IRIN Update 620 for 2 March 1999.3.2

IRIN Update 620 for 2 March 1999.3.2

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. 620 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 2 March 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Allies renew support for Kinshasa

The presidents of Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia yesterday (Monday) reiterated their support for President Laurent-Desire Kabila in his war against rebels supported by Rwanda and Uganda.

Speaking after a four-nation summit in Kinshasa, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe said the allies would spare no effort to help the DRC restore its sovereignty and territorial integrity, state-run television reported in Kinshasa.

"There is no doubt on our part that they intend the war to continue, and their occupation therefore to continue, and allow them to exploit the resources of the Democratic Republic of Congo," Mugabe said, lashing out at Uganda and Rwanda.

"Time has come for the international community, we believe, not only to exert pressure on them to withdraw, to undo their aggression, but also to recognize that ... their aggression is against the international law, and therefore must cease," he added. "As I said, we are determined to put an end to this war, and today we re-examined other ways of putting an end to this aggression by all means."

Also attending the meeting were presidents Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola and Sam Nujoma of Namibia.

Angola's state-run radio reported in Luanda that the allies also discussed the Angolan situation "deciding that [UNITA leader Jonas] Savimbi poses a threat to the region" Angola's ambassador in Kinshasa, Mawete Joao Baptista, said the heads "appealed to the international community to materially assist the Republic of Angola in its efforts to establish peace in the country".

"On the DRC, they stated their unconditional support for Kabila's efforts to halt the rebellion in his country," Baptista added. He told the radio station that "... the international community has been campaigning quite strongly to split the DRC allies" and that "the meeting was an opportunity for Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia to show their solidarity with the DRC..."

Canadian mining company declares force majeure

Tenke Mining Corporation of Canada has declared "force majeure" at its multi-million-dollar copper and cobalt project in Katanga, southern DRC. Tenke explained in a press release dated 23 February that the war in the DRC had undermined a feasibility study on the project, in which it has a 55-percent stake while the DRC government has the remaining 45 percent.

The war, which has disrupted Katanga's power supply and transport links, forced Tenke to halt development work at its Tenke Fungurume project late last year, according to Reuters.

Force majeure is a type of legal protection invoked when unforeseen events such as war or natural disaster prevents a company from implementing a project as it should.

DRC and Sudan say no Sudanese military in Congo

Sudan and DRC today (Tuesday) denied that Khartoum had troops in DRC following reports that a "Sudanese soldier" had been captured by Congolese rebels and taken to Uganda.

"The government of Sudan did not and will not deploy troops in DRC. Its support to this friendly neighbour is purely political," the Sudan Embassy spokesman in Nairobi, Al Mansour Bolad, told IRIN. "So many countries are involved in DRC and have openly declared their military support, we have declared our political support, why would we shy away if we were militarily involved," he added.

Prof Gaspard Mugaruka, the Congolese charge d'affaires in Nairobi, also dismissed the reports, carried this week by international media, that the Ugandan army in Kampala was holding a Sudanese government soldier captured last month during a battle with anti-government rebels in DRC. "There are no Sudanese military in our country," Mugaruka told IRIN today. "We have Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Chad fighting with us and we have never hidden the fact that there are Angolan, Zimbabwean, Namibian and Chadian troops in the DRC, but there are no Sudanese troops."

He charged that the claim was a ploy by the DRC's enemies to gain the sympathy of the United States.

"What we denounce," Mugaruka said, "is the silence of the international community" while "innocent people are being killed". He added: "We want the international community to denounce our aggressors."

Polio outbreaks in North Kivu, Equateur

A polio outbreak has been reported in the Walikale area of North Kivu, humanitarian sources said. The area remained inaccessible due to insecurity, which was hampering efforts to respond to the epidemic, they said. Efforts were underway to contain another polio outbreak that was affecting two zones of Equateur province, with some 100 cases reported so far, the sources said.

SUDAN: Ceasefire violation claims

The death toll from an attack on Friday at Akoch Payam village in northern Bahr al-Ghazal has risen to 35, according to information received today by IRIN. Seventy-five people were abducted, many are still missing, 200 houses burnt and hundreds of livestock looted.

"The 25 people wounded have had no medical attention since the area's medical centre was burnt down," Achil Malith Banggol, director of the Nairobi-based NGO Sudan Production Aid told IRIN.

Banggol said the attackers were from the pro-government Islamic militia Popular Defence Force because they "came on horses and no other militia uses horses".

The attackers hit the village as soon as an aid plane took off after delivering survival kits including shelter materials to the village.

The government of Sudan, for its part, said it was the initiator of the ceasefire and could not turn around and attack a village. The SPLA's claim of a ceasefire violation is a "continuation of the smear campaign by the rebels," Al Mansour Bolad said.

