IRIN Update 619 for 1 March 1999.

IRIN Update 619 for 1 March 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. 619 for Central and Eastern Africa (Monday 1 March 1999)

ETHIOPIA/ERITREA: Frontier quiet as Ethiopia deliberates on ceasefire

The Ethiopian/Eritrean frontier remained quiet today (Monday), government sources in both countries confirmed. Consultations were held in Addis Ababa to determine the next step after what the Ethiopian government called a "total victory for operation sunset," on Friday. "Deliberations are going on to allow the government to take a stand on whether or not it will declare a ceasefire," Ethiopian government spokesperson Salome Tadesse told IRIN today.

Eritrea accepted an OAU peace plan on Saturday and said that the "ceasefire depends on Ethiopians, since they are the ones putting up conditions." Eritrean government spokesman Yemane Ghebre Meskel told IRIN Ethiopia had not scored a victory since Eritrea lost few soldiers or equipment in the offensive and "no single Eritrean was captured". "They made territorial gains but we destroyed 40 tanks, captured 171 prisoners in the four days of intensive fighting," he said. "We killed and wounded thousands of their soldiers." The conflict has displaced thousands, killed and maimed many and led to destruction of property.

The OAU has called for an immediate end to the fighting now that the two countries have accepted its blueprint for peace, press reports said.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Investigation of rebel massacres blocked

Rebel pledges to investigate civilian massacres and other abuses committed by their own troops have not yet materialised, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its report on the DRC, released last week. A commission of inquiry appointed by the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) to investigate a New Year massacre at Makobola in South Kivu was evidently being stalled by the RCD's military authorities, it said.

Hundreds of civilians were killed by RCD forces and their backers in the Makobola incident, it said. Other large-scale civilian massacres in rebel-held areas were reported at Kasika, Uvira, Kalehe-Kabare and Lemera in South Kivu, the report said. Most civilian massacres took place during RCD reprisals for attacks on rebel forces by anti-RCD militia groups.

"The RCD authorities and the Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian governments should give clear instructions to their troops to cease civilian killings and to respect international humanitarian law," HRW said. (The full report is available at

Mass graves reported in Kinshasa

Meanwhile, ethnic Tutsi civilians in government-held territory remained vulnerable to execution or other human rights abuses, particularly if the war were not to go well for the government, HRW said in its report. Incitement to violence and calls by the government to kill "the enemy" at the start of the conflict had resulted in the slaughter of a large number of Tutsis, the report said.

There were probably "several hundred" civilians, predominantly Tutsi, killed in Kinshasa alone, while dozens of people arrested and detained at the Kokolo military camp in the capital were reported to have been killed by Congolese military, the report said. Mass graves were reported at the Kokolo camp and other locations in Kinshasa, it said.

"Future incitement from members of the government or the public could ignite existing anti-Tutsi sentiment into further killings by civilians or military," the report warned. Between 1,000 and 2,000 Tutsis are estimated to be detained in the DRC, UN human rights rapporteur Roberto Garreton said last week.

Ugandan POWs in Goma

Ugandan prisoners of war in Goma said they had been recruited from camps around Juba in southern Sudan, HRW reported. The Ugandans claimed they had been promised repatriation but were instead flown to Kindu in Maniema province, where they were instructed to join the Congolese Armed Forces. They were subsequently captured by RCD forces during the battle for Kindu in October 1998. The Ugandans also claimed that members of the Ugandan West Nile Bank Front in the camps in Sudan were flown voluntarily to Kindu to fight for the DRC government, HRW said.

Rebels support humanitarian ceasefire proposal

DRC rebels have assured a senior UN official that they would observe a temporary ceasefire to allow the delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance to affected populations, particularly the vaccination of children, a UN press release said on Friday. It said that the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, had received these assurances from RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba. Otunnu has been visiting several countries in the region.

Moncef Khane, First Officer in Otunnu's office, told IRIN today that Otunnu and Wamba dia Wamba had met in the Rwandan border town of Gisenyi on 22 February and the rebel leader had agreed in principle to the idea of declaring "days of tranquility" in rebel-held areas for specific humanitarian activities. However, no dates or time-period had been set. "There was agreement in principle but the modalities still need to be worked out," Khane said. Other issues discussed at the Gisenyi meeting were the demobilisation of child soldiers and the investigation of reported civilian massacres in rebel-held areas, he said.

Interahamwe kill four, rebels charge

'Interahamwe' militiamen reportedly attacked a convoy of 10 vehicles on the Goma-Rutshuru road on Wednesday last, killing four people and burning four vehicles, rebel-held 'Radio Goma', monitored in Rwanda, announced on Friday.

