IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 25 1999

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 25 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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Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 25 covering the period 19-25 June

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Lusaka peace talks in the balance

Diplomatic efforts to broker a peace deal in the DRC conflict were continuing in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, on Friday under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), with contrasting reports emerging as to the likelihood of a proposed ceasefire being agreed. A spokesman for the Zambian ministry of foreign affairs told IRIN on Friday technical talks were "progressing very well", officials were working to "polish up" a ceasefire agreement and indications were that it would be signed at a heads of state summit on 26 June.

However, DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila said on Thursday the summit was by no means certain. "I'm not sure if the summit will be held now. There are too many documents in circulation and they are contradictory", Kabila told state radio in Kinshasa on his return from talks with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in Harare.

Zambia's foreign minister, Keli Walubita, flew to Kinshasa on Friday, apparently in a bid to save the summit. He was expected to hold discussions with Kabila, whose attendance in Lusaka on 26 June was in doubt, AP news agency reported.

Rebels "optimistic"

The second vice president of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) in Goma, Moise Nyarugabo, told IRIN earlier that he was "very optimistic" about this week's peace talks. However, he said that for the talks to be successful, Kabila would have to refrain from coming up with "fanciful preconditions," and the SADC mediators would have to take the RCD's interests fully into account. The rebels had to be part of the process and it would no longer agree to "proximity talks," Nyarugabo said.

Security Council calls for constructive talks and ceasefire agreement

The UN Security Council on Thursday called on all parties to the conflict to participate in the Lusaka talks "with a constructive and flexible spirit", and to sign a ceasefire agreement, together with the modalities for its implementation. In a presidential statement received by IRIN, it stressed the need for national reconciliation and democracy in the countries of the region.

Kagame seeks Egyptian role

Rwanda is seeking further involvement by Egypt in peace efforts to end the DRC conflict, news agencies said on Tuesday. The Chinese news agency quoted Rwandan Vice-President and Defence Minister Paul Kagame as saying in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, that "Egypt's role in achieving stability is essential."

Case filed against "aggressor" states

The DRC has filed a complaint at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague for what it called the "invasion of Congolese territory by Burundian, Ugandan and Rwandan troops on 2 August 1998," an ICJ statement said on Wednesday. The DRC accused the three countries of having attempted to assassinate Kabila "with the object of installing a Tutsi regime or a regime under Tutsi control," the statement said. The DRC has asked the Court to rule that the armed forces of Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda must "vacate the territory" of the Congo, the statement said. An ICJ official told IRIN on Friday that the court process "could go quickly or it could take up to 4 or 5 years" before a ruling, depending on the willingness of the parties.

Rebel leader alleges bombing of civilians

Emile Ilunga, leader of the Goma-based RCD, on Saturday accused Zimbabwe and Sudan of having bombed civilians in the southern town of Kalemie on 18 June, killing at least three and wounding others. The southeastern town of Kongolo was also reportedly bombed on Saturday. The reports could not be independently verified.

Crisis "all but forgotten," UN official says

As world attention has focused on Kosovo, the "tragedy that engulfs" the DRC has been all but forgotten, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the DRC, Darioush Bayandor, has warned. In a commentary published in the 'International Herald Tribune' newspaper on Tuesday, Bayandor said that massacres of civilians had been reported in rebel-held areas, and Tutsis in government-controlled zones remained in hiding or protective custody, some "under trying conditions." With the deterioration of the population's living and food security conditions, "it is to be feared that a critical threshold is about to be reached," Bayandor said.

660,000 people displaced

An estimated 660,000 people are internally displaced in the DRC, the latest report from the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator said. The report, received by IRIN on Tuesday, also said the DRC was hosting some 285,360 refugees from neighbouring countries. Meanwhile, there were an estimated 117,000 DRC refugees in Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, the report added.

Almost 10 percent malnutrition in Kinshasa

A recent nutritional survey conducted in Kinshasa revealed "alarming" malnutrition rates among the city's residents, the report said. The survey found that 9.8 percent of Kinshasa's population suffered from acute malnutrition, compared to 6.2 percent during the same period last year. The study estimated that the number of malnourished children in the capital already exceeded 100,000.

Two soldiers killed by firing squad

Two soldiers were executed by firing squad in Kinshasa on Wednesday, news agencies reported. The soldiers, members of the special presidential security unit, had been convicted by a military tribunal of killing a fellow soldier in a brawl, Reuters quoted state television as saying.

BURUNDI: Agreement before November "probable", Nyerere says

The facilitator of the Burundi peace process, former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, on 18 June said the negotiations had achieved "appreciable movement" and that an agreement was likely to be reached "probably in September or October." A statement from the Nyerere Foundation in Arusha, Tanzania, received by IRIN on Monday, quoted the facilitator as saying he was encouraged by efforts made by the negotiating groups to "harmonise their positions."

