IRIN Update 604 for 6-8 Feb 1999.2.8

IRIN Update 604 for 6-8 Feb 1999.2.8

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. 604 for Central and Eastern Africa (Saturday-Monday 6-8 February 1999)

ERITREA-ETHIOPIA: Clashes break out

Diplomatic efforts to avert full-scale war between Eritrea and Ethiopia were overtaken by events at the weekend. Heavy fighting which began on Saturday morning on the western Badme front had by today (Monday) spread to Ali Tena and Zal Anbessa, among other disputed border areas further to the east. In a series of statements received by IRIN, both sides claimed successes, while Eritrea claimed Ethiopia had broken a moratorium on air strikes by using helicopter gunships and fighter planes in fighting yesterday (Sunday). Both sides allege attacks on civilian targets by artillery, also yesterday. Appeals for restraint came from the UN, the EU, and regional neighbours but to no avail.

A previously-scheduled ministerial-level meeting including both countries was held in Djibouti under the auspices of the Horn of Africa grouping, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), but did not make any progress on the conflict. The UN special envoy, Mohamed Sahnoun, in Addis Ababa until the weekend, was expected back in New York on today.

HORN: Fears of regional destabilisation

Both sides in the Ethio-Eritrea war have made contacts with the rebels and dissident groups of their enemy. The support and encouragements given to these groups range from "off-the-record" contacts to hosting radio stations and military assistance, regional analysts told IRIN. The UN Security Council warned of the "devastating effect" an armed conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea could have "for the region as a whole," in its resolution on 29 January.

In short, analysts say, Eritrea is intent on "activating the Oromo opposition" in Ethiopia, and backing warlord Hussein Aideed in Somalia in an attempt to block moves by Ethiopia in support of the southern Rahanwein militia and other Somali groups. Aideed's spokesman has denied allegations carried by AFP that his faction received arms from Eritrea by air. In the propaganda war, Eritrean transmitters are thought now to relay programming in the Oromo language. A recent joint statement by the rebel Oromo Liberation Front and

Ethiopia's southeastern Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) endorses reports that Aideed supports both the OLF and the ethnic Somali Ethiopian opposition movement. Unconfirmed reports say Eritrea may too have been in touch with Ahmed Dini, who heads a faction of the Djiboutian rebel group FRUD. Djibouti remains Ethiopia's lifeline and no longer has diplomatic relations with Eritrea.

Ethiopia, the analysts say, has been in touch with the fragmented Eritrean opposition, and BBC monitoring reported on 1 February that an opposition station called the 'Voice of Peace and Democracy in Eritrea' was broadcasting from transmitters in northern Ethiopia. As well as contacts with three factions of the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), Ethiopia is thought to have been in touch with eastern Afar rebels, until recently opposed to both regimes in Asmara and Addis Ababa. An Ethiopian spokeswoman would concede only that a group of Eritrean opposition movements met in Addis Ababa in January.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Pointe-Noire braces for rebel attack

Fighting between government forces and rebels continued in Dolisie at the weekend, Gabonese Africa No 1 radio said on Saturday. It quoted reports by Congolese state radio journalists that dead bodies could be seen in the streets of the southwestern town. Meanwhile, Pointe-Noire's civilian population is living in fear of a possible attack by Cocoyes militia allied to ex-president Pascal Lissouba, Brazzaville's 'Le Semaines Africaines' said on Thursday. It reported that local administration, military and religious authorities had taken steps to "save the city from the danger weighing upon it". The police presence has been increased and community leaders told to report anyone suspicious in their area. Thousands of displaced people from Brazzaville, Dolisie, Nkayi and other areas had recently arrived in Pointe-Noire, the newspaper added.

Church calls for peace

Church leaders on Saturday, meanwhile, made an appeal for peace, Reuters reported. Monsignor Anatole Milandou said on state radio that "violence leads nowhere." He last week met President Denis Sassou-Nguesso along with Brazzaville Archbishop Bartelemy Batantou. According to Reuters, government officials have accused church members of backing the rebels.

Displaced in poor shape

At least 10 diarrhoea-related deaths have been reported among the displaced population in northern Brazzaville, humanitarian sources told IRIN. They said 487 people were referred to hospital as of last week, of which 50 were severe cases. There are some 25,000 displaced people currently staying at 19 sites. Many of these are over-crowded, and plagued by poor water and sanitation conditions.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Human rights minister under threat

DRC Human Rights Minister Leonard She Okitundu has been accused by a section of the pro-government press of allegedly being too "pro-Tutsi". The Kinshasa-based 'La Libre Afrique' issued a warning to the minister on 1 February. "Our advice to She Okitundu is: Before looking after Rwandans, look after Congolese ... It's the Congolese people who will judge you and not the Tutsis as you believe." The periodical continued: "Do you know the role which the CPP (Comites de Pouvoir Populaire or People's Power Committees) will have to play? It is judging the bad and the good." The CPPs are being "zealously" set up by state officials in response to a January call by President Laurent-Desire Kabila, a humanitarian source told IRIN. While there have been no reports of them committing human rights abuses, there is much confusion over their role, structure and leaders, the source said.

Tensions ease in Uvira

High-level negotiations in Uvira have helped defuse tension between Banyamulenge troops in the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) and Rwandan forces, NGO sources told IRIN. The Rwandans had issued an ultimatum for the return of four Banyamulenge commanders of the Uvira brigade, sprung from prison on 17 January by RCD units. According to the sources, three of the commanders have been replaced by officers from Goma after the intervention of the South Kivu governor and senior RCD officials. But the "most-wanted" RCD officer - commander Masunzu - is reportedly still in Uvira and has refused to go to Goma. Meanwhile, RCD rebels allegedly killed 14 farmers in Walungu district last week, local sources claim. The RCD has also been accused of looting villages and forced recruitment.

Mayi-Mayi and Interahamwe clash

Clashes have been reported between Mayi-Mayi and Interahamwe militia in the Kivus. NGO sources told IRIN six Interahamwe were recently killed and others put to flight at Ngweshe, in Walungu district. The group had been accused by the Mayi-Mayi of committing rape and extortion. The sources added that the situation was now calm.

Cargo plane crashes

Seven crew members died when their cargo plane crashed today shortly after taking off from Kinshasa international airport, AFP quoted aviation sources as saying. The plane, owned by Mayani, a private company, was heading for Mbandaka.

BURUNDI: Negotiations resume in March

The Arusha peace process is to resume on 8 March, Nyerere Foundation spokesman Mark Bomani told IRIN today. If in the scheduled two weeks of talks no conclusions are reached, a further session would be held in May. "The intention is to come up with recommendations for adoption at the plenary in June," Bomani said. "We realise that these are very complex issues being dealt with and may take time to come to a conclusion."

Red Cross supplies arrive in Makamba

Red Cross relief supplies have begun to reach thousands of people displaced by armed clashes in southern Burundi's Makamba province. Up to 30,000 people may have fled their homes in January after a series of attacks on communes in which 180 people reportedly died and many homes were torched, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a statement. Last week most were returning to their hills along the Tanzanian border. The Federation and Burundi Red Cross were assessing their needs after trucking in more than six mt of soap, shelter materials and blankets. "Our greatest concern is for those who lost their homes in the burning," Jean-Charles Dupin, head of the Federation's Burundi delegation, said in the statement. While internal displacements continue, some 5,000 Burundi refugees have fled into Tanzania since August, UNHCR told IRIN. On 7 January, 18 new arrivals in Kigoma were taken to hospital with bullet wounds and land mine injuries.

UGANDA: Agencies sound cholera alert

Aid agencies working in Uganda have sounded an alert over a cholera outbreak, with WHO reporting 208 cases and 10 deaths from four areas. The areas are Kampala (73 cases), Kasese (88), Bundibugyo (19) and Arua (28). Rainfall early in the year and poor sanitation particularly in the slums around Kampala are possible causes for the situation, Uganda's WHO Country Representative, Hatib Njie told IRIN today. "Kasese, Bundibugyo and areas bordering DRC have been hit because of civil strife, aggravated by the inability of medical facilities to perform normal operations," he added.

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), is supporting the Uganda Red Cross which seeks local funding of 50 million Ugandan shillings to back its efforts in the run-up to the rains later this year. As part of the National Cholera Task Force, and working closely with the Ministry of Health, the Red Cross has already deployed 50 volunteers to provide community health education, chlorinate water sources, locate cholera cases and transport them to hospital. It plans to mobilise and train more volunteers and community leaders, and improve environmental sanitation.

SUDAN: Special rapporteur due at the weekend

Administrative problems have delayed the arrival in Sudan of the special rapporteur on human rights, Leonardo Franco. A UN spokesman said Franco is now scheduled to leave Geneva for Khartoum on 13 February. During his 12 day stay, he is to investigate reports of slave trading as well as the general human rights situation.

ECONOMY: Africa left out in bids to stem spread of global crisis

Most of Sub-Saharan Africa has been bypassed by efforts to prevent the spread of the world financial crisis, says the 1998 Annual Report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. "African capital importers and resource producers," said the report, quoted by AFP, "stand to see their economic prospects even further constrained, especially if recessionary pressures spread and deepen." 1998 saw the region face the "the setback of re-emerging and widening conflicts" while Sudan sank ''into even deeper disaster". Official aid to Africa fell in 1997 for the third consecutive year. In 1996 it was US $20.6 billion and in 1997 it was US $18.7 billion, the AFP report said.

Nairobi, 8 February 1999, 16:00 GMT


Date: Mon, 8 Feb 1999 19:42:38 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 604 for 6-8 Feb 1999.2.8

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,