IRIN Update 420 for 20 May 98.5.20

IRIN Update 420 for 20 May 98.5.20

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. 420 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 20 May 1998)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Lengthy prison terms for prominent detainees

Two prominent political detainees have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms by a military court in the city of Lubumbashi. Former military commander Masasu Nindaga was yesterday (Tuesday) handed down a 20 year prison term, while opposition party leader Joseph Olenghankoy received 15 years. A third defendant, Arthur Z'ahidi Ngoma, also an opposition activist, was given a 12 month suspended sentence. The three were accused of "endangering state security", with Nindaga also accused of "treason" and "forming private militias". The three men briefly escaped from a high-security jail near Lubumbashi in April, where they had been held since the end of 1997. They were recaptured earlier this month. At their trial, the prosecution had requested the death penalty. Information Minister Raphael Ghenda today (Wednesday) described the sentences as lenient.

Ammesty report "propaganda", Kabila says

President Laurent-Desire Kabila has again dismissed criticism of his country's human rights record. Speaking yesterday in Windhoek, Namibia, he described a recent Amnesty International report as "complete propaganda", the South African Press Agency (SAPA) said. The Amnesty report, issued to mark the first anniversary of Kabila's accession to power, alleged widespread human rights abuses in DRC. Kabila lashed out at the claims, saying they were a "mound of machination". The DRC president, who was attending a regional economic summit in Windhoek, appealed to the international community to write off his country's US $14 billion debt.

Local NGO to liaise between organisations and government

DRC Justice Minister Mwenze Kongolo has announced a local NGO, Solidarite Entre Nous (SEN), has been given a legal mandate to liaise between NGOs and the government. DRC television on Monday explained that the NGO's responsibilities included coordinating humanitarian assistance and development aid, coordinating local and international NGOs assessing their programmes and monitoring their activities. In an interview with the television, Kongolo said the government would now rely on SEN for advice each time an NGO applied for registration.

Broadcasters arrested over advert

Six officials of the national radio and television network have been arrested by the DRC intelligence services, Gabonese Africa No.1 radio reported yesterday. They included the managing director, his assistant, the director of television news, director of radio news, the deputy director in charge of production and news presenter Francoise Vita Masanga. According to the radio, the arrests were prompted by the broadcasting of an advertisement, entitled "Never Again", which reportedly denounces violence and massacres in Africa.

ADFL "open to all"

Deogratias Bugera, Secretary-General of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL), has said the grouping remains a "political movement whose organisational structures at national level are open to all factions". In an interview with the Belgian daily 'Le Soir' published over the weekend, he said the ADFL did not want to transform itself into a single party, but it had temporarily suspended political parties that were "at the core of the social anarchy and collapse of our society". Bugera added that the timetable to hold elections next year was still on track.

BURUNDI: Buyoya meets in Nyerere in Dar es Salaam

President Pierre Buyoya arrived in Dar es Salaam today and went straight into talks with Burundi mediator Julius Nyerere, news reports said. The meeting is part of the preliminary talks process on the Burundi conflict, ahead of an all-party meeting scheduled for 15 June in Arusha. Various sides in the conflict have been meeting the former Tanzanian president over the last few days. These include parliamentary speaker Leonce Ngendakumana, former presidents Sylvestre Ntibantunganya and Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, exiled FRODEBU opposition leader Jean Minani, and Leonard Nyangoma recently ousted as leader of the rebel Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD).

Government backs both peace processes

A Burundi government statement, received by IRIN, expressed support for both the internal and external peace processes aimed at resolving the country's problems. It stressed that a joint parliamentary-government delegation would soon visit neighbouring countries to explain the internal dialogue underway in Burundi. The statement notes that the period between May and the first half of June "will be devoted mainly to the peace partnership [between government and parliament] and other priority activities in the government's programme."

Nutrition in Cibitoke described as "dreadful"

A CONCERN official told IRIN yesterday that the nutritional situation in Burundi's northwestern Cibitoke province was "dreadful". CONCERN's just-completed nutritional survey revealed a 19.9 percent overall malnutrition rate (under 80 percent on the weight for height method). More serious is a 10.7 percent rate of severe (under 70 percent weight for height) malnutrition, including many cases of oedema. Questionnaires filled during the survey of over 900 children under five also came up with a serious crude mortality rate of 3.3 per 10,000 per day. CONCERN plans to increase its therapeutic feeding centres from two to three, and open up more supplementary food distribution sites. A spokeswoman for CONCERN told IRIN that much of the malnutrition was attributable to conflict and displacement, but that security was good during the survey. The UN's nutritional watchdog committee ACC/SCN, regards levels of 5-10 percent as "usual" in Africa, but describes any overall malnutrition rate over 20 percent as "undoubtedly serious".

