IRIN Update 592 for 21 Jan 1999

IRIN Update 592 for 21 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. 592 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 21 January 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels restructure their movement

The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) is to broaden its movement to encompass other opposition groups, and is developing a political programme and federal constitution, news agencies reported yesterday (Wednesday). The RCD intends to create a nationally representative 137-member assembly to act as a parliament. A 24-member government and an eight-person collective presidency is to be in charge of rebel-controlled areas. Ernest Wamba dia Wamba is to remain at the head of the movement, but as part of the collective presidency. The expanded assembly would have the power to check the presidency and government. The programme was hammered out during the course of a general assembly that has been under way for the past two months.

Windhoek looking to withdraw from DRC

Namibia wants to disengage from the DRC conflict, Prime Minister Hage Geingob told AFP this week. "We are for ending the war," he said. "We need to concentrate on development." Namibia is believed to have spent US $10 million and sent 2,000 troops - a quarter of its army - to the conflict. The government has suffered considerable domestic criticism over its military intervention on the side of DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila.

Kampala awaiting summit outcome

Uganda is awaiting the outcome of the planned Lusaka summit before committing itself to a troop withdrawal from the DRC, the semi-official 'New Vision' reported Foreign Minister Amama Mbabazi as saying yesterday. "The primary belligerents in the Congo are the RCD rebels and Kabila. They were not party to the Namibia talks. Both have to be bought on board in the forthcoming Lusaka talks for a final resolution," Mbabazi said. "If Lusaka agrees on a ceasefire and troops withdrawal, then Uganda will have to pull out."

Kigali pessimistic about early agreement

The Rwandan government believes a DRC ceasefire is not imminent. "A ceasefire within three, four months is not expected soon," the private Rwanda News Agency reported Minister in the President's Office Patrick Mazimhaka as saying yesterday. The insistence on the signing of an agreement, "and not the content of an agreement is definitely symptomatic of an impatient world that wants to run away from the problem and not solve the problem". "If you listen to the government of Congo today, it sounds exactly the way it sounded in August," he said. "We are very far from reaching a settlement, but then there are signs of hope."

UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths has completed a mission to DRC in which he focussed on principles of engagement for humanitarian organisations, an OCHA statement said today (Thursday). The principles of neutrality and impartiality were highlighted along with the need to address urgent humanitarian needs of the people and vulnerable groups wherever they are located. The DRC government responded favourably to these humanitarian principles endorsed by the international community, the statement said.

RWANDA: Kigali faces long-term security threats

According to a Rwanda security overview by the London-based research group Oxford Analytica, the security threat to Kigali posed by Hutu rebels has currently receded but remains a challenge in the longer term. The report, released yesterday, said the ex-FAR and Interahamwe have received a "battering" in northwest Rwanda and Kivu, but given the retraining and rearming of opposition groups in the DRC, Kigali's future security cannot be guaranteed. It suggests the integration of opposition militia within the DRC army, notably the Parti armee pour la liberation du rwanda led by Juvenal Habyarimana's former foreign minister Casimir Bizimungu, "provides a serious obstacle for the Rwandan leadership to enter a meaningful ceasefire" in the DRC conflict. Kigali is "unlikely to believe that Kabila's allied forces will be able to command and control the ex-FAR and Interahamwe if a ceasefire, troop standstill and a termination of hostilities were agreed." Rwanda would need to ensure "it continues to receive the support of Uganda, South Africa and the United States to ensure its security," the report adds.

Tribunal aims to speed up genocide trials

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) announced yesterday that it would start to implement measures to speed up trials of individuals suspected of participation in the 1994 genocide. The measures, adopted last year, include a decision that judgement and sentencing would be dealt with as one and not two separate procedures.

The new procedures are to be implemented next Monday in the trial of Alfred Musema, a former director of a tea factory in Kibuye prefecture. He is charged with seven counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of the Geneva Convention. In his initial appearance in November last year, he pleaded not guilty on all counts.

BURUNDI: Aid prospects high for Burundi's reconstruction

The international community is keen on helping in the reconstruction of Burundi, but "they want to be ready when the Burundese are ready," mediator Julius Nyerere told delegates at the Burundi peace process in Arusha. "The international community is ready to move and help Burundi at the community level. It is also willing and preparing to help and give when the parties in negotiation reach an agreement," he said in a statement received by IRIN.

17 killed in southern villages

Burundi's state news agency said yesterday that gunmen killed 17 people in a raid on two villages in the south of the country. The attackers opened fire on people in the villages of Mabanda and Kibago, burnt houses, and killed and mutilated cattle.


