IRIN Update 634 for 3/22/99

IRIN Update 634 for 3/22/99

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. 634 for Central and Eastern Africa (Monday 22 March 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Security Council debates conflict

The UN Security Council on Friday held a day-long debate on the DRC situation which included representatives of countries involved in the conflict. According to a UN press release, received by IRIN, DRC Human Rights Minister Leonard She Okitundu accused Rwanda and Uganda of being the "sole obstacles to peace" and blamed the international community for its "timid declaration" on violations of territory integrity. He said, however, the DRC would be prepared to sign a ceasefire accord once Rwanda and Uganda withdrew from the country and an intervention force was deployed along the eastern border.

Rwanda's representative Patrick Mazimhaka accused the DRC of "violating its own sovereignty" by accepting the presence of former Rwandan soldiers and militias. He said his country was ready to join the international community in finding a peaceful and lasting solution to the crisis. Uganda's representative Amama Mbabazi said his country had neither territorial nor economic interests in DRC beyong the normal course of trade between countries. He urged the international community to act against the provision of safe havens to "genocidaires".

Zimbabwe - the DRC's principal ally in the conflict - said the allied forces were ready to pull out as soon as Rwanda and Uganda withdrew and a peacekeeping force was deployed on the common border.

Refugees still fleeing to Zambia, Tanzania

UNHCR said Congolese refugees were arriving in Zambia's Kaputa area at the rate of 200-300 a day. In a press statement, received by IRIN today (Monday), it said some 10,000 people had arrived since 4 March. "In recent history, this is probably the largest refugee influx Zambia has witnessed over such a short space of time," said UNHCR representative Mr Bajulaiye.

UNHCR also said an estimated 4,000 refugees had crossed into Tanzania via Lake Tanganyika over the past two weeks.

Journalists shown corpses of Zimbabwean soldiers

Rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) said they shot down a Zimbabwean MIG fighter plane on Thursday near the government-held town of Kabinda, Kasai Oriental province, as journalists were shown the corpses of dozens of Zimbabwean troops around the nearby village of Eshimba. AFP said most appeared to have died as a result of explosions, while others displayed gunshot wounds. They were said to have died in an ambush last week. Kabinda is a key town on the way to the strategic diamond centre of Mbuji Mayi.

Kabila expands cabinet

President Laurent-Desire Kabila has expanded his new cabinet, the Agence congolaise de presse reported on Saturday. He named Frederic Kibassa Maliba - a former close ally of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi - as minister of mines. Dr Moleko Moliwa was appointed social affairs minister. Three new deputy ministers were also named.

Brazzaville protests over ship seizure

Congo-Brazzaville has protested to Kinshasa after the DRC authorities last week seized one of its boats carrying arms and passengers up the Congo river, news organisations reported. Some 242 passengers were later released, but the boat and crew are still being held in Kinshasa. The Kinshasa daily 'Le Phare' said the boat was transporting soldiers and loaded with four tons of ammunition. It was on its way from Brazzaville to Impfondo, 600 km upriver.

Britain warns Kinshasa over future relations

British Foreign Office Minister Tony Lloyd has described the expulsion from Kinshasa of two British embassy and four visiting officials as a "very serious incident". In a statement, reported by the British Foreign Office, he strongly rejected accusations by the DRC that the British officials were spies. "We expect the Congolese authorities to facilitate the sending of replacement officials to the British embassy," he said. "Otherwise we cannot be expected to continue our present relationship with the DRC government." The British ambassador, who was recently recalled from Kinshasa, is expected to return this week, the statement added.

Britain, US advise against travel to DRC

The Foreign Office meanwhile has advised against all but essential travel to the DRC as British nationals "appear to be viewed with mistrust" in Kinshasa. "Those with visas/entry/exit stamps for Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda are subject to special attention," it said. The US State Department has issued a similar warning to its citizens. "Extremist groups continue to make threats of violence against US citizens and interests in the Great Lakes region," it said.

BURUNDI/RWANDA/UGANDA: US cautions against travel

The State Department also warned against travel to Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. It recommended all US citizens in Burundi to leave the country "because of the uncertain security situation". For Rwanda, it observed that "security conditions have improved in the last year" but sporadic attacks still occurred. For this reason, US citizens were urged to defer travel. The State Department cautioned Americans in Uganda to "maintain a high degree of vigilance" and to be aware of threats to their safety. The warnings follow the murder earlier this month of eight tourists, including two Americans, by Hutu extremists who crossed into southwest Uganda.

RWANDA: Typhoid claims 13 lives in southern prisons

Thirteen genocide suspects have died of typhoid in two prisons in the southern Butare prefecture, news organisations reported, citing state radio. The Ngoma and Shyanda jails were affected, but the disease has now been brought under control, the radio said.

UGANDA: Bombing in eastern Uganda

Ugandan police have arrested 12 people in connection with a a bomb blast near a police station in the eastern town of Iganga, media reports said. The bomb caused damage to a building and a classroom but there were no injuries. The bomb is said to have been planted by a previously unknown group, the People's Freedom Movement/Army, which according to the semi-official 'New Vision', left a note at the site urging Ugandans to take up arms to oust President Yoweri Museveni.

UNITED NATIONS: Human Rights Commission starts session

The human rights situation in the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea will be examined by the UN Commission on Human Rights during its 55th session, which begins in Geneva today. According to the provisional agenda for the five-week meeting, the 53-member commission will also address the issues of child soldiers, mercenaries, traffic in women and girls and the effect of structural adjustment policies on the full enjoyment of human rights, among other topics.

In a press conference in New York on Friday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said another issue to be addressed by the Commission was the prevention of racial and ethnic tensions, which were the "seeds of conflict" and resultant violations of human rights. Incitement to hatred and xenophobia, including via the Internet, was a problem in every region and was becoming more serious, she said. UN special rapporteurs and other UN field personnel should be heeded when they gave indications of early warning signs of gross human rights violations, Robinson added.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Council urges joint reconciliation efforts

The UN Security Council last week called on all political leaders in the CAR to work together towards full implementation of the Bangui Agreements and the National Reconciliation Pact. In a statement, Council President Qin Huasun of China said members also urged the government, in collaboration with all political parties, to take concrete steps to establish a new electoral commission for presidential elections, scheduled for later this year, and to continue efforts to restructure its security forces. The statement was made after the Council received a briefing on the situation in the country by the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative, Oluyemi Adeniji, who is also head of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA).

Nairobi, 22 March 1999, 14:30 gmt


Date: Mon, 22 Mar 1999 17:33:21 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 634 for 22 March [19990322]

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

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