IRIN Update 664 for 5/5/99

IRIN Update 664 for 5/5/99

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. 664 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 5 May 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Fever outbreak probably not Ebola

Preliminary findings from northeastern DRC indicate the reported outbreak of viral haemorrhagic fever in the area is not the Ebola disease, but another type of haemorrhagic fever "which is nearly as infectious", humanitarian sources told IRIN on Wednesday. The first cases were reported in the Watsa zone in January this year, but according to the World Health Organisation there are indications that since 1994, there have been multiple small outbreaks of an apparently similar illness in the Durba gold-mining area, some 20 km from Watsa town.

A WHO spokesman told IRIN that according to reports from the field, the number of cases were decreasing and the trend was now downwards. Samples from the field were due to undergo laboratory tests on Wednesday, he added. Latest WHO figures, up to 3 May, put the number of recorded cases at 68, with 63 deaths most of them among the gold-miners. The spokesman said WHO was trying to ascertain a possible link between the disease and the miners. Meanwhile, an isolation unit has been set up in Durba.

DRC Health Minister Mashako Mamba announced that a team of national and international experts had gone to the area, to help medical teams on the spot, state television reported on Tuesday. UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Sergio Vieira de Mello has expressed concern over the outbreak of the disease and urged all parties to the conflict in DRC to facilitate investigative efforts. The area is under rebel control.

Thousands of Rwandan refugees leave DRC

Thousands of Rwandan refugees have returned home from eastern DRC, UNHCR reported on Tuesday. It said some 14,000 refugees had arrived in the Gisenyi and Cyangugu prefectures since January, and local authorities indicated several thousand more could follow. Returnees told UNHCR that officials in eastern DRC had warned them to return home and they had been encouraged by the relative calm in northwest Rwanda. Rebel authorities in DRC had further warned the refugees of renewed military sweeps in the area, UNHCR added. UNHCR is helping the refugees return to their communes.

Meanwhile the agency announced it would reopen its office in Goma this week. The office was closed in October 1997. One of the objectives would be to assess the situation of Rwandans who had remained in the heavily forested region since the camps were broken up in late 1996. The refugees scattered westwards and an estimated 173,000 remained unaccounted for, a UNCHR spokesman said.

Chiluba "to work with" Gaddafi

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba on Tuesday held talks in Libya with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi on the DRC crisis. The two leaders are spearheading peace initiatives. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and President Laurent-Desire Kabila of the DRC recently signed a peace accord in Libya which Rwanda refused to acknowledge, stating that Chiluba's initiative was the only one it recognised. However, Libyan television on Tuesday quoted Chiluba as saying he would work with Gaddafi "to implement the [Sirte] agreement".

TANZANIA: Uganda, Rwanda call for DRC ceasefire

The presidents of Uganda and Rwanda met in Tanzania on Tuesday in an attempt to resolve a rift over their military campaign in DRC, Reuters reported, quoting Tanzanian officials. According to the officials, Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa was trying to "bridge the gap" between the two countries over "what to do next". A joint communique issued on Wednesday called for a ceasefire and an "all-inclusive" national dialogue in DRC, news organisations said. Some analysts have observed that Uganda would like to pull out of the DRC, whereas Rwanda "has more at stake" in that country.

BURUNDI: Slight fall in market prices, devaluation of franc

According to the FAO, the price of an average family's food basket has fallen slightly since the embargo was lifted but it still remains nearly twice as high as before the sanctions were imposed. At the same time, the value of the Burundi franc continues to drop, due to a severe shortage of foreign currency in the country. In its latest information bulletin, OCHA-Burundi points out the current official and unofficial rates to the US dollar are FrBu 537 and FrBu 775 respectively, compared to FrBu 317 and FrBu 350 before the embargo.

UGANDA: EU deplores execution of 28 prisoners

The European Union on Tuesday said it "deeply regrets" last Thursday's hanging of 28 convicted criminals in Luzira prison, Kampala, and that the death penalty risked increasing the level of violence in society. An EU presidency statement said that while it supported Uganda's fight against crime and terrorism, it "did not recognise the effectiveness of capital punishment as a way to prevent crime" and regretted that its efforts to have the death sentences commuted went unheeded.

The semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper on Tuesday said Assistant Prison Commissioner Jack Wycliffe Kururagyire's denied reports that the prisoners were brutally executed or that some were hammered to death. He said the convicts died instantly by hanging and were given a "fairly decent burial", the newspaper reported.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Main Ninja militia base captured

Congolese soldiers have captured the main base of the rival Ninja militia who support former prime minister Bernard Kolelas, news organisations reported on Wednesday, citing military officials. The Mbandza-Ndounga base in the Pool region, some 50 km southwest of Brazzaville, was reportedly taken without a fight, sending several hundred militiamen fleeing towards Boko.

Lissouba indicted on treason charges

Meanwhile, the country's transitional parliament has indicted ousted president Pascal Lissouba on charges of high treason, Reuters reported. The two charges relate to a 1993 shooting of opposition militants and a deal reached the same year on cut-price oil sales to the US Occidental Petroleum Corporation, the agency said. Lissouba now lives in exile.

Nairobi, 5 May 1999, 14:50 gmt


Date: Wed, 5 May 1999 17:49:43 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 664 for 5 May [19990505]

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

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