IRIN Update 610 for 16 Feb 1999.2.16

IRIN Update 610 for 16 Feb 1999.2.16

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

Tel: +254 2 622147 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail:

IRIN Update No. 610 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 16 February 1999)

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: More diplomatic efforts

Two representatives of the "High Level Delegation" group assigned to lead OAU peace efforts in the Ethiopia-Eritrea border war and produce the framework presented to both parties, may soon return to the region, two diplomatic sources told IRIN today (Tuesday). The group originally consisted of Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and Djibouti, but the latter has since broken off diplomatic relations with Eritrea and is not expected to be represented. The EU is also "ready" to send a three-person mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea to pursue a peaceful solution, according to an EU statement released last Thursday. A western diplomat told IRIN today that diplomatic efforts were needed to put more "rungs on the ladder" for each side to "climb down".

A peace mission to Eritrea and Ethiopia by Japanese diplomat Morisha Aoki last week "urged them to resolve this conflict in a peaceful manner", Ambassador Aoki told IRIN today. The special envoy said that the alternative to a peaceful solution was "total destruction of one party or the other - or both." He also said the OAU peace bid was "stuck at the entrance". Given the current security situation, "we [Japan] can't continue any economic cooperation with them [the two countries]. That's very unfortunate", the diplomat added.

TANZANIA: DRC rebels accused of restricting refugee flow

Rebels in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are restricting the movement of Congolese civilians wishing to flee to western Tanzania, UNHCR said. In a report received by IRIN today, UNHCR said Congolese refugees arriving in Kigoma from the Kalemie, Fizi and Uvira areas reported that due to rebel-imposed restrictions, they had had to hide in the bush and move from village to village to reach the lakeshore from where they could cross to Tanzania. Refugees said lack of money to pay the boat fare also made it difficult for people to cross to Kigoma. Meanwhile, in its latest update on the Great Lakes region, UNHCR also reported on Friday that recent arrivals in Kigoma said rebels using patrol boats had, at least twice, forced vessels carrying would-be refugees back to the DRC. As of 8 February, 33,986 Congolese had crossed to Kigoma since August 1998, it added.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Escalation reported in the north and east

Sources on both sides of the conflict in the DRC point to an escalation in the war there, according to media reports. In Harare, the daily 'Herald' reported today that the rebels had launched a major offensive on all sides and quoted the SADC (Southern African Development Community) Task Force as saying that the insurgents' ultimate goal was to capture Gbadolite in the north, Mbuji Mayi in Kasai Oriental, Kamina and Lubumbashi in the south and finally Kinshasa. The SADC Task Force (Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe) said it was fighting the rebels along the River Congo, especially around Kabalo, and around Moba on the banks of Lake Tanganyika.

In Uganda, the 'New Vision' newspaper yesterday (Monday) quoted rebel sources as saying that the DRC government and its allies had bombarded rebel-held towns in recent days. They said Zimbabwean fighter planes were bombing Nyunzu, Kabalo and Lubao (located between Lake Tanganyika and Mbuji Mayi) and Kibombo, further north, in a bid to stop the RCD from pushing forward to Mbuji Mayi after capturing Lubao in early February. Sources told the Ugandan paper that ex-FAR and Interahamwe led by a Col. Kayumba had been moved from Kamina airbase to Mbuji Mayi to beef up its defence.

The paper also reported that there was heavy fighting around the government-held town of Businga, in northern DRC, as the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) led by Jean-Pierre Bemba, fought to capture it. Many civilians have reportedly been fleeing the area.

UGANDA: Bombings condemned

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has condemned Sunday night's bombings in Kampala, which killed four and injured several others. Museveni expressed deep sorrow at the acts, Radio Uganda said yesterday. He said the government would intensify its fight against terrorism and its efforts to apprehend the culprits. A senior security source said the bombs were the work of an urban terrorist wing of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel group, while the minister of state for internal affairs, Maj Tom Butime, said nine suspects were "helping police with their inquiries", according to AFP.

Whose weapons?

