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IRIN Update No. 500 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 11 September 1998)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Peace talks reopen, heavy fighting reported
Delegates from seven countries discussing a ceasefire in DRC resumed talks today (Friday) at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, news organisations reported. One source close to the talks told AFP they resumed this morning after an overnight adjournment and took the form of a technical committee and expert meetings.
Meanwhile, state radio reported DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila left the capital Kinshasa today to spend time in his southwestern stronghold of Lumumbashi before flying on to Mauritius to attend a SADC summit which was expected to be dominated by the renewed conflict in DRC. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit opened on Monday with the 14 states represented deeply split over the issue.
Loyalists reported to recapture Lobutu
Meanwhile, heavy fighting was reported around Kalemie and state radio said government troops had retaken Lobutu, some 300 km northwest of the rebel headquarters in the eastern DRC town of Goma. Earlier this week refugees arriving in western Tanzania said government forces had retaken Kalemie, the rebels' southernmost stronghold. Independent sources said it was not clear who, if anyone, now held the town, but confirmed heavy fighting was taking place in the area. Government troops and their allies had been massing troops for an attack on Kalemie for the last two weeks from a military base at Kamina. Meanwhile, AFP yesterday reported a rebel claim that they had captured the DRC town of Shabunda, 250 km southeast of Goma. The dispatch quoted the second vice-president of the rebels' political wing, Arthur Zahidi Ngoma, as saying the town had fallen.
Rebels cite mass grave discovery
AFP also reported yesterday that rebels in DRC's third city, Kisangani, had discovered "mass graves" of Tutsis who had been recently executed in the area. It quoted a rebel spokesman as saying Kinshasa had sent a 150-strong elite force drawn from the presidential guard "to massacre Tutsis and other civilians" just before insurgents recaptured the city 23 August. A grave with bodies of people recently executed was found at the airport, while an unspecified number of other graves were reportedly found at near the Kisangani market.
Sporadic gunfire was reported in Kisangani from across the Congo River today and the city was described as tense. The report did not give an estimate of the size of the graves other than to say hundreds of people had been killed before the capture of Kisangani. AFP quoted Dorothee Umutesi, described as a one of a group of Tutsi widows and children who planned to flee for the rebel stronghold in Goma, as saying they now feared for their lives.
"The soldiers came looking for all the Banyamulenge. The killed my husband with a machete. They killed by 17-year-old son, and they killed by elder brother," AFP quoted her as saying. "They told us they would kill the women and children (on 23 August), but the rebels arrived that day so we survived."
The DRC government has announced it will to expel all "strangers of Tutsi origin" living in its territory, news agencies reported. Congo-Brazzaville said it would allow the transit to its territory of this group on humanitarian grounds. Interviewed by RFI, the National Solidarity Minister Leon-Alfred Opimba said his government gave its agreement for only the 'passage' to another country. He added that his country was already housing Rwandan Hutu refugees and the creation of Tutsi refugee sites could lead to "some sort of insecurity".
WFP starts airlifting food to Kinshasa
WFP yesterday began airlifting food supplies to Kinshasa to help alleviate the acute food shortages faced by the city's population. Some 20 mt of maize were delivered to Kinshasa from Pointe-Noire in the Republic of the Congo, using a C-130 aircraft on loan from Belgium, WFP said in a statement received by IRIN today. A WFP official told IRIN some 215 mt of food would be flown to the city from Pointe-Noire over the coming week. WFP was also planning to transport some 700 mt of food by barge from Brazzaville to Kinshasa, once clearances have been received by the governments of the Congo and the DRC. WFP is also planning to airlift some pulses and vegetable oil to Kinshasa from Luanda.
Distribution of the food supplies - targetting about 120,000 of the city's most vulnerable people - will begin once security measures and distribution arrangements have been put in place in Kinshasa, the WFP statement added. Meanwhile, the French government is planning to fly some 34 mt of food, medical kits and generators to Kinshasa on Sunday, RFI reported today.
Humanitarian sources told IRIN that Kinshasa's population was now moving about freely and that electricity and water supplies had been restored in most parts of the city. The night-long curfew has been eased to start at midnight.
ICRC helps disinfect Kinshasa's water supply
ICRC airlifted 40 mt of chlorine from Nairobi to Kinshasa today to resupply three major water-treatment plants in the city. "The emergency in Kinshasa is now the lack of clean water," the ICRC water and sanitation coordinator in Kinshasa said. Another ICRC flight is scheduled tomorrow to deliver water and sanitation equipment and essential drugs to Kinshasa.
Concern over impact of conflict in Bas-Congo
Aid workers and local media are expressing concern about the humanitarian situation in the western province of Bas-Congo, where fierce fighting last month reportedly resulted in many casualties and an acute shortage of drugs and medical supplies. The Congolese Press Agency (ACP) yesterday quoted Bas-Congo Governor Leonard Fuka Unzola as saying that several health facilities and hospitals in the province had been looted. Continued insecurity along the Kinshasa/Matadi road has so far prevented access to the region by aid agencies.
RWANDA: Genocide suspect transferred to Arusha
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said today that a Rwanadan genocide suspected detained in Benin had been transferred to its custody in Arusha, bringing to 31 the number of such suspects currently held at its detention centre.
In a statement to IRIN, the tribunal identified the suspect as Juvenal Kajelijeli, the former mayor of Mukingo. In another case, the tribunal said it would hold a pre-sentencing hearing on 28 September of another mayor tried for genocide and crimes against humanity, Jean-Paul Akayesu, the former mayor of Taba.
Grenade attack kills woman
One woman was killed and several people were injured today in a grenade attack at the public transport terminus in Rwanda's capital Kigali, AFP reported. It said the grenade exploded at the coach station in the city centre at around 10:00 a.m. (08:00 GMT) in the first such incident in the capital itself since the RPF took power in 1994.
SUDAN: Displaced persons' camp bombed in Equatoria
A government aircraft dropped three bombs on the largest displaced persons camp in southern Sudan at about nine a.m. local time (06:00 GMT) yesterday, killing two people, according to Norwegian People's Aid (NPA).
Most residents of the Labone camp in eastern Equatoria had gone into their bomb shelters before the explosions, which significantly reduced the number of casualties, an NPA worker told IRIN. The camp, near the Ugandan border, houses some 45,000 displaced people. Three other locations in eastern Equatoria - Ikotos, Lokutok and Parajok - have also reportedly been bombed in recent days, WFP's daily bulletin on Sudan said yesterday.
BURUNDI: Aid community expresses concern over fuel shortage
Humanitarian organisations in Burundi have expressed concern over the current fuel shortage and say they may soon have to significantly scale down their programmes, a UN source told IRIN today. The fuel shortage partly results from the current conflict in eastern DRC from where it was previously imported. In its latest emergency report, WFP said planned food distributions in Ngozi province had to be cancelled and food deliveries had been affected because of the fuel shortage.
Meanwhile, the Italian NGO 'Gruppo de voluntariato civile' (GVC) has told IRIN it resumed activities on 4 September after receiving confirmation from the Burundian authorities that an official investigation would take place into an arson attack on its therapeutic feeding centre in Kabezi, Bujumbura rural province. The newly-constructed GVC therapeutic feeding centre was completely destroyed in the 21 August attack (IRIN Update 488 26 August).
Nairobi, 11 September 1998 15:00 GMT
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Date: Fri, 11 Sep 1998 18:05:05 +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