IRIN Update 624 for 8 March 1999

IRIN Update 624 for 8 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. 624 for Central and Eastern Africa (Monday 8 March 1999)

SUDAN: ICRC negotiates return of officials

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is negotiating to bring home two of its workers, both Swiss nationals, who were abducted in Kong area southeast of Pariang, in southern Sudan by SPLA rebels on 18 February, ICRC spokesman Juan Martinez told IRIN today (Monday).

The Swiss nationals were part of a group of seven sent on an assessment mission to the area. The SPLA says it is still interrogating the others who included three government officials and two members of the local Red Crescent Society. The SPLA maintains it offered to release the two ICRC members immediately, but they declined demanding the release of "their Sudanese colleagues and the government officials."

"We appreciate SPLA's offer to ICRC to go for the officials. ICRC is now negotiating the practical modalities for the people to leave the country," Martinez said, adding: "It can take a few days to reach an agreement, the situation could remain the same a few more days."

ICRC has to request to fly into the region to pick up the officials. It also has to notify all parties concerned and reach a consensus on how the handover should take place, Martinez explained.

SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje told IRIN the SPLA was now holding six people since one of the Sudan Red Crescent workers had escaped, but he was emphatic that the release only applied to the Swiss nationals.

Militia raids on increase, US committee says

The US Committee for Refugees has released a report which profiles several southern Sudanese individuals and families who have been uprooted by their country's war and have suffered constant rounds of famine, slave raids, bombings and attacks. "The people of southern Sudan have fled their homes in larger numbers than in any other country on earth, four million are internally displaced within the country, and 350,000 are refugees in neighbouring countries," it noted. Although a massive international food airlift curtailed the famine late last year, the health situation remains precarious in 1999, it warns. The report further warned that the deadly raids by government-supported militia against villages in the south have increased again in recent weeks, threatening to disrupt aid efforts.

GREAT LAKES: More Bwindi suspects killed

Ugandan army troops inside the DRC have killed another 10 Rwandan Hutu rebels suspected of involvement in last week's massacre at Bwindi National Park in southwest Uganda, 'The Monitor' newspaper reported yesterday (Sunday). It said a group of 300 rebels were ambushed by the Ugandan army on Thursday some 25 km inside the DRC border. Another 15 suspected Interahamwe rebels were killed on 2 March by Ugandan troops hunting down those responsible for the massacre of eight foreign tourists and four Ugandans at Bwindi.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed concern that civilians including ethnic Hutus may become the victims of punitive army operations, including summary executions, in the Congo and it urged the Ugandan army to respect international humanitarian law in its operation.

"Alarming alliances" among region's rebel groups

In a statement received by IRIN today, US-based HRW also called on the international community to increase its efforts to seek an end to the "unacceptable level of human rights abuses" being committed by rebel movements and some governments in the region. "The brutal killings of these 12 civilians cannot be seen as an isolated incident," HRW Executive Director Ken Roth said in a 4 March statement. He said the attack was "part of a broader pattern" of attacks against civilians in the Great Lakes region over the past few years. The DRC war has encouraged the emergence of "alarming alliances" among some of the rebel groups currently operating in the Great Lakes region, the statement added.

Meanwhile, Ugandan Defence Minister Steven Kavuma told the 'East African' newspaper that Hutu extremist rebels had regrouped in the DRC's border areas and were being trained for a fresh wave of attacks in the region. "Many of them have been recruited in Kinshasa and are fighting alongside the Kabila forces," Kavuma said, adding that the Bwindi tourist killings had confirmed "their plan for criminal activities in the region." The DRC government has rejected any responsibility for the Bwindi killings.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kabila meets Chiluba in Zambia

President Laurent-Desire Kabila on Friday travelled to the Zambian town of Ndola to hold urgent talks with President Frederick Chiluba, news agencies said. Reuters said the two presidents discussed Zambia's decision to cut fuel supplies to southern parts of the DRC and a parallel move to curtail flights to the DRC across Zambian airspace. Zambia is the only route for petrol supplies to southern Congo, including Lubumbashi, which was already reported to be facing fuel shortages, Reuters said. After the meeting, Kabila flew to Lubumbashi, where he told state radio that his meeting with Chiluba focused on the problems and "misunderstandings" prevailing between Zambia and Angola.

Kinshasa criticises diplomatic initiative

A planned conference to be held in Durban, South Africa, from 9-11 March on peace initiatives for the DRC seems to be faltering before it begins. Didier Mumengi, the DRC's Information Minister, has criticised the planned conference as "diplomatic insolence". In a speech broadcast on Congolese television in Kinshasa on Friday, Mumengi said the conference would constitute serious interference in the DRC's affairs. He added that the DRC leadership was not informed in advance of the conference.