There were conflicting reports about the destination of a military consignment shipped to Dar es Salaam late last month and then transported by rail to Mwanza in northwest Tanzania en route to Kampala, the 'Monitor' in Kampala reported on 12 February. According to the paper `The Sunday Observer' in Tanzania quoted high-placed Tanzanian sources as stating that the consignment, which arrived aboard a North Korean ship, included six armoured tanks, 5,000 anti-tank missiles, 5,000 anti-aircraft missiles, 5,000 automatic machine guns, 1,000 grenade launchers, 2,000 boxes of ammunition and 1,000 pairs of combat boats.

The newspaper quoted a letter dated 11 January from the Ugandan High Commission to the Tanzanian government requesting the Foreign Ministry "to clear and ensure the safety of the cargo and to provide escort". However, the Ugandan Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in charge of Regional Co-operation, Amama Mbabazi was yesterday quoted in the state-owned `New Vision' as saying the arms did not necessarily belong to Uganda.

According to `The Sunday Observer', a senior Rwandan intelligence official was in Dar es Salaam and visited the port when the consignment arrived there. The paper's sources reportedly said "Rwanda could have been the real beneficiary of the war equipment and might have asked the Ugandan government to handle the consignment as though it were hers, because it had good relationships and a bilateral agreement with Tanzania as far as such cargo is concerned."

This was dismissed by Rwandan army spokesman Maj Wilson Rutayisire, who told `The Monitor' that his country did not have to use Uganda as a conduit when importing arms through Dar es Salaam.

GREAT LAKES: Nearly four million displaced or otherwise vulnerable

In addition to nearly three million refugees and displaced persons, the Great Lakes Region has some 770,450 persons in vulnerable situations, nearly half of them - 344,000 - in Tanzania, according to the latest report on 'Affected Populations in the Great Lakes Region', issued today by OCHA. Another 309,814 are in Rwanda, says the report, which defines detainees and people facing food shortages among the vulnerable. Other countries with vulnerable populations are Uganda (80,453) and the DRC (36,183). The vulnerable bring the total number of affected persons in the Great Lakes Region to 3,739,541. Refugees total 870,631: Tanzania (336,814), DRC (192,938), Uganda (187,481), Rwanda (32,111), Burundi (22,452), the Republic of Congo (11,219) and 87,616 others. Of the 2,086,422 IDPs, more than half are in Rwanda (673,858) and Burundi (548,196). There are 374,490 in Uganda, 303,878 in the DRC and 186,000 in the Republic of Congo. Unaccompanied children total 12,038 - 5,300 in Rwanda, 4,500 in Burundi and 2,238 in Tanzania. However, OCHA cautions that since the number of affected people tends to change fast, it believes the overall figure of 3,739,541 is a conservative estimate.

SOMALIA: Cholera kills 26 in the south

UNICEF staff confirmed today that 26 people have died of cholera in southern Somalia. They also reported that 320 cases have been confirmed at UNICEF's cholera treatment centre, set up - in conjunction with a local health committee - in a hospital in Bardere, southern Somalia. "This is something we had been anticipating," UNICEF Representative Gianfranco Rotigliano said in a press statement received by IRIN. "It was factored into the original Emergency Food Shortage Appeal of November 1998," he added. Bardere's population has risen by some 20,000 because of IDPs fleeing drought, hunger and insecurity. At the first cholera alert a week ago, stool samples were immediately sent to the WHO laboratory in Merka for analysis and confirmation. Pre-positioned stocks of cholera kits, chlorine and oral rehydration salts (ORS) were made available at health facilities and back-up supplies were flown into Bardere and two trucks arrived there today with further supplies. UNICEF attributes the outbreak to the cramped, unhealthy conditions at IDP camps and the fact that people had been weakened by hunger and disease. "Cholera has become endemic in Somalia. It strikes every dry season when the cholera vibrio in water sources becomes concentrated," said UNICEF's emergency field officer, Roger Carter.

Nairobi, 16 February 1999, 16:00 GMT


Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 19:23:26 -0300 (GMT+3) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 610 for 16 Feb 1999.2.16

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,