UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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Department of Humanitarian Affairs
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for the Great Lakes
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IRIN Emergency Update No.196 on the Great Lakes (18 June 1997)
* Humanitarian assessment missions visiting eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have reported a breakdown of structures in the region, after years of neglect and conflict, particularly in areas affected by refugees. They also said there was an urgent need for seeds and medicine. They expressed particular concern over mined areas in the Ubundu region, between Kilometre 23 and 44 south of Kisangani, which was causing fear among the local population and called for urgent demining activities to take place. According to local people, the mines had been placed by Serb mercenaries fighting alongside the former Zairean army to stop the advance of the-then rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL).
Reports were still filtering through of atrocities allegedly committed by ADFL soldiers against refugees as they gained control of areas in DRC. Humanitarian sources cited reports of a mass grave in Boende containing the bodies of women and children.
The reports coincide with criticism by six human rights groups over what they allege is a deal between the UN and DRC leader Laurent-Desire Kabila to allow human rights investigations to go ahead. In a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the six groups argued that the UN's DRC human rights rapporteur, Roberto Garreton, would not be included in the investigation team because he has been deeply critical of the ADFL's record. The letter expressed concern that this could set a precedent for future human rights investigations regarding the UN's principles for conducting surveys.
Asked about the issue at a news briefing, Annan's spokesman Fred Eckhard said the investigation team would include the "appropriate people". An advance team of the Commission of Enquiry is due to leave Geneva for Kinshasa tomorrow for talks with the authorities expected to focus on freedom of access, security issues and the sites to be visited.
* Two local staff workers of WFP in Rwanda have been brutally shot dead by unknown assailants in Ruhengeri, a WFP press release said today. In the first incident, a field worker was killed in his home along with his wife, a child and a relative. In the second incident, a contract clerk was found shot dead in a forest near Ruhengeri. WFP said it was seeking an investigation into the shootings.
* The International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICTR) yesterday adjourned the trial of genocide suspect Jean-Paul Akayesu until October 22 in order to allow the prosecution time to present fresh accusations regarding rape and sexual torture of women. Prosecutor Pierre Richard Prosper told the court that initial investigations had not established the accused's responsibility in this domain. He added that the testimonies of women in Taba commune, of which Akayesu is the former mayor, were shocking, Fondation Hirondelle, an independent media organisation, reported.
* The warring sides in Congo-Brazzaville have agreed a three-day truce from midnight yesterday to give international mediators a chance to negotiate a solution. Brazzaville was reported quiet early today after clashes between President Pascal Lissouba's forces and his opponent ex-president Denis Sassou Nguesso died down, in accordance with the ceasefire. The UN Secretary-General's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said the truce was negotiated by the National Mediating Committee, headed by the influential mayor of Brazzaville Bernard Kolelas. The conflicting sides has also agreed to the demilitarisation of the airport to enable commercial and humanitarian flights to go ahead. The joint UN-OAU Special Representative for the Great Lakes, Mohamed Sahnoun, who attended peace talks in Libreville, Gabon, is now in Brazzaville for discussions aimed at overcoming some of the obstacles encountered in the Libreville meeting.
The fighting has limited access to Rwandan refugees in Congo, but UNHCR was today due to send a team to Impfondo, 750 kms north of Brazzaville to try and locate pockets of refugees. Aid workers reported there had been some tension in Bilolo camp, near Brazzaville, among refugees who did not receive food distributions. The Congolese Red Cross carried out their last food distribution some 10-13 days ago, but were forced to suspend operations because of the fighting. There has been no access to Bilolo since the unrest began nearly two weeks ago.
ICRC, which had evacuated its expatriate staff from Brazzaville, sent two delegates back to the city on June 14 bringing with them food and medical supplies for Brazzaville hospitals. A second flight followed the next day with more supplies. ICRC says there is little indication as to the exact number of people wounded in the conflict, but the delegates who visited Tangalai hospital in northern Brazzaville found conditions there to be extremely serious, with staff working round the clock and supplies completely exhausted. ICRC hopes to increase its presence in Brazzaville over the coming days.
MSF maintained its presence in the northern Congolese areas of Lukolela and Ndjoudoun where they are running dispensaries, therapeutic and supplementary feeding centres. Some 5,000 refugees remain in Lukolela and 3,000 in Ndjoudoun. Supplies have been provided by MSF downriver from Bangui in the Central African Republic.
Congolese President Pascal Lissouba, who earlier said presidential elections would not be affected by the violence, yesterday admitted that the July 27 poll was threatened by the continued fighting. He told French radio that the elections could not take place at the end of July as long as people had arms. Only a buffer force could help in ensuring that people laid down their weapons. Lissouba has urged France to keep its troops in the country to act as a buffer, but French soldiers have started pulling out of Brazzaville.
* Tolerance towards refugees in Tanzania is waning, according to two local relief agencies. The Kenyan 'Daily Nation' said the heads of the Tanzanian Red Cross and the Christian Council of Tanzania noted during a panel talk that most Tanzanians were "bored stiff" and unsympathetic towards the plight of refugees in the country. Unless host nations benefited from the presence of refugees, hostility towards them would persist, they warned.
* In its annual report released today, Amnesty International noted that the refugee problem in Africa, particularly in the Great Lakes region, has worsened over the last 12 months. The report said Africa accounted for one in three of the world's refugees, adding that the refugee problem was "inextricably linked" to human rights abuse. According to Amnesty, some of the crises could have been averted such as in Rwanda where two years before the 1994 genocide, human rights specialists issued warnings of the threat which were ignored by the international community.
* Uganda's state-owned 'New Vision' today reported that hundreds of civilians have been fleeing a rebel invasion in the western Ugandan town of Bundibugyo. A mixture of rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), former Zairean soldiers and Interahamwe militia overran the town on Monday night, spearking the mass exodus. 'New Vision' said the army had deployed a helicopter gunship in Fort Portal on standby to reinforce troops in Bundibugyo. AFP quoted reliable sources as saying a German doctor with the aid agency GTZ was abducted by the rebels, and an Anglican bishop from Rwenzori diocese is missing and feared abducted.
* Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni held talks with visiting former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere in Kampala yesterday on events in the Great Lakes region. Sources said the discussions centred on Burundi and the next steps to be taken by regional leaders who earlier this year partially lifted economic sanctions against the country. Nyerere left for Kigali later in the day.
* Opposition leaders in Kenya have called off nine pro-reform rallies throughout the country scheduled for Saturday. Kenneth Matiba and Raila Odinga said the rallies had been postponed so as not to clash with the inauguration of Catholic Archbishop Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki. Kenyan press reports noted that the rallies were bound to provoke confrontation. Many ruling party functionaries had warned they would recruit youth wingers to disrupt the meetings. Matiba and Odinga said a new date for the rallies would be announced later. The stage is set for a possible showdown tomorrow with pro-reformists threatening to disrupt parliament during the presentation of the 1997-98 budget amid warnings that the government will firmly clamp down on any interruptions.
Nairobi, 18 June 1997, 15:00 gmt
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Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 196 for 18 June 1997 97.6.18 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970618175636.25264A@dha.unon.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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