Great Lakes: IRIN Update 249, 9/16/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 249, 9/16/97


Department of Humanitarian Affairs

Integrated Regional Information Network

for the Great Lakes

Tel: +254 2 622147

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IRIN Emergency Update No. 249 on the Great Lakes (Tuesday, 16 September 97) TANZANIA: WFP warns of widespread hunger

The UN's World Food Programme today (Tuesday) warned that three million Tanzanians face severe food shortages over the next several months due to drought-induced crop failure in most regions of the country. As a result, the country's national food deficit is estimated to be as high as 916,000 MTs as announced by the government yesterday. Ten per cent of this deficit -- 92,000 MTs -- will be required as emergency food aid. This alarmingly high deficit is compounded by the problem of Tanzania's low level of stocks in its Strategic Grain Reserve for which the recommended level is 150,000 MTs, but which has now dwindled to just 17,000 MTs, WFP said in an official statement. On Monday, President Benjamin Mpaka declared a national food emergency and banned all food exports.

WFP appeals to donors to help

WFP is preparing an emergency food aid operation in response to the drought, and today appealed to donor countries to make immediate contributions to ensure that relief food can begin to quickly reach those most in need. "Food donations typically take a minimum of three to four months to arrive in Tanzania," stressed Irene Lacy, WFP Country Director for Tanzania. "However, it is crucial that relief food distributions get underway as early as September when food stocks are expected to be exhausted."

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UN mission formally demands access to interior

After three weeks kicking its heels in the capital Kinshasa, the UN mission to investigate allegations of mass killings in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has formally demanded access to the interior. News organisations reported the Togolese mission leader, Koffi Amega, as saying in a statement released in the capital late on Monday, he had asked the authorities for permission to travel to the northwestern town of Mbandaka on Wednesday. "Today, the investigating mission is entering its fourth week in the country, but it is still awaiting the authorisation to deploy to the field. Twice last week we had to cancel scheduled deployments," Reuters reported the statement as saying. "We therefore formally requested the authorisation to deploy to Mbandaka, an area from which we have received serious allegations of human rights violations." A UN spokesman in Geneva said the request did not constitute an "ultimatum" to the government of President Laurent-Desire Kabila.

Meanwhile, DRC Foreign Minister Bizima Karaha accused the mission of "playing politics". "To give ultimatums, is unacceptable to us," he said today during a visit to Brussels. According to AFP, he added that the mission "was not prevented from going anywhere" but its members "have to say where they want to go" for security reasons.

Thousands flee fighting in eastern DRC

Several thousand people, mainly Congolese IDPs, have fled the recent upsurge in fighting in eastern DRC into northwestern Rwanda, news organisations and aid workers report. Rwandan radio said some 5,000 refugees had crossed over the border to Gisenyi. The radio reported the refugees as saying former hardliners from the defeated Hutu-dominated Rwandan army and the notorious Interahamwe militia operating in the Masisi area of north Kivu were attacking Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese in the area. One humanitarian organisation said almost 4,000 IDPs had arrived in Gisenyi from Goma, adding that only some 290 people remained in a transit camp which held around 8,000 before the latest outbreak of fighting. The radio reported the refugees as saying the attacks started last month when gangs of Interahamwe and anti-Tutsi Mai Mai warriors attacked and torched villages in the area.

Rwandan military press on with return home

Rwandan soldiers, who helped Kabila's rebel army oust former President Mobutu Sese Seko and take power, are continuing to return home amid signs of growing tensions between them and their Congolese counterparts. Aid workers said several hundred returned to Rwanda through Goma last week and more were arriving this week. One humanitarian organisation said 800 Mai Mai had also amassed at a camp just outside the town, prior to being inducted into the Congolese army, and clashed with Rwandan army soldiers. Rwandan patrol boats on Lake Kivu are also reported to have clashed with the Mai Mai, who sided with Kabila against Mobutu, but then quickly fell out after he took power last May.

Meanwhile, Congolese radio reported the governor of north Kivu province had issued a statement refuting what it called "widespread rumours" of an imminent attack on Goma by armed troops from neighbouring countries. The DRC has "very good and brotherly relations" with neighbouring countries, notably Rwanda and Uganda, the governor was reported to have stated. "It is inconceivable, or even impossible that an invasion of DRC could come from our brother and friend countries," the radio reported him as saying.

Despite unrest, more Congolese refugees return

Despite unrest in north Kivu, more Congolese refugees have returned to south Kivu from Tanzania. Aid workers say over 1,000 have now returned across Lake Tanganyika from the Tanzanian port of Kigoma to Uvira. UNHCR says that at present some 19,000 refugees have registered to be repatriated, keen to return home before the rains set in. Regional experts say the vast majority of those returning are believed to be from the Fulero ethnic group and not the Bembe, many of whom are opposed to Kabila's rule.

BURUNDI: Grenade blast kills three, injures 17

A grenade attack on a bar near the capital Bujumbura killed three people and wounded 17 others, Reuters reported an army spokesman as saying. "A grenade was launched into a bar at 8.40 p.m. in Gatumba," Major Mamert Sinarinzi was quoted as saying. It was not clear who was behind the attack.

Tutsi party begins lawsuit against regime

The mainly Tutsi party which once held sole power in Burundi has begun legal action against the regime of Major Pierre Buyoya over potential talks with Hutu rebels, its leader said. AFP reported the court challenge was disclosed as Hutu extremists killed seven people, wounded 13 and kidnapped three others overnight in an attack on a displaced persons' camp in southwestern Burundi, according to the Tutsi-dominated army. Charles Mukasi, chairman of Unity for National Progress (UPRONA), late on Monday told AFP that his party had opened a suit against Interior Minister Epitace Bayaganakandi for "abuse of office and interference in UPRONA's management". He has accused Lieutenant-Colonel Bayaganakandi of working on behalf of Buyoya's regime in seeking to break up UPRONA "to give the impression that everybody is in favour of negotiations" with extremist rebels waging a guerrilla war against the government.

KENYA: Hundreds flee coast violence

Unrest on the Kenyan coast over the last month has forced some 100 Kenyans to flee to the Tanzanian archipelago of Zanzibar. According to local radio reports, the refugees arrived in Pemba -- one of the islands that make up the archipelago -- in canoes and boats. They are to be relocated to Tanga, a town on the Tanzanian border with Kenya, which has enough facilities to accommodate the destitute, according to a Zanzibari government official.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Fighting resumes after summit Warring factions traded heavy weapons fire overnight on Monday in Congo's capital Brazzaville in an immediate snub to a ceasefire appeal issued by a summit of African leaders. The clashes, reported by an AFP correspondent in neighbouring Kinshasa, came hours after an African summit called for a ceasefire between supporters of President Pascal Lissouba and former military ruler Denis Sassou Nguesso.

Nairobi, 16 September 1997, 15:30 gmt [ENDS]

[Via the UN DHA Integrated Regional Information Network. The material contained in this communication may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN DHA IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts from this report should include attribution to the original sources mentioned, not simply "DHA".]

Date: Tue, 16 Sep 1997 18:29:05 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 249 for 16 Sep 1997 97.9.16 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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