IRIN Update 524 for 15 Oct 1998.10.15

IRIN Update 524 for 15 Oct 1998.10.15

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. 524 Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 15 October 1998)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: War benefiting business

Political, military and business groups from countries involved on either side of the conflict are reaping economic benefits from the DRC's natural and other resources, news organisations said. Ugandans now control the diamond fields around Kisangani and the gold mines in the northeast, while Rwandan soldiers are taking "everything that can be transported" back to Rwanda, the French newspaper 'Liberation' reported yesterday (Wednesday). Kinshasa has accused Ugandan troops of stealing endangered animal species from eastern DRC's forests, AFP said yesterday.

Meanwhile, members of Zimbabwe's elite see their country's intervention as a chance to expand Zimbabwe's commercial interests in the DRC, the 'Wall Street Journal' reported on Monday. The assets of DRC's state mining company Gecamines have recently been transferred to two private firms with links to President Laurent-Desire Kabila, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Namibian President Sam Nujoma, 'Liberation' said. Congolese state television last week announced that Kinshasa and Luanda had set up a joint oil exploration company called Sonangol-Congo.

Foreigners taken captive by rebels

Rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) have taken captive Sudanese troops, ex-FAR, Interahamwe and insurgents from Burundi and Uganda after capturing the town of Kindu on Monday, Rwandan radio reported. The situation in Kindu is reportedly calm. Reuters said residents of the town were returning home after earlier fleeing into nearby forests to escape the fighting.

Rebels admit Rwandan involvement

On Tuesday, the rebels admitted Rwandan officers were helping them in the fight against Kabila. Reuters cited an RCD military commander who said the Rwandans were mostly providing weapons training and liasing with Kigali. Another military commander told AFP that about 200 Rwandan soldiers had fought alongside the RCD in Kindu. Rwanda has consistently denied any involvement.

Canada condemns shooting down of plane

The Canadian government meanwhile condemned the rebels' downing of a Congo Airlines plane near Kindu over the weekend, saying the "use of missiles represents an intensification of the fighting". "Civilian populations are once again the principal victims in this conflict," said Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy. According to Radio France Internationale today (Thursday), the rebels accused Kabila's troops of laying anti-personnel mines in the Kindu area.

RCD urges talks with Kabila

RCD leader Professor Ernest Wamba dia Wamba yesterday called for talks with Kabila on the formation of a new government, Rwandan radio said. And rebel military commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane, currently part of an RCD delegation visiting Washington, said the rebellion would reach Kinshasa "in less than three months," AFP reported.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame also discussed the DRC situation yesterday when the latter made a one-day visit to Kampala. According to news reports, they too urged Kabila to talk to the rebels.

Mugabe "committed" to defending DRC

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe told a news conference in Lubumbashi yesterday his country was "committed" to defending DRC. He was speaking after private talks with Kabila. "I can assure President Kabila and his government that member countries of the [pro-Kabila] alliance will take the necessary measures to cope with the situation," he said, according to Congolese television.

SPLA denies attacking Dungu refugees

The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement has denied its troops are attacking Sudanese refugees in the northeast DRC town of Dungu. In a statement received today by IRIN, the SPLA claimed over 41,000 Sudanese refugees were fleeing Dungu following an attack on the town by DRC rebels. The SPLA said it had no reason to "attack the very people whose liberation it is fighting for". Informed sources in contact with Dungu told IRIN today the SPLA had left the town and two refugee camps in the area had been emptied.

UN agencies protest over commandeering of vehicles

UN agencies in DRC have protested against the use of their vehicles for military operations. In a statement received by IRIN today, the agencies said 121 UN vehicles had been illegally commandeered in eastern DRC and in Bas Congo province since the start of the conflict in August. The statement follows comments by the DRC justice minister who said UN and NGO vehicles were being used to move military equipment and people in the Uvira region. The vehicles were used by UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF for their humanitarian programmes.

BURUNDI: FROLINA proposes granting general amnesty

Delegates attending the peace talks in Arusha, Tanzania, are debating a proposal by the rebel group FROLINA to grant a general amnesty in Burundi, AP reported. FROLINA leader Joseph Karumbi said establishing a commission to investigate all massacres since 1962, then declaring an amnesty would usher in a new beginning. "The constant recall of past killings and exchanges of accusations of atrocities is an obstacle to reconciliation and dialogue," he was quoted as saying.

RWANDA: Operation to produce quality seeds launched

The FAO, in collaboration with the ministry of agriculture, has just launched an operation for the production of soya beans, beans and garden pea seeds, the UN agency reported. It said that a total of 250 hectares would be cultivated by eight farming associations for the 1999 A season. After the large-scale distribution of seeds carried out during previous seasons, this production will enable a quick response to farmers' demands for quality seeds. FAO also says it distributed 850 kg of vegetable seeds to 42,500 households in Gisenyi prefecture, northwestern Rwanda.

Meanwhile the Rwandan Red Cross Society is to distribute seeds and tools to 6,800 households in four communes in Gikongoro prefecture, the latest WFP emergency report said. It added that a seeds protection programme was in preparation by local authorities, in favour of vulnerable families throughout the prefecture, which is prone to food insecurity during the months of October and November.

SUDAN: 63 nomads killed by floods

Sixty-three people were killed by torrential rain and floods in western Sudan on Monday night, the interior ministry announced yesterday. It said massive downpours in parts of Sodari province, North Kordofan state, had flooded the Wad Sulayman valley. The 63 Arab nomads were swept away by the torrents of water, the ministry said, according to Sudanese television. Livestock and property were also destroyed.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Rail traffic still suspended

Humanitarian sources told IRIN today that rail traffic between Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire remains suspended. The rail line was closed on 28 September following several attacks on villages in the Pool region south of Brazzaville by suspected Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas, news agencies said. Recent insecurity and the closure of the rail line has led to bread and fuel shortages and the doubling in the price of many basic goods in Brazzaville, humanitarian sources said. Meanwhile, security forces arrested four Ninja militiamen on charges of trying to "destabilise" the regime of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, Congolese Radio Liberte reported yesterday.

Constitutional referendum set for next year

Sassou announced yesterday that a new constitution has been drafted and would be the subject of a country-wide referendum in 1999, the Pan African news agency PANA said. Sassou was speaking on Congolese television on the eve of the anniversary of the end of the 1997 civil war, it said. Sassou abrogated the country's constitution after last year's war, and a national forum subsequently declared a three-year transition period leading to elections.

Nairobi, 15 October 1998


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Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 17:26:06 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 524 for 15 Oct 1998.10.15 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,