IRIN Update 550 for 20 Nov 1998

IRIN Update 550 for 20 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. 550 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 20 November 1998)

SUDAN: Warring parties sign humanitarian agreements

The government of Sudan, the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the UN have signed two agreements aimed at increasing access to people in need of humanitarian assistance and improving the security of relief personnel in the country. The agreements were signed in Rome on Wednesday following three days of talks chaired by UN Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs for Sudan Tom Vraalsen. In the final communique, received today (Friday) by IRIN, the government and SPLM said they would "consider" prolonging the current humanitarian ceasefire, although no truce extension was agreed upon. The ceasefire, which now covers only famine-stricken Bahr al-Ghazal, expires on 15 January.

The agreement on increasing humanitarian access will enable OLS to deliver relief supplies by train from Babanusa to Wau and by road across lines of conflict. "The use of land corridors will reduce our dependency on expensive air bridge operations," an OLS spokeswoman told IRIN today. One of the agreed-upon steps to improve security of relief workers is that the warring parties will provide the UN with advance notice of attacks in locations where there are OLS personnel. The talks of the Technical Committee on Humanitarian Assistance were convened at the request of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

WFP barge completes relief voyage on Sobat river

A WFP barge convoy along the Sobat river in Upper Nile State has completed its deliveries of food aid to war-affected populations in 41 different locations. The convoy, which started its journey on 1 October from the port of Kosti in While Nile State, wound up its deliveries in Nyandit near the Ethiopian border on 3-4 November, WFP said. A total of 99,292 beneficiaries in areas held by both the government and the allied South Sudan Independence Movement (SSIM) received food from the barge, the first along the Sobat this year. A UNICEF health team aboard the convoy vaccinated 6,842 children against polio and 3,114 against measles, while some 4,000 women received tetanus shots, according to the latest UNICEF weekly report from Khartoum. Fishing equipment was also distributed to over 44,000 people to improve household food security in the river communities, UNICEF said.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Peace talks open in Botswana

Peace talks opened in Gaborone, Botswana, today and, for the first time, the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) was in attendance. News reports said representatives of the UN, OAU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) were also at the meeting. RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, while expressing support for a ceasefire, said direct talks with President Laurent Desire Kabila were a prerequisite. "Either we talk directly with Kabila, or we fight on as we are doing now," he said, according to Reuters. Kabila has said he is prepared to talk to Uganda and Rwanda, whom he blames for the rebellion, but not to the RCD. DRC representatives are not attending the Gaborone meeting.

Rebels claim Bumba taken

Meanwhile, the Rwanda News Agency reported a rebel claim to have taken the town of Bumba in Equateur province. It quoted rebel-controlled Goma radio which said the town fell on Wednesday. Earlier this week, the independent 'Le Phare' daily reported that residents of Bumba were fleeing the town fearing an imminent attack. Humanitarian sources in contact with Bumba said there had been looting in the town and a curfew had been clamped on the provincial capital of Mbandaka. A second rebel group, the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), is active in the region.

Kabila accuses Rwanda of massacres

Kabila has accused Rwanda of reponsibility for the massacres of thousands of Hutu refugees in 1997, saying the DRC did not authorise the killings. In an interview with the Belgian daily 'Le Soir' published yesterday (Thursday), he claimed he had protested to the Rwandan authorities at the time and it was from that moment that relations deteriorated. "We never imagined that these people could be so cruel... it was revolting", he told the newspaper. Asked why, therefore, he had obstructed the work of the UN human rights investigation, he replied the mission had come to DRC with preconceived ideas. But he had no objection to the UN team returning to DRC. Kabila also said relations with Uganda had deteriorated for economic reasons, when he wanted to review the trade in gold and timber from North Kivu operated, he said, by the brother of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

Kabila, who leaves on a visit to France, Belgium and Italy this weekend, said he would urge the countries to become more deeply involved in the search for a peaceful solution to the DRC crisis, particularly the former colonial power Belgium. He also stressed his commitment to the democratisation process and the holding of elections next year.

Rwanda rejects DRC's accusations

The Rwandan government has strongly denied DRC accusations over the killings of Hutu refugees in 1996/7. A statement issued by the office of Vice-President Paul Kagame yesterday said the allegations were "merely an attempt by Kabila to hide the crimes of his own government by sidetracking the international community into focusing on past incidents". "The international community will recall that Mr Kabila and his government deliberately and repeatedly frustrated a UN team sent by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to investigate the killings," the statement pointed out. Kabila's allegations in 'Le Soir' echo similar claims by the new DRC ambassador to Kenya, Gabriel Kyungu Wa-Ku-Mwanza, last week. The Rwandan statement accused the envoy of "attempting to shift the blame to Rwanda in the vain hope that this will win Mr Kabila friends in the international community and the UN".

RWANDA: "Strange disease" kills 40 prison inmates

The justice ministry says a "strange disease" has broken out in a Kigali prison killing 40 genocide suspects, the Rwanda News Agency reported today. Health officials were rushed to Rilima prison, in the southern part of the city, and RNA says some reports speak of typhoid. The prison houses some 6,000 inmates, 543 of whom are said to be affected by the disease. According to ICRC figures, 125,000 people are detained in Rwanda.

ERITREA: Djibouti "heaping insult" on Asmara, government says

Eritrea has accused Djibouti of "heaping insult" on it and says the closure of its embassy in Asmara "only confirms the position it has taken against Eritrea in the border conflict with Ethiopia". An Eritrean government statement, received today by IRIN, repeated Asmara's concern over Djibouti's "unwarranted cooperation with Ethiopia in its war effort against Eritrea". Earlier this week Djibouti protested over comments by Eritrea requesting it to withdraw from an OAU committee mediating between Addis Ababa and Asmara. As a result, it closed its embassy in Asmara on Wednesday and asked Eritrea to withdraw its ambassador from Djibouti within three days.

AFRICA: Security Council calls for better protection of refugees

The UN Security Council yesterday expressed support for the deployment of specially-trained international military and police units to help protect refugee camps. In a resolution, the Council recommended that the UN make arrangements for military and police personnel to be trained for humanitarian operations so that they may be drawn upon to help maintain security of refugee camps and settlements. The council also called upon African states to seek international assistance to help improve the treatment of refugees, particularly regarding locating refugees at a reasonable distance from borders and separating refugees from armed elements and others who do not qualify for international protection.

In a separate resolution, the Security Council yesterday urged African states to enact legislation on the possession and use of arms, including small arms, and called on the international community to assist in those efforts. Both resolutions were in response to recommendations made by the UN Secretary-General in his April report on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa.

Nairobi, 20 November 1998, 14:20 gmt


Date: Fri, 20 Nov 1998 17:19:22 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 550 for 20 Nov 1998.11.20 Message-ID: <>

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

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