IRIN Update 572 for 22 Dec 1998.12.22

IRIN Update 572 for 22 Dec 1998.12.22

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. 572 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 22 December 1998)

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Humanitarian crisis amid massive displacement

The number of people displaced by fighting and looting in southern Brazzaville is now estimated at between 200,000 and 250,000, humanitarian sources said today (Tuesday). Most of the displaced - from the Bacongo, Makelekele and Diatta areas - have fled to northern Brazzaville and the rest have moved southwards, the sources said. Heavy fighting between government forces and Ninja militia in southern Brazzaville ended on Sunday, but news agencies said Cobra militia were yesterday (Monday) looting abandoned homes and shops. Meanwhile, Radio France Internationale today said the army was pursuing the retreating Ninja militia on the outskirts of the city. Police sources estimate that 400 people were killed during the weekend clashes.

Continued insecurity hampering relief efforts

UN Humanitarian Coordinator Dominique AitOuyahia McAdams told IRIN today priority humanitarian needs were to treat wounded civilians and provide water and sanitation assistance to displaced populations. However, no assistance could be provided without security assurances, she added. The precarious humanitarian situation in the city is exacerbated by the absence of electricity and running water supplies over the past five days, McAdams said. Personnel of local health facilities have fled, and there is currently no access to the affected districts of southern Brazzaville, she said.

A UN spokesman said yesterday in New York that 10 UN international staff members were evacuated by plane to Kinshasa on Saturday, leaving five in Brazzaville. Humanitarian sources in Brazzaville told IRIN some aid agency equipment, including vehicles and fuel supplies, had been looted.

WFP warns of potential large-scale needs

Meanwhile, WFP said thousands of people who had recently arrived in Brazzaville in a weakened state after fleeing insecurity in the Pool region since September were "once again running for their lives." In a statement received by IRIN today, WFP said many of the displaced people have virtually no food and little if any money or personal possessions to help them survive. A deterioration of the situation would result in the need for a large-scale humanitarian response, which would be logistically difficult given the country's limited infrastructure and the impact of insecurity, the statement said.

France evacuates its nationals

France evacuated 61 of its nationals from Brazzaville over the weekend due to fighting and insecurity in the city, Reuters said yesterday. The evacuees were flown to the southern port city of Pointe-Noire, from where some have gone on to France via Gabon on an Air France flight, Reuters said. Another 381 French nationals had decided to remain in Brazzaville, it added.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Plight of Banyamulenge displaced

Some 130 Banyamulenge displaced families from Vyura have moved to new camps in the plains of Ruzizi. Others have been encouraged to vacate temporary shelters in schools to allow for the start of the new academic year, humanitarian sources told IRIN today. However, "the biggest challenge for all of the displaced is that the camps are not yet ready for a big number to move in," the sources said. Among the pressing needs in the camps are plastic sheeting, water supplies, food, seeds and tools. The sources added that over the last three months security in the region has been relatively calm. But over the past two weeks, Mayi-Mayi attacks have been reported around Fizi town and on the Hauts Plateaux.

National polio campaign launched

A national polio immunization campaign, postponed in August due to the outbreak of the conflict, was launched yesterday but will initially cover only three provinces. The first phase of the campaign, lasting three days, will strive to vaccinate some 2.2 million children under five years old in Kinshasa, Bas-Congo and Kasai Occidental, a UNICEF spokesman told IRIN today. The campaign, part of global efforts to eradicate polio by the year 2000, initially aimed to vaccinate all 10 million children under five throughout the country.

Meanwhile, some 50,000 children were vaccinated against measles in rebel-held Kisangani earlier this month, a UNICEF spokesman told IRIN. The campaign was organised in response to a recent measles outbreak in the city, he said.

UNHCR identifies 3,000 refugees in Uganda

A UNHCR mission to southwestern Uganda has identified a group of nearly 3,000 Congolese refugees who have fled eastern DRC's Rutshuru district over the past few weeks. They entered Uganda at Kisoro and are being moved to the Kyangwali refugee settlement near Lake Albert. The settlement already hosts around 3,400 Congolese refugees, while a further 3,000 are in Kyaka II and Nakiavale, UNHCR said in a statement.

UGANDA: Journalists condemn government intimidation

The arrest of the editor of the independent 'Crusader' newspaper, George Lugalambi, on 17 December has been described as "shocking" by a senior Ugandan journalist. "It looks like the government is deliberately pressurising journalists in the run-up to the referendum," the journalist told IRIN today. "It comes at a time when people expected the government to give an explanation to the current [corruption] scandals it's facing." Lugalambi was charged with promoting sectarianism - a crime which carries a maximum of five-years' imprisonment - over an article he wrote on the alleged arming of the Bahima, a subgroup of the Banyankole, to which President Yoweri Museveni belongs. He was released on police bail on 18 December. The hearing is set for 15 January.

