IRIN Update 586 for 13 Jan 1999

IRIN Update 586 for 13 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. 586 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 13 January 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Garreton accepts invitation to open probe

UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the DRC Roberto Garreton told IRIN today (Wednesday) he had "every intention" of accepting an invitation by the Kinshasa government to probe alleged rights violations. "Absolutely, after all it was me who asked for it in the first place," he noted. The government of President Laurent-Desire Kabila on Monday invited the special rapporteur to return to the county in February. But Garreton said the exact date was now a matter of negotiation. He stressed his mandate was to investigate the human rights situation in the whole of the country during 1998, and not just probe alleged massacres in the east of the country in the run up to Kabila's take-over in 1996. "I don't exclude it, but as of today that is not my mandate," he said.

Rebels capture northeastern town

The Roman Catholic Missionary Service, MISNA, said today that a "large group" of government soldiers and civilians drowned at the weekend in the Uere river escaping the capture of Ango in the northeast by DRC rebels. MISNA also quoted sources as saying the Catholic mission in Amadi, southeast of Ango, had been repeatedly looted by Mayi-Mayi in the last few weeks. Meanwhile, some DRC refugees fleeing into the Central African Republic have alleged DRC government forces killed civilians on the road south of Zongo, missionary sources told IRIN today.

Food stocks await replenishment

Only limited food distributions have been carried out in Kinshasa pending the replenishment of food stocks, according to WFP's latest Emergency Update. There are 120,000 persons in the city who require food assistance, including war-affected persons, malnourished and street children, orphans, hospital in-patients and other vulnerable groups. In the Lubumbashi area, WFP is preparing an assistance programme for some 6,000 Congolese and an estimated 40,000 Angolan refugees.

Kinshasa bans use of forex for local transactions

The DRC government has banned the use of foreign currency as payment for local transactions. The government decree issued at the weekend aims to stem speculation against the local currency, Reuters reported yesterday (Tuesday). The local unit fell to 4.50 per US$ from 4.20 last week and 3.50 around the start of the year. Foreign exchange operators have blamed the depreciation on the recent issuance of new notes.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: WFP resumes food airlifts

WFP early this week resumed an emergency airlift of food supplies to feed some 50,000 displaced Congolese whose nutritional status had reached alarming levels as a result of shortages in the capital Brazzaville. The first of 30 cargo flights from Pointe Noire arrived in the city on Monday carrying 22 mt of relief food, WFP said in a statement. A total of 600 mt, some of which will be barged across to Kinshasa for war victims there who have been short of food since October, will be distributed this week through the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) assisted by WFP.

According to WFP, most of the refugees who fled to northern areas of the city last month to escape fierce fighting are huddled in 21 ad-hoc sites, living in cramped, unsanitary conditions in churches, schools and abandoned buildings. Many have had virtually nothing to eat for the past three weeks. "Malnutrition is reportedly setting in on the weakest, with children and pregnant mothers rapidly losing body weight. Many are reduced to lying on the ground throughout the day to conserve their limited energy," Rigobert Oura, WFP's Emergency Officer for Brazzaville said in the statement. Insecurity has cut-off the city from external sources of food except for the agency's aid flights which can only bring in limited supplies.

Humanitarian sources told IRIN that some of the displaced had crossed the border into DRC. An estimated 5,000, of which only 1,700 are believed to be Congolese, had been sighted by UNHCR at Mbanza-Ngungu. The remaining 3,300 are from DRC and west African states.

BURUNDI: CNDD-FDD faction inclusion in talks "being negotiated"

A breakaway faction of the Burundi rebel group Conseil national pour la defense de democratie (CNDD), the CNDD-FDD faction, may join the Arusha peace process next week, a source close to the talks told IRIN today. A spokesman for the CNDD-FDD told IRIN on Wednesday that it had not yet officially been invited, but warned that if the CNDD-FDD "is not involved in the peace process, there will be no peace". The CNDD-FDD is led by former CNDD chief-of-staff Colonel Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye. A Burundi analyst told IRIN that the original CNDD, led by Leonard Nyangoma has no real military power any more, and that "Jean-Bosco calls the shots militarily".

The absence of the CNDD-FDD from the Arusha peace process undermined the credibility of a ceasefire agreed last year. The analyst told IRIN it was "ludicrous" to have attempted a ceasefire without "the armed party". The source close to the talks told IRIN the decision on CNDD-FDD's participation in the discussions set to start on Monday would be made by the current participants of the talks, not by facilitator Julius Nyerere. The participation of CNDD-FDD in addition to the original CNDD was being "negotiated amongst the parties... once they are agreed he [Nyerere] has no problem." The talks are set to last until 28 January, and will overlap with a regional summit on 23 January that is expected to suspend sanctions on Burundi.

Food distribution halted by military

A distribution of food commodities and non-food items to 13,000 displaced persons in Kabezi, Bujumbura Rurale was recently halted by the military authorities, WFP reports. The distribution teams had travelled to the area under a military escort, following the government's request for assistance to some 30,000 recently displaced persons in Bujumbura Rural and subsequent to joint assessment missions that visited various areas of the province.

Meanwhile, Food Economy Analysis and Rapid Assessments carried out by WFP teams in the provinces of Bubanza, Bururi and Kayanza identified another 19,500 persons who require food assistance in January, with another 3,100 persons needing longer term assistance.

RWANDA: Hutu refugees return from DRC

More than 2,000 Rwandan Hutus have returned home from the Masisi region of DRC since the start of the year, news organisations report. A local official in Rwerere told state radio that some of the returnees surrendered arms and ammunition. UNHCR told IRIN it was visiting Rwerere today to assess the situation.

Resettlement of displaced continues

Displaced persons in the two north-western prefectures of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi continue to settle in new villages, according to WFP. In Ruhengeri, more than 50 percent of the displaced population has now been housed in the new villages. In total there are 715,000 displaced persons in Ruhengeri and Gisenyi benefiting from WFP food assistance.

Health and nutrition improves

The health and nutritional situation of the displaced persons in camps in the north-western prefectures has improved, WFP reports. Government health officials are now regularly visiting the health centres established in the camps, therapeutic feeding programmes have been initiated by Concern and MFS/Belgium, UNICEF has distributed water tanks in various communes and drugs and vaccinations have been made available.

SUDAN: WFP says resumption of conflict would rekindle famine

WFP said yesterday that a continued cessation of hostilities was of paramount importance to avoid a repeat of last year's famine in southern Sudan. With only three days to go before the expiry of the ceasefire between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army, WFP warned that an escalation in fighting would strike a deadly blow to thousands of fragile people. "So much help has been provided and so many lives have been saved. We simply cannot accept that a resurgence in fighting wipes it all away," said WFP Executive Director Catherine Bertini.

UNITED NATIONS: UN Special envoy on children in armed conflict

The UN's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, yesterday urged that the age limit for soldiers be raised from 15 to 18 years, with the threshold enforced by the international community. In his address to the Working Group on the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child in Geneva, he recommended the United Nations address the social, economic and political conditions that give rise to child soldiers. He reported that after talks with Julius Nyerere, the facilitator of the Burundi peace talks, issues of child soldiers and their demobilisation would be included in the provisions of the Arusha peace process, a UN statement said.

Nairobi, 13 January 1999, 15:30 GMT


Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 19:12:59 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 586 for 13 Jan 1999.1.13

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

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