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IRIN Emergency Update No.194 on the Great Lakes (13 June 1997)
* Congolese President Pascal Lissouba has affirmed that presidential elections will still go ahead next month, despite a week of fighting in the capital Brazzaville. In an interview published today by the French daily 'Le Figaro', Lissouba said the challenge now facing the country was to hold the polls on July 27. His opponent, former president Denis Sassou-Nguesso, meanwhile told the paper that an international force must deployed in Congo if a ceasefire was to hold. Both men welcomed international observers to attend the elections, but Sassou-Nguesso expressed concern over the timetable, saying there had been no preparation for the polls.
AFP said Sassou-Nguesso yesterday called on French troops to stop Lissouba using Brazzaville airport to bring in reinforcements. "If necessary we will ban all landings," he warned, referring to the use of French military aircraft for evacuating foreigners. He said he was relying on the French military to make the airport a "neutral area". French military sources, quoted by AFP, said Sassou-Nguesso's "Cobra" militia made further advances against government troops yesterday. A pro-Sassou-Nguesso radio station accused Lissouba of tribalism and "ethnic cleansing". France has warned that the conflict risks igniting the entire region.
Fighting was reported to have subsided in Brazzaville today, although the situation was still tense. The World Health Organisation evacuated some 300 staff from the city yesterday. UNHCR has also withdrawn its international staff to Libreville in Gabon, according to a Geneva-based spokeswoman quoted by AFP.
In an interview with the French daily 'Liberation' yesterday, Lissouba denied supporting ex-Zaire president Mobutu Sese Seko during the recent crisis. He said that while South African President Nelson Mandela was consulting Kabila, he [Lissouba] simply wanted to know Mobutu's thoughts. He added that he had met Kabila for three hours during the recent OAU summit in Harare and "I think we understood each other".
* UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees Sergio Vieira de Mello has been in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, to discuss possibilities of providing relief aid downriver to thousands of Rwandan refugees in northern Congo. He returned to Kinshasa today.
* In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Congolese radio broadcasting from Bukavu, quoted the Kinshasa authorities as saying some 14,000 Rwandan refugees remained scattered in the forests around Shabunda, Katshungu and Lulingu. The radio noted that President Laurent-Desire Kabila had agreed to cooperate with an international investigation into alleged abuses against the refugees.
* The radio also said Belgium had agreed to resume military cooperation with DRC if the country requested it. The radio pointed out that cooperation was suspended in 1990.
* A military escort vehicle, accompanying an NGO in Burundi's Cibitoke province, was hit by grenade and automatic weapons fire on Monday north of Ndava. Two soldiers were slightly injured, according to humanitarian sources. It was unclear who had carried out the attack but observers noted that the ammunition was similar to that used by both ex-FAR and ex-FAZ soldiers. UN missions to Cibitoke have been temporarily suspended. The sources said the ambush reflects a general decline in security in Cibitoke and Bubanza provinces, where attacks against displaced populations still continue.
* The governor of Kayanza province in northern Burundi told Burundi radio yesterday he was concerned about security in the area, especially around the Kibira forest. The radio said "genocidal groups" were returning to the forest. The governor, Daniel Mengeri, also said measures had been taken to prevent the illegal export of coffee into Rwanda, where prices are higher than in Burundi.
* Rwandan Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana yesterday told a press conference that security in northwest Rwanda had been strengthened after a rise in attacks by suspected Interahamwe members, adding that the situation was now improving. Rwandan radio said the minister also spoke of attempts to revive the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL) now that there was a change of regime in DRC.
* Relief workers in Angola report a continuing influx of people into the town of Andrada, 90 kms southeast of Dundo in Lunda Norte province, displaced by fighting in the vicinity. Currently there are some 3,000-4,000 people in the town, where WFP and the Lutheran World Federation are distributing aid supplies. Former rebel UNITA forces have reportedly lost control of the area east of Andrada, giving government troops access to the DRC border. Government troops already control the area north of the town up to Dundo. Those people fleeing into Andrada are said to be arriving from southern and western areas.
* The USA has refused to pay Uganda's civil aviation authority for the use of Entebbe airport during an operation to airlift relief supplies to Rwandan refugees in the former Zaire in 1994, AFP reported, quoting an article in yesterday's 'New Vision' newspaper. A CAA official said the debt stood at some US$483,000, but the US Air Force claimed it had been "invited" by the Ugandan government and thought the use of the airport was free.
* WFP announced the resumption of air drops over southern Sudan after the authorities cleared the flight schedules on Wednesday. Yesterday 16 MTs of sorghum were dropped over Wernyol in Jonglei province, followed by four more similar air drops this morning. A total of 160 tonnes will be dropped, enough to feed 30,000 people. The drops will be made on a daily basis to both government and rebel-held areas.
* Australia has pledged $AU 4.18 million in direct food aid and refugee assistance to victims of drought and conflict in southern Sudan and the Great Lakes region. Of this, DHA-IRIN is to receive $AU 130,000 towards continuing the information flow on these regions. A total of $AU 350,000 will be used to fund human rights monitoring programmes in Rwanda and Burundi, according to a press release issued by the parliamentary secretary.
Nairobi, 13 June 1997, 14:15 gmt [ENDS]
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Date: Fri, 13 Jun 1997 17:08:07 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <email@example.com> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 194 for 13 June 1997 97.6.13 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970613170504.4933A@dha.unon.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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