IRIN Update 621 for 3 March 1999

IRIN Update 621 for 3 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. 621 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 3 March 1999)

GREAT LAKES: Not just an isolated incident

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni vowed today (Wednesday) that Rwandan rebels who murdered 12 persons in south-western Uganda would be captured or killed, and disclosed that a battalion of Ugandan troops had pursued the group into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Reuters reported.

Some 150 assailants had abducted a group of people on Sunday in the Bwindi National Park, mainly tourists who had gone there to see its rare mountain gorillas. They murdered four Ugandans and eight foreign tourists - Britons, Americans and New Zealanders.

Speaking at a press conference in Kampala, Museveni apologised for what he termed the "laxity" of his government. He said the authorities "should have had the foresight to take precautions in Bwindi, which is quite close to the Congo border".

The murderers were reported to be members of the Interahamwe ('Those who fight together'), the militia that spearheaded the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, during which hundreds of thousands of minority Tutsis and moderates from the Hutu majority were murdered. The Interahamwe, along with the former armed forces of Rwanda (ex-FAR), were among some 1.7 million Hutus who fled Rwanda in July-August 1994 as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took control of the country. In eastern DRC and western Tanzania, tens of thousands of them trained, rearmed and plotted to retake control of Rwanda, according to information obtained by the UN International Commission of Inquiry on arms flows to former Rwandan forces, which released its final report in November 1998.

When rebels moved to topple the late president Mobutu Sese Seko in then Zaire in 1996-1997, hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutus returned home, while others fled further west. According to information the Commission of Inquiry received from various sources, there were an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 FAR and Interahamwe active in Rwanda before the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) began its rebellion in the DRC in August 1998.

Smaller numbers were reported in other countries: as many as 2,000 were believed to be in the south of the Central African Republic, 2,000-3,000 were said to be in one camp in the Republic of Congo. An estimated 5,000 to 8,000 were reported to be in the Sudan, according to the report, and significant numbers were also reported in Angola, Zambia and Tanzania.

After the rebellion began in August, most converged on the DRC, where they have benefitted from the shifting alliances of the past months. Based on "persistent reports received from numerous sources," the Commission concluded that "the ex-FAR/Interahamwe, once a defeated and dispersed remnant, have now become a significant component of the international alliance against the Congolese rebels and their presumed sponsors, Rwanda and Uganda".

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) today cited reports that the perpetrators of the Bwindi attack left notes on the corpses of the eight tourists saying the massacre was in revenge for US and British support for Uganda. A survivor was quoted as saying he believed the abduction was aimed more at destabilising Uganda and reminding the world that there was a war in the DRC.

The attack occurred across the border from Rutshuru, an area in the DRC that is considered a hotbed of activity by rival armed groups.

UGANDA: ADF rebels kill five in displaced camp

Meanwhile, Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels on Monday raided a camp for displaced persons in Uganda and hacked five of its residents to death, the 'New Vision' newspaper reported today. The attack occurred near Ntororo, about 340 km west of Kampala. The paper quoted security sources as saying the rebels came from nearby Semiliki National Park, on the border with the DRC and some 210 km north of Bwindi.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Assault on Kindu reported

Congolese government troops and their allies have launched on attack on rebel-held Kindu in Maniema province, news agencies said. AFP today said the assault aimed to take control of Kindu's airport, while Reuters yesterday (Tuesday) quoted senior army officials as saying President Laurent-Desire Kabila's forces attacked the town at the weekend and entered it on Monday. There was no independent confirmation of the claims. Kindu, which had served as the government's forward military headquarters, was captured by the RCD rebels in October 1998.

More talk of possible peacekeeping force

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday at a press conference at UN headquarters in New York that members of the UN Security Council were considering with "more of an open mind" the possibility of getting involved in peacekeeping operations, after its reluctance following the Somalia experience. The DRC is "one of the areas that the Council members have talked about, and are aware that they may have to become engaged in," Annan said.

