IRIN Update 570 for 18 Dec 1998

IRIN Update 570 for 18 Dec 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. 570 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 18 December 1998)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Glimmer of light as sides agree to discuss ceasefire

African states involved in the DRC conflict have agreed to meet in Lusaka on 27 and 28 December to try and reach accord on a ceasefire, news organisations reported today (Friday). The announcement was made by OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim today at a news conference in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, following an OAU summit meeting. Current OAU chairman, Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, said the warring sides had worked on a "pre-agreement" and it was hoped the Lusaka summit would finalise the pact.

According to Reuters, a five-point OAU report made the following recommendations: an immediate ceasefire, respect for national sovereignty, withdrawal of foreign troops, the need to address security concerns in DRC and neighbouring states, and the need to facilitate internal political dialogue in DRC.

Leaders of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) were in Burkina Faso, but did not take part in the meeting. Participants said pressure was put on President Laurent-Desire Kabila to negotiate with the RCD, but he appeared reluctant to soften his stance of refusing to meet the rebels. Kabila claims the conflict is an "outside aggression" waged by Rwanda and Uganda, which were represented at the meeting by their foreign ministers.

No breakthrough at OAU meeting on Ethiopia-Eritrea dispute The Ouagadougou meeting also discussed the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea, but no major breakthrough was reported. According to AP, the countries' leaders continued to openly accuse each other of unprovoked aggression.

Food aid for Angolan refugees

WFP has approved an emergency operation to provide some 4,825 mt of food aid to about 40,000 Angolan refugees in the western provinces of Katanga, Bandundu and Bas-Congo over the next six months, WFP said in its latest weekly emergency report. The refugees have fled armed conflict in the Angolan province of Lunda Norte since May, the report said. The US $3.7 million project will also support the local population in rehabilitation work, it added.

Uganda prints rebel paper

Uganda's semi-official 'New Vision' admitted yesterday (Thursday) that it printed a newspaper on behalf of the RCD rebels, AFP reported. The daily said that the editor of 'Les Coulisses', Nicaise Kibel'bel Oka, was hospitalised in western Uganda after a car crash on his way from collecting the newspapers from Kampala.

UGANDA: Tank purchase questioned

The 'New Vision' reported yesterday growing corruption concerns over the recent purchase of more than 60 T-55 tanks through an Israeli arms dealer. About 10 of the Soviet-era tanks are already grounded. A mechanical engineer from the ministry of works who inspected the tanks in eastern Europe reportedly refused to issue a certificate of worthiness. There are also concerns that the tanks were heavily overvalued.

Meanwhile, President Yoweri Museveni has accepted the resignation of Minister of State for Finance Matthew Rukikaire and is committed to investigate all senior officials named in a hard-hitting parliamentary report on corruption in the privatisation programme, Ugandan state radio reported today.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: UNHCR assists Pool refugees

Some 8,500 refugees have arrived in the Luozi area of Bas-Congo from the Pool region of Congo-Brazzaville, a UNHCR spokesman told IRIN yesterday. The refugees have fled fighting between Congolese government forces and Ninja militia in Pool over the past two months, he said. A recent UNHCR mission to the area found that the refugees were meeting their own basic food needs. However, a continuation of fighting would threaten trade lines on which the refugees depend for their food and other basic supplies, he said. The current priority needs are for medical assistance and soap, the spokesman added.

Meanwhile, heavy weapons fire could be heard again today in Brazzaville coming from the Pool region, some 20 km from the capital, and displaced populations were continuing to arrive in the city, humanitarian sources said. Yesterday, government soldiers looted shops and harassed their owners in the southern part of Brazzaville, news agencies reported. Police fired into the air to disperse the looting troops, AFP said.

UNITED NATIONS: Insufficient meningitis vaccine in Africa, WHO says

The UN World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Wednesday that there were not enough vaccines for the forthcoming meningitis season in African countries affected by the disease. The Geneva-based organisation said in a statement that a minimum global stock of 7 million doses was needed, but only 6 million were available to deal with the current epidemic which began in 1996.

Lindsay Martinez, Director of WHO's Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response, said countries still being hit by the current epidemic needed an effective international response which meant maintaining sufficient vaccine stocks and a smoothly functioning system.

Martinez warned that given the fact that several African countries affected by meningitis had not yet experienced an upsurge in this epidemic cycle, the number of cases might increase dramatically in the near future. Approximately 280 million people are at risk across the "meningitis belt", which extends from Ethiopia in the east to Senegal in the west.

Nairobi, 18 December 1998, 11:00 GMT


Date: Fri, 18 Dec 1998 13:44:12 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 570 for 18 Dec 1998.12.18

Editor: Ali B. Dinar,