IRIN Update 581 for 6 Jan 1999

IRIN Update 581 for 6 Jan 1999

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. 581 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 6 January 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels to probe alleged massacre

The rebel Rassemblement congolaise pour la democratie (RCD) said today (Wednesday) it had ordered an investigation into allegations that its forces massacred at least 500 civilians in a remote village in the eastern DRC over the New Year. "If it is true, then those responsible will be punished ... but we cannot say if it is true or not," RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba told Reuters from Goma. The Roman Catholic missionary news service MISNA said yesterday (Tuesday) that the massacre in the village of Makobola, 15 km from Uvira, was in retaliation for an earlier Mayi-Mayi attack in the area. MISNA said the victims had been shot and hacked to death and then buried. They included women and children and a local protestant church leader. The count is continuing to determine the final death toll.

Human rights sources in touch with the region confirmed to IRIN today that the killings had taken place. They said a Mayi-Mayi group infiltrating the Uvira region from Fizi had attacked an RCD position in the Makobola area before escaping into the bush. RCD reinforcements from Uvira arrived in the village and exacted revenge on the local population, the sources said.

Meanwhile, the sources refuted RCD claims that they still control Fizi. They said Mayi-Mayi and Burundi rebel forces hold the town under the command of an ex-FAZ officer, Colonel Njabiola. They added that Moba and Zongo were in government hands while the RCD controlled Nyunzu, Businga and Gemena. In an interview in Kigali yesterday with state radio, Wamba dia Wamba denied Moba had fallen.

Concern over humanitarian situation in Kinshasa

Humanitarian sources told IRIN today that the situation in Kinshasa continued to be of "considerable concern". Chlorine stocks were now reportedly exhausted with serious potential ramifications for clean water provision and that food stocks were again low and market prices high.

Serious food shortages in Kisangani

In addition, they said flooding around rebel-held Kisangani had left the eastern city without electricity for the last several days. LWF, which sent a fact-finding team to Kisangani in late-December, reported that although foodstuffs were available the lack of purchasing power on behalf of the local population was contributing to serious food shortages. "Many Kisangani residents remain unable to feed themselves adequately due to lack of financial resources. This is evidenced by increasing numbers of children requiring supplementary feeding," the team reported.

In general, the team concluded there was a humanitarian crisis, though "not an acute emergency", saying many among the town's estimated 500,000 population had fled into the bush. "The isolation of Kisangani has reduced supplies of most commodities and has affected the health standards of the people. There are no supplies of soaps. Skin infections are very common among children and women," the team's report stated. In addition, it said a water purification plant was expected to have exhausted its supply of chemicals by the end of December. "After this date the population will only have access to untreated water and will suffer increased exposure to water-borne diseases," the report added.

UNHCR reports refugee exodus

UNHCR said yesterday fighting in the DRC has led to an exodus of refugees into the neighbouring Central Africa Republic and Uganda. The UN agency said that since Saturday some 5,000 Congolese refugees, mostly women and children, had fled the northern town of Zongo for the CAR capital Bangui. The refugees said they feared the town was about to fall to the RCD. In Uganda, UNHCR has registered more than 2,900 refugees over the past several days. Most of them had arrived from the DRC's Tutshuru district.

Government sends more troops to Zongo

Meanwhile, human rights sources told IRIN that 500 DRC government troops have been flown into Bangui to reinforce government forces in Zongo. The sources said the soldiers were ferried in on a plane requisitioned from the state mining company Societe Miniere du Kivu (SOMINKI).

Hopes of British boost to peace process

Officials in Southern Africa are hoping that a visit to South Africa this week by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair will help boost international support for peace talks involving all parties involved in the DRC conflict. South African officials told IRIN today that they expected a series of "quiet diplomatic initiatives" undertaken in recent weeks would enable the warring parties to gather with regional leaders in the Zambian capital Lusaka by the middle of the month.

Namibia says four soldiers killed in DRC

The Namibian authorities have admitted the death of four soldiers in the DRC since its forces were deployed in support of President Laurent-Desire Kabila. In a letter to the independent 'The Namibian' newspaper, Prime Minister Hage Geingob accused the media of exaggerating the death toll, AFP reported. He said that is one reason why the government has imposed a news blackout on the military operation.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe arrived in Namibia yesterday for a four-day private retreat with his counterpart Sam Nujoma. The two leaders are expected to discuss the situation in DRC. Mugabe told Namibian TV that Zimbabwe would participate in peace talks scheduled for Lusaka next week.

TANZANIA: Government appeals for urgent food aid

Tanzania has appealed for urgent food aid to help cover what it described as acute shortages in 13 out of the country's 20 regions. According to media reports yesterday, Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye said that from now until July Tanzania will face a food deficit of some 600,000 mt. WFP country representative Irene Lacey told IRIN today that an FAO/WFP assessment mission was due in Tanzania on 17 January to help verify the situation. The mission is to be accompanied by donor observers. "We know there's a serious problem," Lacey said. "In addition to Dodoma and Singida regions, pockets of critical need have been identified in Iringa and Morogoro."

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Army's conduct criticised

Government forces today claimed they killed dozens of Ninja rebels in fighting south of Brazzaville while acknowledging the loss of at least four of their own men and two armoured vehicles, AFP reported. The clashes occurred in operations yesterday to flush out Ninja militiamen from the Linzolo hills, 20 km from the capital. Meanwhile, government radio has criticised the army's conduct in last month's fighting in the southern suburbs of Brazzaville. The radio commentary, monitored by the BBC, said the army had shown signs of weakness and serious lapses in military discipline, including looting.

SUDAN: Kerubino defects again

Sudanese rebel leader Kerubino Kwanyin Bol has defected again to the government's side, news reports said. Kerubino is believed to be in Upper Nile preparing to link up with his militia in Bahr al-Ghazal.

New dress code for women

The government has ordered all women to wear Islamic attire and head scarves in public, news reports said yesterday. Public order police will ensure the new dress code is enforced. Respect for the new law would be a condition for entering the country.

Nairobi, 6 January 1999, 14:50 GMT


Date: Wed, 6 Jan 1999 18:23:11 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 581 for 6 Jan 1999.1.6

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

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