15,500 people. UNICEF, in collaboration with the Burundian Health Ministry, is providing assistance to combat the outbreak.
* As a follow-up to a UNESCO initiative aimed at promoting dialogue in Burundi, the agency announced it was sending a consultant to Bujumbura, Dar es Salaam and Nairobi for preliminary talks with the relevant sides. UNESCO said it hoped to convince the rebel National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD) to reverse its opposition to the process. CNDD had said it did not believe this was the right forum for discussions. The first in a series of meetings is due to take place in Switzerland from 30 June to 2 July.
* The threatened closure of Bujumbura university appears to have been averted after the board of directors announced last night that re-registration will be allowed for the academic year 1996-7. The dean had said registrations would be cancelled following a student boycott of classes over the Burundian government's decision to hold talks with the CNDD. Students agreed to resume classes, but would still mount protests against the talks, Burundi radio reported.
* Clashes between the army and rebels are reported to have moved to the northeast of Bujumbura towards the Kibira forest and the city is now quiet, after being rocked by several days' of nearby fighting when gunfire was clearly audible.
* The OAU summit ended in Harare yesterday with pledges of commitment to democracy and economic union but little agreement on how these should be achieved, Reuters said. Participants resolved to support the reconstruction of former Zaire. On Burundi, they said they were encouraged by the authorities' attempts to seek a dialogue with rebel groups, but urged President Pierre Buyoya to speed up the process of establishing a constitutional government. Upon his return to Bujumbura last night, Buyoya expressed satisfaction with the meeting, saying there was clear support for the easing of economic sanctions against his country. He said the meeting also called on the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to Burundi.
* The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha has pledged to make further arrests representing more sectors of society by the end of the year. Chief prosecutor Louise Arbour said investigations into the 1994 genocide would be re-targeted to "provide a fair representation of responsibility at the national level". She said there would be an "appropriate distribution" of accused from the ex-FAR, Interahamwe, the ex-interim government, political parties and local, regional and national administrators.
* Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, in his first direct reference to the weekend rioting in Nairobi, described the events as shameful and an "example of bad politics". Speaking on arrival in Nairobi from the OAU summit in Harare yesterday, he ruled out meeting opposition leaders to discuss issues facing the country, saying they did not value peace. He also said the ban on hawking in the city would remain. Meanwhile, an opposition rally planned for Kenya's second city, Mombasa, this weekend has been postponed until June 21.
* WHO reports an outbreak of cholera in Lokichoggio in Kenya's northern Turkana district. It said that according to Kenyan health ministry figures, 16 people had died out of 440 cases in April and May this year. Fifteen of the deaths occurred in May alone. The ministry said the necessary intervention measures were being taken and so far has not asked for extra assistance.
* A postponed regional summit on the conflict in Sudan will be held in Nairobi later this month, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced last night without giving a date. Leaders of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) were due to meet in Nairobi on May 28, but the meeting was postponed because of preparations for the OAU summit in Harare. IGAD groups Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.
* Aid flights into southern Sudan have suffered a serious setback after the Sudanese authorities reneged on agreed procedures. Under the agreements, flight clearance schedules are released on a monthly basis, but according to humanitarian sources, the government has refused to issue a schedule for June which means the flights are effectively suspended. A spokesperson for "Operation Lifeline Sudan" expressed grave concern over the plight of thousands of people in southern Sudan, particularly in the Bahr-el-Ghazal area where 30 percent of children are reported to be suffering from malnutrition. OLS says this is the latest in a series of problems regarding relief flights. For the last nine weeks, a WFP Hercules C-130 has been refused permission to drop food in Bahr-el-Ghazal. Efforts are continuing in Khartoum to try and resolve the issue with the authorities.
* Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony has told his fighters from the Lord's Resistance Army to stop killing civilians and hide their guns, the state-owned 'New Vision' reported today, quoting a senior army commander in the northern Gulu area. According to the commander, Kony's rebels in Sudan were encountering difficulties in bringing supplies to their colleagues in Gulu and Kitgum. The LRA rebels were going to lie low while awaiting reinforcements from Sudan, he added. 'The New Vision' said Kony and his top commanders were currently in Khartoum.
Nairobi, 5 June 1997, 15:00 gmt
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Date: Thu, 5 Jun 1997 18:02:12 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <email@example.com> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 188 for 5 June 1997 97.6.5 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970605175602.6951A@dha.unon.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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