Kabila asks Nigeria for troops

Kabila has asked Nigeria for troops to help end the fighting in the DRC, according to a private Nigerian radio station. Kabila sent a delegation to Abuja at the weekend to make the request, the radio station 'Ray Power', monitored by AFP, reported. The delegation met top foreign ministry officials who said the message would be relayed to military ruler General Abdulsalami Abubakar, the radio said. Abuja declined a troop request by Kabila during a visit to Nigeria late last year.

Mechanised brigade combat-ready

The DRC's first mechanised brigade is due to shortly go into action against rebel forces, state television reported at the weekend. The broadcast, monitored by AFP, said the unit, named the Fifth Mechanised Brigade, was trained with the help of Angolan, Namibian and Zimbabwean instructors in Katanga province. No details were released on its weaponry.

Seed distributions in east

Heavy rains have negatively affected rice and vegetable production in parts of North Kivu's Beni and Lubero areas, according to an FAO food security report received by IRIN today. It said affected areas included Mavivi, Munoli, Kasinga, Kitsumbiro, Magheria and Luhotu. An acute shortage of seeds was also reported in the area, FAO and its partners were planning to distribute seeds for tens of thousands of households in the Kivus as well as in Kisangani, the report said. NGOs were providing food-crop seeds to thousands of families in the Uvira area, including displaced populations, it added.

Survey finds Bukavu prices relatively stable

Meanwhile, a market survey in the Bukavu area has revealed that prices were relatively stable between November and February, the FAO report said. A slight increase in the price of meat and other basic food items was reported starting in mid-January. However, the price of recently-harvested beans and nuts went down by about 50 percent in December. The price of palm oil has frequently fluctuated in the city because of insecurity in key production areas, such as Walikale, Mwenga and Fizi, it said.

RWANDA: Africa more cooperative than former Yugoslavia

There is a growing contrast between the level of state cooperation experienced by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and that for the former Yugoslavia, the prosecutor for the two tribunals said on Friday. At a press conference at UN headquarters in New York, prosecutor Louise Arbour said that the African continent had seen a "remarkable willingness" to endorse and support the work of the ICTR, while there was a "tolerated non-compliance" in the case of the states of the former Yugoslavia, a UN press release said. As an example, Arbour said that of the 36 people accused by the Rwanda Tribunal, 34 had been apprehended, arrested, detained and transferred to Arusha, Tanzania, in and by African States. That was in contrast with both the Republika Srpska and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, where all existing public indictments accompanied by arrest warrants had remained outstanding, Arbour said.

Death sentence handed down by Rwandan court

A court in the Rwandan town of Nyamata has sentenced to death a man convicted of genocide and other crimes against humanity, the German News Agency (DPA) reported on Saturday. The man, Emmanuel Twagiramungu, was found guilty of several charges including being a ringleader during a massacre of around 30,000 Tutsis during the 1994 genocide, DPA said, citing a Rwandan radio report. It said two other defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment while another man was given a 20-year jail term.

Concern over prison conditions

Members of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Friday voiced their concern about crowded prison conditions in Rwanda and the slowness of the administration of justice. The committee's rapporteur on Rwanda, Theodor van Boven, told the committee that the Rwandan authorities were reluctant to accept international monitoring and that the rule of law in the country was difficult because of sentiments of "ethnic and racial motives," according to a UN press release. The committee was meeting in Geneva under its early warning measures aimed at preventing existing problems from escalating into conflicts, the statement said.

AFRICA: UN Deputy Secretary-General chairs Nairobi meeting

The first Annual Regional Coordination Meeting of the UN system in Africa was held at the UN Office in Nairobi on Friday. A UN press release said the gathering was part of a series of meetings convened to discuss enhanced coordination of UN system activities at the regional level. The meeting was chaired by UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette and was attended by representatives of 23 UN agencies working in Africa. Participants underscored the need for strengthening existing cooperation mechanisms at the country as well as the regional and sub-regional levels. They also stressed the need for periodic review of the achievement of UN goals and objectives for Africa. The meeting agreed that the UN system-wide Special Initiative on Africa could "provisionally constitute an appropriate mechanism" for UN system coordination in Africa, the statement said.

Nairobi, 8 March 1999, 16:30 GMT


Date: Mon, 8 Mar 1999 19:34:41 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 624 for 8 March 1999.3.8

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

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