IRIN Update 566 for 12-14 Dec 1998.12.14

IRIN Update 566 for 12-14 Dec 1998.12.14

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. 566 for Central and Eastern Africa (Saturday-Monday 12-14 December 1998)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Lusaka summit postponed

The Lusaka summit scheduled to open today (Monday) to seek a truce in the DRC conflict has been postponed. According to media reports at the weekend, the meeting ran aground over the issue of rebel participation. South Africa insisted last week that the talks, at which ceasefire details were to have been agreed, only made sense if representatives of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) attended. DRC President Laurent Desire-Kabila refused to meet with the rebels.

Rebels invited to OAU summit

Meanwhile, RCD rebels said on Saturday they have received a formal invitation to the OAU summit in Burkina Faso later this week. RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba told Reuters he would personally head the rebel delegation to the Ouagadougou meeting on 17-18 December. Burkina Faso's Foreign Minister Ablasse Ouedraogo said the collapse of the Lusaka summit would not affect the OAU talks as the two meetings "were not linked".

Mandela and Mugabe discuss differences

South African President Nelson Mandela said yesterday (Sunday) progress had been made in bridging differences over DRC policy with his Zimbabwe counterpart Robert Mugabe. Mandela stressed the strength of the relationship between the two countries at a press conference in Harare. He however did not divulge details of the talks describing them as "sensitive", news media reported. Mandela met Mugabe at a World Council of Churches conference.

Meanwhile, Kabila arrived in Egypt on Saturday for an official three-day visit at the invitation of President Hosni Mubarak. In preliminary talks the two men discussed the Congo conflict and other regional issues, the Egyptian news agency MENA said.

Major clashes in eastern DRC reported

The Zimbabwean army said today it lost a helicopter gunship in fierce fighting at the weekend at Kabalo while DRC rebels claimed to have shot down two allied aircraft over the eastern DRC town, Reuters reported. Zimbabwe's official 'Herald' newspaper meanwhile alleged that 80 rebels were killed in fighting at Kabalo. It quoted sources at allied headquarters in Kinshasa as acknowledging that Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia had all suffered casualties in the clashes, but said the numbers were still unknown.

DRC rebels also claimed heavy fighting was underway at the weekend for control of the town of Pwetu on the shore of lake Mweru. However, in an interview broadcast on RFI today, the governor of Katanga province denied there was fighting or a DRC rebel presence at Pweto. He said fighting in the province was centred around Moba which the rebels hold.

RCD claim battling Burundi rebels

An AFP report quoted an RCD commander as claiming they were confronting 2,000 Kinshasa-allied Burundi rebels in the Pwetu area. "We think these Burundian rebels are crossing the lake using ports in Zambia and Tanzania, perhaps unknown to the authorities there." The commander, named as Major Songolo, also claimed to have captured four Zimbabwean soldiers and a white Namibian officer in clashes around Moba.

UN Security Council/EU calls for withdrawal of foreign troops

The UN Security Council on Friday called for the "orderly withdrawal" of all foreign forces in the DRC. A UN press release received by IRIN said the Council also urged "arrangements" for border security and all-inclusive national reconciliation leading to early elections. The Council said it would consider the "active involvement of the United Nations" to help implement an effective ceasefire and a political settlement.

EU leaders meeting in Vienna on Saturday also called for the withdrawal of foreign forces and a political settlement to the conflict. A statement received by IRIN said: "The European Council reaffirms its support to the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of Congo and of its neighbouring countries and calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities, a withdrawal of foreign troops from the DRC and for negotiations of all the concerned parties, with a view to an urgent political solution of the conflict."

Burundi again denies involvement in conflict

Burundi has rejected a report from the Missionary Service News Agency (MISNA) that last week said Burundian army soldiers were supporting the rebels in the DRC. In a statement received by IRIN today, the Burundian government said it was "in no way" involved in the DRC conflict and that "no Burundian soldier has been killed in the Congo."

BURUNDI: Soldiers deployed to "trouble" spots

The Burundian army has deployed soldiers in response to "pockets of trouble" in Bubanza, Bujumbura-rurale, Makamba and Bururi provinces, the Burundi News Agency ABP said on Friday. ABP quoted Minister of Defence Alfred Nkurunziza as saying assailants in those four provinces had crossed from Tanzania and the DRC.

