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IRIN Update No. 444 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 24 June 1998)
RWANDA: Amnesty says killings of unarmed civilians continue
Amnesty International has accused the Rwandan government and opposition groups of "deliberate killings of thousands of unarmed civilians." The human rights watchdog said in a report released today (Wednesday) that in the last few months, the number of "disappearances in Rwanda has reached such a level that many families no longer let the authorities know that their relatives have disappeared."
The organisation said the report was based on research done in Rwanda earlier this year which revealed a dramatic escalation of the number of people killed or "disappeared". It warned that unless the government took immediate action, the violence would become an inevitable part of life in Rwanda. According to the report, these incidents started in 1996 when many former refugees returned to Rwanda.
The 50-page report includes a set of recommendations to the Rwandese authorities and armed opposition groups operating in Rwanda, aimed at preventing further "disappearances", extrajudicial executions and develiberate and arbitrary killings of civilians.
The report alleged the Rwandan Patriotic Army had made mass arrests in northwest part of the country which resulted in "large-scale disappearances." It said people were detained in military camps which were not accessible to visitors. (www.amnesty.org)
UGANDA: WFP resume food distribution in Gulu
WFP says it has resumed food distribution to 324,000 displaced people in Uganda's northern district of Gulu where government troops are battling Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. The organisation's latest weekly emergency report said security in the area was poor and traffic along the Gulu/Kitgum road required a military escort. The report said the military had been escorting food convoys travelling from Gulu to Pekelle. Movements outside Kitgum town are restricted and some international NGOs have temporarily relocated their staff from the area, it added. Meanwhile, AFP reported today that security forces in northern Uganda had captured the bodyguard of LRA leader Joseph Kony. The 18-year-old man, whose name was given only as Richard, was arrested in the town of Gulu last week.
AFP also reported today that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni launched a stinging attack on his country's armed forces, accusing them of laziness and failing to protect civilians from rebel attacks. Quoting the state-owned New Vision newspaper, AFP reported Museveni was speaking on Tuesday during a visit to Kichwamba Technical Institute. Another rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), attacked the school in western Uganda earlier this month, killing at least 45 people, mainly students.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: MDM goes public over aid worker's detention
A Medecins du monde (MDM) aid worker has been detained in DRC since the beginning of May without being charged, the French NGO MDM said today in a press release. Fabrice Michalon was arrested in Goma on 4 May and transferred the following day to Kinshasa where he is detained at the premises of the ANR (Agence nationale de renseignement). He was arrested for "identification" purposes, but the DRC authorities never detailed any official charges against him, MDM said.
An MDM spokesman told IRIN today that MDM had hoped to solve the case without making it public, but after two months of fruitless negotiations they had now decided to denounce his arbitrary arrest. Since the arrest of their staff member, MDM has suspended its operations in DRC which consisted of assistance to local health structures in North Kivu and a development programme in Mbuji-Mayi, Kasai Oriental province.
Five journalists reported released
Meanwhile, RFI reported yesterday that DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila had ordered the release of five journalists. Three of them, including two journalists of the satirical paper "Le Pot Pourri", were released later that day. This announcement comes after a local press meeting organised in Kinshasa last Friday. At the end of the meeting, participating editors and journalists had invited the DRC president to guarantee freedom of expression, the state news agency ACP reported.
Unpredictable and fragile humanitarian situation in Province Orientale
The accumulation of social, economic and sanitary problems in Province Orientale, in eastern DRC, has contributed to a very unpredictable and fragile humanitarian situation, according to a joint OCHA/UNDP report. The report, based on an inter-agency field mission, underlined that Province Orientale had suffered over the two last years from floods, epidemics, and the 1996-97 civil conflict. The latter resulted in a large refugee influx and internal population displacement.
Infrastructure and state services are in decay with less than 10 percent of the rural population having access to drinkable water. The report also said that the variety of health problems encountered was "making it a public health laboratory". Several cholera epidemics were reported in 1998, in Kapalata camp near Kisangani and in Ituri, along the Ugandan border. Polio, meningitis, measles and suspected monkey-pox were also reported.
AID: Budgets in decline
"Humanitarian aid does make a difference" is the message relief agencies should concentrate on, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The Federation's annual 'World Disasters Report', released today, notes a decline in humanitarian funding of 17 percent between 1992 and 1996. Humanitarian agencies are in a dilemma, the report states. On one hand, "engaged in policy dialogue, public awareness and conflict resolution", agencies are also "...worrying about their independence. Integrating aid into political and military strategies may destroy their neutrality and impartiality, and may well undermine the credibility of agencies motivated by solidarity or justice", the report claims. (http://www.ifrc.org)
The Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in its preliminary annual review of 1997 aid flows released last week, also notes a "disturbing trend" of decline. Official development assistance in 1997 reached the lowest level ever, as a percentage of the combined gross national product of donors. Sub-Saharan Africa received an average of US $27 per head in aid during 1997, and US $3 per head of foreign direct investment. Latin America and the Caribbean, by comparison, received per capita US $13 of aid and US $62 of investment. Members of the G-7 industrialised nations spend an average of only 0.19 percent of their GNP as aid, the OECD reports. (http://www.oecd.org)
HUMANITARIAN ACTIVITIES: Officials warn of increasing security risks
Top officials from UNHCR and the ICRC have warned that humanitarian operations in many parts of the world were facing "unacceptable security risks". The comments were made in a press communique issued on Monday after the two agencies had assembled many of their top officials in Geneva to discuss how to provide a more secure environment for humanitarian operations.
The communique said the risks to the work of UNHCR and ICRC came from the changed nature of armed conflict today, and especially from the proliferation of undisciplined armed groups. Many humanitarian operations are taking place in areas where law and order has broken down completely and organised crime and banditry threaten relief efforts.
The result is a threat both to the integrity of humanitarian operations and to the aid workers themselves. "Unfortunately, the people who brave danger and hardship trying to help others, more and more frequently become victims of violence themselves. There must be a limit to how much we can take," said Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga insisted on the urgent need to strengthen respect for international humanitarian law. "Particularly, the civilian population is now often the target of military operations," he said. "This is unacceptable."
Over the past six years, 139 UN civilian workers have been killed in the course of duty and 141 taken hostage. Over the past five years alone, 30 ICRC staff were killed.
Nairobi, 24 June 1998 15:00 GMT
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Date: Wed, 24 Jun 1998 18:50:12 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <email@example.com> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 444 for 24 June 1998.6.24 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.980624184935.14321Afirstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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