UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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. 498 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 9 September 1998)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Loyalists retake Kalemie
Government forces are reported to have retaken the town of Kalemie with Angolan air support. Refugees arriving in Kigoma after fleeing across Lake Tanganyika yesterday (Tuesday) reportedly told humanitarian sources Angolan soldiers also took part in the fighting. Independent military sources, however, told IRIN they had been unable to confirm the participation of Angolan forces and expressed scepticism over the reports. Yesterday, rebel soldiers said some 25 people had been killed in a raid by an Angolan warplane.
Humanitarian sources also told IRIN news of the recapture of Kalemie sparked celebrations among loyalist forces in Kinshasa. Meanwhile, Radio France Internationale reported Minister of State to the Presidency Pierre-Victor Mpoyo as denying any foreign aircraft were used to bombard Kalemie. "There were no Angolan aircraft. The bases are too far away. There were no Zimbabwean aircraft. They were our own aircraft which are capable of bombarding Kalemie," he told the radio. The government said it had also bombed Lubutu and that an air base at Kindu had been used for both operations. Mpoyo also ruled out peace talks with the rebels, saying his government would not talk to "bandits".
For its part, the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) said its forces were now advancing on Kindu and were within "a few hours" of taking the strategic eastern town. AFP reported Political Coordinator Lunda Bululu, a former prime minister under the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, as saying Goma, Kisangani, and other rebel-held towns in the east were "within range of any Zimbabwean or Angolan warplanes using the Kindu field".
Meanwhile, the Rwanda News Agency says rumours of an imminent counter-offensive by government troops in eastern DRC have "seriously affected" security in the region. People are reportedly hiding in forests, particularly in the Bunia area. Radio Bukavu quoted the town's army commander Cyuma Barumisa as telling people not to harbour criminals in their homes. He claimed certain people were paying Mayi-Mayi insurgents to "perturb security" in the town, but many Mayi-Mayi had been killed or captured. "Those harbouring them who are caught will not be imprisoned, they will be immediately executed," he warned.
Sudan reported supporting Kabila
Diplomatic and military sources told IRIN today (Wednesday) they had received reports, Sudan has been flying military supplies from the southern capital of Juba to the forces of DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila and his allies in the northeast town of Isiro and in the area of Dungu. One source said military transport planes, apparently bound for DRC, had left Juba for five consecutive days. It has not been possible to confirm the reports, but regional analysts pointed out Kabila had enjoyed warm relations with Khartoum long before the current outbreak of fighting. "Sudan has emerged as a big winner from this latest outbreak of fighting," one analyst told IRIN. He stressed Uganda was unable to control its borders with Sudan and DRC and therefore was not in a position to aid Sudanese rebels. Both Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame, who helped Kabila come to power, boycotted last May's first anniversary of his victory, partly in anger over an invitation to the event of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
In an apparently related development, the Ugandan press today quoted Museveni as saying Uganda had now taken control of airports and landing strips in eastern DRC to stop the Sudanese government using the facilities. The semi-official daily newspaper the 'New Vision' reported Museveni told some 200 parliamentarians he was not ready to leave the region until he received assurances from Kabila that neither Ugandan rebels nor the Sudanese military would use the facilities for attacks against Kampala.
Meanwhile, the Belgian Flemish daily 'De Standaard' reported mercenary troops from South Africa were also now helping Kabila. The paper said eyewitnesses first reported seeing them in Manono, Kabila's home town, about two weeks ago. A senior South African government source said there had been no verification of the report which said the mercenaries were well-equipped with automatic weapons, 4x4 vehicles, hi-tech radio equipment, and infra-red spy-glasses.
Rwandan president warns war possible
Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu has stated that the DRC government's support for "genocidaires" would be a reason for Rwanda to declare war on DRC, Rwandan radio reported yesterday. Bizimungu was speaking in Kigali on his return from a regional summit at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Defence ministers of countries involved in the DRC war are due to meet in Addis Ababa tomorrow. Southern African leaders meeting in Mauritius for an SADC summit will also discuss peace efforts for DRC, South African President Nelson Mandela said, according to SAPA news agency. Regional analysts told IRIN that Kabila was likely to arm all Kigali's opponents, including ex-FAR and Interahamwe, in retaliation for Rwanda's support of the latest Tutsi-inspired rebellion.