Meanwhile, three inter-party working commissions began week-long meetings in Arusha, Tanzania, today to prepare for the next round of Burundi peace talks scheduled for 18 January, news agencies said.

RWANDA: ICTR finds former militia leader guilty of genocide

A former leader of the Interahamwe militia, Omar Serushago, was today found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), a spokesman for the court in Arusha, Tanzania, told IRIN. Serushago, who headed the Interahamwe in Gisenyi prefecture in 1994, had earlier in the day pleaded guilty to charges of genocide, murder, extermination and torture and not guilty to charges of rape. The rape charge was subsequently withdrawn at the request of the prosecution, the spokesman said. Serushago's pre-sentencing hearing is scheduled for 29 January. He was the third person to be found guilty of genocide by the ICTR.

UGANDA: Police investigate ministers names in privatisation report

The Ugandan police are investigating senior government officials accused of corruption in a parliamentary report on privatisation, the semi-official 'Sunday Vision' reported. "Parliament has done its part, ours is to investigate whether they contravened the law," the paper quoted a CID official as saying. Among those mentioned in the select committee's findings were President Yoweri Museveni's brother Major-General Salim Saleh, four ministers and two government officials. Minister of State for Privatisation Mathew Rukikaire, criticised for failing to supervise the privatisation process, reportedly resigned on Friday.

Military intelligence probes tank deal

Ugandan military intelligence is also probing the deal involving the importation of 62 tanks from the Ukraine, the 'New Vision' reported on Saturday. The investigation follows allegations by MP Aggrey Awori that the price paid for the tanks was inflated and only eight of them were operational. According to the newspaper, State Minister for Defence Stephen Kavuma said he would issue a statement of clarification over the allegations.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Militia try to take Moukoukoulou dam

Cocoyes militia allied to former president Pascal Lissouba tried unsuccessfully to seize the Moukoukoulou hydroelectric dam in the Bouensa region on Friday, RFI said today. One soldier was reported killed and six militia arrested, it said. Cocoyes militia occupied the Moukoukoulou dam for several weeks in April-May, cutting off electricity in much of southern Congo. Friday's incident comes in the wake of several violent clashes between security forces and Ninja militia allied to former Prime Minister Bernard Kolelas in the Pool region south of the capital Brazzaville.

AFRICA: OAU refugee conference opens in Sudan

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, speaking yesterday at the opening session of a three-day OAU ministerial conference in Khartoum, warned that Africa's refugee problem posed an "imminent catastrophe," while international assistance was diminishing, news agencies reported. In his opening address, OAU chairman and Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, deploring the number of armed conflicts on the continent, called on Africans to "return to reason, respect human rights and protect minorities," news agencies said. Delegates from some 45 African countries are attending the meeting, aimed at finding durable solutions to the problem of refugees, returnees and displaced persons on the continent.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council on Friday was considering a request by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to allow UN participation at the Khartoum conference, news agencies said. Sanctions imposed by the council against Sudan in 1996 call on international and regional organisations not to convene conferences in the country.

IGAD: Ministers meet to "re-energise" regional grouping

IGAD foreign ministers have met in Khartoum to discuss the future of the organisation, PANA reported yesterday. Due to problems among member states, "the feeling was becoming rife that IGAD was about to die," Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told the news agency. The IGAD meeting, ahead of the OAU ministerial conference on refugees, was held to "re-energise" the seven-member body, he said.

GREAT LAKES: UN seeks US $314 million for emergency aid

UN agencies on Friday issued consolidated appeals for US $314 million to provide humanitarian aid in Burundi, the DRC, Uganda and Tanzania during 1999. A UN statement released in Geneva and received by IRIN today said more than 1.4 million people from the four countries were internally displaced or living as refugees within the region. "The number of people and communities affected by ongoing conflicts in the Great Lakes region has actually increased since last year," the statement said. The appeals request funds for the delivery, coordination and monitoring of emergency aid and will address water, food, nutrition, health, education and other needs of affected populations.

Nairobi, 14 December 1998, 15:50 GMT


Date: Mon, 14 Dec 1998 18:52:46 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 566 for 12-14 Dec 1998.12.14

Editor: Ali B. Dinar,