Gunmen shot dead 10 people on Monday, including four Chadians, in the southern Brazzaville district of Massengo, the police said yesterday. The Associated Press cited a witness as identifying the attackers as Ninja militia, loyal to ousted Prime Minister Bernard Kolelas. The gunmen apparently selected their victims, shooting first the Chadian cattle traders, and then people identified as northerners. On Tuesday, the army announced it had lifted its blockade on the southern districts of the city. The government appealed to an estimated 80,000 displaced people to return to their homes after a "cleaning exercise" and the removal of 415 dead bodies from the streets, PANA reported. Meanwhile, the Cocoye militia of ex-president Pascal Lissouba still control the Moukoukoulou hydro-electric dam they seized on 6 January. Power remains cut to Pointe-Noire and other towns in the south.

Meanwhile, parliament approved budget expenditure of US $996 for 1999, raising spending levels above an austerity budget announced by the government in November, Reuters reported yesterday.

TANZANIA: Cholera outbreak threatens three districts

A cholera outbreak in southwestern Tanzania threatens three districts in the Rukwa region, MSF told IRIN today. An MSF spokesperson said the situation is "bad in some areas, where they've run out of supplies." MSF is looking into providing supplies and training, she added. Radio Tanzania reported on Saturday that the outbreak had killed 56 people in the region and 529 others are infected. WHO was unable to provide IRIN with current data on the outbreak.

UGANDA: Army deployed to block rebel escape route

The Ugandan army has been deployed along the border with Sudan to block the escape of Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, the 'New Vision' reported yesterday. The newspaper quoted military sources as saying LRA rebels were planning to cross into Sudan "with abducted people and looted items."

EAC: East African Cooperation meeting kicks off in Arusha

The East African Cooperation (EAC) meeting today, in preparation for tomorrow's (Friday) summit, kicked off in Arusha amid last minute delays, EAC Secretariat spokesman Magaga Alot told IRIN. "There is a lot of confusion and commotion here. Consultative committees are still in discussions, but I hope the official opening will take place," he said. Convertibility of the currencies of the three member countries, a common flag and passport, harmonisation of tariffs and mobility of citizens, are some of the fruits of regional cooperation, so far. However, according to analysts, these are not proper yardsticks to measure the success of the EAC. More importantly, they say, is whether agreements reached at the political level apply on the ground, and all partners are equally benefiting.

"The biggest fault is that a lot of work has been done by people coming from a background of government bureaucracy. There is little interaction with the private sector, movers of the economies," financial analyst Robert Shaw told IRIN. Apart from corruption, which he says is common to all the three countries, there is a problem of a trade imbalance in Kenya's favour. These, he told IRIN, are some basic bottlenecks that must be corrected. "Expansion of membership would be nice for building bigger trading blocs to attract investment. But, let us get things right and working, and then bring in others," he added.

AFRICA: UN working group fails to agree raising minimum age of child soldiers

A working group of the UN Commission on Human Rights on the involvement of children in armed conflict failed in Geneva last week to reach consensus on raising the minimum recruitment age of soldiers to 18 years. Sources at the talks told IRIN the session was more procedural than substantive and adjourned after four hours. The working group is to reconvene in January next year to give countries more time to consult over the drafting of the language for an Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to the Scandanavian NGO Radda Barnen, more than 300,000 children under 18 years old are fighting in 36 armed conflicts around the world, 12 of which are in Africa. While many are lawfully recruited, others are kidnapped or coerced into service and suffer under brutal conditions. Britain, which recruits at 16 years, and the United States, have resisted raising the minimum age, the sources said. "We believe the Protocol is essential," a UNICEF official told IRIN. "We must continue to work towards pulling together the global consensus on this."

AFRICA: Nairobi to host world environmental conference

UNEP is to organise a world conference in Nairobi on the control of toxic chemicals from 25-29 January. The conference, following on from last year's Montreal gathering, will involve representatives from 100 countries in negotiating a global treaty to govern Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) known to cause cancer and other health problems. POPs include DDT, chlorine and PCBs - toxic chemicals that migrate globally through eco-systems and accumulate in the tissues of animals and humans. POPs are used widely in Africa to fight malaria and protect crops. "The session is to look at obligations that might be contained in a future convention," a UNEP official told IRIN. "If we can agree an outline for a legal framework, that would be great."

Nairobi, 21 January 1999 15:30 GMT


Date: Thu, 21 Jan 1999 19:35:41 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 592 for 21 Jan 1999.1.21

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

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