IRIN Update 504 for 17 Sep 1998.9.17

IRIN Update 504 for 17 Sep 1998.9.17

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. 504 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 17 September 1998)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kabila's forces "unaware" of massacres

Rwandan troops backing the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) killed thousands of Hutu refugees in eastern DRC and Mbandaka between October 1996 and June 1997, but the ADFL was at first unaware that the massacres were taking place, a DRC state minister said. In an interview with the French newspaper 'Liberation' published today (Thursday), State Minister Victor Mpoyo said that Rwandan troops did not allow ADFL soldiers to enter the zones where the massacres were taking place. Mpoyo added the obstacles encountered by the UN human rights investigation were the result of the refusal of the DRC's then Rwandan army chief of staff to grant UN investigators access to massacre sites.

Kabila pledges to hold elections in eight months

President Laurent-Desire Kabila yesterday (Wednesday) announced that general elections in the DRC would be held as planned in April 1999, but only if Ugandan and Rwandan "aggressors" leave the country before then. He was speaking yesterday (Wednesday) before a crowd of some 30,000 people gathered at Kinshasa's Ndjili area.

News agencies reported Kabila as telling the crowd that Ugandan forces were present in Kisangani and Bunia while Rwandan troops were in Goma and Bukavu. To combat the rebellion, Kabila said an additional 25,000 "young people" would be enrolled in the DRC army and that weapons would be distributed to popular defence forces to be established in Kinshasa, news agencies reported.

Journalists say rebels still control Kalemie

Journalists flown by rebel forces from Goma to Kalemie yesterday reported that the town remains firmly in rebel hands and that there was no visible sign of fighting. Kinshasa this week repeated earlier claims that government forces had attacked the town and were about to re-capture it. "How many times are they going to take Kalemie?," regional rebel commander Jean-Claude Moluka told Reuters. News agencies also reported that most of the civilian population in Kalemie had fled the town at the beginning of the hostilities and that food had become scarce for the local population.

Southern African allies to maintain military support for Kabila

Zimbabwe's Defense Minister Moven Mahachi said yesterday that Zimbabwe and the DRC's two other southern African allies, Namibia and Angola, would continue supporting Kabila militarily until peace is secured in the country, news agencies reported. Speaking to Zimbabwe's parliament, Mahachi justified the deployment of 3,000 Zimbabwean troops to the DRC on the principle of not allowing "a legitimate government to be removed by force of arms," Reuters quoted him as saying. The PANA news agency yesterday quoted Namibian President Sam Nujoma as saying troops from his country would remain in the Congo "as long as Kabila want them to stay."

'New Vision': SPLA troops moved to DRC border

Uganda's 'New Vision' newspaper, meanwhile, reported yesterday that the SPLA had moved troops to the Sudan-DRC border to stop the Sudan government from establishing a base within the DRC. An SPLA spokesman, however, declined to comment on that claim. DRC rebel leaders this week alleged that Khartoum, with Libyan financial assistance, had sent troops to Kindu in support of Kabila, a claim denied by both the Sudanese and DRC governments.

Involvement of Burundian rebels alleged

DRC rebels allege the involvement of Burundian Hutu rebels in support of Kabila's forces. A rebel commander told Reuters yesterday that a number of fighters from the Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD) had been captured in recent days in South Kivu. A Burundi analyst told IRIN today that the current situation represents a "rather spectacular and potentially lethal reversal of alliances". On rumoured tensions between the Burundian military and civilian authorities, he said, "if there is sufficient evidence that the 'bandes armees' [Hutu-dominated rebel groups] are indeed joining the fray in South Kivu on Kabila's side, Buyoya would have a hard time reining in the hard-liners in the army."

Meanwhile, Burundi's Minister of Communication and official government spokesperson, Luc Rukingama, has rejected allegations that Burundian government troops are involved in the DRC conflict on the side of the rebels. In a statement received by IRIN today, Rukingama refuted the allegation made by Belgium's Minister of Foreign Affairs, as reported by AFP on Tuesday.

Chiluba pursues SADC mediation efforts

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba is scheduled to visit Kigali and Kampala on 19 September as part of regional efforts to negotiate a cease-fire and political settlement between DRC's warring parties, Reuters reported. He will hold talks with Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, it added. The summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held in Mauritius earlier this week had mandated Chiluba to continue efforts aimed at ending the war in the DRC. Chiluba is viewed as a regional leader who has remained neutral in the current crisis.

US Congress briefed on DRC crisis

The crisis in the DRC has become an "unprecedented regionalized war" that is threatening the lives of "millions" of people, a senior US official told a Congressional committee. With armies from at least six countries now fighting on DRC territory, the conflict is "potentially among the most dangerous" in the world, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice said in her 15 September statement to the US House of Representatives sub-committee on Africa.

Rice said there were "credible reports" of inter-ethnic violence, communal massacres and attacks against non-combatants committed by both rebel and government forces since the start of the crisis and that "hundreds, if not thousands" of Congolese ethnic Tutsis had been detained by DRC security forces. The military intervention of Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe in support of Kabila was "destabilising," Rice said in her statement, adding that Rwanda and Uganda had not revealed the "full extent" of their own involvement inside the country.

UN relief official to brief agencies in Nairobi

UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths will brief humanitarian agencies in Nairobi on his recent mission to the DRC and Rwanda. The meeting will be held on Friday September 18, at 17:00 at the OCHA compound on United Nations Avenue, Gigiri, Nairobi.

SUDAN: Government troops mutiny - rebel radio

A battalion of pro-government troops mutinied and joined the forces of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), rebel radio reported. The Arabic service of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a rebel umbrella group including the SPLA, said that 1,000 fighters from the Popular Defence Forces led by a lieutenant-colonel joined the rebels in the southern Blue Nile area.

Nuba mountains aid effort "futile"

The limited humanitarian efforts underway in the Nuba Mountains are of central Sudan are "an exercise in futility", a report published by a Catholic news service based in Nairobi stated today. The Africanews newsletter reports that "every time the sound of an aircraft is heard, people, both the young and the old, rush to the airstrip, hoping to get at least a handful of dura." The aid efforts are hampered by cost, lack of transport and no permission from Khartoum for UN access, the report says. Food prices are said to be high: a malwa (a 3kg measuring bowl) of cereal is retailing for 4,000 Sudanese pounds (about US $2).

LANDMINES: Bukina sets seal on international landmine ban

(IRIN - West Africa) - Burkina Faso today became the 40th nation to ratify the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines. Statements by UN agencies said Burkina's signature would now enable the treaty to become binding under international law by 1 March 1999. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said: "Today, the world has taken a step toward becoming a safer and more humane place."

Although the treaty was signed last December by 130 nations, UN officials pointed out at the time that it had to be ratified by 40 nations and their parliaments before it could come into force. It requires countries to stop the use and production of landmines, destroy the stockpiles over the next four years, and clear mined areas within the next 10 years. UNICEF Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, said that by ratifying the treaty, the 40 nations had ushered in a new humanitarian ethical standard to end "indiscriminate cruelty" caused by mines and hasten their elimination.

The world's major landmine producing nations, The United States, China and Russia, have so far refused to ratify the Ottawa Convention. Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that the adoption of the Ottawa Convention following Burkina's ratification marked the first time in history that a weapon in widespread use had been outlawed.

Nairobi, 17 August 1998, 16:10 GMT


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Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 19:13:04 -0300 (GMT+3) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 504 for 17 Sep 1998.9.17 Message-ID: <>

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

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