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IRIN Update No. 534 Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 29 October 1998)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Mandela pursues peace efforts
Diplomatic efforts to end the DRC crisis continued in the wake of the inconclusive peace talks in Zambia as rebels vowed to continue fighting until their demands for direct talks with President Laurent-Desire Kabila's government are met. South African President Nelson Mandela held talks with Namibian President Sam Nujoma in Windhoek yesterday (Wednesday) and with rebel leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba in Pretoria today (Thursday), news agencies reported. After meeting with the Namibian leader, Mandela told reporters that both he and Nujoma were "committed" to the eventual withdrawal of foreign troops from the DRC, under UN and OAU supervision, but Nujoma said later his soldiers would only leave at Kabila's request, AFP reported.
Mandela and Zambian President Frederick Chiluba are due to participate in a summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Nigeria tomorrow, where the DRC conflict will be discussed, AFP reported. Meanwhile, foreign ministers of the DRC, Rwanda and nine other African countries are scheduled to meet in Cameroon today to discuss the DRC conflict and other regional crises, Reuters reported. The two-day meeting of a UN committee on security in central Africa will also include ministers from Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Sao-Tome and Principle and Chad, Reuters said.
US official begins regional tour
US Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs Susan Rice arrived in Angola yesterday to begin discussions with regional leaders on the faltering DRC peace process, news agencies said. State Department spokesman James Rubin said yesterday that Rice would express "deep concern about the widening conflict." He said the US had national interests in preventing the instability in the DRC from spreading, including "national resource needs."
Rice, who is accompanied by the US special envoy for the Great Lakes Howard Wolpe and national security council official Gayle Smith, will also travel to South Africa, DRC, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Uganda, news agencies said.
Katanga situation unclear
The military situation in the Kabalo area of Katanga province remains unclear with both the rebels and the government now claiming control of the town. Kinshasa also claims to have recaptured Nyunzu further east. Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports indicate that rebel-held Kalemie was bombed yesterday morning, but additional information on the report was not immediately available. According to humanitarian sources in Kinshasa, heavy fighting is taking place in Katanga. Many casualties are reported.
Hundreds of displaced in Lubumbashi
Humanitarian sources told IRIN today that some 800 displaced persons had arrived in Lubumbashi from the Kalemie, Nyunzu and Nyemba areas as of mid-October. Meanwhile, local health authorities reported having identified between 20,000 and 40,000 displaced people around Kabalo, Nyunzu, Nyemba, Manono and Ankoro in the province. Some of the displaced have been on the move for several weeks, the sources added.
Large vulnerable population in Kisangani
Religious sources in rebel-held Kisangani, Province Orientale, have identified tens of thousands of vulnerable people in the town. Very few goods are available on local markets, as the town has not been re-supplied since mid-August, the sources said. Humanitarian sources have reported a precarious water-supply situation in Kisangani.
DRC and Rwanda miss reporting deadline
Human Rights Watch has harshly criticised the failure of the governments of Rwanda and DRC to submit official reports on their progress in investigating atrocities committed in DRC in 1997. In a press statement released last week, the organisation urged the UN Security Council to press ahead with steps to ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice. Following the release of the report of the UN investigative team on massacres and other human rights violations perpetrated in DRC, the council had requested the two governments to provide initial reports by 15 October.
RWANDA: Detainees end hunger strike
Twenty-five detainees awaiting trial on genocide charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) called off their hunger strike yesterday, according to a statement from the ICTR received today by IRIN. The 25 detainees had started their hunger strike earlier this week in solidarity with the already convicted ex-mayor of Taba, Jean-Paul Akayesu. Akayesu began his hunger strike eight days ago and was still not eating in protest against being denied a lawyer of his choice for his appeal. However, the ICTR statement said the court's programme on the assignment of defense counsel was "very fair".
BURUNDI: UN investigates killings
Three UN human rights observers today are investigating Tuesday night's reported massacre of civilians near Bujumbura, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights told IRIN today. Burundian authorities reported that 34 people were killed and 25 others injured in the rebel attack on two villages about 15 km south of Bujumbura. The human rights observers will "speak to survivors and try to get corroboration" of the information received, spokesman Jose Diaz said. The investigation falls under the mandate of the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Burundi, he added.
UGANDA: Prisoners-of-war registered
ICRC has registered 111 Sudanese prisoners-of-war in Uganda, out of 1,800 detainees visited in prisons throughout the country. In a monthly report received today by IRIN, ICRC said 42 of these Sudanese prisoners-of-war had since been repatriated.. ICRC provided food and non-food assistance for the prisoners and facilitated the exchange of messages with relatives in Sudan, the report said.
Meanwhile, an increase in the number of war-wounded is reported, particularly in Acholiland, with many of the wounded being landmine victims, ICRC said.
Suspected "terrorists" released
Twenty-two Somalis and Ugandans arrested in Kampala last month on terrorism charges were released on police bond due to lack of evidence, the 'NewVision' newspaper reported yesterday. The group had been arrested on suspicion of being involved in plans for follow-up bombings of the US
embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. The 'NewVision' said 18 of the suspects were released on 1 October and the other four on 17 and 19 October.
ETHIOPIA: Conflict-affected displaced in Tigray
While there is currently "no emergency" situation in Tigray, living and health conditions remain precarious for tens of thousands of conflict-affected displaced people in the northern region, a recent UN assessment mission found. The mission found that relief distributions were regularly organised by local authorities in affected areas and that the general agricultural situation appeared favourable. However, the mission identified "gaps" in shelter materials, potable water supplies and adequate sanitation facilities, while local authorities stressed an urgent need for basic school materials. As most of the displaced are staying with local families rather than in camps, host communities are facing considerable pressure, the team said in its mission report, received by IRIN.
Ethiopian government figures indicated that 166,308 people were displaced in Tigray as a result of the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea in May/June. There were also 10,983 Ethiopians returned from Eritrea in Tigray, the government figures state. It is estimated that the number of displaced people in Tigray could "double or triple" in the event of renewed conflict, the UN mission report said.
Nairobi, 29 October 1998 15:30 GMT
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Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 18:47:05 -0300 (GMT+3) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 534 for 29 Oct 1998.10.29 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.95.981029184612.20144Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar, firstname.lastname@example.org