IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 19-1999 [19990515]

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 19-1999 [19990515]

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

Tel: +254 2 622147 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail:

Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 19 covering the period 8-14 May 1999

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Over 40 killed as Uvira, Goma bombed

The rebel-held towns of Goma and Uvira came under air attack by government forces and their allies on Tuesday night, with at least 40 people reported killed in Goma, humanitarian sources told IRIN. A further 50 people were wounded, 15 seriously, as five to eight bombs were dropped on the town apparently by two aircraft, a jet and an Antonov 28.

The planes then went on to bomb Uvira further south. Sources in nearby Bujumbura, who were in touch with the town, told IRIN two people were reported dead and one wounded from the Uvira raid. Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) rebel military commander General Celestin Ilunga described the raids as "a desperate act of somebody who is losing the war".

The UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Sergio Vieira de Mello, expressed regret over the bombings, which, he said had "resulted in the deaths of over 40 civilians and the injury of many others".

Kinshasa warns rebels

The authorities in DRC have said they were targeting "military targets" and denied civilians were hit in the bombing raids against Goma and Uvira. Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean government daily 'Herald' on Thursday quoted a Zimbabwean military spokesman as saying the air strikes in the east would continue.

Kinshasa mobilising Interahamwe "to finish the genocide", Rwanda says

A Rwandan defence ministry statement on Thursday accused the Kinshasa authorities of mobilising "thousands" of Interahamwe rebels to fight alongside the allied forces. The eventual aim was to "overthrow the Rwandan government, then complete the genocide they began in 1994", the statement said, according to news organisations.

RCD accuses Ugandans of splitting the movement

Meanwhile, the RCD has accused Ugandan military commanders in eastern DRC of seeking to split the movement. Rebel commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane told the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) in Goma said the Ugandans were trying to disarm the RCD troops and force them to join another rebel movement, the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) led by Jean-Pierre Bemba.

Security Council urges participation in national debate

The UN Security Council on Tuesday urged all parties to sign a ceasefire agreement "without delay." The Council's president made the press statement after the Council heard a briefing by the UN Special Envoy for the DRC peace process, Moustapha Niasse, on the eve of his second cycle of consultations in Africa. The council reiterated its full support for the envoy's efforts. It also called on "all the parties" to participate in the proposed national debate to be held in Nairobi.

Nairobi talks postponed until June

Kenya has formally announced the postponement of DRC peace talks, Kenyan television reported. A statement from the foreign ministry said the talks, slated to start 15 May, will now be held in early June "to allow for consultations with participants".

Interahamwe disarmament key to settlement - Ajello

The search for a negotiated settlement to the DRC conflict is "still a long process", although some progress has been achieved, EU special envoy for the Great Lakes region Aldo Ajello told IRIN on Monday. Ajello said one of the "most sensitive" issues was the disarmament of the estimated 15,000-20,000 ex-FAR and Interahamwe forces remaining in the DRC. "The point has been accepted, but there are serious differences over who should do it and when - before or after the withdrawal of foreign troops," Ajello said. Regarding a DRC ceasefire, Ajello said the parties had largely agreed on the elements of a plan, but "big differences" remained regarding the sequence and timing of their implementation.

Haemorrhagic fever epidemic "diminishing"

The bombing raids on Goma and Uvira came after the first direct UN flight between Kinshasa and rebel-held territory, carrying a medical team and equipment to the northeastern Durba/Watsa area where an epidemic of haemorrhagic fever has been raging. A spokeswoman for MSF-Belgium told IRIN on Wednesday very few new cases of the fever were now emerging in the area and there was no indication the epidemic was spreading to other areas. "The epidemic is clearly diminishing and seems to be closing down," she said. Latest figures indicate a total of 90 cases, of whom 60 have died.

Outbreak hits soldiers in Bumba

Meanwhile, an outbreak of a similar haemorrhagic fever reported last week in the Bumba area of Province Equateur appeared less alarming than originally rumoured, the MSF spokeswoman said. Latest available information indicates that the Bumba outbreak had involved five or six patients since early February, all of them military personnel who were subsequently transferred to Kampala, she said. No deaths were reported.

