IRIN Update 568 for 16 Dec 1998.12.16

IRIN Update 568 for 16 Dec 1998.12.16

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. 568 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 16 December 1998)

BURUNDI: UN report urges immediate action to bring about peace

A new UN report on the situation in Burundi says regional economic sanctions are having a disastrous effect on the poor, and compound the already serious consequences of the country's prolonged conflict. The report, prepared by OCHA-Burundi, notes that sanctions have complicated delivery of badly-needed humanitarian assistance with cumbersome procedures and long delays, wasting both time and money. It stresses that peace efforts within the country, while not without weaknesses, "must be recognised as unique" in a sub-region wracked by violent conflict.

The report warns that Burundi is again at a crossroads. "In the past, such critical junctures have been unrecognised, ignored or in some cases deliberately squandered," it points out. It urges the international community to take action in three areas: developing a programme of recovery, peace-building, human rights and economic growth; expanding humanitarian assistance; and supporting a process of "constructive engagement" to consolidate the progress achieved so far. "Action taken now will make a critical difference to the chances for peace in Burundi," the report concludes.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Zimbabwe confirms two senior officers killed

Zimbabwe's official 'Herald' newspaper today (Wednesday) confirmed that two senior Zimbabwean officers were killed at the weekend when their Allouette helicopter was shot down by rebels over the eastern town of Kabalo. The 'Herald' named the men as Colonel Alphonso Kufa and squadron leader Herbert Vundla. The paper also said that Flight Sergeant Edson Sande, a helicopter gunner, was missing believed captured.

A defence source in Harare told IRIN the helicopter gunship, doubling as an airborne command post, had run out of "solid shot" ammunition which strips foliage to reveal the enemy's position. "They had gotten too close to their quarry," the source said. DRC rebels claimed they killed 47 Zimbabweans, including the two officers, in the weekend fighting and shot down a MiG aircraft. Harare has not released casualty figures for the battle. It officially acknowledges that 10 soldiers have died since the start of its military intervention on behalf of the Kinshasa government. Analysts believe the death toll is far higher.

70 percent of Zimbabweans opposed to intervention

Reuters has meanwhile reported the main army hospital in Harare has been sealed from the public and there have been no public funerals for war dead. It quoted political analysts as saying yesterday (Tuesday) that mounting losses of men and equipment could force Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to seek an early exit from the DRC conflict. The dispatch cited a recent Gallup poll commissioned by a local rights group which said that 70 percent of Zimbabweans are opposed to the military intervention.

Namibia denies rebel claims

Namibia has refuted rebel claims that several of its soldiers were killed at Kabalo. A senior defence official also denied allegations by a rebel commander that a white Namibian officer had been captured. The official said on public television yesterday there were no white officers in the Namibian contingent in DRC.

Meanwhile, regional security sources told IRIN today that a Russian cargo ship has off loaded Orsa class gunboats at the port of Matadi for allied forces. The Russian-made gunboats were seen going up the Zaire river. "They would be useful in an attempt to retake Kisangani," the sources said.

Uganda to mediate between rebels

Kampala is to mediate in talks to reconcile the two DRC rebel groups the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) and the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), the semi-official 'New Vision' reported yesterday. It quoted a Ugandan security officer as saying: "There was a serious misunderstanding between the two. We are trying to make sure they work together, otherwise if they don't, the situation in Congo will remain volatile." The RCD is the main rebel group fighting in the DRC while the MLC led by Jean-Pierre Bemba operates largely in Equateur province.

RWANDA: French report blames UN, US

A French parliamentary commission report yesterday blamed the United Nations and the United States for failing to avert the 1994 Rwandan genocide, news organisations reported. The report, issued after a nine-month inquiry into the genocide, described the genocide as a "serious failure by the international community". It singled out the US for resisting demands to boost the UN mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) which had led to the UN's "passiveness". The UN was "unable to head off mounting violence and put an end to the massacres". The US debacle in Somalia was to blame for Washington's reluctance to intervene, the report said. It came to the conclusion France had not committed major errors, saying it was "not at all implicated in the unleashing of the violence".

Nairobi, 16 December 1998, 13:00 GMT


Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1998 16:17:22 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 568 for 16 Dec 1998.12.16

Editor: Ali B. Dinar,