IRIN Update 613 for 19 Feb 1999

IRIN Update 613 for 19 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. 613 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 19 February 1999)

BURUNDI: Pre-talks clashes have become a trend, humanitarian official says

Fighting flared up again this week between the Burundi military and armed rebels in Bujumbura Rural province. "Up to this morning we heard some shooting from our house," a humanitarian worker who lives in Bujumbura told IRIN today (Friday). Other volatile provinces, he said, include Makamba and Bururi. "Although Bubanza has been relatively quiet recently, the southern part of the province is very volatile, with shooting day and night," the source added.

According to the humanitarian worker, the fighting in Burundi tends to escalate just before each round of peace talks in Arusha, Tanzania. This trend is possibly because the main armed rebel group, the CNDD/FDD - which is not involved in the peace talks - uses the attacks as a means of putting pressure on the government, he explained. The next round of talks in Arusha is due to start on 8 March.

Malnutrition rate down in Gitega

The malnutrition rate among children in Burundi's Gitega province decreased significantly last year, according to an OXFAM survey conducted in November 1998, OCHA-Burundi reported in its latest information bulletin. Despite the decrease, nutritional feeding and food security activities should continue since the coming months are considered a ''lean period'' and malnutrition figures could rise again, OXFAM warned. Based on a comparison of the findings of the November anthropometric survey and one done in January 1998, global malnutrition fell in north Gitega from 23.8 percent to 12.9 percent, while acute malnutrition dropped from 6.5 percent to 2.0 percent. In south Gitega, global malnutrition went from 13.3 to 8.3 percent between the two surveys, and acute malnutrition decreased from 5.7 to 1.4 percent.

Seed assistance projects launched

WFP and FAO have jointly launched projects to assist families who were severely hit by drought in the last agricultural season. WFP expects to provide over 6,500 mt of food for more than 158,000 families, each of which will receive 15-30 days' rations, including cereals, pulses and salt. This "will help ensure that people in food-insecure areas do not resort to eating their seeds in order to survive, thereby further reducing their future harvest," a WFP news release said. This year's needs have been amplified by a recent drought which severely damaged crops in several parts of the country. "Bean crops were particularly hard hit, resulting in a drastic seed shortage," WFP said. FAO, for its part, has started distributing 1,300 mt of bean seed to some 130,000 farming families. Information received by IRIN from FAO's emergency office in Nairobi indicated that while 15 provinces were targeted, 45 percent of the seeds will go to a single province, Kirundo. "Seed distribution to this area has the highest long-term pay-off for the entire population in the country," the report noted.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Political tensions worry Security Council

The UN Security Council yesterday (Thursday) expressed concern about the effect of the CAR's current political tensions on stability in the country. In a statement, the president of the council said the future mandate and ongoing presence of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) were closely linked to the fulfillment of commitments made by the government, including the immediate resumption of a constructive political dialogue. The council also expressed support for efforts aimed at resolving the political impasse in the country, which emerged following legislative elections in November/December 1998. MINURCA's mandate expires on 28 February and Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended its extension until presidential elections to be held sometime this year.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels sentence five to death

A court martial in Goma on Wednesday sentenced five people to death, according to a Rwanda News Agency (RNA) report based on an announcement yesterday by rebel-controlled Goma radio. The five - three civilians and two rebel soldiers - were members of a gang of seven bandits who had been terrorising Goma, harassing people, and carrying out armed robberies, according to the radio station, which said the two soldiers, tried in absentia, were on the run. A policeman and a fourth civilian were sentenced to jail terms of 20 years and two years respectively, RNA quoted the radio as reporting. The trial lasted three days.

Zahidi Ngoma resigns from RCD

Arthur Zahidi Ngoma, a senior rebel leader, resigned this week from the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), saying that it did not represent the Congolese people but was just fronting for a military operation orchestrated from outside.

GREAT LAKES REGION: WFP approves massive food aid programme

WFP has approved a US $270-million emergency food aid programme for the volatile Great Lakes region. The two-year operation, which will start in August, will each month supply 422,000 mt of food to an average of 1.25 million war-affected persons in Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, WFP said today in a press release. This will be one of the agency's biggest operations in the world and its second largest in Africa after its massive food-distribution programme in the Sudan. Beneficiaries will include some 770,000 refugees and displaced persons in Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania. Assistance will also be provided for 280,000 former refugees and displaced persons who have returned to their home areas but are not yet self-sufficient, WFP said. A contingency budget line has been included to allow another 200,000 persons to receive food assistance, since new population displacements in the region are constantly creating additional needs.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Drug war in the Pool

Control over cannabis production is one of the main factors behind the current conflict in Congo-Brazzaville, the Paris-based 'Geopolitical Drug Dispatch' said in a recent article. It said Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas had, after the 1997 war, fled to the Mindouli area of the Pool region where they started growing cannabis on a large-scale. The killing of three Ninja leaders in Mindouli, ordered by a government-allied police captain over a drug affair, and the reprisal killing by the Ninja of the region's prefect on 29 August 1998 set in motion the "full-blown rural guerilla warfare" prevailing in the Pool region since then, it said. Cobra militia, subsequently deployed by President Denis Sassou-Nguesso to combat the Ninja, had harvested the area's cannabis crops and sent the stolen marijuana to Brazzaville where it was sold, the Dispatch said. The Pool has become the country's top marijuana-producing region ahead of Plateaux and Cuvette, it added.

SUDAN: Update on 1998 flood emergency

The emergency situation in Sudan's flood-affected north-eastern states has stabilised and communities have been able to plant crops, OCHA-Sudan said yesterday in a situation report. Record flooding and heavy rains in August/September 1998 affected about one million people, of whom over 100,000 were displaced, in 18 of Sudan's 26 states and resulted in a dramatic increase in the incidence of water-borne diseases. The report said UN agencies, the Red Cross Movement and national authorities had carried out much of the initial emergency response.

WFP provided food aid, UNICEF worked to improve water and sanitation conditions, WHO donated emergency health kits and FAO bought seeds for affected farming communities, it said, adding that UNHCR, OCHA, UNFPA and UNDP also contributed. Sudan has also received some US $35 million in bilateral donations in response to a US $230-million flood-recovery and rehabilitation plan formulated in November 1998 by a multi-agency assessment team, the report added. Donors include the Saudi Fund, the Islamic Development Bank and the Japanese government.

Nairobi, 19 February 1999, 1545 GMT


Date: Fri, 19 Feb 1999 18:56:11 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 613 for 19 Feb 1999.2.19

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,