Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 355 14-16 Feb 98.2.16

Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 355 14-16 Feb 98.2.16

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. 355 for Central and Eastern Africa (Saturday-Monday 14-16 February 1998)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Tshisekedi flown home, media says whereabouts unknown

The government said arrested opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi was flown to his home village in the centre of Democratic Republic of the Congo on Friday to work on the land, but newspaper reports in Kinshasa today (Monday) said he had not arrived and his whereabouts were unknown. All the main newspapers in Kinshasa ran headlines saying Tshisekedi had still not arrived in Kabeya-Kamwanga. 'Le Potentiel' reported he was still somewhere in Kinshasa. In an open letter to the press, Tshisekedi's wife said that according to information she had received her husband was in Kinshasa and "has been tortured". Meanwhile, residents reported Kinshasa was buzzing with rumours that other opposition leaders who met US special envoy Jesse Jackson last week may also soon be arrested.

UDPS supporters demonstrate in Brussels

Meanwhile, supporters of his party, the Union pour la democratie et le progres social (UDPS), began a sit-in outside the US embassy in Brussels to protest his arrest. The government maintains the veteran opposition leader was arrested for violating a "ban on party political activities", but gave no other details. The arrest last Thursday took place after Tshisekedi met with Jackson, US President Bill Clinton's special envoy for democracy in Africa. DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila had earlier declined to meet Jackson, leading to intense speculation the meeting with Jackson was the reason for the opposition leader's detention.

DRC Agriculture Minister Mawampanga Mwana Nanga told a news conference in Kinshasa on Friday the government wished to use the veteran opposition leader's skills as a "leader of men" to contribute to the nutritional security of the region. "The compatriot E. Tshisekedi was flown aboard a jet chartered by the government on Friday to the commune of Kabeya-Kamwanga with a large quantity of seeds of corn, soya, peanut, rice and a motor-cultivator," he said. Interior Minister Gaetan Kakudji said in a statement read on state television that Tshisekedi had persistently broken a ban on party politics, but gave no other details.

Senior figure quits UN human rights team

A senior official investigating massacres in former Zaire has resigned, saying an independent and impartial UN inquiry into alleged human rights abuses has proven to be impossible. Quoting from his resignation letter, AFP reported Zimbabwean jurist Andrew Chigovera, deputy head of the probe, as saying: "I have great difficulties in believing that an environment conducive to the conduct of a proper, independent and impartial human rights investigation exists or that it will ever present itself." The on-off UN investigative mission has been embroiled in several disputes with the DRC government, but last week Spokesman for the Secretary-General Fred Eckhard said an advance team had finally been able to start work in the northwestern town of Mbandaka - one site of an alleged massacre. Jose Diaz, the mission's spokesperson in Kinshasa, told IRIN today the resignation was effective from the end of this month and said it was regrettable. He said the mission's work was continuing and they hoped shortly to start investigations in eastern DRC.

Mobutu's wife loses appeal

Meanwhile, the wife of the late Zairean dictator Mobutu Sese Seko has lost an appeal against a decision by the Swiss authorities to help the new DRC government track down the country's missing and looted assets, news organisations reported last week. According to the Swiss supreme court, a decision to freeze Mobutu's assets in Swiss banks does not cause an "irreparable prejudice to his heirs" as it is temporary, pending investigations. "In a judicial cooperation procedure, only decisions which cause an immediate and irreparable prejudice can be subjected to an appeal" stated the judgement, dated 28 January, but published only last week. Kinshasa has also stepped up attempts to extradite senior figures of Mobutu's former government from South Africa where they are seeking asylum. Among other charges, they are accused of expropriation of the country's funds.

RWANDA: Kagame becomes ruling party boss

Rwandan military leader and Vice-President Paul Kagame has been elected head of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), AFP reported today. It said a weekend meeting of the party made Kagame chairman late on Sunday "after a close vote" and two days of intensive talks, which also saw the renewal of the whole party's leading body. Meanwhile, the Rwandan government has announced the creation of a national commission to inform the national and international public about the situation in the country, which has been facing an increasingly-serious insurgency by Hutu rebels in the northwest. The independent Rwandan news agency, RNA, said the commission would be chaired by Foreign Affairs Minister Anastase Gasana.

