IRIN Update 611 for 17 Feb 1999.2.17

IRIN Update 611 for 17 Feb 1999.2.17

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. 611 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 17 February 1999)

SUDAN: Pastoralists vs farmers in west Darfur

Scores, if not hundreds, of people have been killed and injured in a large-scale conflict between indigenous farming communities and nomadic pastoralists in west Darfur since late last year, an assessment team has found. Over 60 villages have been burnt down, some 2,000 families have been displaced into the state capital Al Geneina and an estimated 10,000 people have crossed the border into Chad, according to a report, received by IRIN, on last week's UN/NGO/government assessment mission. Sporadic conflict between the two groups over scarce land and water resources in isolated and underdeveloped west Darfur has been exacerbated by factors such as climate change and drought, the use of slash-and-burn farming techniques and the increasing availability of small firearms, the report said.

Forcible displacement, rape, killings reported

Military efforts to stop the latest violence in west Darfur have failed so far and a helicopter brought in to respond to the situation was shot at several times, the report said. Nomadic tribesmen were coming in from other areas of Darfur to participate in the conflict, it said, adding that the nomads were allegedly engaged in the forcible displacement of farming communities from their land by violent means, including killing, rape and the burning of villages. Farmers told of their villages being surrounded by hundreds of horsemen, of huts being set on fire and residents, particularly adolescent boys, being shot. If violence continues, the result would be a "humanitarian disaster of considerable proportions", the report said.

ERITREA-ETHIOPIA: Water facility targeted as Assab area bombarded

Areas near the Eritrean port of Assab have been the target of bombing raids by the Ethiopian air force since fighting broke out on the eastern front at the weekend. Ethiopian statements have claimed that, in addition to military materiel, a water supply facility at Harsile about 20 km from the town was damaged. An international journalist in Assab yesterday (Tuesday) was shown bomb craters near Harsile, but could not confirm the Ethiopian claims that the water facility, an underground water source and pumping station, had been damaged. Economic activity in Assab is at a very low level, the journalist told IRIN today (Wednesday). The only ships now docking at the port - mainly from the Eritrean port of Massawa,Yemen, Dubai and Saudi Arabia - are delivering supplies for Assab only, shipping sources said.


DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: 13 percent malnutrition in Kisangani

Food security conditions remain of concern in Kisangani due to high prices of food items, humanitarian sources said. Although there has been some improvement in the availability of food, the population's poor purchasing power was limiting its access to the food supplies, they said. Meanwhile, a recent nutrition survey carried out by MSF among some 1,000 children in Kisangani revealed a 13-percent malnutrition rate, including 9.3 percent severe malnutrition, according to a UN report received by IRIN. Two nutritional centres were being set up in Kisangani to assist malnourished children, the report said.

Special Rapporteur on Human Rights visits

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Roberto Garreton arrived yesterday in Kinshasa, a UN press release said. He was scheduled to have meetings with the ministers of human rights, the interior, home affairs, and justice, individuals, representatives of NGOs and civil society and, tomorrow (Thursday), President Laurent-Desire Kabila. The Special Rapporteur was also scheduled to visit Lubumbashi on Saturday and Goma on Sunday before travelling back to Geneva on 23 February. Prior to his arrival, 86 prisoners were released on Sunday from the Makala Detention and Rehabilitation Centre in Kinshasa, Congolese state television reported yesterday. It said the number of prisoners at Makala was 2,086 -- more than 600 to be tried in civilian courts and 1,400 under military jurisdiction.

