IRIN Update 622 for 4 March 1999.3.4

IRIN Update 622 for 4 March 1999.3.4

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. 622 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 4 March 1999)

GREAT LAKES: Manhunt for militiamen continues

Rwandan and Ugandan forces today (Thursday) continued a manhunt in the northeast of the DRC for the Rwandan Interahamwe militiamen who hacked to death 12 persons - four Ugandans and eight foreign tourists - earlier this week.

According to Uganda's state-owned 'New Vision' newspaper, 15 of the Interahamwe ('Those who fight together' in Kinyarwanda) were killed Tuesday by Ugandan troops in Nyabwishenya, near the location in Bwindi National Forest in south-western Uganda where the atrocities were committed.

The DRC rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) told AFP they needed help to control the Virunga National Park just across the border from Bwindi. "We sent troops and intelligence agents to the Virunga Volcanic National Park where the Rwandan Hutu Interahamwe militiamen and soldiers from the ex-Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) are found," AFP quoted RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba as saying. "But unfortunately we do not have enough (men)." Wamba said an estimated 15,000 Interahamwe were in the area and were trying to go back to Rwanda.

The DRC government, which is reported to be supported by the Interahamwe, expressed regret at the atrocities. Deputy Foreign Minister David Mbwankiem said yesterday (Wednesday) on state-owned radio in Kinshasa that the Congolese government was "deeply concerned about this new attempt to destabilise the Great Lakes region". He called for an international investigation to "identify those who perpetrated the odious act". However, the DRC government rejected any responsibility for the attack, saying that it occurred "about 20 km from the DRC border illegally occupied and currently under the control of the Ugandan-Rwandan armed forces".

OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim today condemned the killings.

Meanwhile, the United States has sent FBI agents to help with the investigation into the incident. Two arrived Tuesday in Kampala and others were expected soon, according to Reuters.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: South Africa pushes for peace

South Africa said today it would continue to push for a peaceful settlement of the DRC conflict. In a speech to the South African parliament, Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo said Pretoria was seeking the implementation of a cease-fire, the standstill of all opposing forces, the withdrawal of all foreign troops and "all-inclusive" negotiations among the Congolese themselves.

"The South African approach is to resolve the conflict through SADC (Southern African Development Community), in consultation with the OAU, in accordance with the principles decided upon at the SADC summit in Pretoria on the 23rd August 1998," said Nzo.

Nzo added that the DRC conflict was part of much larger problem currently affecting the Great Lakes region. "The seriousness of the conflict in the Great Lakes region was once again demonstrated earlier this week by the brutal slaying of eight foreign tourists in Uganda," he said.

Displaced hiding in South Kivu bush

The situation in the Uvira and Fizi areas of South Kivu remains of concern as people continue to flee insecurity and many are still hiding in the bush, humanitarian sources said. Congolese refugees arriving in western Tanzania reported that the displaced from Uvira and Fizi were facing hunger and disease, including cholera. "In the bush, they live in extreme conditions with no access to humanitarian assistance since it is cut off because of insecurity and lack of infrastructure," John Sparrow, Information Officer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) told IRIN: "The longer they stay there, the more serious their conditions become."

Reaching the lake shore to cross to Kigoma in Tanzania can be hazardous for the fleeing Congolese, IFRC said. "There are countless stories of people being turned back or shot at", Sparrow said. IFRC supports the work of the Tanzanian Red Cross in the Lugufu refugee camp, located 90 km east of Kigoma, which currently has a population of 23,000 people.

Some 37,914 Congolese refugees have arrived in the Kigoma area since August 1998, including 675 who arrived between 26 February and 1 March, UNHCR said. Most of the new arrivals from the Fizi and Uvira areas reported that they had left their homes because of fierce fighting in the villages of Dino and Rubiro.

No offensive on Kindu, rebels say

The RCD has denied reports that government troops and their allies had launched an offensive on Kindu in Maniema, Rwandan radio, monitored by the BBC, said today. However, it quoted a rebel spokesman as saying an "incident" had taken place between soldiers and civilians about 30 km from Kindu. The radio quoted RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba as saying Kinshasa's claims of an attack on Kindu were "mere propaganda."

Swissair to resume Kinshasa service

Swissair will resume its weekly flights to Kinshasa on 28 March, Reuters reported yesterday. It quoted the airline's chief executive, Jeffrey Katz, as saying: "It's a volatile situation in Africa...but we are a careful company and our evaluation says we can run a reliable, safe operation." Swissair stopped its flights to Kinshasa in August 1998 at the start of the DRC conflict.

Government sets up mining police

A special unit is being set up in DRC to police the mining industry, according to state-owned radio. Mining Minister Frederic Kibassa Maliba said the force was being created to "supplement the efforts being made to rebuild the DRC so that the country can draw very substantial benefits from the precious materials that are the jewels of our abundant mineral resources ..., gold, diamonds and oil."

