IRIN Update 589 for 16-18 Jan 1999

IRIN Update 589 for 16-18 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. 589 for Central and Eastern Africa (Saturday-Monday 18 January 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Namibia hosts mini-summit

Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu arrived in Namibia today (Monday) for renewed peace talks on the Congo conflict, news organisations reported. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and an Angolan delegation headed by Defence Minister Pedro Sebastiao flew in yesterday (Sunday). DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila and leaders of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) were not invited to the mini-summit, Namibian officials said. The officials said the Windhoek gathering would lay the groundwork for a fresh regional summit after weekend talks in Lusaka, Zambia, were postponed.

Regional minsters set up committees

Regional defence and foreign ministers meeting in Lusaka on Saturday unanimously accepted a ceasefire accord drafted by the OAU, the South African news agency SAPA reported. An official communique said the ministers had agreed to set up two committees to work on the proposed ceasefire and security concerns of the DRC and its neighbours. The committees are to submit their reports to the next ministerial meeting to be convened "as soon as possible", AFP quoted the communique as saying. No date was set for the ministerial meeting or for the postponed regional summit.

Kabila visits Angola

Kabila, meanwhile, travelled to Luanda today to meet Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Congo-Brazzaville counterpart Denis Sassou-Nguesso, AFP reported. The three leaders are to discuss the DRC conflict and instability in Congo-Brazzaville, the dispatch said. According to rebel-controlled Bukavu radio, the EU Great Lakes envoy Aldo Ajello is to visit South Africa today and then on to Zambia to assess the state of DRC peace talks.

RCD offers Kisangani as alternative talks venue

The RCD has offered Kisangani as a venue for direct negotiations with Kabila, instead of Kinshasa. In a statement on Saturday, the RCD said the fact that Kabila invited the rebels to Kinshasa "indicates that the principle of direct negotiations is a fact." Meanwhile, RCD commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane told AFP on Friday he was prepared to go to Kinshasa to meet Kabila as long as he was allowed to take 5,000-men, tanks and armoured vehicles to ensure his security.

Rights group wants abuses investigated

Human Rights Watch on Friday called on ministers meeting in Lusaka to urge full investigations into alleged human rights abuses committed in the DRC war. Foreign militaries participating on both sides of the conflict should also be probed, the statement said.

RCD says killed 71 militia in Bukavu

The RCD has upped the militia death toll in fighting for Bukavu from 47 to 71. Ondekane told AFP that between 1,600 and 2,000 Mayi-Mayi militia and Rwandan and Burundi rebels attacked the eastern DRC town last week, but were driven off. He said a significant quantity of weapons, including artillery, was captured. He added that RCD forces lost one man killed and five wounded.

Indisciplined troops caused Zongo panic

A refugee exodus from the northwestern town of Zongo at the beginning of the month was sparked by unruly government troops rather than rebel action, state TV reported on Friday. The broadcast, monitored by the BBC, said soldiers had looted a drinks depot belonging to Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba. A battalion of the special presidential guard was sent from Kinshasa to restore order, and life is returning to normal, the report said.

Government denies massacre allegations

The DRC ministry of foreign affairs has denied allegations that government troops massacred civilians in the northwestern towns of Libenge and Gemena earlier this month. A ministry statement broadcast on state radio on Thursday said the massacre allegations were propagated by the "enemies of the Congolese people". AFP reported that more than 300 people had been killed when government forces recaptured the two towns.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: ICRC reports start of vaccination campaign

The ICRC reported that the local Red Cross Society in CAR had begun a vaccination campaign against childhood diseases amongst 5,000 refugees from neighbouring DRC, who are seeking shelter in Bangui, the country's capital city. The vaccination programme is being carried out before the people transfer from Bangui to a transit camp, the ICRC said its weekly newsletter.

New government named

CAR Prime Minister Anicet Georges Dologuele has formed a new government, Radio France Internationale reported on Friday. The radio, monitored by the BBC, said the 25-member cabinet includes four opposition leaders. Only nine ministers from the outgoing government were retained.

BURUNDI: Peace talks open

Burundi mediator Julius Nyerere held informal discussions today with participants to the fourth round of peace talks in Arusha, Tanzania The Associated Press reported. Eighteen political parties and groups are taking part in the Burundi talks, due to start today.

RWANDA: Rwanda to drop French for English

Rwanda is to replace French with English as its official language. President Bizimungu said the reason for the change was due to France's involvement in the 1994 genocide, the weekly 'The EastAfrican' reported today. "If you followed the recent report of investigations from the French Parliament, it is clearly indicated that France has been involved in the genocide in Rwanda and in the events which proceeded the massacres, because they wanted to 'defend their own language'," Bizimungu was quoted as saying.

Rwanda's EAC application to be considered

Meanwhile, Rwanda's application to join the three-member East African Cooperation (EAC) is to be considered on Thursday at a meeting of the regional organisation. EAC spokesman Magaga Alot told IRIN Rwanda's acceptance would depend on whether it fulfills the membership criteria. These include a commitment to democracy and the rule of law, compatibility of social and economic policies, and potential to strengthen the EAC.

SUDAN: NDA denies Eritrean troops massing on border

The opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) denied on Saturday government accusations that Eritrean troops were massing on the border, AFP reported. An NDA statement said Khartoum's allegations were designed to "attract support from radical extremist organisations and their allies." In a counter-claim, the NDA said Khartoum had deployed 5,000 men close to "liberated" territories in eastern Sudan.

Rebels reportedly kidnap seven

A Khartoum government newspaper reported on Saturday that rebels abducted four civilians and three pro-government militiamen in eastern Sudan and took them to Eritrea. The 25 insurgents kidnapped the men from a government tax office in the Shajarab area, 'Al-Anbaa' said. AP reported that the newspaper did not say which rebel group the insurgents belonged to and when the incident happened.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Annan to send special envoy Sahnoun

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday announced that Mohamed Sahnoun, his special envoy in Africa, will be sent "in support of the diplomatic efforts" of the OAU and the US in resolving the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict. Sahnoun is expected to travel to the region soon. Annan expressed concern at "heightened tension" between the two countries, whose border dispute has rumbled on since May 1998. Sahnoun has had an "as and when employed" arrangement as Annan's African envoy since December 1997. US facilitator Anthony Lake made his latest visit to Ethiopia last week and arrived in the Eritrean capital Asmara yesterday, news agencies report. A set of OAU-supported proposals aired in December have failed to resolve the tension, while an ill-concealed arms race has consumed millions of dollars. The humanitarian situation is stable, news and humanitarian reports say, but large numbers of people are displaced from along the common border, some deliberately evacuating border towns, others fleeing earlier fighting.

ETHIOPIA-KENYA: 'Border' clash reportedly leaves 18 dead

Officials from Kenya's ministry for internal security have denied media reports that Ethiopian troops and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) rebels clashed at the weekend near the northeastern Kenyan town of Moyale. "Kenyans were neither caught up or involved in the clashes. The fight took place between the two factions on the Ethiopian side. Sources from the ground have confirmed that the Kenyan side was calm and peaceful," the officials told IRIN. They said reports in Kenya's 'Daily Nation' and 'Standard' today that 18 people were killed and several wounded, among them Kenyans, were "exaggerated". The officials also denied reports that the district commissioner had confirmed the fighting, allegedly sparked by an Ethiopian attack on a border village in Moyale district.

Nairobi, 18 January 1999, 15:15 GMT


Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 18:49:22 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 589 for 16-18 Jan 1999.1.18

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

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