BURUNDI: Ogata announces tripartite commission

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata said on Saturday her agency would help set up a tripartite commission aimed at facilitating voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees in Tanzania. "We will help set up a mechanism for consultation between Burundi, Tanzania and ourselves," Ogata told reporters at the end of a three-day visit to Burundi. "We will be the facilitator to the technical level, what exactly can be done to help bring people, who want to come, back to Burundi," she added.

EAST AFRICA: Summit set to review sanctions policy

Diplomatic sources confirmed to IRIN today weekend press reports a summit of regional heads of state would take place in the Ugandan capital Kampala on 21 January to review the crisis in Burundi and sanctions imposed on that country by its neighbours. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is due to present a report to fellow regional leaders on a number of issues related to the sanctions policy. Meanwhile, Kenya Airways plans to resume tomorrow weekly relief and diplomatic carrier flights to Burundi's capital Bujumbura in spite of the embargo.

UGANDA: Hospitals short of blood

Following recent El-Nino-induced epidemics of malaria, cholera, and other fevers in the last three months, Uganda's cash-strapped hospitals are facing serious shortages of blood, the 'EastAfrican' newspaper today quoted health officials as saying. The weekly reported demand for blood had tripled since November with most of it needed for malaria victims, mainly women and children with low immunity levels.

Troops deployed along Sudan border

Uganda has deployed troops along the border with Sudan to block Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels from abducting captives. The 'New Vision' reported today the deployment followed the recent incursion into Kitgum from Sudan of 200 LRA fighters, led by Joseph Kony.

SUDAN-EGYPT: Egyptian premier arrives in Khartoum

Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzuri arrived in Khartoum on Friday to offer his condolences over the death of Sudan's first vice-president in a plane crash. The visit was the first by an Egyptian premier since ties between the two neighbours deteriorated in the early 1990s. Sudan's Vice President Al Zubair Mohammed Saleh and 25 others died when their plane crash landed on Thursday at Nasir, 800 km south of Khartoum, state television said.

Meanwhile, river traffic between the two countries resumed on Saturday after a four-year suspension, Sudan's official news agency reported. A joint technical committee recently signed an agreement on transport along the Nile aimed at improving relations.

SUDAN: Human Rights Watch condemns summary executions

Human Rights Watch has condemned the alleged use by Khartoum of summary public trials to punish political dissidents. In a statement on Thursday, the Washington-based rights group said the use of "very summary courts to punish government opponents who seek to exercise their free expression and free association rights ... makes a travesty of justice." The statement also voiced concern over reports indicating that since the government of President Omar el-Beshir came to power in 1989, some 100 people have been sentenced to death and executed.

Concern over conditions in Wau

In the same statement, Human Rights Watch called on Khartoum to allow relief supplies to reach between 100,000 and 150,000 people in dire need of assistance in the south, especially around Wau, the second largest town in the region. Meanwhile, the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) claimed on Saturday it had killed 768 government troops in an offensive on Wau launched at the end of January. SPLA spokesman Yasir Arman told Reuters in Addis Ababa that government forces held the town's airport while the SPLA were in control of several suburbs. There has been no independent confirmation of the claim.

TANZANIA: Police and Moslem militants clash

At least two people are believed to have died in clashes on Friday between the police and Muslim fundamentalists, the privately-owned Independent Television reported. The clashes began after police moved in to quell riots started by fundamentalists protesting against the arrest of one of their leaders who was among nine others arraigned in court for defying a government order prohibiting public sermons insulting other religions, the television said.

IMF down plays threat of debt default

A threat by the Tanzanian government to suspend debt repayments is being played down by the IMF. AFP reported the fund's senior Tanzanian official as saying today that he doubted the government, which has been "consistently responsible", would default. Last week, President Benjamin Mkapa threatened to suspend servicing the country's US $8 billion external debt until flood damage across the country was repaired.

Nairobi 16 February 1998 15:30 GMT


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Date: Mon, 16 Feb 1998 18:58:52 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 355 14-16 Feb 98.2.16 (fwd) Message-ID: <>

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

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