"Those `Interahamwe', who say they are fighting Tutsis of the region, are rather sowing death and desolation among innocent civilians from all tribes without any distinction," 'Radio Goma' commented.

More than 50,000 Hutu militia and former Rwandan government soldiers are said to be based in the forests and bush north of the rebel stronghold of Goma.

Increased food aid needs in Kinshasa

WFP has increased the number of targeted food aid beneficiaries in Kinshasa due to the general deterioration of the economic and financial situation in the city, which has dramatically reduced vulnerable people's access to basic food supplies, WFP said in its latest weekly emergency report. Its target for March is now 52,000 beneficiaries, up from 34,800.

Meanwhile, WFP and its partners have identified some 19,000 displaced persons and 1,420 malnourished children in need of relief assistance in Goma, the report said.

SUDAN: Western Darfur belligerents sign peace pact

Farming and pastoral communities that had been involved in a bloody conflict in Sudan's Western Darfur state signed a peace agreement on Saturday in the state capital, Al Geneina, Sudanese state television reported yesterday (Sunday). Scores, if not hundreds, of people have been killed or injured since late last year in the conflict between Masalit farmers and nomadic Arab communities over the control of scarce land and water resources. More than 60 villages were burnt, around 2,000 families fled to Al Geneina and more than 10,000 people sought refuge over the border in Chad.

Secession controversy continues

The Sudanese government reacted on Friday to criticism of its recent announcement that the South could become a separate state if its people so wished by saying that the self-determination idea was not something it had decreed but the subject of an agreement negotiated with southern groups.

Responding to opposition claims that President Omar al Bashir's announcement "lacked a sense of national belonging, concern for national sovereignty, unity and dignity," the government blamed the opposition for ignoring its call to reason and dialogue.

"Nationalism and sovereignty are concepts based on the existence, definition and will of people," it said in a statement IRIN received from Sudan's Embassy in Nairobi. These factors are people-related concepts and not a predicate of the territorial factor, it said, adding: "The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) condemns itself when it overlooks the reference to people in the issue of self-determination."

On Thursday, the NDA had termed al Bashir's offer "a crazy position which lacks nationalism and respect of sovereignty". It affirmed its commitment to the unity of Sudan based on justice, equality, citizenship, and recognition of ethnic, religious and cultural diversity.

Meanwhile, Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail on Wednesday sent a letter of protest to the chairman of the UN Security Council and the OAU concerning a recent meeting of Sudanese opposition and civil society groups in Uganda, Sudan Embassy spokesman Al Mansour Bolad confirmed in Nairobi. In the letter, the Sudanese government protested against what it termed Uganda's "interference" in the internal affairs of Sudan and the opposition's pledge to continue its armed struggle until the Sudanese government is overthrown.


The UN Security Council on Friday extended the mandate of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) until 15 November and authorised it to play a supportive role in presidential elections expected to be completed by the end of October.

A UN press release said the Council unanimously adopted the resolution, which also authorised MINURCA to supervise the destruction of confiscated weapons and ammunition. The resolution called upon the government to establish a new electoral commission as soon as possible to organise the presidential polls. The Council also decided to review MINURCA's mandate every 45 days.

Troop-contributing countries to the 1,350-strong force in 1998 included Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, France, Gabon, Mali, Senegal and Togo.

Rise in teenage prostitution linked to peacekeepers' presence

Meanwhile, the US State Department said in its 1998 Report on Human Rights Practices that the presence of international peacekeeping forces had increased teenage prostitution in the capital, Bangui. Some girls had been forced by their parents to become prostitutes to earn money for the survival of the family, it added.

HUMAN RIGHTS: US report highlights abuse of civilians in conflict

The past year has seen a "disturbing trend toward the widespread abuse of civilians" trapped in conflicts in Africa and elsewhere, the U.S. government's 1998 Report on Human Rights Practices said.

The report, released on Friday, said insurgents and government forces had resorted to murder, rape and other human rights abuses and crimes against humanity and had engaged in "premeditated campaigns designed to wreak havoc and inflict terror on civilian populations."

The report's overview cited the governments and rebel groups of the DRC and Angola, as well as the rebel forces in Sierra Leone, as having committed abuses against civilians in 1998. In Sudan, a "government-imposed food shortage" had put millions at risk of starvation, the report said. (The full report is available at

Nairobi, 1 March 1999, 1700 GMT


Date: Mon, 1 Mar 1999 20:18:13 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 619 for 1 March 1999.3.1

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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