IRIN Update 597 for 28 Jan 1999

IRIN Update 597 for 28 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. 597 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 28 January 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Archbishop protests Bethany arrests

The Archbishop of Kinshasa has claimed that the people of Rwandan or Tutsi background seized from the Bethany centre in Kinshasa on 12 January were there at the request of the government and were awaiting "repatriation".

He has protested the raid on a church centre in which over 30 people were seized and taken to the Kokolo military camp by DRC soldiers. Archbishop Frederic Cardinal Etsou Nzabi Bamungwabi, in a 14 January statement, expressed his "deep indignation" and demanded the return of looted money and goods as well as the repair of broken doors and windows. Amnesty International reports that some of those arrested were shown on television on 17 January.

The commander of the 50th brigade, named the unit responsible, in a statement carried by the daily 'Le Palmares' on 20 January, denied all the Archbishop's allegations of theft or looting. The statement instead claimed "a good portion of the Catholic clergy" are being manipulated by external forces in order to "destabilise national institutions."

Inter-rebel squabble leaves at least one dead in Uvira

At least one Congolese rebel soldier was killed and four others wounded in a clash between different factions of the Rassemblement congolaise pour la democratie (RCD) in Uvira last weekend, according to reports reaching IRIN from numerous sources. According to the local NGO Groupe Milima the trouble started after a Rwandan army commander, Colonel Dan Gapfizi, and several of the men under his command tried to arrest four army officials from the Banyamulenge Tutsi group within the RCD. It is not clear whether the four are currently detained in the prison in Uvira which is guarded by units loyal to Gapfizi or if they were released following the clash.

Sources close to the rebel movement say the RCD is keen on moving many of the Banyamulenge elements out of their home area of South Kivu and replacing them with other units following reports of massacres of civilians in Makobola about 15-20 km south of Uvira. Initial reports by the Catholic Missionary Network said some 500 people had been killed by rampaging RCD forces after an attack by Mayi Mayi. Sources close to an RCD investigation into the alleged massacre say the figure was much lower, but unofficially admit that RCD forces, mainly made up of Banyamulenge, had been "too vigorous" in their reponse to the incursion by a mixed FDD/Interahamwe/Mayi Mayi group.

One Banyamulenge rebel quoted by the Kinyarwanda service of the Voice of America radio confirmed the clash. "It is unbelievable. Our allies in the Rwandan army want to move us by force to an unknown destination. Certainly, they want to move us out of Uvira, where the men of Gapfizi's command mistreat the local population. That is something we do not want," he said.

Refugees return from CAR

Roughly 600 of the 5,000 Congolese refugees who left the northeastern town of Zongo for the Central African Republic (CAR) have spontaneously returned, UNHCR reports. The refugees said they had run from looting and

killings earlier in the month.

Soldiers flee into CAR

Meanwhile, sources in contact with Zemio in Central African Republic near the DRC border reported that some 3,000-4,000 DRC government soldiers who had fled fighting in the Dingila and Ango areas of Province Orientale were at the Zemio airstrip at the weekend waiting to be flown back to the DRC to rejoin the fighting. The sources told IRIN that the soldiers had been disarmed before they were allowed to enter CAR.

Insecurity closes schools

Meanwhile, humanitarian sources said no schools were operating in Province Orientale's Dungu area and towards the CAR border due to insecurity and lack of supplies. Food did not appear to be a problem for the local population because of recent rice and peanut harvests. However, soap and salt were not available in the area, the sources said.

Ngoma calls for broadbased movement

Rassemblement congolaise pour la democratie (RCD) dissident Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma has turned down the post of deputy chairman of the rebel movement. In a broadcast by Radio France Internationale yesterday, Ngoma said he was more concerned with democratic principles: "If we somewhat move away from that, then I think my presence is not necessary." He condemned the failure of the RCD to create a broadbased democratic movement involving "significant" political organisations in the country that opposed the Mobutu regime. Neither did Ngoma rule out talks with the Kinshasa government: "It is said that in politics there are no solutions, there are only negotiations."

