IRIN Update No. 386 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 31 March 1998)

IRIN Update No. 386 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 31 March 1998)

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. 386 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 31 March 1998)

BURUNDI: News agency closed, opposition paper seized

The Burundi authorities have summoned the director of the Netpress news agency for reporting the seizure of an opposition newspaper, independent Radio Umwizero reported. The Netpress offices were closed as director Claude Kavumbagu was questioned by the intelligence services. News reports said 'l'Aube de la democratie', mouthpiece of the FRODEBU opposition party, had reappeared in Bujumbura last week after a two-year suspension. On Friday, Netpress reported the head of the official press council Simon Kururu as saying the seizure was illegal. AFP quoted the chief editor of 'l'Aube de la democratie', Frederic Bamvuginyunvira, as saying he believed the authorities intended to "muzzle FRODEBU".

New defence minister named

President Pierre Buyoya has appointed a new defence minister to replace Firmin Sinzoyiheba who died in a helicopter crash in January. According to a Reuters report, the new minister is Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Nkurunziza, Buyoya's chief military adviser. An article in the 'EastAfrican' weekly yesterday (Monday) claimed Nkurunziza was released from custody in Nigeria last week, after his plane was impounded in Lagos allegedly for carrying a cache of weapons.

RWANDA: Human rights situation improving

A UN human rights official in Rwanda has said the human rights situation in the country is improving. In an interview with AFP, Gerard Fischer, said there was a "real will" in Rwanda to improve human rights. He added however that although the situation was improving, "it could be better". But over the last two months, violations had decreased. "In a post-genocide country, projects are difficult to initiate and it takes time," Fischer was quoted as saying.

Foreign minister hopes Clinton will deliver

Rwandan Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana has said he hopes the promises made by US President Bill Clinton during his recent visit to the country will materialise. The best way the US could help Rwanda, Gasana told the Rwanda News Agency, was to take the lead in pushing the international community to devise a special programme to finance reconstruction and promote national unity. Rwanda's huge external debt was "extremely heavy for a poor country that has been ruined by genocide and war," Gasana said. "Any assistance should go in the direction of relieving Rwanda of this burden which hinders its recovery."

Ex-FAR soldiers end political training in Ruhengeri

Over 1,500 ex-FAR soldiers have ended three months of political training in northern Ruhengeri prefecture, RNA reported yesterday. The courses were aimed at eradicating ethnic hatred and the ideology of genocide, inculcated by Hutu extremists in the refugee camps, RNA said. Other ex-FAR members and civilians are undergoing political re-education in various parts of the country.

TANZANIA: Dar es Salaam unlikely to jail Rwanda genocide convicts

Tanzania has expressed reluctance to jail convicted Rwandan war criminals sentenced by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha. Deputy Foreign Minister Sigela Nswima told the Tanzanian 'Guardian' newspaper yesterday the security situation in Arusha was too tense for the government to take responsibility imprisoning genocide convicts. "Our decision will depend on our national interests, and the United Nations cannot force any government to act against its national interests," he said. The first verdict is expected later this year.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Eight killed in Kinshasa storms

Eight people were killed by torrential rain in the DRC capital Kinshasa last week, the Agence congolaise de presse reported. It quoted Kinshasa governor Theophile Mbemba Fundu as saying the storms also injured several people and caused extensive damage. President Laurent-Desire Kabila has pledged the equivalent of US $96,000 to flood victims.

Cholera reported in North Kivu areas

Cholera has broken out in North Kivu, humanitarian sources told IRIN today (Tuesday). In the Goma area, 209 cases were registered between 21-29 March, with one death reported. Twenty-eight cases, including four deaths, were also reported in the Katindo military camp, near Goma town. The local medical authorities have set up a "task force", comprising international and local NGOs, to deal with the situation. A second outbreak of cholera has been reported in the Kasindi area of Mutwanga near the Ugandan border, with around 300 registered cases and 30 deaths since mid-February. However local health workers say the number of cases are on the decrease.

SUDAN: Bahr al-Ghazal reported calm after earlier heavy fighting

Humanitarian sources describe the security situation in Bahr al-Ghazal as generally calm following intense fighting between the army and rebels in January/February which triggered an exodus of some 150,000 people from the conflict zones. Local observers told IRIN that both government forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) have been reinforcing their positions around the government held towns of Wau and Aweil.

Commander Kerubino Kwanyin Bol, who led the attack on Wau in January after defecting from Khartoum, has been mending fences with chiefs and community leaders in Gogrial since his return to SPLA ranks, local sources told IRIN today. Kerubino, the former deputy to SPLA leader John Garang, formed a rival rebel movement after Garang released him from detention in 1991. Bitter clashes between the two armed groups destabilised large swathes of Bahr al-Ghazal. He formally joined the government's side last April. His abandonment of Khartoum has created friction within the SPLA between those that fear his return, and his remaining supporters, a senior source told IRIN. Kerubino, the last remaining survivor of the troika of southern commanders which created the SPLA in 1983, is yet to meet Garang. That occasion is likely to be a tense affair, the source added.

ANGOLA: Senior defector says UNITA retains military capability

According to a recent high level UNITA defector, Colonel Benguela, "there is no coherence between the words and actions of UNITA leaders, especially Jonas Savimbi" because UNITA "has still kept intact its equipment and artillery, as well as its booby trap and explosives sections". He also revealed that UNITA "has a militarised structure all over the country", the London-based Angolan Peace Monitor said in its 27 March issue. Colonel Benguela acted as head of UNITA administration and logistics in Andulo, Bailundo and Chitundo prior to his defection.

Zambian troops help search for UNITA bases

Zambia has sent 500 government troops to the border with Angola to carry out a joint operation with the Angolan army, according to the Angola Peace Monitor. They will be investigating allegations that UNITA has stockpiled weapons in the area, and that UNITA has military bases in the country. They will also investigate allegations that UNITA has moved troops into Maheba and Mayukuyuku refugee camps, and that it is recruiting youngsters. The operation was announced by Zambian Foreign Minister, Keli Walubita. According to South Africa's 'Mail and Guardian' newspaper, the Zambian Air Force has also been given orders to shoot down any aircraft violating Zambian airspace en route to Angola. Other reports state that air radar is to be deployed in the border areas, the Angola Peace Monitor said.

Senior US officials visiting

Senior US government officials arrived in Luanda yesterday for talks with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, AFP reported. Speaking on arrival, US presidential special adviser on African affairs, Joseph Wilson, said Washington was concerned about the security situation in some parts of the country and he called for an end to armed activity. The delegation is bringing a message to dos Santos from President Clinton.

Nairobi, 31 March 1998, 13:20 gmt


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

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