Katana measles campaign reaches over 50,000 children

A measles vaccination campaign in the Katana area of South Kivu province between 26-29 April reached about 96 percent of the target population of 56,216 children, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) told IRIN. In a report, IRC said the campaign was organised as a result of a survey carried out in February, which indicated that three percent of Katana's children under the age of two had died from measles during a recent outbreak.

RWANDA: UN appoints head of genocide probe

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan last Friday appointed former Swedish prime minister Ingvar Carlsson to head an investigation into the role of the UN during the 1994 genocide, a move hailed by Human Rights Watch. "The UN can never right the wrong it did in abandoning the people of Rwanda, but at least it can tell the truth about its failure," HRW said in a press release.

Returnees continue to arrive from DRC

UNHCR has registered 4,750 Rwandan returnees from the DRC to Gisenyi since 21 March. The returnees were quoted as saying they were tired of living in hiding, that their relatives informed them the situation in Rwanda was safe, and because there had been large sensitisation campaigns in Masisi and Rutshuru by authorities and clergy of the DRC and Rwanda.

Extradition hearing adjourned

A Tanzanian court, examining Rwanda's extradition request for genocide suspect Major Bernard Ntuyahaga, has adjourned the decision until Monday, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. The court in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday acceded to a request by the defendant for a French or Kinyarwanda interpreter at the proceedings. The Tanzanian authorities on Monday rejected an extradition request by Belgium, saying he must face trial in Rwanda where the alleged crimes were committed, but the extradition must be approved by the court. Ntuyahaga is accused of involvement in the murder of ex-Rwandan premier Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers at the start of the 1994 genocide.

Second generation of army worms feared

The OCHA office in Kigali told IRIN on Tuesday that rapid intervention by the government and FAO, combined with the favourable effect of rains, had reduced the harmful impact of the large-scale worm infestation in the country. However, there was concern about a potential second invasion of army worms at the end of the worms' next reproduction cycle in end-May or early June, which would pose a "serious threat" to crops during the June-September agricultural season, OCHA-Kigali said. Several donor and UN agency contributions have already been made towards a five-month emergency project aimed at combating the worms.

Virunga park to reopen

The Rwandan authorities are to reopen the Virunga National Park in the north, after it was closed two years ago due to the rebel insurgency in the area, the Rwanda News Agency reported. The move indicated a return to normality in this area of Rwanda, the news agency added.

BURUNDI: "Serious issues" under discussion in Arusha

As another round of peace talks within the Arusha process began in the northern Tanzanian town on Tuesday, the facilitators stressed that "serious issues" would be debated. A spokesman for the Nyerere Foundation, Brigadier General Hashim Mbita, said it was hoped "big progress" would have been achieved by June, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. The next two weeks of talks are designed to prepare the ground for a peace agreement between Burundi's opposing sides. CNDD-FDD spokesman Jerome Ndiho told IRIN on Tuesday his group had not received an official invitation to the talks, but said it was favourable to taking part if official confirmation came.

"Some disagreement" between Buyoya and Nyerere

President Pierre Buyoya on Sunday held talks with the Burundi peace process mediator, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, in a meeting described as "successful". Burundi's Senior Presidential Adviser Apollinaire Gahungu told IRIN however there were "some issues of disagreement".

Independent report hails progress in peace process

A report by 'Search for Common Ground' in Washington and 'The Centre for Conflict Resolution' in Cape Town noted that while virtually all the other countries in the Great Lakes region were involved in "intractable and escalating conflicts", Burundi was the only country "actively talking to and negotiating with all political groupings, whether armed or not". The report urged international support for the ongoing internal and external peace processes.

Army denies report of 72 deaths

Burundi army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Mamert Sinarinzi said reports that 72 civilians had been killed in renewed fighting near the Tanzanian border over the weekend were false. He told IRIN on Tuesday the number corresponded to the death toll - including rebels - since January and he noted that reports of the alleged fighting were vague. He also dismissed reports that 17,000 people had been displaced.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: People displaced as government bombs Ninjas

Government forces shelled northern outskirts of Brazzaville on Wednesday morning after Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas tried to advance on the international airport, news agencies said. Humanitarian sources told IRIN the fighting resulted in fresh population displacements within the city. Wednesday's incident followed a similar attack involving Ninjas at the Marien Ngouabi military academy north of Brazzaville on Sunday, news agencies said. Residents told IRIN on Monday that a number of civilians, including children, had been killed when the attacking Ninjas moved into northern Brazzaville, and houses were completely looted.