Nyerere meeting intended to heal FRODEBU split

A senior delegation of the Front pour la democratie au Burundi (FRODEBU), headed by first vice-president Frederic Bamvuginyumvira, which met Nyerere in Dar es Salaam over the weekend, was attempting to resolve a serious party split in advance of the next scheduled peace talks on 5 July, media sources reported on Monday.

Cholera outbreak in Rumonge

A total of 89 cholera cases with six deaths were reported in the Rumonge health district between 24 May and 5 June, WHO said on Wednesday. In a statement received by IRIN, WHO said the cause of the outbreak was probably the early onset of the dry season, which resulted in people drinking unsafe water from the lake, and the lack of prevention measures by the population. Since the begininng of the year, some 587 cholera cases had been reported in Burundi, the statement added.

RWANDA: UN inquiry on its role in genocide starts

The independent inquiry set up by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to investigate UN actions before and during the 1994 genocide started its work on 18 June, a UN press release said. "Our task is to establish the facts and draw conclusions about the response of the United Nations to the genocide in Rwanda," the chairman of the three-man panel, former Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlson, told a press conference at the UN Headquarters in New York.

Both prosecution and defence appeal ICTR judgements

The prosecution in the cases of Clement Kayishema and Obed Ruzindana has appealed against the Trial Chamber's 21 May finding that the pair was not guilty of charges of crimes against humanity, according to a statement from the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), received by IRIN on Tuesday. The defence counsel has also appealed the judgements and sentences imposed on the two men, the statement said.

Meanwhile, Laurent Semanza, former mayor of Bicumbi, became the fourth person to be charged with rape at the Arusha trials, an ICTR statement said. Semanza on Thursday pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Journalist arrested on genocide charges

Rwandan Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo on Sunday announced the arrest of journalist Valerie Bemeriki, who is alleged to have led a radio hate campaign by making inflammatory statements that contributed to sparking the 1994 genocide, news agencies said.

UGANDA: Cholera outbreak on DRC border "under control"

An outbreak of cholera which has claimed 14 lives in camps for the war-displaced in Nyahuka, Bundibugyo district, along the border with DRC, since the start of June was now "under control", a spokesman for MSF-France told IRIN on Tuesday. There had been 218 cases of cholera and 14 deaths reported in Nyahuka in the first two weeks of the month, MSF told IRIN.

Meanwhile, ICRC told IRIN on Wednesday it was reestablishing its presence in Bundibugyo in western Uganda to assist internally displaced persons.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: World Bank suspends aid

The World Bank has suspended its post-conflict assistance programme to the Congo due to mounting insecurity since December 1998, a World Bank statement sent to IRIN on Thursday said. The statement said the suspension will affect a US$ 915,000 donation approved in June 1998 to support a government recovery programme set up after the 1997 civil war. About half of the donation had already been used, the statement said.

Patasse offers mediation role

Congo has denied reports that it had accepted Central African Republic President Felix-Ange Patasse to serve as mediator in the country's conflict, news agencies said on Wednesday.

60,000 move back

About 60,000 displaced people have returned to southern Brazzaville since 1 May, humanitarian sources said. Some of the returnees have come from the Pool region - many in very poor nutritional condition - while others have returned from northern Brazzaville or the DRC.

WFP lacks funds for emergency programme

Inadequate resourcing continues to hamper emergency assistance to war-affected people in Brazzaville, WFP said in its latest weekly emergency report. WFP needs close to 3,500 mt of food per month to assist 200,000 people.

"Catastrophic" human rights situation reported

The human rights situation in Congo-Brazzaville has become "catastrophic" over the past six months, the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (IFHR) said a report received by IRIN on Wednesday. Based on personal testimonies, IFHR estimates that between 5,000 and 6,000 people were "methodologically and deliberately massacred" during the conflict between government forces and Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas in southern Brazzaville between 18-23 December alone.

HORN OF AFRICA: UN warns of millions threatened with hunger

WFP on Tuesday warned that "an unusual shortage of rains across a wide area of the Horn of Africa could drastically affect the upcoming harvests and threaten millions of people with hunger in 1999." A statement said an extended dry spell with only scattered rains during May and June was likely to slash crop and livestock production, worsening an "already precarious food situation."

"All the signs point to a potential crisis ... and we are trying to preempt that", WFP Information Officer Lindsey Davies told IRIN on Wednesday. WFP has already approved a US$ 40.5 million emergency operation to feed nearly 1.2 million people in eight drought-affected areas of Ethiopia and was "acting now to prevent a potentially major humanitarian crisis," WFP Country Representative Judith Lewis said.

"Worrying period ahead" for Somalia

In Somalia, 80 percent of the country's harvest was dependent on the 'Gu' rains, which were short, light and scattered this year, said Owen Calvert, a consultant with the WFP-affiliated Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU). "We're in for a worrying period ahead", he added.