Wamba dia Wamba visits Kampala

Meanwhile, an RCD delegation headed by movement leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba is in Kampala to meet Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the semi-official 'New Vision' reported today. The newspaper linked the delegation's arrival with Ngoma's resignation. It quoted sources as saying that Ngoma was considering joining the rival rebel Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) of Jean-Pierre Bemba.

Garreton mission on for February

Roberto Garreton Special Rapporteur for human rights in the DRC is to undertake a one week mission to the country from 16-23 February. UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said on Tuesday the details of the mission were still being finalised.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Fighting continues

Ninja militia were driven back from the outskirts of Brazzaville on Tuesday, AFP reported. A military source said clashes had been very violent around the town of Mafuta just south of the capital before the rebels retreated to Loua, 15 km away. Meanwhile, nine Europeans were yesterday reported missing in the Dolisie region, the scene of heavy fighting between government forces and Cocoyes militia loyal to ex-president Pascal Lissouba.

UNHCR investigating Rwandan refugee link

UNHCR said on Tuesday it was examining reports that Rwandans living in Congo-Brazzaville might be fighting on the side of the government. According to UNHCR, as fighting intensified between government forces and militia loyal to ex-prime minister Bernard Kolelas last week, Rwandans living in refugee sites north of the capital Brazzaville might have volunteered or been called on to join in. UNHCR spokeswoman Judith Kumin said in Geneva that the government is reported to have sent a boat from Brazzaville to Njoundou, one of the refugee sites housing about 3,000 Rwandans, possibly to pick up volunteers. UNHCR was watching the situation closely, she said.

RWANDA: Annan agrees to genocide probe

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has accepted the priniciple of an independent investigation into his role in the events surrounding the Rwandan genocide. "I have no problem with the proposal. But we must also include the Security Council in the enquiry," he told the Belgian daily 'Le Soir'. Annan, on an official visit to Belgium, also met the families of Belgian peacekeepers killed at the beginning of the genocide. But he did not meet the relatives of the Rwandan genocide victims, Belgian RTBF radio reported yesterday.

SUDAN: Police arrest Ansar followers

The police arrested several members of the Ansar sect on Tuesday for illegal possession of arms and membership of a banned organisation, AFP reported party officials as saying. The sect, the religious wing of the proscribed Ummah party, had been banned from holding celebrations marking the independence of Sudan and the 19th century victory over the British at Khartoum by the Ansar's founder, Muhammed Ahmad al-Mahdi.

Meningitis immunisation plans

The Sudanese health ministry is to target five million people in a meningitis immunisation drive. The ministry said Monday the campaign is aimed at citizens below 30 years old, known to be the most vulnerable age group. The programme, to be completed by the end of February, is to cover most districts of northern Sudan with the support of ICRC, PANA reported. In December, over 100 deaths from meningitis in Northern Darfur state were reported.

Army captures rebel base

State TV reported yesterday the recapture of the Boing area of southeastern Sudan. An army statement said 147 rebels were killed, and weapons and food seized. It added that the region had been a base for attacks in southern Blue Nile.

ETHIOPIA/ERITREA: Annan concerned with simmering conflict

The UN Secretary-General is "very, very concerned" about the simmering conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, UN Special Envoy for Africa Mohamed Sahnoun told IRIN yesterday. Sahnoun was formally assigned by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 15 January to support diplomatic efforts to resolve the eight-month Horn of Africa border dispute. Since border clashes and air raids erupted in May and June 1998, the two countries have been involved in heavily reinforcing their frontiers, recruiting troops and importing weapons and aircraft, news reports say. Large scale voluntary and involuntary conflict-related population movements have left hundreds of thousands of people displaced.

War "highly probable"

Meanwhile, a senior Italian government official has warned of a "high probability" the border war will resume. Foreign Undersecretary Rino Serri, on an IGAD peace mission to the region, called for restraint from the two countries, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Nairobi, 28 January 1999, 14:00 GMT


Date: Thu, 28 Jan 1999 18:00:58 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 597 for 28 Jan 1999.1.28

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,