Upsurge in refugee influx from Pool

About 750 people fleeing conflict in the Pool region were being counted everyday in the western DRC province of Bas-Congo, a regional UNHCR spokesman told IRIN on Friday. He said the upsurge in new arrivals began about 10 days ago. There were now 29,200 Congolese refugees registered in Bas Congo. The new arrivals were in poor health and nutritional condition, some having spent the past four months living in forests. "Malnutrition levels are extremely high," the spokesman said. A UNHCR statement received by IRIN on Friday said some of the refugees had fled fresh confrontations in Pool between the government and the Ninja militia. Other sources told IRIN government helicopters were dropping bombs on Ninja positions in Pool.

UGANDA: Government "ready" to pull out of DRC

The Ugandan government is "ready" to pull out of the DRC so long as it can find a "neutral" force to safeguard its security concerns, government officials confirmed to IRIN on Monday. State Minister in charge of presidency Rukahana Rugunda told IRIN that once the country was certain foreign troops had pulled out to allow for a comprehensive ceasefire, "we will have no business being in that country. We will leave DRC to solve its on problems".

Uganda trains Congolese soldiers "in preparation for withdrawal"

A first batch of Congolese rebel soldiers trained by Uganda "graduated" on Saturday, the semi-official daily 'New Vision' reported at the weekend. The paper said 1,550 MLC rebels were trained in the northern DRC town of Lisala and were "ready to fight."

Humanitarian agencies "cautiously" returning to Bundibugyo

Humanitarian agencies who pulled out of the western town of Bundibugyo last month because of insecurity are "cautiously" returning to the area as there is a "slight improvement" in the situation. WFP on Wednesday sent eight

trucks from Fort Portal to the area to distribute food to some 40,000 people in the town and 12 surrounding areas. The food convoy is escorted by the military and food will be distributed by the local authorities. MSF-France is also returning to Bundibugyo, an MSF source confirmed to IRIN on Wednesday.

ADF rebels killed in army crackdown

The Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) has killed at least 34 rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the Ruwenzori area and captured five others during a week-long crackdown in the mountain ranges, the semi-official 'New Vision' daily reported. In another incident, the paper noted that government troops killed 15 Rwandan Hutu extremists at the Virunga National Park in a battle at Kihito, some 50 km inside the DRC.

SUDAN: Khartoum plays down alleged strain on peace pact

Sudan has played down media reports that the 1997 peace agreement has been put under severe strain by recent fighting over the control of oilfields in the southern state of Unity, and that the United Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF) wants the pact revised. A spokesman at the Sudanese embassy in Nairobi told IRIN on Wednesday that while there had been violence when "something went wrong" in Unity state, "the government does not have any difficulties with the United Front" nor with its leader, assistant president Riek Machar - a former rebel who was brought into government after the 1997 peace pact.

UDSF spokesman Makuac Teny Youk, a state minister in the Khartoum government, told AFP news agency on Monday that the fighting had led it to seek "to eliminate the shortcomings and assess abidance by the two parties to the provisions of the agreement". On Tuesday, Reuters reported Youk's claim of fresh clashes between government troops and the UDSF's military wing, the Southern Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF), at Mayen Dit, north of Ler in Unity state.

Ugandan army "poised for assault"

Defence Minister General Abdel Khetim claimed on Tuesday that forces in Uganda are "poised for an assault" on southern Sudan. Speaking at a meeting of the parliamentary defence and security committee, Khetim said there were "hostile gatherings in Uganda poised for an assault on the southern front", according to media reports in Khartoum, carried by AFP.

Media sources in the capital also reported that the eastern states of Kassala, Gedaref and Red Sea have drawn up a joint security plan to guard the Khartoum-Port Sudan highway, which has come under repeated attack by rebel forces. "Those simultaneous security threats in more than one direction are aimed at blocking exportation of Sudanese oil," Khetim was quoted as saying.

SPLM claims government bombing killed civilians

The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) on Monday claimed four civilians were killed in the government bombing of two relief centres, "with no presence of soldiers of the SPLA", in Loka and Lainya, Yei county, on Saturday.

