IRIN Update 599 for 30 Jan - 1 Feb 1999.2.1

IRIN Update 599 for 30 Jan - 1 Feb 1999.2.1

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. 599 for Central and Eastern Africa (Saturday-Monday 1 February 1999)

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Government shells city suburbs

Heavy fighting continued over the weekend in Congo-Brazzaville, with reports that Ninja and Cocoye militia had infiltrated the city. In an attempt to create "security zones", government forces have been forcibly ejecting people from their homes, particularly near the airport where they have displaced up to 5,000 residents, humanitarian sources told IRIN. Government forces and their allies have been indiscriminately bombing - without any prior warning - districts of the city. In addition, government troops have been particularly brutal with civilian populations, the sources said. Soldiers have been seen entering IDP sites and arbitrarily arresting young men. Once taken away their fate is unknown.

The Ninja and Cocoye rebels are thought to be well organized and supplied and have a strong chain of command. In an effort to help contain their attacks, the number of Cubans in Congo-Brazzaville has been increased to approximately 1,000, regional analysts allege. Cuba has denied sending any troops.

Health hazards

Sanitation throughout the city is of mounting concern, particularly in the IDP sites. The provision of power throughout the town is sporadic at best and the delivery of water to IDP sites precluded by the intensified fighting. Cholera has been identified in the sites. According to one humanitarian worker, these sites are some of the worst he has ever seen.

An operation for the delivery of essential supplies is currently being mounted from Kinshasa. UNHCR is providing plastic sheeting, UNICEF is providing cholera kits and jerry cans. UNDP is paying for the transport. WFP's airlift of 1,000 mt from Pointe-Noire to Brazzaville (some going by barge to Kinshasa) is ongoing.

Influx of displaced to Pointe-Noire

Point-Noire, which was spared the destruction of the last round of urban warfare is now suffering the consequences of this round. Power and water are a problem, while the influx of IDP's is compounding an already bad situation. Cholera has been identified in the city, and there is mounting concern as to whether or not Point-Noire can continue to act as a rear base for the stockpiling of humanitarian supplies, aid workers warn.


A new breakaway party is being formed from within the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), the semi-official Ugandan 'Sunday Vision' reports. The paper alleges that Deogratias Bugera, a North Kivu Tutsi, and founder member of both the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) in 1996 and the RCD in 1998 is launching the "Mouvement des Reformateurs".

Mobutu generals, tensions, arrests in Kisangani

An international journalist recently in Kisangani confirmed to IRIN that "tensions" were apparent between the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) of Jean-Pierre Bemba and the Ernest Wamba dia Wamba-led RDC. The tension has spread to the backers of each rebel faction, Uganda and Rwanda, western diplomats say. Three Mobutuist generals are also reported to be in Kisangani: Baramoto, N'Zimbi and Mavua, according to the Belgian daily 'Le Soir'. The journalist noted allegations of related politically-motivated arrests by the RDC in Kisangani.

Rebel splits part of search for "political legitimacy"

A western diplomat told IRIN that the realignments among the rebels were moves to gain "political legitimacy". Also, the "Mobutuists want to be in the movement, but Rwanda can't accept that", an African diplomat told IRIN. Despite the expansion of the RCD assembly, and its transformation into a "politico-military movement", dissident factions remain. A split between Wamba dia Wamba and his number two, Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma, was reportedly patched up in Kampala at the weekend, the 'Sunday Vision' said. 'La Libre Belgique' quoted Willy Mishiki, a North Kivu member of the RCD, saying of the Tutsi representation in the RCD: "We accept them as Congolese brothers, but should they hold so many posts?". 'Le Soir' described the political mixture that is the "new" RCD as "explosive".

Rebels claim military successes

Meanwhile, Wamba dia Wamba said the RCD captured the northern Katanga province town of Lubao on Wednesday from ex-FAR rebels. He added that the MLC retook Gemena in northwestern Equateur over the last few days. Wamba dia Wamba also accused allied aircraft of bombing the Katanga towns of Moba and Kongolo, killing civilians rather than hitting military targets.

Kabila visits Namibia

DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila visited the Namibian capital of Windhoek yesterday (Sunday) to discuss ceasefire plans with President Sam Nujoma. A Namibian government spokesman told IRIN that the talks centred on a plan prepared by the three regional countries backing Kabila - Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe - with Uganda and Rwanda. The spokesman declined to give further details.

Party politics ban lifted

The ban on party politics in the DRC has been lifted, but only for groups whose leaders are able to satisfy certain criteria, Reuters reported. According to a decree signed by Kabila yesterday, parties must file their applications with the interior ministry which has up to three months to process them. Among other restrictions, aspiring parties must pay the local equivalent of a US $10,000 fee; all parties must have a total of 150 founding members drawn from each of the country's provinces; and these founding members need clearance from the attorney general that they have not been involved in economic or political crimes since independence.