"The measure was also taken so that these precious materials do not simply fill the pockets of swindlers," he added.

BURUNDI: Malnutrition down in Bubanza

A recent nutrition survey carried out in Bubanza province by the NGO Children's Aid Direct revealed that the global malnutrition rate had fallen to 9.7 percent, compared with 15.6 percent when the last survey was done six months ago, the latest OCHA-Burundi humanitarian situation report said. The severe malnutrition rate was now 3.7 percent, down from 7.1 percent six months ago, the report added. However, the mortality rate for children under five years of age was found to have increased slightly, from 4.4 to 4.5 per 10,000 per day, it said, adding that UNICEF was in the process of devising a system to improve analysis of such contradictory data.

Meanwhile, an OCHA-led inter-agency mission that recently visited the eastern Rugazi and Musigati communes of Bubanza reported that newly displaced people continued to arrive into the area's displaced sites from the Kibira forest and neighbouring Muramvya province. The new arrivals were in need of food and non-food assistance, the report said.

SUDAN: People panic as meningitis epidemic spreads

Sudan's meningitis epidemic has reached "alarming levels" in six states, and vaccine shortages have prevented comprehensive vaccination coverage, IFRC said today. In a statement received by IRIN, IFRC said residents in the worst-affected areas had begun to panic, with streams of people converging on aid agency offices asking to be immunised. A total of 1,762 cases and 233 deaths have been registered since the outbreak was first reported in North Darfur in December.

Unless the vaccination campaigns were accelerated, the disease would spread further, the statement said, adding that it had already reached southern Sudan. IFRC, which has appealed for almost one million Swiss francs to help respond to the epidemic, was on "full alert" in 26 states and prepared to assist as necessary, the statement added.

Some 45,000 people were affected during the last big meningitis epidemic in Sudan in 1988/89. Financial constraints in the last four years have made it difficult to continue an effective annual vaccination programme to contain and prevent the disease, IFRC said.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Situation "very worrying", Josselin says

French Minister for Cooperation Charles Josselin described the situation in Congo-Brazzaville as "very worrying," AFP reported yesterday. Josselin told the French National Assembly that much of the country, including Dolisie and the hinterland between Pointe-Noire and the capital, Brazzaville, was "practically outside the central government's control."

He said fresh fighting in mid-December and at the end of January had seriously damaged infrastructure in the capital, which had "barely rebuilt over the ruins caused by the [1997] civil war" between President Denis Sassou-Nguesso and former president Pascal Lissouba, AFP reported. Pointe-Noire had escaped the violence due largely to the presence of Angolan troops, AFP quoted him as saying.

Militia flee to Cabinda

Meanwhile, rebel militia allied to Lissouba and former prime minister Bernard Kolelas have been spotted in Angola's Cabinda enclNGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Situation "very worrying", Josselin says

ting local residents. An Angolan military source told Lusa that the militia had presumably been forced to withdraw from the Niari region of the Congo after clashes with government troops there.

ETHIOPIA/ERITREA: OAU peace team expected in Eritrea

An OAU team was due to arrive in Asmara today to discuss with the Eritrean government the modalities for implementing the OAU plan for resolving the Ethiopia/Eritrea border dispute. The team was in Addis Ababa on Monday for similar discussions with the Ethiopian government. Eritrea formally accepted the OAU peace plan on Saturday, while Ethiopia had accepted it earlier.

Asmara, however, maintains that the Ethiopian government has a "hidden agenda" since it has not yet indicated its "formal acceptance" of a ceasefire. "The fact that there is a ceasefire does not mean war cannot erupt. Ethiopia has a shifty agenda. They talk about Assab, the border dispute, and now they say they cannot live in peace unless the Eritrean government is overthrown," Eritrean government spokesman Yemane Ghebre Meskel told IRIN yesterday.

The OAU agreement calls for a ceasefire, the demilitarisation of the border, the deployment of international peacekeepers and the neutral delineation of the disputed border.

AFRICA: Food supply shortfalls in fourteen African countries, FAO says

Fourteen African countries are among 38 countries in the world which require exceptional or emergency assistance because of food supply shortfalls in the current marketing year, FAO said in a special Food Update released in Paris on Tuesday. The 14 countries are Burundi, DRC, the Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In Somalia, the report says there is mounting concern about the deteriorating food situation. A poor Deyr season crop is forecast and this follows five consecutive poor harvests. "The number of people searching for food and water is on the increase," FAO said. "In many areas, renewed fighting has aggravated an already precarious situation."

The report says the severely reduced Vuli crop in Tanzania has increased the number of vulnerable people there. Food shortages have also been reported in the eastern parts of Kenya, although the overall national situation is satisfactory. Civil strife and armed conflicts have hampered agricultural activities in the Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and DRC, the report said.

Nairobi, 4 March 1999, 1630 GMT


Date: Thu, 4 Mar 1999 20:04:34 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 622 for 4 March 1999.3.4

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

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