Meanwhile, Britain has distributed a discussion paper to selected governments which suggests the possibility of sending an international force of about 10,000-12,000 people to the DRC after a ceasefire is secured, AP said yesterday. The deployment of such a mission, however, was still a long way off, AP said, citing Western diplomats at the UN. It quoted outgoing Council president Robert Fowler of Canada as saying "I see very little enthusiasm to pay for such things let alone to participate in such things."

Commercial activity in Bunia

A sense of normalcy has begun to return to Bunia in Province Orientale with most shops now open and regular supplies of goods arriving by road from Uganda, according to sources in contact with the area. Food items, although expensive for the local population, were available in the markets, they said. The town of Isiro in the province was more isolated, and goods were being flown in from Kampala. Both Bunia and Isiro were reported to be firmly in the hands of Ugandan troops, considered by the local population to be better disciplined than other soldiers. The security situation outside the towns remained unclear.

Meanwhile, humanitarian sources said the cholera situation in the Ituri district of Province Orientale had stabilised, with only a few cases reported so far this year.

Tutsis not singled out for Canadian resettlement

Following an IRIN report of 22 February regarding resettlement of persons at risk in Kinshasa, the Canadian government said it wished to clarify that it has "no special program that singles out or accelerates the resettlement of Tutsis."

In a statement sent to IRIN today, the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi said Canada has a regional processing centre in Accra, Ghana, from which various immigration programmes for the DRC and other countries are coordinated. This includes refugee and humanitarian programmes undertaken in cooperation with UNHCR and other UN agencies, the statement said.

SUDAN: OLS responds to MSF allegations

The Executive Directors of UNICEF and WFP together with the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator said today they were disappointed over MSF-France's "inaccurate and unbalanced criticisms" of Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) and its efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Sudan.

In a joint statement, they said that in 1998, OLS members had worked to turn around famine and reduce malnutrition rates from a high of 45-50 percent to 10-15 percent in the most affected areas. "While many lives were lost because of war and resulting famine, it is important to recognise that hundreds of thousands of lives were saved," they added.

In a report released last week, MSF had accused OLS of responding slowly to last year's famine and of failing to prevent the diversion of food. The joint UN statement said it would be "unrealistic" for OLS to cease functioning until a perfect system for access and distribution in Sudan was guaranteed. "The result may be better consciences for some, but for the people of southern Sudan, the inevitable result would be further loss of life," the statement said.

"The overriding imperative is to continue with the difficult but necessary humanitarian task, to negotiate with those who cause war on behalf of those who suffer from it - and, finally, to do our best to save innocent lives," the statement said.

500,000 households to receive OLS seeds

Fifteen OLS agencies have started distributing about 4,000 mt of seeds in southern Sudan with a view to fostering self-reliance and reducing dependence on food aid, UNICEF said. In a statement dated 28 February, UNICEF said the programme was targeting 500,000 households in Bahr al Ghazal, Upper Nile and Equatoria. UNICEF is providing 1,150 mt of seeds for the programme, it said. The seed planting season will begin in April.

KENYA/SUDAN: Government tightens control of Lokichogio airstrip

The Kenyan government announced yesterday that it would tighten its control of operations at Lokichogio, the humanitarian aid base in northern Kenya. The announcement followed a weekend call by President Daniel arap Moi for a probe into flights to the area.

A minister in the Office of the President, Marsden Madoka, said in a statement that "measures are being taken to ensure that the flow of humanitarian assistance to areas affected by conflict is closely monitored to ensure that such activities do not pose danger to the security of this country."

The Kenya Airports Authority will take over the management of the airstrip, the Directorate of Civil Aviation will provide air traffic control services, and Customs and Immigration Officers will now be stationed at the airstrip, the statement said.

"Only NGOs and UN agencies who have been duly approved to operate specifically at Lokichogio will be allowed at the airstrip," he said.

Nairobi, 3 March 1999, 1700 GMT


Date: Wed, 3 Mar 1999 20:54:20 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 621 for 3 March 1999.3.3

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

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