Rebels to expand operations
Meanwhile, the rebels announced they were "launching operations everywhere". Rebel commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane told reporters in rebel-held Kisangani yesterday that the offensive would continue, after the failure of the Victoria Falls summit. AFP said he denied claims that Uganda had sent tanks to Kisangani to help the rebels capture the town, adding that the rebellion had "arrangements with other countries" for the supply of war equipment.
Aid workers visit eastern DRC
Humanitarian sources told IRIN today that some aid agencies had been able to cross from Rwanda into the rebel-held towns of Bukavu and Goma. They reported the humanitarian situation in both towns was stable, with medical facilities functioning and the prices of some basic foodstuffs decreasing. Limited population displacement was reported in Goma and the town's hospital was mainly receiving war-wounded patients. The current security situation is reported as calm although heavy shooting was heard this week in Bukavu. Some reports say the shooting was a military exercise. Humanitarian sources also underlined the critical water situation in Kisangani, the capital of Province Orientale.
More refugees waiting to cross to Tanzania
Congolese refugees arriving in western Tanzania have declared that "thousands" of people were trying to flee South Kivu to seek refuge in the Kigoma region, according to humanitarian sources. They said the lack of boats to cross Lake Tanganyika and the US$ 10 per person fee requested by the boats' operators were preventing many families from leaving. Congolese who have relatives on the Tanzanian side of the lake have also been integrated into local communities.
Over 200 die when boats capsize
Over 200 people died when their boats capsized on Lake Kivu last Wednesday, Radio Bukavu reported yesterday. The two boats were heading towards Idjwi island and were caught up in strong winds. The accident was due to overloading, the radio said.
SUDAN: OLS details new measures
OLS and the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA) today announced they are taking new measures to help ensure relief food reaches the neediest people in famine-stricken Bahr el Ghazal region. The new measures are a result of a three-week assessment in SPLM-controlled areas of Bahr el Ghazal. The assessment, conducted by a joint task force comprising UN, NGO, SRRA and SPLM representatives, found that some of the neediest people in the region were being excluded from the food distribution process due to a number of factors. Among the factors identified was that previously-functioning systems of relief distribution had broken down under the stress of the famine and increased levels of food aid inputs. In an OLS/SRRA press statement released today, the task force said the practice of food "redistribution" by local chiefs had contributed to the problem. The re-distribution also involves giving a portion of the food as a community contribution to the authorities, the task force stated.
The measures announced to help address the problem include increasing the number of WFP field staff, setting up additional wet feeding centres where food is prepared for immediate consumption, and registering all misuses of food aid. In serious or repeated cases of misappropriation, further relief assistance could be withheld. "Abuses will not be tolerated," WFP regional director Mike Sackett said.
BURUNDI: More flee fighting
Humanitarian sources today detailed to IRIN the recent influx of Burundian refugees to western Tanzania. According to UNHCR, 2,167 Burundian refugees have arrived in Kigoma region since the 8 August. They are said to be in a very poor condition as some of them have spent weeks in hiding before fleeing. OCHA reports that, as 1 September, Tanzania hosted some 272,000 Burundian refugees in Ngara and Kigoma regions.
KENYA: Kenya de-registers six Islamic NGOs
The Kenyan government has de-registered six international Islamic NGOs following the August bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenyan radio and television reported yesterday. The de-registered organisations include Mercy Relief International Agency, whose premises were raided soon after the bombing by American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Kenyan Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officials. Others are the Al-Haramid Foundation, Help Africa People, International Islamic Relief Organisation, Ibrahim bin Abdulla Asiz al-Ibrahim Foundation and Islabid Efraim al-Islam.
Nairobi, 9 September 1998 15:00 GMT
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Date: Wed, 9 Sep 1998 18:48:18 +0300 (GMT+0300)
From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D