UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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IRIN Emergency Update No.199 on the Great Lakes (24 June 1997)
* The state-owned Ugandan 'New Vision' newspaper has alleged troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are helping Uganda defeat a rebel incursion in the west. Troops from the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL) had reportedly moved to the foothills of the Ruwenzori mountains which straddle both countries to flush out Ugandan rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) who launched an attack on the town of Bundibugyo last week. Ugandan Defence Minister Amama Mbabazi told the 'New Vision' he was unaware of ADFL involvement, but said it would be "good" if DRC leader Laurent-Desire Kabila's troops moved in.
The 'New Vision' today reported that thousands of people were evacuated from Bundibugyo to Fort Portal yesterday as fighting between rebels and government troops intensified. In addition, thousands more people were streaming into Bundibugyo from the surrounding villages, where rebels were reportedly "wandering" around. The situation in the area remains unclear. Local witnesses claimed the rebels had burnt alive 12 people and slaughtered another 10. The Ugandan army yesterday shelled rebel hideouts in the town and army sources said they would introduce foot patrols along the 46-mile Bundibugyo-Fort Portal road which has been closed to public traffic for the last week. The 'New Vision' also quoted army intelligence sources as saying some 80 Rwandan Interahamwe members were among the rebel ADF force which invaded Bundibugyo.
A UN assessment mission, led by WFP, left Kampala for Bundibugyo by road today and is expected to arrive tonight. A military escort will be picked up in Mbarara and the team, which also comprises UNICEF, UNDP and WHO, plans to stay in the area two days, security permitting. WFP is sending 60 MTs of emergency food supplies.
* DHA has estimated a total number of 187,393 people displaced by the civil war in regions of eastern DRC, based on information from a variety of sources including NGOs and missionaries. A survey of North and South Kivu, Maniema, Haut Congo and Shaba established that some 8,000 locally displaced people in the Walikale area were in urgent need of assistance. ICRC has airlifted 5,713 displaced people from Kindu and Kisangani to their home areas. According to the report, numbers of IDPs have been exaggerated. It points out that in Kalemie for example, figures of 20,000 were distorted and aid agencies say the real number is nearer 6,000.
* UNHCR said yesterday it had repatriated a total of 400 Rwandan refugees from Kapanga in DRC, close to the border with Angola. They have been taken to Cyangugu on board eight flights.
* Foreign ministers of Rwanda, Burundi and DRC are due to meet in Kinshasa today to discuss reviving the dormant Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL). Salvator Matata, CEPGL secretary-general, told Reuters the three would meet with economic experts. He said everything had been held in abeyance because of crises in the three countries, but it was now necessary to restart economic activities.
* The Congolese capital Brazzaville was reported quiet today after the fragile ceasefire was shattered yesterday, as militias loyal to ex-president Denis Sassou Nguesso reportedly opened fire on parliament to prevent members of the constitutional council from taking their oath. The ex-president denied his troops were targeting parliament, but acknowledged the building had been hit in renewed clashes. The swearing-in ceremony went ahead. A military camp across the River Congo in Kinshasa was hit by seven shells from the Brazzaville side. AFP reported DRC Foreign Minister Bizima Karaha as saying the incident was aimed at involving his country in the conflict. DRC radio, broadcasting from Bunia, today said the authorities in Kinshasa had issued a "final warning" to the warring sides in Brazzaville after the shelling incident. The government warned that if shells continued to fall on Kinshasa, it would have to "take measures to defend national territory".
* On the diplomatic level, West African leaders meeting in Lome, Togo, yesterday expressed support for sending an African peacekeeping force to Congo, with Senegal and Togo pledging troops. UN-OAU Special Representative for the Great Lakes, Mohamed Sahnoun, who has been attempting to mediate in the Congo conflict, also attended the Lome talks. France said yesterday it was prepared to provide logistical assistance and equipment for such a force.
* First details emerged of Rwandan refugees in the Bilolo camp, just outside Brazzaville, whose fate remained unknown during the fighting. According to ICRC, Kinshasa, the camp has been empty for the last two days and it is believed the refugees, numbering some 5,000, have gone deeper into Congolese territory, although they have not been sighted. UNHCR established that nine Bilolo refugees had arrived in the port city of Pointe Noire.
* UNHCR said it would send a protection team to Central African Republic (CAR) to screen some 800 Rwandan refugees who fled there, AFP reported. Members of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe are believed to be among them, and if this is established they will lose their refugee status, a UNHCR spokesman in Geneva said.
* UNICEF's representative in Bujumbura Michel Sidibe has urged support for moderates in Burundi, including President Pierre Buyoya, to ensure the country does not "explode". He told a press briefing in New York on Friday that since Buyoya took office, security in the countryside had improved, a negotiation process was in place and refugees were being repatriated. However, he noted the child malnutrition rate in displaced people's camps had doubled since 1993 from six to 12 percent and the standard of living in camps was very poor. Over 100,000 children were without any kind of support, he said. In the latest security incident on Saturday, an anti-tank mine exploded on a dirt track about 100 metres off the main road near Kirekura towards Bubanza.
* The opposition Sudanese National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has vowed to step up its armed struggle against the regime of President Omar el-Bashir. The alliance, which groups southern rebels of the SPLA and northerners opposed to the regime, discussed operational matters at a conference in the Eritrean capital Asmara last week. According to AFP, NDA foreign affairs representative Mansur Khalid warned companies working in war zones to suspend operations because they could become targets. Conference participants decided to give "moral and material support" for "the final assault", he said.
Eritrea has accused Sudan of plotting to assassinate President Isayas Afewerki. A press release issued by the Eritrean foreign ministry said Sudan had sent a high-ranking intelligence officer to Eritrea last November to infiltrate the NDA and carry out the act. The statement said the officer, named as Captain Nesredin Babakar Aba Al Khairat, had undergone extensive training for his mission which was "conceived at the highest levels". The allegation included President Bashir and Parliament Speaker Hassan al-Turabi in the list of involved officials.
* Sudan has denied renewed allegations that slave trading is underway in the country. AFP said a Canadian missionary group - Crossroads Family of Ministries - claimed it had bought 319 Sudanese slaves, most of them children, in April and set them free. According to the group, the slaves were Dinkas from southern Sudan. The slave traders were reportedly members of the Arab-speaking Rizagat clan which has clashed with the Dinkas.
* Leaders of the G-7 group of top industrial nations, meeting in Denver, have pledged more help for developing countries in Africa, although they are divided on the form it should take. US President Bill Clinton called for more trade and investment, while his French counterpart Jacques Chirac was in favour of more aid. However a final statement promised increased trade and said assistance would continue. The provision of aid was linked to promoting democracy and liberalising trade. Regarding DRC, summit participants said on Saturday that elegibility for aid would depend on respect for human rights.
Nairobi, 24 June 1997, 14:45 gmt [END]
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Date: Tue, 24 Jun 1997 18:07:24 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 199 for 24 June 1997 97.6.24 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970624180044.29590Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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