Whereas Khartoum wants a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire to facilitate dialogue, the SPLA has always adopted a piecemeal approach to further its military positions, he said.

WFP faces shortfalls of non-cereal commodities

WFP is facing critical shortages of non-cereal food for Sudan for the March-December 1999 period, especially pulses, oil, salt and blended foods, the UN agency reported in its latest Sudan update. "If these commodities are not made available in the near future, the gained improvements in the nutritional situation will be reversed," the report warned.

Ongoing WFP assessments in locations such as Bahr al-Ghazal, Equatoria, Unity/Upper Nile/Jonglei indicate that the food deficit is now about 10-30 percent among the poorest sectors of the population, but may reach as high as 50-60 percent before the 1999 harvest season in September-October. "The most vulnerable are the internally displaced," it said.

The food deficit is expected to increase gradually towards May-July. The overall food deficit in many places depends greatly on the availablity of wild foods and other local food sources, WFP said.

UGANDA: Eight abducted tourists killed, six freed

Eight tourists taken hostage by suspected Rwandan Interahamwe based in DRC were killed today in a shootout between their abductors and Ugandan security forces, according to various media reports. Six others were freed. The dead are four Britons, two New Zealanders and two US nationals.

The tourists had been abducted on Sunday in the Bwindi national park in south-western Uganda, which is close to the DRC border.

Early on in the abduction, a number of tourists were released, including France's deputy ambassador to Uganda and other French nationals.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: 50,000 displaced from Dolisie

Recent fighting in Dolisie in southern Congo has forced some 50,000 people from their homes, WFP said in its latest weekly emergency report. An estimated 20,000 persons displaced by fighting between government forces and militia in the area had already arrived in the port city of Pointe-Noire, humanitarian sources said. They said insecurity was still prevalent in Pointe-Noire and blackouts were frequent. International oil companies remained operational in the city, the sources added.

Pool remains inaccessible

The Pool region south of Brazzaville remains inaccessible, humanitarian sources said. They said tens of thousands of people displaced in December from the Bacongo and Makelekele districts of southern Brazzaville remained in the region, where they were facing "disastrous" food security and health care conditions. The situation was reported to be equally critical for the local population of Pool, where hostilities between government forces and militia groups have prevailed since October 1998.

Serious abuses committed by Cobras, US says

Undisciplined government troops, including Cobra militia allied to President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, were responsible for summary executions and rape in response to anti-government violence during the last four months of 1998, the US State Department's 1998 human rights report said.

It said that the origin and nature of the 16-20 December fighting in Bacongo and Makelekele remained uncertain but that no more than 300 Ninja militia were involved, and that at least 1,000 people had died. The fighting displaced some 200,000 residents from the two neighbourhoods.

The report said that government forces, mainly Cobras, had looted these neighborhoods with impunity for days after they were abandoned. They "drove trucks and wheeled push-carts piled high with looted goods from these neighbourhoods to markets" in northern Brazzaville, it said. Security forces were also reported to have removed from northern Brazzaville's displaced centres several young males, whose whereabouts remained unknown. The government also permitted Hutu militiamen from refugee camps in the country to join in military operations, it added.

Bishops appeal for peace, end to abuses

Congo's Catholic bishops yesterday denounced the human rights abuses in the country, including "massacres of innocent civilians" and looting of public and private property, Reuters reported. They said public security forces should stop "terrorizing" civilians. The bishops also urged the systematic collection of weapons and they called for reconciliation between supporters of Sassou, former president Pascal Lissouba and former prime minister Bernard Kolelas, Reuters said.

ETHIOPIA: National carrier moves back home

Ethiopian Airlines announced yesterday that it had resumed its normal schedule. In an announcement posted on the Ethiopian Walta Information Centre website, the carrier said it had started back operating from Addis Ababa after temporarily shifting its operational hub to Nairobi at the outbreak of the war with Eritrea.

LANDMINES: International ban takes effect

An international treaty banning the use, stockpiling and production of anti-personnel mines, signed by over 130 countries in Ottawa in December 1997, came into effect yesterday after being ratified by another 50 nations.

In a press release by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), Jody Williams, ICBL ambassador said: "Today, this treaty enters into force more quickly than any other major treaty in history, demonstrating the world's commitment to eradicate this insidious weapon now."

But Williams sounded a note of caution: "While the treaty and the ban movement already had a huge impact in terms of saving future lives and limbs, we will not have real success until there is effective and rapid implementation on the ground, and more of the recalcitrant governments join in."

(For full version see IRIN Item irin-english-354 headlined "SOUTHERN AFRICA: International landmines ban takes effect").

Nairobi, 2 March 1999, 1630 GMT


Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1999 19:45:28 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> To: Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 620 for 2 March 1999.3.2

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

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