IRIN Update 602 for 4 Feb 1999

IRIN Update 602 for 4 Feb 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. 601 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 4 February 1999)

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: A "stain on our conscience"

At a press briefing in New York yesterday (Wednesday), UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths described the situation in Congo-Brazzaville as a "forgotten emergency" and a "stain on our conscience". Griffiths expressed concern for the 50,000 internally displaced in Brazzaville and another 120,000 persons who fled the southern parts of the city as fighting erupted - a group which still remains unaccounted for. Griffiths reported that two major districts of the capital are practically empty of civilians. He added that these areas have been "extremely effectively looted". According to Griffiths, the capacity of humanitarian agencies to provide assistance is very limited due to security concerns. He added that "we are down to a very low international presence". He also noted a prevailing view among donor governments that the cycle of violence is set to continue. While he admitted this could be an accurate analysis of the situation, Griffiths expressed concern that this might negatively affect funding for humanitarian assistance.

Meanwhile, Cocoye militia loyal to ex-president Pascal Lissouba attacked an army garrison in the southern town of Dolisie yesterday, news reports said. State radio today (Thursday) said the army has taken control of the situation.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Relief to rebel-held areas

Turning to the DRC, Martin Griffiths said that there are just under 200,000 refugees in the country "and possibly as many as 500,000 displaced persons." About 190,000 of the displaced are in North and South Kivu. Griffiths, recently in the DRC, said that as a result of discussions with officials in Goma and Kinshasa, "we believe that we are in a position to move assistance into rebel areas". But he admitted that "security will be a difficulty". He added that international NGOs that have remained in the Kivus reminded the mission that the UN agencies "need to be very opportunistic" when it comes to where they can go. He also announced that UNICEF will take the lead in the Kivu operations and plans for a UNHCR antenna in Goma. Kabila reportedly ready to sign "immediate ceasefire"

DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila has expressed willingness to hold talks with all Congolese, including rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) "inside or outside the country", AFP reported. In a joint statement with his Chadian counterpart Idriss Deby yesterday, during a visit to N'djamena, Kabila said he was ready to "sign an immediate ceasefire and continue the process of democratisation ahead of general elections which would be both democratic and open". According to the statement, both heads of state urged the international community to support this peace initiative by sending a peacekeeping force under the auspices of the OAU and UN. Deby, who has sent some 800 troops to fight alongside DRC government troops, justified the intervention by saying Chad was helping DRC to find peace. "We will only leave the DRC when our mission has been achieved," he told a news conference at the end of Kabila's visit.

Commission to investigate human rights abuses

A national commission to investigate human rights abuses during the rebel campaign to overthrow the Mobutu regime has been set up, state radio reported yesterday. The commission was created at the suggestion of the UN special rapporteur for the DRC, the radio said. The commission is to act as an "independent body". Its terms of reference include the investigation of alleged massacres and atrocities committed in eastern DRC and Equateur province from October 1996 to May 1997. ICRC to open Kalemie office

The ICRC is to open an office in Kalemie to meet the needs of an isolated local population. With supply routes both by land and water regularly cut by fighting, food prices are steadily rising in the town and insecurity has reduced agricultural production, ICRC said in a statement. The agency also noted that there is a shortage of basic medicines and surgical instruments. With the opening of the ICRC office, the town's citizens would be helped to contact relatives in other parts of the country.

TANZANIA/DRC: Refugee numbers crossing to Tanzania drops

The number of DRC refugees arriving in Tanzania has suddenly dropped, indicating a clamp down by RCD rebels on the exodus. UNHCR spokesman Paul Stromberg told IRIN today that on 29 January, only 61 refugees crossed Lake Tanganyika while 25 arrived on 31 January. "The average number is 100-160 per day. There is a significant decrease," he said. The RCD have made gains in the South Kivu area, and control of departure points. They hold most of Ubwari peninsula including the eastern portion from which boats had been setting off. Two boats carrying about 300 people from Mwanzalulu, near Fizi, were intercepted while crossing Lake Tanganyika and turned back on 26 January, Stromberg said. UNHCR reported that in the last few days, people have been leaving in small boats at night. Fighting between the Mayi-Mayi and RCD has worsened recently with houses torched, civilians detained, and large numbers of people displaced.