RWANDA: Death toll in school attack increases

The death toll in a suspected Interahamwe attack on a school in Gisenyi prefecture has risen to 14, AFP reported. Previous reports said 11 children were killed. According to the headmaster at Nyamyumba secondary school in Kivumu commune, some of the children were shot dead while others were bludgeoned or hacked to death. He said the rebels had earlier left leaflets saying the school should be shut down. "Since we couldn't close down, they came to kill us," he said.

UGANDA: Museveni warns of possible civil war over land rights

President Yoweri Museveni has warned that land controversy could spark off a civil war in the country, the state-owned 'New Vision' daily reported. Speaking in Kampala on Monday, the president listed sensitive areas as Buganda, Mbale, Sheema, Kashaari and the Ankole/Masaka ranching belt. He said the draft land bill sought to uphold land ownership, control and protect tenants against unfair eviction. Those opposed to the land bill, he added, were landlords "whose position is based on two points, the right to evict tenants...and to charge commercial rents". "If you allow that, there will be a civil war, a disaster," he warned.

SUDAN: WFP denies insecurity in Bahr al-Ghazal causing major problems

SPLA spokesman John Luk, quoted by Reuters, says government forces have launched a "major offensive" in Bahr al-Ghazal state. He said the troops were coming from two directions, with the attacks centred on Aweil, Gogrial and Abyei areas. He claimed food had been looted and thousands of cattle stolen. However, a WFP spokesperson told IRIN reports of major problems for relief operations were exaggerated. Insecurity in three or four locations had led to the temporary relocation of OLS staff from those areas over the last two weeks. "This has created delays but has not caused a severe blow," she said.

"Critical" level of malnutrition in parts of south

World Vision Sudan today reported a "critical" level of malnutrition in Gogrial county, Bahr al-Ghazal province. A report released to IRIN today indicates overall malnutrition of 40.8 percent among 530 children in Panthou and Toch areas of the conflict and drought-hit region. The rate of severe malnutrition (under 70 percent weight for height) is put at 13.6 percent, including oedema cases. A survey by MSF-Holland, also received today, indicates overall malnutrition at 32.5 percent and severe wasting at 6.5 percent in Ler town, Western Upper Nile. Both these results confirm a serious nutritional situation in southern Sudan, the agencies said.

ANGOLA: Beye's peace plan wins support of UNITA and government

The Angolan government and UNITA opposition yesterday accepted proposals by the UN Secretary General's special representative Alioune Blondin Beye aimed at salvaging the country's troubled peace process. According to Beye's spokesman Gueye Moctar, the plan presented to a meeting of the joint commission seeks to "take back the initiative". It is backed by the threat of Beye's resignation if it is not implemented, Moctar told IRIN. "It is not an ultimatum or blackmail," he added. "Basically this is nothing new ...This is a document to reestablish confidence in the peace process, it is a test of political will."

The proposals call on the government to "stop all unverified allegations" against UNITA. "Also to put an end to national police abuses in some areas which we are very concerned about," Moctar said. UNITA is expected to resume "without delay" the handover to state administration of areas it still controls, including the strongholds of Bailundo and Andulo. If neither party abides by the agreement, then the international community is called upon to apply sanctions. If the Security Council does not provide Beye with the necessary support, then he will "simply tell the Security Council to find somebody else", Moctar stressed. According to a Reuters report, Beye yesterday said he would step down unless the Angolan sides implemented the 1994 Lusaka peace accord within 12 days.

GREAT LAKES: Study notes international failure to tackle crisis

An independent study of humanitarian response in the Great Lakes says that forced population movements, mass internments and direct attacks on civilians were used by warring parties as "tactical tools" in 1996 and 1997. The UN-commissioned report, released yesterday, goes on to say that the "credibility, reputation and long-term viability of humanitarian action" was undermined by an international failure to tackle the "political and security dimensions of the crisis". The UN's Inter-Agency Standing Committee commissioned the report, which acknowledges some "positive highlights" (including IRIN) but criticises "gaps in strategic planning" and "critical issues of internal tension, competition and in some cases distrust". The full report is available from ReliefWeb:

Nairobi, 20 May 1998, 15:20 gmt


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Date: Wed, 20 May 1998 18:19:32 -0300 (GMT+3) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 420 for 20 May 98.5.20 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.95.980520181837.1103A-://

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

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