UN deplores fighting while famine looms

The UN Security Council on Wednesday expressed its dismay at the ongoing conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, especially given that millions of people are facing serious drought and possible food shortages, and repeated its call for "an immediate and unconditional ceasefire". It also called on the two countries to cooperate with the high-level delegation currently working on trying to have implemented a framework agreement, nominally accepted by both sides, and reiterated its call for all countries to immediately halt the sale of arms and ammunition to both countries.

Italy has "a glimmer of hope" for peace initiative

The Italian deputy foreign minister, Rino Serri, has said he will exert further efforts for the successful implementation of "an innovative approach within the context of the OAU framework agreement", after holding talks with the leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Eritrean News Agency reported on Tuesday. "I entertain a glimmer of hope that the new Italian initiative ... would be accepted by both Ethiopia and Eritrea", Reuters news agency quoted Serri as saying.

ETHIOPIA: Refugee agency calls for greater care for war-displaced

The NGO Refugees International said on Tuesday that thousands of war-displaced people, especially in disputed border areas, are living in cramped conditions with host families - or, worse, in caves, rock overhangs and in the open - and desperately need food and shelter. Claiming that "Ethiopia's civilian victims of war have been relegated to the shadows", Refugees International called for increased donor funding.

Kenya confirms presence of Oromo rebels

A Kenyan government report on Tuesday confirmed the presence of some members of the Ethiopian rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) in north-east Kenya. Releasing a report into last year's Bagalla massacre in Kenya - in which 124 people and over 8,000 livestock were killed - Major (retired) Marsden Madoka said Oromo elements were deeply involved in local clan rivalry and politics in Moyale district, where the killings took place.

KENYA: Almost 40 percent malnutrition found

Results from an MSF-Spain survey in the Mandera area of northeastern province in May showed a global acute malnutrition rate of 39.2 percent, up from 21 percent in January, USAID's Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) reported recently. MSF on Sunday re-opened its therapeutic feeding centre in Mandera town and is distributing UNIMIX once a week to surrounding villages. "We are trying to save children's lives. Some of them are very, very thin and some are sick," MSF's Country Coordinator Johan De Smedt told IRIN on Wednesday.

SUDAN: UN mission to Nuba mountains

The UN this week undertook its first humanitarian assessment mission to the Nuba mountains since the early 1980s. In a press release, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed his satisfaction and welcomed the cooperation being extended to the mission by both the Sudan government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). The 21-24 June mission included representatives of OCHA, UNICEF and WFP. They were to assess humanitarian needs of vulnerable civilian populations in five villages in the rebel-held area of the Nuba mountains.

Food distributed to nearly 1.5 million in May

WFP provided food to nearly 1.5 million beneficiaries throughout Sudan in May to prepare for the beginning of the "most difficult" stretch of the "traditional hunger gap" period, WFP's latest weekly emergency report said. Nutritional conditions "continued to improve" in many areas, except for the Aweil area of Bahr el Ghazal where a recent nutritional survey indicated that the situation remained of "concern," the report said.

IGAD peace talks slated for 19-24 July

Meanwhile, the SPLM confirmed to IRIN on Tuesday that it had received official word from Kenya's foreign ministry indicating that the next round of peace talks mediated by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) was scheduled for 19-24 July in Nairobi.

US House calls Sudan war "genocidal"

The US House of Representatives last week approved a resolution condemning the Sudanese government for its "genocidal war in southern Sudan." A statement from the US Committee for Refugees (USCR), received by IRIN, welcomed the resolution, which stated that Khartoum "is deliberately and systematically committing genocide in southern Sudan."

Kajo Keji and Yei bombed on Sunday

Four bombs were dropped on Kajo Keji on Sunday, of which one fell inside the MSF-Switzerland compound and another on hospital grounds, a UN report said. Another six bombs were dropped on Yei on the same day, but no casualties were reported.

AFRICA: Ogata calls for renewed commitment to Africa's refugees

Speaking at the start of an African tour to remind the world of the continent's refugees, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata told journalists in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Monday that while Kosovo had attracted attention and funding because of its proximity to world powers and international media centres, the humanitarian effort there should not be to the detriment of programmes in other regions. Kosovo's "immediacy" had helped put it at the top of the agenda, Ogata said, while in Africa at times, "when conflicts drag on for years and there is no solution in sight, and the causes are perceived to be leadership, power feuds, you find it very, very difficult to get sympathy, and commitment to solve these problems."

UNHCR devoted 50 percent of its resources to African crises, Ogata added, and as of January 1999, there were 7.2 million people of concern to UNHCR in Africa, out of a global total of 21.1 million.

Nairobi, 25 June 1999, 15:00 gmt


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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

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

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