Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 354 for 13 Feb 98.2.13

Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 354 for 13 Feb 98.2.13

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa

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IRIN Update No. 354 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 13 February 1998)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Etienne Tshisekedi arrested

Soldiers arrested long-time Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi at his house last night (Thursday), and today (Friday) troops surrounded the offices of his party, the Union pour la democratie et le progres social (UDPS), news agencies reported. The UDPS, which along with all Congolese political parties is currently banned, is set to mark its 16th anniversary this weekend.

SUDAN: SPLA withdraws claims responsibility for plane crash

The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) today retracted earlier claims that its forces shot down a plane carrying high-ranking Sudanese officials yesterday, killing First Vice-President Al Zubair Mohammed Saleh and other prominent personalities. AFP quoted an SPLA spokesman in Nairobi, Justin Arop, as saying the plane was "hit by SPLA fire" and crashed near Wau in Bahr el Ghazal state. However, the Sudanese government said the plane crashed near Nasir on the Ethiopian border after making a forced landing due to bad weather. Another SPLA spokesman, John Luk, withdrew the claims today, Reuters reported.

The plane apparently slid off a runway into the Sobat river at Nasir. According to Arop, the plane was due to land at Wau - where there has been heavy fighting between the rebels and government troops - before going on to the government-held town of Juba. Media reports say former rebel Arok Thon Arok, a signatory of the 1997 peace agreement, also died in the crash, while Lam Akol of the pro-government SPLA-United was reported wounded. Burials took place in Khartoum today. IPS reports today that contrary to rumour, Riak Machar - president of the south Sudan Coordination Council - was not on board. There were reportedly 57 people on board the plane of whom 31 died - many by drowning when the plane sank into the river.

Minister denies OLS to be terminated

Minister for Social Planning Muhammad Uthman al-Khalifah has denied press reports that his government intends to terminate Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS). According to Sudanese radio, monitored by the BBC, he stressed the government's support for OLS. The Council of Ministers, at its last meeting, had decided to review the functions of OLS with the aim of boosting cooperation between the government and the UN. He added the decision to ban relief flights was "temporary". The move was taken because of the military and security situation "that would end soon", he said. Aid workers in Nairobi told IRIN today that Khartoum has been attacking civilian targets from the air in Bahr el Ghazal since 1 February. Some of the attacks on at least seven locations involved the use of cluster bombs.

UGANDA: Lord's Resistance Army attacks Kitgum

The rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) attacked the police station and prison in Kitgum, northern Uganda on the night of 9-10 February, humanitarian sources told IRIN today. Mortars were used in the attack, in which two civilians died and others were abducted, possibly to be forced to carry looted property. The Ugandan army responded and killed six rebels during a pursuit of the attackers. Landings at Kitgum airstrip have been banned since 11 February, and AFP today quoted an army spokesman saying that the rebels have "anti-aircraft weapons capable of hitting low-flying planes."

TANZANIA: Rift Valley Fever warning

A medical official in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha has warned residents of a possible outbreak of Rift Valley Fever, possibly brought by infected animals from Kenya. No human cases have yet been reported, Dr Peter Kilima told AFP yesterday.

BURUNDI: Regional sanctions meeting postponed

A meeting of the Regional Sanctions Coordinating Committee (RSCC) which oversees the regional embargo on Burundi has been postponed. Diplomatic sources told IRIN that no firm date has been set for the Kampala meeting, originally planned for this week. Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees arrived in Burundi yesterday as the latest leg on a regional tour.

Nutritional survey in Gitega

A joint WFP/Save the Children nutritional survey in Gitega last month revealed a global malnutrition rate of 20 percent of which five percent is severe. OCHA (formerly DHA) in Burundi reports in its latest bulletin that new or expanded nutritional programmes have been set up by NGOs in Muramvya, Bururi, Bubanza and Kayanza. UNICEF is conducting a nutritional survey in several provinces, while WFP and FAO are assessing food supplies and crop harvests jointly.

CNDD leader on trial in absentia

AFP reports that a capital case is being brought against the leader of the rebel Conseil national pour la defence de la democratie (CNDD), Leonard Nyangoma in the Burundian courts. Nyangoma is among 12 people being prosecuted for complicity in the laying of anti-tank mines in Bujumbura last March. A court in Bujumbura yesterday requested further information on the cases.

KENYA: Malaria kills 1,500

Kenya's northeastern province, battered in recent months by floods, cholera and Rift Valley Fever, is now in the grip of an unusually severe malaria epidemic. Ten members of parliament from the area drew attention to the health crisis at a press conference in Nairobi earlier this week, while Oxfam confirmed to IRIN today that they had collected the names of 1,500 people who had been killed by the disease since December. The severity of the outbreak is concerning health workers. Kenyan Ministry of Health officials disputed the death toll, but said supplies and personnel would be taken to the area, by helicopter if necessary, the 'Daily Nation' reported today.

EAST AFRICA: More rain predicted, food security situation poor

Above-average rainfall is predicted for much of the area over the period March-May 1998 and the food security situation will remain precarious, a conference of weather experts concluded today. "Much of the eastern part of the region and the Lake Victoria basin have high probabilities of normal to above-normal total precipitation from March through May," they said in a statement at the end of the week-long conference. The national, regional and international climate and food security experts said the major El Nino event which has caused heavy rainfall across the region was now past its peak, but that very warm sea-surface temperatures still existed in the western Indian Ocean and tropical Atlantic.

The experts said these factors indicated above-normal rainfall was most likely over the coastal parts of northern Tanzania, Kenya, coastal southern Somalia and north-eastern Ethiopia and near- to above-normal rains were expected over the western part of the area. The final statement said that although southern Sudan, western Ethiopia, north-central Kenya and northern Uganda were likely to experience below-normal rainfall, risks of widespread dry conditions were low. "However, the food security situation remains precarious in the region due in part to poor harvests in early 1997 and excessive rains late in the year," the statement said.

Kenya's Agriculture Minister Musalia Mudavadi told the closing session poor harvests would leave his country facing a shortfall this year of seven million bags of maize and between two and three million bags of beans. He said the rains - five times heavier than normal - had also hit tea and coffee production and led to the outbreak of diseases which killed livestock. He said Kenya now needed $300,000-worth of emergency vaccines and $1.3 million to repair damaged irrigation schemes.

Nairobi 13 February 1998 15:30 GMT


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Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 18:20:04 -0300 (GMT+3) From: UN IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 354 for 13 Feb 98.2.13 Message-ID: <>

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

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