IRIN Update 625 for 9 March 1999

IRIN Update 625 for 9 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. 625 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 9 March 1999)

RWANDA: Massive resettlement in northwest

Hundreds of thousands of displaced persons in northwest Rwanda have left their highly-congested camps and moved to grouped settlement sites in their sectors of origin, the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Kigali said in its February update received by IRIN today (Tuesday). Of the estimated 650,000 displaced persons who were registered in December in northwest Rwanda's Ruhengeri and Gisenyi prefectures, 478,735 had since moved to 172 grouped settlement sites set up in the two prefectures, the report said. The movement of displaced persons under the grouped settlement process, known as "umudugudu", was largely completed, and the displaced camps had been mostly dismantled, the report said.

"Significant challenges" remain

While one stage of the northwest crisis may have been overcome with the massive resettlement, significant challenges remained in the year ahead, the OCHA report said. The acute malnutrition rate among Ruhengeri's children was 8 percent, chronic malnutrition was 59 percent, lack of understanding about general preventative health care was widespread in the northwest, many people had to travel long distances to fetch water, people had low purchasing power, and inadequate rainfall and tenuous security conditions had hampered agricultural activities. As a result, UN and NGO interventions "remained more vital than ever" to ensure a transition from emergency to development in the northwest, the report added.

Children in detention

Some 4,553 minors aged between 14 and 18 years at the time of their arrest on genocide-related charges remained under detention in Rwanda, according to the latest available figures provided by UNICEF. About 200 children who were below the age of criminal responsibility at the time of their arrest were still detained, while 204 children were receiving vocational training and other services at the Gitagata Reeducation Centre. In addition, some 285 infants and young children were in prison with their detained mothers, UNICEF said, citing January figures.

During 1998, a total of 183 young children detained with their mothers were reunified with other family members, while 163 minors below the age of criminal responsibility were reintegrated with their families after completing a reeducation programme at the Gitagata centre, UNICEF said. Another 345 minors detained without judiciary files were released and reintegrated within their community during the year. At the end of January, Rwanda's prisons and other detention facilities held 124,198 people, according to ICRC figures reported by OCHA-Kigali.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Congolese seek safety in Zambia

More than 4,000 refugees fleeing conflict in Katanga province have crossed into northern Zambia since Friday, UNHCR said today. The new arrivals said more Congolese were on their way as anti-government rebels were reportedly attacking targets south of the town of Moba on Lake Tanganyika.

The refugees were scattered along the border near the Zambian towns of Kaputa and Nsumbe, UNHCR said. There is an urgent need for plastic sheeting and sanitation facilities for the refugees, as it has been raining heavily in the area over the past several days and many of the arrivals are sleeping in the open. Zambian security forces disarmed and held several hundred Congolese soldiers and policemen near the border, UNHCR added.

New cabinet this week, Kabila says

President Laurent-Desire Kabila said yesterday (Monday) that members of his new cabinet would be announced sometime this week. Kabila dissolved his cabinet last month due to what state media said were the "constraints" imposed by the war and the need to reaffirm "national cohesion". Analysts said they believed Kabila was having difficulty building a team which took account of the country's diverse ethnic mix.

Speaking upon his return to Kinshasa from Lubumbashi, Kabila also said government forces and their allies now had the military advantage in the conflict. "I think the country will be liberated within months," he said.

Rebels hold Kindu, government retakes Bolobo

Meanwhile, rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba told the Associated Press (AP) today that his movement had repelled a government counter-offensive. AP quoted rebel army sources as saying government troops backed up by Zimbabwean aircraft had tried unsuccessfully to advance toward rebel-held Kindu in Maniema province. Reuters yesterday quoted government officials in Kinshasa as saying Kindu remained in rebel hands.

Government forces have retaken the town of Bolobo some 250 km northeast of Kinshasa, state television said on Sunday. "The interior ministry announced that the Congolese Armed Forces have liberated Bolobo, which was occupied by former Special Presidential Division forces who were wreaking havoc there," the television was quoted as saying. News agencies last week had reported that a new rebel group called the Union of Nationalist Republicans for the Liberation had issued a statement from neighbouring Brazzaville claiming to have captured Bolobo.

Seeds and tools for over 28,000 Kivu families

The international NGO Food for the Hungry International (FHI) has recently distributed seeds and tools to over 28,700 families, or some 143,500 people, in North and South Kivu. FHI told IRIN today that the bulk of the seeds - including soybean, potatoes, peanuts and maize - were distributed over the past two weeks as part of a humanitarian programme funded by USAID. FHI was also assisting particularly vulnerable groups in the area, including the handicapped, orphans and a pigmy village.

SUDAN: WFP prepositions food in south

WFP aims to preposition 17,000 mt of food in southern Sudan as a precautionary measure to avoid a repeat of the sudden increase of food aid needs experienced last year. The quantity represents about 10 percent of the total annual relief needs and is enough to provide a full ration to some 250,000 beneficiaries during the traditional "hunger gap" period between July and October, WFP's latest weekly emergency report said. The total caseload of the northern and southern sectors during that period is foreseen to be approximately two million war- and drought-affected persons. Pre-positioning started in mid-February and is expected to last until early June, the report said.

ETHIOPIA: WFP to provide relief food to displaced

A recently-approved WFP emergency operation will provide 45,350 mt of relief food assistance for some 272,000 Ethiopians internally displaced by the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, WFP's latest emergency report said. Fighting between the two countries has displaced some 337,300 Ethiopians, WFP said. The government was trying to integrate the displaced within the local population, instead of in camps, the report noted. In response to the government's request, WFP will assist people displaced by the conflict and ease the burden on host communities and host families who themselves were experiencing food insecurity, the report said. The US $24.3-million operation is to last nine months.

REMINDER: The weekly Great Lakes Information Exchange Forum will not take place tomorrow (Wednesday) as normally scheduled. The meeting has been rescheduled for Thursday to facilitate the presence of Olara Otunnu, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. The meeting will commence at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday at the OCHA compound on United Nations Road, Gigiri.

Nairobi, 9 March 1999, 16:00 GMT


Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 19:27:07 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> To: irin-cea-updates@ocha.unon.or Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 625 for 9 March 1999

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

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