Kagame denies mining interests

Rwandan Vice President Paul Kagame has denied media allegations that he is involved in mining ventures in the DRC. The private Kampala newspaper 'The Monitor', on Friday quoted a press release from Kagame's office asserting that Kagame "has neither heard of nor encountered" the companies or their representatives named in the press reports.

Catholic bishops calls for peace talks

A pastoral letter by Catholic bishops at the weekend called for round-table peace talks to settle the country's armed conflicts, the 'New Vision' reported today (Monday). "There are still many people who do not fully appreciate the use of non-violent means," the bishops said in the pastoral letter. "There are people both inside and outside the country, who economically gain from the armed conflicts."

Anglicans stay neutral over referendum

The Anglican church has announced it is to stay neutral in the referendum controversy. Church of Uganda Archbishop Livingtone Nkoyooyo said at the weekend that when the time comes, the church would "pray for whoever will have won", the 'New Vision' reported today. The referendum debate pits the government again an opposition that demands Uganda return to a multi-party system without going through a referendum this year on the issue as stipulated in the 1995 constitution.

KENYA: Student protests against forest allocations continues

University students engaged the police in running battles today in the streets of Nairobi in protest over the allocation of land to developers in Karura forest, Kenya's largest indigenous forest. "There is use of a lot of force on both sides. The students are badly beaten, there is extensive damage of property, several roads are blocked and many students are being arrested," an eyewitness who called IRIN said. Claims that the police were using live ammunition was denied by police spokesman, Kingori Mwangi. He told IRIN the police had "other means of quelling riots".

The student protests against the "irregular" land allocations began on Saturday when they attempted to break into Karura forest to plant tree-seedlings. They were beaten back by riot police. Thirty students, eight civilians and two policemen were injured in the violence. The students have given the government up to Tuesday to declare its stand on the five-month-old controversy. "We will issue a report to the cabinet and hope the situation will be arrested. But, I would like to say that all the allocations were regular and were done according to the law," Ministry of Natural Resources spokeswoman, Mary Banda told IRIN today. The Anglican Church of Kenya on Sunday said it would join in the protest to save the forest. "Karura is public land, we must protect it," Archbishop David Gitari said.

Sudanese refugees clash

Five people were killed and 50 hospitalised last week in clashes between two Sudanese communities at the Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya. According to the 'Daily Nation' on Friday, the fighting was sparked when a Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) platoon commander, a Dinka, was killed in an ambush 12 km from the border by bandits of the Didinga community. Between 4,000 to 6,000 refugees, mostly women and children, have been displaced since the violence began on Wednesday. A UNHCR spokesman told IRIN today that the situation remains tense. Negotiations are being held between the community leaders, local authorities and UNHCR.

ENVIRONMENT: UNEP governing council meets

Some 30-40 environment ministers from around the world are gathered at the UNEP headquarters, Nairobi, for a week-long Governing Council meeting to address major and emerging environmental policy issues. Delivering his policy statement today at the opening of this 20th session, UNEP's Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said he visualises a UNEP that would have a strong environmental assessment, monitoring and early warning capacity. "It is a vision of UNEP fully capable of raising consciousness and awareness and educating about actions that negatively affect the environment and a UNEP that makes the link between the scientific knowledge and mobilisation of action among new and broader constituencies," he said. He presented a proposed biennial budget of US $119.4 million for approval saying that this sum was the minimum financial level that would enable UNEP to regain the effectiveness, critical mass and operating capital essential to execute its work.

AFRICA: Sexual violence against refugee women

The UN foundation set up to distribute funds provided by media magnate Ted Turner has donated US $1.65 million to UNHCR for a project to combat sexual violence against refugee women and girls in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kenya and Tanzania, UNHCR said. A UNHCR project document received by IRIN said there was a "shocking escalation" in the use of rape as a weapon of war. Once they crossed an international border in search of safety, refugee women and girls remained at great risk of sexual and domestic violence, while conflict and the destruction of community protection mechanisms left them exposed to exploitation and abuse, the report said. The 18-month project, to benefit some 400,000 refugees, will, among other things, support the training of police and other authorities in refugee areas to help prevent sexual violence. It will also train local health workers and counsellors to respond effectively and compassionately to survivors of sexual violence and will build the capacity of local legal communities to bring perpetrators of these crimes to trial, UNHCR said.

Nairobi, 1 February 1999, 16:00 GMT


Date: Mon, 1 Feb 1999 19:41:31 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 599 for 30 Jan - 1 Feb 1999.2.1

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,