Strengthening bilateral relations

Bilateral relations, the DRC war and peace efforts were the main focus of a two-day visit to Sudan by Kabila, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Uthman Isma'il told a news conference yesterday. While in Sudan, Kabila - who left yesterday - met his Sudanese counterpart, President Omar al Bashir, Sudanese radio reported. Isma'il emphasized Khartoum's rejection of what he termed Ugandan interference in the DRC's internal affairs and expressed his country's support for the position of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on the conflict. The Sudan Embassy's spokesman in Nairobi, Al Mansour Bolad, said his government regarded the DRC as a friend. "We support DRC politically and recognise its legitimacy," he told IRIN today. "Because of our internal wars we cannot afford to support DRC militarily. Our wish would be that the problem in the country is solved through peaceful means," he said.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian news agency, MENA, reported today that DRC Foreign Minister Jean Charles Okoto Lola Kombe had left Egypt at the end of a brief visit. Besides meeting President Hosni Mubarak, Kombe discussed with Egyptian officials several African issues, international affairs and prospects for bilateral cooperation in various spheres.

ANGOLA/DRC: UNHCR/DRC government plan for Angolan refugees

UNHCR today approached authorities in the port of Matadi, southwest of Kinshasa on the border with Angola, to plan for a site for recently arrived Angolan refugees, a UNHCR statement said. An estimated 12,000 Angolans fled M'banza Congo, in Angola's Zaire province, at the beginning of the month when Angolan UNITA rebels overran government forces. Unlike most of the nearly 150,000 Angolan refugees in the DRC, the 8,000 new arrivals in Songololo and 4,000 in Kimpese have not been able to find shelter with the local population. "If a camp is established for the refugees, the group would be moved further from the border, which is only about 20 kms from Songololo," the statement said.

UNHCR staff will be travelling again tomorrow to the sites in Bas Congo to determine if any refugees are returning on their own to Angola. Several unconfirmed reports indicate that government forces may have retaken the town of M'banza Congo. There are approximately 300,000 Angolan refugees in DRC, Republic of Congo, Namibia and Zambia. Most are settled along the borders with their country. UNHCR provides direct assistance to some 40,000 in the DRC, 12,000 in the Congo, 2,500 in Namibia and 34,000 in Zambia.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: More clashes near Brazzaville

Congolese government troops were engaged in "violent battles" with rebel Ninja militia at Loumou, about 20 km from the capital Brazzaville, AFP said today. Citing an army statement, AFP said government troops had seized rebel anti-aircraft weapons during this week's clashes. Pro-government forces were also seeking to move back towards Brazzaville from the south-western Dolisie area, a stronghold of the rebel Cocoye militia, it said. Government figures indicate that fighting in the country had claimed at least 1,000 lives since December 1998, AFP added. (For more information, see today's IRIN background report on Congo's militia groups).

BURUNDI: Parliamentarians want all warring factions in on Arusha process

A delegation of Burundian parliamentarians have called on Ugandan legislators to help them get all warring factions involved in peace negotiations in Arusha, Tanzania. PANA yesterday quoted delegation head Augustin Nzojibwami, Burundi's second deputy speaker, as urging Ugandan lawmakers in Kampala to help Burundians overcome obstacles in the peace process by inviting all protagonists, including the FDD rebels, to the negotiating table. The FDD (Forces for the Defence of Democracy) is not among the 18 Burundian groups taking part in the Arusha negotiations, whose fifth round is due to start on 8 March. Arusha will also be the venue of a meeting between UNHCR and the Tanzanian and Burundian authorities, to be held in early March to discuss facilitating the return of about 300,000 Burundian refugees from Tanzania, OCHA-Burundi reported in its latest information bulletin.

SOMALIA: Seeds needed before the rains

The Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU) working with WFP in Somalia estimates that 1,600 tonnes of seeds are required there in the next 4-6 weeks before the next rains. They are needed to prevent the livelihood of farmers who do rainfed agriculture from being further jeopardised by lack of inputs for the upcoming Gu season. In its latest emergency report, WFP says the acreage planted and harvested is likely to be low given low household seed stocks. "Unless there is a timely seed distribution effort, the need for food aid may persist beyond July. The current vulnerable population is estimated to 75,000 households," the report said. Water for human and animal consumption has become critical in many regions, especially Bay, Bakool, Gedo, Puntland and Somaliland, it added.

Nairobi, 17 February 1999, 1600 GMT


Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 20:05:28 -0300 (GMT+3) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 611 for 17 Feb 1999.2.17

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,