Meanwhile, James Mujini the Mbarara bureau chief of the semi-official 'New Vision' was released on Sunday after 24 hours in detention. He was questioned over reports on gun proliferation in Ankole. On his release, Mujini said he had been asked by the police to be a state witness against Lugalambi but refused, the newspaper reported.

LRA kills four

The 'New Vision' reported on Saturday that Lord's Resistance Army rebels killed four people and injured 20 in a bus ambush in northern Uganda. The Kampala-bound bus was attacked at Got-Afonyo on the Karuma-Pakwach road. One child was rescued by an army patrol.

RWANDA: Minister flees

A Rwandan cabinet member has resigned and fled the country after her brothers were arrested on suspicion of collaborating with Hutu rebels fighting in the northwest, the Rwandan News Agency (RNA) reported yesterday. Beatrice Sebatware-Panda, the minister of state for internal affairs, reportedly wrote a resignation letter to President Pasteur Bizimungu on 4 December before leaving for Nairobi "on the pretext of taking her seriously-ill child for treatment", RNA quoted the 'New Times' weekly as saying. According to the newspaper, Interior Minister Sheikh Abdulkarim Harerimana confirmed Sebatware-Panda's departure, saying she was suffering from "psychological shock" after the arrest of her brothers. Her father, a former Hutu police official in Kigali, is sought by the government in connection with the 1994 genocide. RNA said Sebatware-Panda returned to Rwanda from the Mugunga refugee camp in the former Zaire in November 1996.

Continued economic growth predicted

The Economist Intelligence Unit has forecast a seven percent GDP growth for Rwanda this year, and says the country's consolidated budget is in a healthier state than it has been for some years. This is due to substantial levels of foreign assistance, currently running at over 40 percent of total revenue. The EIU predicts Rwanda's real GDP will continue to grow in excess of the African average over the next two years, but warns the continuing war in DRC remains a threat both to Rwanda's security interests and the entire region's economic prospects.

SUDAN: Security key to avoiding repeat famine - OLS

An Annual Needs Assessment report by OLS warns of a bleak year ahead for more than four million Sudanese who have suffered from famine, fighting and flooding during 1994. According to an OLS statement received by IRIN today, people living in Bahr al-Ghazal, Upper Nile and Kassala regions are particularly vulnerable and need assistance. The report warns: "A reversion to acute famine in Bahr al-Ghazal and the emergence of the acute condition in western Upper Nile cannot be ruled out." According to Philippe Borel, UN Coordinator for Relief Operations in Sudan and head of OLS: "Many people are surviving on a fragile base which insecurity could easily shatter, making a humanitarian ceasefire essential to averting famine in 1999." WFP estimates that more than 2 million people will need at least 150,000 mt of food until October 1999.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: Improved food supply situation, but Somalia faces crisis

A special report by the FAO predicts a generally improved food supply situation for sub-Saharan Africa, with notable exceptions such as Somalia. A press release on the report, received today by IRIN, notes "substantial increases" in food production in several areas. Above-average to record harvests were anticipated and therefore the sub-region's cereal imports were expected to be lower than last year, the report said. However, Somalia was among 13 countries listed in the report which were facing "exceptional" food emergencies. The report warned that a major food crisis was developing in Somalia, due to five consecutive reduced harvests caused by drought, civil strife, the worst floods in decades and pest infestations. Cases of malnutrition were high and on the increase.

While food difficulties persisted in Somalia and to some extent in south Sudan, the overall outlook in east Africa was more favourable than in recent years, the report said. In Ethiopia, cereal and pulse production was forecast at 36 percent higher than last year. Food production in the Great Lakes region was said to have recovered significantly, except in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where civil strike was hampering agricultural activities.

(A copy of the press release can be obtained from the IRIN-Extra service).

UNITED NATIONS: UNHCR reports on refugees in Africa

There were 7.2 million people of concern to UNHCR in Africa at the beginning of 1998, the UN refugee agency said in its December Africa Fact Sheet. Of these 3.5 million were refugees, 1.5 million internally displaced people (IDPs) and 2.2 million former refugees who have recently returned home. The largest group of refugees in Africa is from Sierra Leone, UNHCR said, putting the number of Sierra Leoneans who have fled their country at 440,000, most of them in Guinea which is now home to 470,000 refugees of various nationalities. Another 419,000 refugees come from Somalia, 374,000 from Sudan, 320,000 from Eritrea and 300,000 from Burundi, UNHCR said.

(The full report is available on the IRIN-EXTRA service.)

Nairobi, 22 December 1998, 14:20 gmt


Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998 18:05:32 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 572 for 22 Dec 1998.12.22

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

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