SUDAN: War costing half of annual budget

Sudan's civil war is absorbing half the country's budget, President Omar al-Bashir said. He was quoted by the 'Al-Rai Al-Am' newspaper yesterday as saying: "The government is not able to provide the minimum limits for survival for the Sudanese because of the spending on the war." He added that: "We reject and foreign solution because they want to serve their own interests and not Sudan's." According to The Associated Press, this was an apparent reference to Egyptian and Libyan mediation attempts. Meanwhile, Sudanese Minister of Information Ghazi Salah al-Din has called for the formation of a coalition government to work within the framework of the new "Tawali" constitution.

Human rights rapporteur arrives

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan, Leonardo Franco, arrived in Khartoum yesterday. He is expected to meet senior government officials and visit prisons and detention facilities. He will also hold talks with the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in Nairobi. RWANDA: Conditions improve for displaced

Some IDP camps in northwest Rwanda are closing, and the displaced are being resettled in new, smaller sites, humanitarian sources report. With improved security, the displaced are establishing new homes and farms. They also have greater access to their fields and harvest. Meanwhile, the nutritional situation in Gisenyi has improved and wet feeding centres are reverting to dry rations. But pockets of malnutrition are reported in Ruhengeri. A nutritional survey is underway.

Three sentenced to death for genocide

Three genocide suspects were sentenced to death on Tuesday and 11 others received life imprisonment. The Cyangugu court also handed out 15-year jail terms to seven other accused, and one suspect was acquitted, the Rwanda News Agency reported. The genocide suspects were accused of killings in the Gisuma commune of Cyangugu.

Defence council fired

The defence counsel for Laurent Semanza has been replaced, a statement from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda said. Semanza's trial was due to begin yesterday in Arusha, but his defence counsel did not show up in court. Semanza, a former bourgmestre (mayor) of Bicumbi, has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of genocide and genocide-related crimes.

Meningitis outbreak

A joint UN-Government team were set to travel to the northwest Rwandan Ruhengeri prefecture yesterday to investigate an outbreak of meningitis. Lab tests have confirmed the presence of meningitis in at least one patient, while more cases are suspected, a WHO report states. Elsewhere in the region, Northern Darfur in Sudan faces an outbreak of meningitis, totalling 199 cases and 30 deaths by January 20, according to the WHO ( WHO also reports 203 cases and 79 deaths in another outbreak last year in western Kasai in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

KENYA: Bomb memorial unveiled

President Daniel arap Moi today unveiled a plaque at UNEP headquarters in memory of those who lost their lives in last year's Nairobi bomb blast. "The garden will remind us of the senseless destruction of life ... and serve as a symbol for us to call for peace in the world," Moi said. He gave a national award of the Silver Star of Kenya posthumously to Roselyn Mwangi, and Sammy Ng'ang'a, a survivor of the blast. Meanwhile, in Kenya's port town of Mombasa, FBI agents arrested a person in connection with the 7 August bombing. The suspect - the fifth to be arrested so far - will be tried in New York.

ENVIRONMENT: Balance development and environmental protection, Moi says

A sustainable balance between economic development and environment protection is a formidable challenge threatening the earth's future, President Moi said today. Speaking at the High Level Segment of the 20th session of the Governing Council of UNEP, Moi said the need for some nations to meet the development goals of their growing populations had been severely undermined. With the projection that the 21st century will be predominantly urban, Moi challenged the Council to strive to avert possible future disasters in relation to urbanisation. "The environmental problems facing us today, are man-made and their solutions must come from man himself," he added.

Nairobi, 4 February 1999, 15:00 GMT


Date: Thu, 4 Feb 1999 19:19:24 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 602 for 4 Feb 1999.2.4

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,