IRIN Update 544 for 12 Nov 1998

IRIN Update 544 for 12 Nov 1998

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. 544 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 12 November 1998)

BURUNDI: Government acknowledges civilian deaths

The government has expressed regret over the deaths of civilians killed near Bujumbura earlier this month. Defence ministry spokesman Colonel Longin Minani told the BBC Kirundi service yesterday (Wednesday) a total of 38 people were killed in Mutambu commune by soldiers who mistook them for rebels. He said there had been no prior announcement of the deaths because the government was investigating the incident. Minani explained that rebels had attacked Maramvya hill in Rutovu sector late last month, killing five people and stealing a number of cows and goats. Between 1-4 November, the army pursued the rebels who opened fire on the soldiers. He said unbeknown to the army, the rebels had taken hostages. "As you know, the bullet does not choose," he said, adding had they known civilians were among the rebels, the soldiers would not have opened fire. Minani added that 10 Kalashnikovs and a number of traditional weapons were recovered from the rebels.

Burundian media reports said an investigation commission, made up of soldiers, interior ministry officials and MPs, had gone to the site and would clarify the number of dead. Witnesses have told Burundian journalists the death toll is at least 100, but a defence ministry statement, reported by Burundian radio, described the figure as "exaggerated".

Buyoya never admitted troops were in DRC

President Pierre Buyoya has rejected reports alleging he admitted his troops were fighting against Congolese forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A presidential statement, reported by the Agence burundaise de presse yesterday, described the allegations as misinformation taken from an interview with Radio France Internationale. In the interview, the statement says, the president referred to the fact Burundian rebels from the Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD) were fighting alongside President Laurent-Desire Kabila's forces, but this did not mean Burundian troops had gone into the DRC as a result. The statement "challenged anyone" to come up with proof of Burundian involvement in DRC.

The Burundi embassy in Nairobi also took issue with comments made by the new DRC ambassador to Kenya alleging Burundian involvement in Congo. In a statement, received by IRIN today (Thursday), the embassy described the allegations as "false and unfriendly", and reiterated that Burundi "will never allow itself to be involved in a war outside the national boundaries".

RWANDA: WFP to double food aid to northwest

WFP has announced it will double the amount of relief food to northwest Rwanda to meet the needs of a rapidly-increasing displaced population. In a statement, WFP's Rwanda representative Gerard van Dijk said six months ago the UN agency was feeding 100,000 displaced people in the northwest. "Now we're having to feed four times this number," he said. He added the situation was "continually deteriorating". Insecurity was forcing more and more people to leave their homes. Van Dijk said many of them were living in "frightening" conditions and falling sick as a result.

About 342,652 people are displaced in Ruhengeri prefecture, and 224,390 in Gisenyi. OCHA-Rwanda noted that 86 percent of Ruhengeri displaced are in camps, whereas in Gisenyi only 31 percent of displaced are in camps. The largest camp site - Mucaca in Ruhengeri's Cyeru commune - contains 45,841 people.

New budget to focus on social sector

Rwandan Finance Minister Donat Kaberuka on Tuesday officially presented the 1998-99 budget to parliament, stressing it would focus on the social sector, especially improving health services. According to Rwandan radio, he also said the government planned to make free primary education a reality by 2005. Civil servants' salaries would be increased, but a number of people would also be laid off after the reform of the civil service, he announced. He added that last year's inflation rate of 17 percent had been reduced by five percent, due mainly to increased revenue from taxation and debt relief by international donors.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Team sent to investigate Chadian setbacks

Information Minister Didier Mumengi yesterday said a team had been set up to investigate reports of heavy casualties among Chadian soldiers supporting the DRC government. In a television interview, reported by Reuters, he said at least a "minimum enquiry" was necessary. "From this probe, may emerge new ideas of ensuring harmonious coordination among the forces on the front," he said. He refused to comment on claims that some of the Chadians were mistakenly fired on by Kabila's troops. "When we have the result of the enquiry, I will not hesitate to communicate this to the press," Mumengi said. The Chadian government has acknowledged two of its soldiers were killed in DRC, but other reports put the toll much higher.

Munene appointed head of civil militia

Kabila has appointed Deputy Interior Minister General Faustin Munene as head of a civil militia intended as a bulwark against advancing rebels, Reuters reported. It cited staff at the interior ministry who said he had been working at army headquarters since Monday. DRC officials described the appointment as an important step because the civil militia was in every town and village.

South Kivu food security situation "precarious"

Save the Children Fund (SCF) has described the food security situation in South Kivu as precarious, according to a report received by IRIN today. The report noted that the food situation had been affected by the suspension or delay of agricultural activities due to population displacement, shortage of seeds, supply problems and an increase in the prices of basic foodstuffs. The number of children needing supplementary feeding assistance had increased while a number of nutrition centres had closed as a result of the conflict. The sanitation situation was described as "critical". At least 70 health centres in the province are not operational and local people are unable to meet medical costs. The NGO also expressed fear over a further deterioration of the situation.

ETHIOPIA: Refugee numbers detailed

Ethiopia was hosting 274,328 refugees, mainly Somali, as of the end of October, an UNHCR spokesperson told IRIN today. The breakdown of the refugee population is as follows: 203,631 Somalis, 58,826 Sudanese, 8,271 Kenyans and 3,000 from Djibouti. UNHCR said the number of Somali refugees was decreasing due to an ongoing repatriation exercise which began in December 1997. By this December, UNHCR plans to have repatriated some 60,000 Somali refugees from the camps of Hartisheik, Darwanaji and Terefi Ber.

REFUGEES: Ogata says humanitarian action should get political backing

The UN High Commissioner for refugees has stressed the need for political action to support humanitarian activity, stressing that "decisive international involvement is not the norm today". In a briefing to the Security Council, Sadako Ogata declared that "where peace efforts are insufficient or ineffective, the ability of humanitarian agencies to help refugees, returnees and other victims of conflict is greatly diminished". She gave south Sudan as an example. She also expressed concern over the regionalisation of the DRC conflict, noting that large scale population displacements were "a real risk, already affecting North and South Kivu."

Nairobi, 11 November 1998, 14:30 gmt


Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 17:31:00 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> To: Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 544 for 12 Nov 1998.11.12

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

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