IRIN Update 598 for 29 Jan 1999

IRIN Update 598 for 29 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. 598 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 29 January 1999)

RWANDA: Africa Rights says security improved in northwest

Rwandan soldiers massacred 140 people in a counter-insurgency operation in Gisenyi on 19 December, a briefing document on the northwest region by African Rights alleges. The report released today (Friday) said rebels, being pursued by the army, hid among the local population in Karambo sector in Kanama commune. An army platoon responded by surrounding the area and then launched the killings. The report adds the military are investigating the incident and soldiers have been arrested. However, African Rights is generally positive about civil-military relations in the region. The briefing document states the local population, predominantly Hutu, are for the most part "no longer prepared to support the insurgents". Better relations, "goes a long way to explain the progress in the security situation".

The villagisation programme has also played a significant role, African Rights says. The insurgency has forced hundreds of thousands of people off their land. In Rwerere, out of a population of 62,000, about 54,000 are living in camps. According to the report, the majority of people opted for the camps because of insecurity fears. But the army "brought others against their will". It notes that conditions have improved, but those who settled in temporary camps in May/June 1997 received minimum assistance. "Many people died as a result", particularly in Nyamutera. The report notes the controversy over villagisation, but points out: "The residents of the displaced camps we visited, as well as those living outside the camps, spoke unanimously in favour of villagisation."

Interahamwe leader to be sentenced next month

A former Interahamwe militia leader Omar Serushago is to be sentenced on 5 February in Arusha. Serushago, who pleaded guilty to four counts brought against him by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, today appealed for leniency and asked for forgiveness from the people of Rwanda, a tribunal press release said. The prosecution asked for a sentence of not less than 25 years, saying that Serushago was directly responsible for the deaths of 37 people in Gisenyi.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Conflict "far from over"

The intensity of the recent fighting in Brazzaville suggests that the conflict is far from over, according to humanitarian sources. The new cycle of hostilities is "defined to a greater extent by the re-emerging political/ethnic South-North antagonism," a report received by IRIN warns. It suggests the target of the Ninja rebels in the 21-22 January fighting was the government's stronghold of north Brazzaville. The authorities and its foreign allies averted what appeared to be an attempt at encirclement. There is evidence the government is preparing a major counter-offensive against both the Ninjas and Cocoyes militia.

Cocoyes form political party

Meanwhile, the Cocoyes loyal to deposed president Pascal Lissouba unveiled a political movement yesterday and called for talks on ending civil war. The militia said its political wing would be known as the National Movement for the Liberation of Congo, or MNLC by its French acronym, Reuters reported. A statement published in the Roman Catholic weekly, 'Semaine Africaine', named the MNLC's leader as Paul Mouleri. The statement said the MNLC was willing to negotiate with President Denis Sassou-Nguesso provided talks were held on neutral ground and government troops halted a campaign in rebel strongholds in the south.

Missing priests turn up

Three priests who went missing on Monday in the Dolisie area turned up in Pointe-Noire on Wednesday, AFP reported. They arrived on a police-escorted train along with 600 refugees fleeing Dolisie. Meanwhile, the whereabouts of seven other Europeans who disappeared during the fighting in the southwest region is currently unknown.

BURUNDI: 178 civilians killed in rebel attacks

A total of 178 civilians have died over the past two weeks in rebel attacks in the southern province of Makamba, AFP reported yesterday. The victims were either killed by the rebels or caught in crossfire in rebel-army clashes, residents and officials told the news agency.

Meanwhile, a Burundi analyst told IRIN the DRC conflict had given support to Hutu-dominated rebels in Burundi. Even Leonard Nyangoma, who was thought to be loosing military relevance, was thought to be seeking ammunition and backing from pro-government forces.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Inter-rebel tensions in Uvira

The rebel governor of South Kivu arrived in Uvira yesterday, sources in Bujumbura told IRIN. He is trying to find an agreement in a "still tense" stand off between three armed groups in the town, the source said. Banyamulenge, Rwandans and other Congolese rebel troops have been at loggerheads since an attempted arrest of Banyamulenge commanders by Rwandan forces on Sunday.

UGANDA: Five teenagers allegedly killed by army

The Ugandan army executed five teenage boys suspected of being rebels in the western town of Fort Portal at the weekend, the semi-official 'New Vision' reported yesterday. The newspaper quoted the western regional police commander Davis Mudali as saying the five were arrested by an army patrol and accused of being Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels. The police are reportedly investigating the matter.

LRA rebel group escapes

A group of Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels with 70 captives evaded government security forces and escaped into the Sudan, the 'New Vision' said yesterday. It quoted security sources as saying the group was commanded by LRA intelligence chief Vincent Ottii. The newspaper reported that another LRA unit was blocked from fleeing by the army and over 40 captives were rescued in a fierce battle.

KENYA: ICRC says displaced from cattle raids suffering

In a survey carried out in late December and early January, three months after cattle raiders descended on the Wajir district in Kenya's remote North-Eastern province, the Kenyan Red Cross has found thousands of people, mainly women and children, still displaced and fending for themselves in "desolate" camps. "We distributed food and other aid to the victims immediately after the attack", Vincent Nicod, head of the ICRC's Nairobi delegation, said in a statement. "But the fact is that these people have lost their only means of subsistence and continue to be in desperate need of help." The raids left nearly 150 people dead while 17,000 head of cattle the mainstay of the region's nomadic society were stolen. The families have told the Red Cross that they are "still too frightened to return to their homes."

SUDAN: ICRC organises humanitarian law seminars

In mid-January the ICRC organized a four-day course on the law of armed conflict which brought together 31 senior officers of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in the Bahr al-Ghazal region. At the same time some 230 members of the Sudanese government armed forces and 180 policemen attended presentations on international humanitarian law in Bentiu, in western Upper Nile state, an ICRC statement said. Two sessions were also organized in Leer and Bentiu for 760 members of the government-supported Southern Sudan Defence Forces. Similar programmes are under way in the government-held towns of Wau and Juba as well as in a number of SPLA-controlled areas.

EAST AFRICA: Regional railway network begins operation.

A new containerised rail freight service linking Tanzania to the South African port of Durban has been launched with plans to extend the network to cover East and Central Africa. Trans Africa Railways customer service manager Mohamud Mabuyu told IRIN that the private Tanzanian-registered rail company started transporting goods from South Africa to Morogoro via Kidato transshipment facilities in Tanzania in December last year. Lines from Kidato to Kampala are being upgraded and could be running by the end of this year. He said the service was being offered only on containerised goods, but conventional freight would soon be included. Part of the project involves the modernisation of the port of Dar es Salaam, which would be incorporated in the new regional network. A diplomatic source in Uganda familiar with the project told IRIN that a series of talks among stakeholders in the project have been underway in Kampala. "The idea is to create a link from Durban to the Eastern and Central parts of the continent by reactivating the lines from Kampala to Kasese into Rwanda, and to build a rail extension into Congo and Southern Sudan," he said.

Nairobi, 29 January 1999, 15:00 GMT


Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 18:07:54 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 598 for 29 Jan 1999.1.29

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,