IRIN Update 662 for 5/3/99

IRIN Update 662 for 5/3/99

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. 662 for Central and Eastern Africa (Saturday - Monday 1 May 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Suspected Ebola outbreak spreading

Humanitarian sources on Monday confirmed an outbreak of a viral haemorraghic fever in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The fever has been confirmed in Watsa zone, around the towns of Durba and Faradje, near DRC's borders with Uganda and Sudan. The first victims of the outbreak were mine workers but now there are cases reported from the wider community. An OCHA official reports that the latest figures from local sources stand at over 78 cases with 50 deaths at the "Okimo" gold mine hospital. The disease seems to be spreading. There is concern that there might be more cases and more deaths in surrounding villages, the source said. The UN World Health Organisation (WHO) officially reported 50 cases and 46 deaths as of 30 April.

A medical officer with Medecins sans Frontieres-Belgium (MSF-B) Marc Biot told IRIN on Monday a team of three specialists from the organisation were dispatched to DRC to carry out an epidemiological investigation. "They will send samples tomorrow [Tuesday] to reputable laboratories to establish what it really is... The symptoms do not directly depict Ebola," he said. A team of WHO doctors are also working in collaboration with MSF and other health non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It is feared the outbreak could spread to Sudan since Faradje is only about 100km from the Sudan border.

"Debate" postponed to allow preparations

The proposed "national debate" between the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), rebels and civil society was postponed on Friday to 14 May to allow the host country, Kenya, to prepare adequately, diplomatic sources told IRIN. The talks were set to take place from 8-15 May in Nairobi. "Preparations for over two hundred people is not easy. We realised the time was too short for the host to make necessary preparations," a source at the DRC embassy in Nairobi told IRIN on Monday. A senior official from Kenya's foreign affairs ministry confirmed Kenya's "neutral" participation saying it is only "offering the venue". He said Kenya is playing no role in the DRC debate. "It is not inviting anybody, it is upon DRC to do so," he told IRIN. Press reports have cast doubt on the meeting, citing negative reaction from various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and rebel groups.

Sirte agreement "complementary" - Chiluba

The recent ceasefire agreement signed in Sirte, was only "complementary" to the Lusaka-brokered peace process and "amounts to nothing," Zambian president Frederick Chiluba told journalists in Kigali on Friday. Terming the SADC-supported process, which he leads, the "real" one, Chiluba said "we believe that what happened [in Sirte] could assist us and will be complementary to the main efforts we've been making". Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni and the DRC's Laurent-Desire Kabila signed the Libya-brokered agreement on 18 April. Press reports said Chiluba and his host president Pasteur Bizimungu commended Chad's move to withdraw from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but said they awaited its "implementation". Chiluba was in Kigali for a day's visit to discuss the Congo crisis.

UGANDA: Civilians cooperate to flush out rebels in the western Uganda

Civilians in western Uganda at the weekend joined government troops in a bid to flush out rebels hiding in the forested areas of the Ruwenzori mountains. An official in the department of defence told IRIN that people in the rebel-affected areas are "unhappy." He said this has led them to organise themselves "to help the army flush out rebels." According to AFP, over 4,000 civilians had been sent with government troops to search the Ruwenzori mountains. "The Ugandan army is working with the civilians to comb the hills for rebels. It is a three-day operation," the agency quoted Bundibugyo resident district commissioner Edward Masiga as having said.

A media source told IRIN on Monday the "civilians" are the Local Defence Units (LDUs) who are local militias who apart from carrying knives, machetes and spears, are also given arms by the army. They are found in almost all rebel-troubled areas and are usually paid by the local authorities.

Meanwhile, five people were injured, three of them critically, when a grenade was hurled into a bar in Kampala on Saturday night. There have been four other attacks in the capital since January, and the most recent was on the previous Saturday. "These are people beaten on the war front who have now resorted to acts of terrorism. Nobody claims responsibility for these acts," a government official told IRIN.

RWANDA: Life sentence for former mayor

A Swiss military court has sentenced a Rwandan mayor to life imprisonment after he was convicted of murder, attempted murder and incitement to murder in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. Fulgence Niyonteze, former mayor of Mushubati in Gitarama prefecture, had sought asylum in Switzerland in 1994, but was arrested in 1996 and later charged with the war crimes under Swiss military law. The court said it could find no extenuating circumstances in the case, the news agency Hirondelle reports. Even saving the lives of several Tutsi nuns did not justify a reduction in the sentence, the reports stated. Niyonteze has five days to appeal.

A defence source at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda said the trial represents part of an "awakening of jurisdiction" in countries hosting Rwandan exiles accused of genocide-related crimes. Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, the UK and the US are among those countries who are currently grappling with cases which have landed in their jurisdiction, the source said. He alleged that a number of witnesses for the defence have "bailed out" of testifying at the Tribunal as a result of the perceived new threat of prosecution abroad.

CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: UN humanitarian funding "poor"

OCHA has released the latest funding figures for UN inter-agency consolidated humanitarian appeals for 1999. The countries of the Great Lakes and central and eastern Africa make up the majority of needs in Africa. The regional appeal for the Great Lakes is only 27 percent funded, while additional appeals for individual countries in the region are funded from a level of only two percent up to 12 percent. A UN Great Lakes official told IRIN the "poor" results show the weak "drawing power" of the region compared to other crises, despite well over three million people being affected by the central African crises. "It's not like Kosovo's the only thing happening," he added.

Appealed Received as of 20 April (US $ million) (US $ million)

Great Lakes regional 240.7 85.7 (as of 29 April)

Burundi 38.1 0.7 DRC 17.4 1.6 Uganda 8.1 0.9 Tanzania 9.5 0.3

Sudan 198.4 18.7 Somalia 65.7 8.5

(figures rounded to one decimal point)

ANNOUNCEMENT: Meeting cancelled

A briefing tomorrow morning by Ambasaador Berhanu Dinka at the OCHA Nairobi office has been cancelled.


Date: Mon, 3 May 1999 18:25:04 -0300 (GMT+3) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 662 for 1-3 May [19990503]

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

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