IRIN Update 637 for 3/25/99

IRIN Update 637 for 3/25/99

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. 637 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 25 March 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Control of Kabinda disputed

The DRC armed forces chief of staff, Major Faustin Munene, has said the towns of Mbuji-Mayi and Kabinda in Kasai Oriental province are under government control. Speaking over DRC television following an inspection tour of the province, he said the armed forces' stance was one of "active defence". "All the young people are completely mobilised to defend our country," he added. "The firepower of our FAC [Forces armees congolaises] and our allies will be increased."

The area has been the scene of fighting between the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) and government forces. Humanitarian sources returning from the area told IRIN today (Thursday) that contrary to the government's claims, Kabinda appeared to be under rebel control and that the RCD was now well-placed to march on the diamond-rich town of Mbuji-Mayi.

Chiluba "bird of ill-omen", DRC envoy says

The DRC's envoy to Zimbabwe has described Zambian President Frederick Chiluba - who was recently mandated by the OAU and Southern African Development Community (SADC) to mediate in the DRC crisis - as a "bird of ill-omen". In an interview with DRC television broadcast on Tuesday, he alleged Chiluba was "not measuring up the task". He said every time Chiluba carried out his mediation "another front opens somewhere, or another problem emerges".

Rebels mull Kabila talks offer

Chiluba this week announced in Kinshasa that President Laurent-Desire Kabila had expressed his readiness to meet the rebels. In an interview with AP, RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba said it was difficult to say whether Kabila's offer was genuine. "The only way to find out is to go and meet him," he said.

Refugees arriving in Zambia with war wounds

UNHCR said the DRC refugee population in Kaputa, northern Zambia, had increased to 15,000 people over the past few days. "The influx of refugees continues unabated and we are very concerned about the situation in the DRC," said UNCHR representative Mr Bajulaiye in a press release received by IRIN today. He said that for the first time, refugees with battle wounds had arrived, although their condition was reported to be stable. Among the recent arrivals is a group of 800 soldiers, who have been disarmed and separated by the Zambian authorities.

Progress being made, Uganda says

Ugandan Foreign Minister Amama Mbabazi on Tuesday said progress was being made to resolve the DRC conflict. Addressing a news conference at UN headquarters, ahead of a General Assembly debate on the issue, he listed areas where agreement had been reached. These included a ceasefire, deployment of international peacekeepers, withdrawal of all foreign troops from DRC and action on the security concerns of neighbouring states. However, he warned that "as long as there is genocide, as long as one group of people feels entitled to exterminate another group, obviously, we'll have no choice but to act in self-defence, even survival". Answering a question, he said that "at the rate the rebels were moving, it was possible they could reach Kinshasa".

General Assembly debates conflict

A General Assembly debate yesterday (Wednesday) heard calls by Andre Mwamba Kapanga of the DRC for more involvement by the international community in the crisis. Zimbabwe accused the international community of a "conspiracy of silence", saying it had been largely uncritical of the "lack of democracy in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, while vocal in its criticism of the DRC". However, Burundi retorted that it had "no ambitions for conquest or political guardianship of the DRC". It expressed concern, but stressed it was not involved in the conflict.

RWANDA: ICTR judge resigns

One of three new judges sworn in at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) last month has resigned due to "unforeseen family and personal reasons", according to a Tribunal press release. The independent news agency Hirondelle quoted informed sources as saying Judge Dionysios Kondylis of Greece was working on an international arbitration case prior to standing as a candidate for the ICTR. That case was not completed. Upon arrival at the ICTR, he sought permission from the UN to combine his tribunal work with the international arbitration, involving one week per month away from the ICTR.

Ntuyahaga not acquitted

Meanwhile the ICTR's registrar, Dr Agwu Ukiwe Okali, on Tuesday sought to clarify the implications of withdrawing the indictment against genocide suspect, Bernard Ntuyahaga, suspected of the murder of former Rwandan premier Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers. He said the decision was a "purely technical affair" and not a comment on Ntuyahaga's guilt or otherwise. He stressed it was not an acquittal and that Ntuyahaga could be re-arrested. Addressing Rwandan journalists, he compared the decision to Rwanda's move to free genocide suspects with incomplete files, Hirondelle reported. Both Belgium and Rwanda have filed extradition requests for Ntuyahaga, who has lodged an appeal calling for an immediate stay of execution of the decision and an acquittal.

BURUNDI: Bujumbura Rural "extremely volatile"

Bujumbura Rural remains one of Burundi's most affected areas in terms of insecurity and humanitarian needs, OCHA-Burundi said in its latest information bulletin. Since November 1998, it has also seen a high number of newly displaced people which now stand at 40,000 in three locations (5,000 at Mutambu, 15,000 at Kabezi and 20,000 at Mubone). UN agencies have decided to limit their assistance to measures that would not encourage continued dislocation of these IDPs. The report described the security situation in Bujumbura Rural as extremely volatile, especially in areas immediately east and south of the capital. Confrontations between the military and armed groups take place on a daily basis, it said.

Nairobi, 25 March 1999, 15:15 gmt


Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1999 10:51:05 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 637 for 25 March

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

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