Relapsing fever epidemic strikes Rumbek

Research by a team of international health workers has confirmed an epidemic of malaria-like relapsing fever among semi-nomadic populations in the Lakes region of the south. Surveys at five centres in Rumbek county - coordinated by WHO and OLS - during March and April showed the attack rate during the last three months to range from 20 percent to a high of 67 percent. "In the village with the highest mortality rate, 29 out of 30 surveyed households had at least one family member dead", the survey report noted. Though the number of incidents of the fever is falling, the report noted the danger of large outbreaks due to "close contact of large numbers of people under circumstances of poor personal hygiene".

WFP says "food pipeline" running dry

The WFP "pipeline" of food aid in Sudan will dry up substantially in August, at the peak of the hunger gap when supplies of locally-produced foods are unavailable, with the level of funding currently available, a situation report from the agency warned on Monday. The agency reported that while the overall nutritional situation has improved in many parts of southern Sudan, that could easily be reversed by a deterioration in the security situation.

SOMALIA: Kidnapped aid worker released

The Italian aid worker, Stefano Sotgia, kidnapped last month by Somali militiamen was on Monday afternoon reported to be well as he celebrated his release with colleagues from the Terra Nuova NGO at its headquarters in Nairobi. The NGO's regional representative Vittorio Cognolati told IRIN that Sotgia had been "basically treated well."

Resumption of relief work to be reviewed

The Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB), comprising donors, UN agencies and international NGOs, which recommended the suspension of aid activities in Lower Juba after Sotgia's abduction, on Tuesday welcomed his release and reiterated its call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. It made no recommendation on the resumption of relief efforts in the region but a spokeswoman told IRIN that the situation will be addressed in an executive meeting of the SACB on 20 May.

Weekend clashes in Merka over arms shipment

Fighting broke out between rival factions of the Habar Gidir clan in the southern port of Merka over the weekend for control of heavy weaponry, allegedly sent by Eritrea, which was brought into the port last Tuesday. Witnesses quoted by AP news agency on Monday said the fighting broke out on Saturday night and Sunday morning between militiamen loyal to faction leader Hussein Aideed and a group led by the governor of Merka, because Aideed would not share the weapons.

ETHIOPIA: WFP provides food for drought-affected in Somali region

WFP has moved in emergency food aid to help some 640,000 drought-stricken pastoralists in the Somali region of Ethiopia. The agency distributed 8,000 mt of food during the month of April. About 13,000 mt were also delivered to Amhara and Tigray regions in drought relief programmes. However, WFP's emergency operation for some 272,000 Ethiopians displaced by the Eritrea-Ethiopia border conflict remains "seriously under-resourced", a WFP report states. Only 12,660 mt have been received to date leaving a net shortfall of 32,711 mt of mixed commodities. The agency is appealing for further donor contributions to assist the war-displaced.

ACF worker freed

Meanwhile, Eric Courly, a hydraulic engineer with Action Contre la Faim (ACF), who had been kidnapped by ethnic Somali gunmen of the Ogaden National Liberation front (ONLF) in Ethiopia on 4 April, was released on Monday afternoon, a press release from ACF stated.

EAST AFRICA: Regional conference seeks agreement on sharing Nile waters

A two-day conference of water ministers from 10 states with claims on the water of the Nile river opened in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, with calls for cooperation on the sustainable and equitable use of the river's water resources. The incoming chairman of the Nile Council of Ministers (Nile COM), Ethiopian Water Minister Shiferaw Jarsso, said the meeting heralded an era of transition "from confrontation to cooperation" in establishing an agreement for use of the Nile's water resources by riparian states. Nile COM is to come up with a final framework agreement for utilisation of the Nile's waters by 2002, to replace a 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan which allocates the largest share of the river's water between themselves. The other eight Nile states - Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda - have been lobbying for a fair share of the Nile's water ever since. The DRC is attending Nile COM for the first time.

Nairobi, 14 May 1999, 15:30 GMT


[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information or subscriptions. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the WWW at: . Mailing list: irin-cea-weekly]

Item: irin-english-826

[This item is delivered in the "irin-english" service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information or free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: or fax: +254 2 622129 or Web: . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]

Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

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

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific