IRIN Update 607 for 11 Feb 1999

IRIN Update 607 for 11 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. 607 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 11 February 1999)

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: 31,000 displaced in temporary sites

There are now over 31,000 people staying in 17 displaced persons' sites in northern Brazzaville, according to figures provided by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Most of the sites are located in and around church compounds, where people from the Bacongo and Makelekele areas of southern Brazzaville fled as a result of heavy fighting between government forces and Ninja militia in December. Some 18,300 of the most vulnerable displaced people, including children under five years, pregnant women and disabled persons, regularly receive WFP food aid, distributed by IFRC.

The Red Cross Movement is also providing water supplies and health care services and is distributing UNICEF-donated essential drugs in the displaced sites, IFRC said. Some 140 local Red Cross volunteers are supporting these efforts. It is estimated that another 30,000 displaced people from the now-deserted neighbourhoods of Bacongo and Makelekele are staying with families or friends in the north of the city.

Tens of thousands are still unaccounted for

Similarly, the whereabouts and condition of some 120,000 other residents who fled southern Brazzaville toward the Pool region further south remain unknown and this is a source of growing concern, humanitarian sources said. Aid agencies fear that conflict in the Pool region itself has resulted in large-scale damage to infrastructure, widespread looting and massive population displacements. However, they have not had access to the Pool since fighting erupted there in October 1998. The estimated population of the area before the latest conflict was about 200,000.

DRC: UN human rights office planned in Goma

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) is planning to open a sub-office in Goma (DRC) to monitor the human rights situation in the area and advise authorities and NGOs on international human rights standards, a UNHCHR spokesman in Geneva told IRIN today (Thursday). "We are in the preliminary planning stages of establishing the sub-office", the spokesman said. (An item in IRIN update 601 on relief to rebel-held areas erroneously referred to UNHCHR as UNHCR.)

Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the DRC, Roberto Garreton, is scheduled to arrive in Kinshasa on 16 February for a one-week mission. Following his visit, Garreton is expected to submit additional information on the country's situation to the UN Human Rights Commission, which is scheduled to start its next session on 22 March, the spokesman said.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: New Security Council resolution, Sahnoun

A UN Security Council resolution (1227) approved yesterday (Wednesday) "urged" states not to supply weapons and munitions to Ethiopia or Eritrea, but stopped short of an arms embargo. The resolution was approved unanimously at a session in which UN special envoy Mohamed Sahnoun briefed the council on his ill-fated peace mission to the region. Sahnoun said later the world could soon see Africa's first "high-tech" war, as both sides had sophisticated arsenals and aircraft. Sceptics doubted that the resolution would have any immediate effect. "They already both have a tonne of weapons", a regional analyst told IRIN today. The Security Council condemned the use of force and demanded an immediate halt to hostilities.

Sahnoun said in a press briefing that he was told by actors in the conflict "too bad you arrived too late", during his trip in the region. The envoy expressed disbelief at the resumption of hostilities, saying: "Given the kind of leadership the countries have I would have believed they would have been able to solve this." He also said that he had had some "strong contacts" with both parties and had left the region with "some optimism when things suddenly blew up". Sahnoun stressed that other states should bilaterally put pressure on both sides and not just adopt a resolution and "then forget about it".

ETHIOPIA: Oromo Liberation Front kills soldiers, lays landmines

The Ethiopian rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has announced that it is laying landmines in southern Ethiopia. In a statement dated 4 February, the OLF claimed at least five army vehicles had been blown up by the mines. It also claimed that six government soldiers were killed on 2 February in an ambush 45 km from Mega town on the road to the Ethiopia-Kenya border town of Moyale. The statement protested Ethiopia's deployment of "assassins and terrorist squads" to Kenya and Somalia. Press reports in Mogadishu and Oromo political sources say three Oromo activists, possible members of the little-known Oromo People's Liberation Organisation, were abducted by Ethiopian agents and taken across the border to Ethiopia around 1 February 1999.

SUDAN: Conference aims for consensus on democracy

A conference of Sudanese human rights and civil society groups opened in Uganda this week aimed at reaching a "consensus for a democratic Sudan." The five-day meeting, organised by the Kampala-based Pan African Movement (PAM), has addressed issues of self-determination, religion, gender and human rights abuses committed by both the government army and rebel groups. It has attracted around 100 NGO representatives. A senior PAM official, David Masabi, said the meeting's resolutions were to be released tomorrow (Friday). "There may be frictions and the implementation of whatever is agreed may also take time. The most important thing now is to get started, which the people of Sudan have," Masabi told IRIN today. The Khartoum government turned down an invitation to the conference. A Sudanese embassy official in Nairobi, Al Mansour Bolad, described claims that Khartoum abuses human rights as "fabrications, proganda and attacks from people angry with the government." Representatives at the conference have accused government security forces of torturing children and women and burning down churches and mosques.

SUDAN: Khartoum vows to prosecute slavers

Sudan has pledged to prosecute slavers and has urged the population to report cases of slavery, AFP reported Khartoum newspapers as saying today. The government's Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights said in a communique that public prosecutors' offices across the country were open to all those who had information on slavery cases so that prosecutions could be started. The communique said slavery was forbidden by international conventions to which Sudan subscribes and by the country's constitution. The UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Sudan, Leonardo Franco, is due in the country on Saturday on a 10-day tour. He is expected to probe cases of slavery.

RWANDA: New cocktail of drugs halves the price of AIDS therapy

Rwanda has introduced three new AIDS therapy drugs, and halved the treatment price. The drugs - AZT, EPIVIR and CRIXIVAN - are taken in combination to help control opportunistic infections associated with AIDS. The triple therapy will cost US $580 per month per person through the National Centre for AIDS Control (PNLS) rather than the open market price of US $1,230, the Rwanda News Agency reported. The treatment will be available at Kigali's main referral hospital, Kanombe military hospital and Butare university hospital. According to PNLS, 11 percent of Rwandans are HIV-positive.

TANZANIA: IMF approves ESAF loan for Tanzania

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a loan of about US $82 million to Tanzania to be channelled through the fund's Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF). The loan will be used to support Tanzania's economic reform and stabilisation programme in 1998/1999. Under a three-year ESAF arrangement approved by the IMF in 1996, Tanzania's real GDP grew by 4 percent in 1996/97 and 3.4 percent in 1997/98. Overall inflation in June 1997-June 1998 was 12 percent, the lowest in 20 years although higher than the 9.5 percent originally targetted.

Meanwhile, the EU announced yesterday that it was lending US $39 million to Tanzania, the first tranche of a 55-billion-shilling loan under its Structural Adjustment Facility, according to Reuters. The money is to help Tanzania pay its domestic debt and "is the biggest allocation Tanzania has ever received from the European Development Fund," Reuters quoted EU delegation head Peter Beck Christiansen as saying. In exchange for the aid, the government has pledged to increase spending on primary education.

SOMALIA: Agencies, NGOs Fight Cholera and Food Crisis in the South

UN agencies and NGOs continue their relief efforts in southern Somalia, hit by a combination of war, poor weather and economic decline, according to the UN Country Team (UNCT) in Somalia. A task force spearheaded by WHO, UNICEF and partner NGOs is fighting a cholera outbreak in parts of the south. The 27 January-9 February 1999 edition of the UNCT Somalia Monitor reports that over 2,200 cases and 35 deaths have been recorded in Mogadishu, Burhakaba (in Bay region), Kismayo (Lower Juba) and Marca (Lower Shabelle) since the outbreak began in early December.

In its January 1999 review, UNICEF Somalia says an estimated one million people are at high risk (including 300,000 persons - 60,000 of them children under five - at very high risk) from a food crisis in central/south Somalia. Surveys in the southern regions of Bay and Bakool showed a malnutrition rate of over 20 percent and severe malnutrition rates of five to seven percent in November-December 1998, UNICEF says.

The WFP's Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU) reports in its 'Food Security Highlights' for January 1999 that water is in short supply in much of Somalia, especially Bay, Bakool and Gedo. Parts of Hiran, Lower Shabelle and Upper Shabelle reported favourable production for irrigated crops, it says. But rainfed crops fared badly, with total crop failure reported in the main sorghum-producing areas of Bay and Bakool. According to the FSAU, WFP and CARE have distributed food to many of the worst-hit areas. However, WFP warned last week that hunger would become more severe and widespread in southern Somalia unless, in addition to food aid, large quantities of seeds and food were rushed to destitute households.

Nairobi, 11 February 1999, 15:30 GMT


Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 21:07:40 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 607 for 11 Feb 1999.2.11

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,