IRIN Update 675 for 20 May [19990520]

IRIN Update 675 for 20 May [19990520]

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. 675 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 20 May 1999)


The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) on Wednesday named medical doctor Emile Ilunga as its new leader after Ernest Wamba dia Wamba was ousted on Sunday. The change was announced after a special congress of 50 RCD founder members and 22 military commanders in the their capital Goma, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported. It said the aim of the congress was to solve an internal power struggle which intensified two months ago, culminating in Wamba transferring his base from Goma to Kisangani. Another top official, Lunda Bululu, was also ousted from the leadership.

One of the new leader's urgent tasks is to try and unify the movement and resolve the squabbles that rocked the former leadership, RNA said. Other news organisations quoted RCD official Bizima Karaha as saying Wamba's exit was the "only way" to resolve the leadership struggle. The movement also retained military commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane and Moise Nyarugabo as first and second vice-presidents respectively. Ondekane told AFP Ilunga was "an experienced man who has run military campaigns and worked in politics".

Uganda, DRC reaction

Reacting to the reshuffle, Uganda's senior presidential adviser for media and public relations John Nagenda told IRIN on Thursday the move "is none of our business". "It does not concern us, it is for the Congolese to decide," he said. In Nairobi, DRC embassy official Deo Safari said Wamba's departure "casts a shadow on the negotiation process". He told IRIN the new leaders were "puppets" of Rwandan Vice- President Paul Kagame who was "hiding behind the rebellion to achieve his plan to occupy our country".

Ilunga profile

Rebel-controlled Bukavu radio described Emile Ilunga as a medical doctor from President Laurent-Desire Kabila's home province of Katanga. Ilunga, a supporter of slain nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba, spent about 30 years in exile in Belgium and worked with Kabila to try and overthrow ex-ruler Mobutu Sese Seko. He also fought alongside Kabila as part of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) in 1996. However, he later fell out with the DRC president and sought to live in exile again. He returned to his country when the second Congolese war broke out last August. Ilunga, described as "quiet and low-profile", previously headed the RCD's department of health.

RWANDA: Improvements in northwest

Relief agencies working in the northwest have reported a "significant improvement" in nutritional conditions among hundreds of thousands of displaced people recently relocated from camps to new grouped settlements, the latest monthly report from the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Rwanda said. The report, received by IRIN, said malnutrition rates in the new settlement sites were declining, while the number of people at therapeutic and supplementary feeding centres had decreased in recent weeks. However, the nutritional situation remained fragile in some places, it added.

The improvement was due mainly to the setting up of health and nutritional facilities, the increase in WFP food rations, and the distribution of farming tools. "People are adjusting to the environments of the new resettlement sites and resuming agricultural activities," the report said. Meanwhile, a stable security environment in the northwest had enabled UN agencies and NGOs to continue working throughout the region, it added.

Extradition hearing again postponed

The Tanzanian court hearing for the extradition of a genocide suspect to Rwanda has been postponed yet again, pending a decision on the defendant's request for a bilingual lawyer, the Hirondelle news agency reported. The hearing on the extradition of Major Bernard Ntuyahaga - wanted in connection with the murder of ex-Rwandan premier Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers - was due to be heard on Wednesday after being postponed twice. "We are still waiting for the high court response on the defence counsel application," the presiding magistrate told the court. The hearing is now due to take place next Wednesday.

ICTR judge's term extended

Meanwhile the UN Security Council has approved the extension of a judge's term at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha to allow him to complete two cases over which he has been presiding. Judge Lennart Aspegren of Sweden was due to end his work on 24 May, after he was not re-elected for a second term. The ICTR intends to complete the cases against genocide suspects Georges Rutaganda and Alfred Musema by 31 January 2000.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: 13,000 "hostages" return to capital

The army has "freed" more than 13,000 civilians held hostage in the Pool region by Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas, the Inter-Press Service (IPS) said on Tuesday. The civilians, mostly women, children and the elderly, were transported back to Brazzaville in government-hired trucks over the past two weeks, it said. IPS quoted returnees as saying they had been used as "human shields" by the Ninja after they had fled their southern Brazzaville homes on account of fighting in December.

Meanwhile, a total of 32,000 people have crossed to the DRC's western province of Bas-Congo from the Pool region since the refugee influx started late last year, a regional UNHCR spokesman told IRIN on Thursday. The rate of the influx into Bas-Congo remains at about 750 people a day, he said.

Arrests of returnees reported

A human rights researcher with Amnesty International told IRIN that the organisation was investigating reports that "many people", particularly men of fighting age, had been arrested by the authorities upon their arrival in Brazzaville from the DRC. Those arrested have reportedly not been heard of since, he said. However, Amnesty was presently unable to confirm their identities or numbers, he added. Some 5,000 refugees have repatriated from the DRC to Brazzaville with UNHCR assistance since 25 April, and thousands more have returned by their own means.

UGANDA: 14 killed by ADF rebels

Rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed 14 people in the western Bundibugyo and Kaborole districts, the independent 'Monitor' newspaper reported on Thursday. It said the incidents occurred on Monday and Tuesday. A further 20 people were abducted. The security forces say they are conducting mopping-up operations in the area.

Defence spending to overshoot budget by over US $30m

Uganda's defence spending is set to overshoot its US $106 million budget by almost a third for the year ending 30 June, a public expenditure review by Finance Minister Gerald Sendaula has revealed. Sendaula told reporters in Kampala that "the non-wage bill" would push Uganda's defence spending 30.6 percent over budget to US $142 million, AFP reported on Wednesday.

Yet the economic picture remains bright for Uganda, according to Sendaula, speaking after a two-day public expenditure review meeting in advance of June's budget. "Despite the difficult problems faced, particularly in the banking sector and the recent sharp depreciation of the exchange rate, the overall performance of the economy remained strong," Sendaula said.

Nairobi, 20 May 1999, 14:40 gmt


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

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

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