IRIN Update 627 for 11 March 1999

IRIN Update 627 for 11 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. 627 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 11 March 1999)

GREAT LAKES: Otunnu stresses rights of children and women

Olara Otunnu, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, told IRIN today (Thursday) his enduring impression at the end of a three-nation regional tour was the strength of African women in the face of extreme adversity.

Otunnu, who recently concluded official visits to Rwanda, Burundi and Sudan, urged the international community to provide more support to women and children. He added that the protection of human rights during conflict should be "fastened on two pillars" - international instruments and "local value systems" which have traditionally regulated the conduct of warfare. He said the tragedy of many current conflicts in Africa was that traditional injunctions have given way to a "free for all".

Briefing UN agencies and NGOs today in Nairobi on the outcome of his regional tour, Otunnu said he had stressed in Rwanda the plight of children accused of genocide, but recognised the problem of administering justice under difficult circumstances. In Burundi, he won acceptance from internal political organisations that protection of the rights of children should be endorsed at the political level, and that women be included in the Arusha peace process. He added that the government had agreed to start the process of raising the minimum age of recruitment into the army to 18 years, and agreed to ratify the Ottawa treaty on landmines during the next parliamentary session beginning in April.

On Sudan, Otunnu said he had been given assurances by both the government and SPLA rebels that they would not use anti-personnel mines in the on-going conflict. However, Khartoum's guarantees were limited to the south and did not include the eastern border regions. Otunnu noted that both sides recognised the importance of protecting the rights of children, and "we shall be working with the two to find the appropriate formula to be inserted in the peace process." He had also drawn the government's attention to attacks by Arab militia on local communities along the Babanusa-Wau rail line.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Increased outflow of refugees

The flow of Congolese refugees into western Tanzania has increased, with new arrivals reporting an upsurge of fighting in eastern DRC. A UNHCR report said close to 3,500 Congolese refugees had arrived in Kigoma, mainly from the Fizi and Uvira areas of South Kivu, between 2-8 March. The refugees reported that Mayi-Mayi fighters had stepped up attacks on rebel-held positions around Fizi. Those arriving from the Kalemie area of Katanga province, meanwhile, reported that war-planes had been bombing rebel bases in that area, the report said. There were 75 unaccompanied children among the new arrivals in Kigoma, it added. A total of 41,355 Congolese refugees have crossed into western Tanzania since the start of the conflict in August.

Both sides claim gains

President Laurent-Desire Kabila said on state television yesterday (Wednesday) that Mayi-Mayi militia armed by his government had captured the rebel-held town of Mwenga some 70 km southwest of Bukavu in South Kivu. Meanwhile, the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) said its forces were advancing around Penge, some 50 km north of Kabinda in Kasai Oriental, AFP reported yesterday. AFP also quoted RCD military commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane in Kisangani as saying yesterday that his forces had captured Pepa south of the Katangan town of Moba. There was no independent confirmation of the situation on the ground, however.

Refugees in western DRC

Meanwhile, the western DRC province of Bas-Congo is currently hosting some 22,500 refugees from the Pool region of Congo-Brazzaville and about 21,500 newly-arrived refugees from the M'banza Congo area of Angola, UNHCR said yesterday in its latest Great Lakes update. Additional UNHCR staff been deployed to the DRC to help set up camps for the refugees from those two countries. Most of the Congolese refugees will be moved to a new site in the Bas-Congo town of Luozi, while 10,000 of the 21,500 recently-arrived Angolan refugees will be moved to Kimpese, also in Bas-Congo, UNHCR said.

BURUNDI: Nine killed near capital

Nine people were killed today in a clash between government troops and Hutu insurgents south of Bujumbura, news agencies said. The Associated Press (AP) cited an army spokesman as saying eight rebels and one government soldier were killed in the clash, which started when the rebel group attacked a military post near Nyamaboko about 20 km from the capital.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Rwandan unaccompanied children to go home

Forty-six refugee unaccompanied children will be flown by UNHCR and ICRC to Rwanda next week to be reunited with their parents, UNHCR's Great Lakes update said. UNHCR plans to end its assistance to Rwandans in the country by the beginning of April. There are currently about 3,000 Rwandans at the Kintele camp near Brazzaville and another 2,500 in the northern sites of Loukolela and Liranga. They will be settled in a new site further from the DRC border. UNHCR last month announced it would end its assistance to Rwandans in Congo-Brazzaville due to the "militarisation" of the refugee camps. There were an estimated 11,000 Rwandan refugees in the country in mid-1998, including some 400 unaccompanied children.

TANZANIA: WFP approves emergency operation

WFP has approved an emergency operation to distributed 19,550 mt of urgently-needed food aid to people in 12 of the most food-insecure areas in Tanzania. The US $1-million operation, which started in early March, will last three months, a WFP emergency report said. A joint rapid assessment of the food security situation in Iringa region had recommended relief food interventions in the north of Iringa, where agro-climatic conditions were very similar to that of the hard-hit Dodoma region. A WFP team in Dodoma reported declining school attendance levels in Kondoa South district as children were forced to join in the search for food. Other areas in the region reported poor rainfall while the availability of grain in the markets remains very low. In Singida region, some 8,660 mt of maize grain has been distributed to 158,594 beneficiaries under the drought operation, the report said.

UNDP supports good governance project

Meanwhile, Tanzania will receive US$ 1.1 million from UNDP to assist in the development of a good governance action plan, including strengthening the government's fight against corruption, the latest UNDP weekly 'Flash' newsletter said. The project will support a national consultative process to help the government and civil society prepare the good governance plan. The action plan will identify measures to be taken, including policy and institutional reforms, new legislation and capacity building.

Nairobi, 11 March 1999, 15:30 GMT


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 18:45:00 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 627 for 11 March [19990311]

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

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