IRIN Update 665 for 5/6/99

IRIN Update 665 for 5/6/99

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. 665 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 6 May 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Medical team from Kinshasa to arrive in east

The test results taken from five cases of haemorrhagic fever in northeastern DRC will probably be known late Thursday, Marc Biot of MSF-Belgium told IRIN. The NGO, which has a team on the ground, will on Friday be joined by experts from Kinshasa after landing rights for their plane was agreed with the rebel authorities in the Watsa area. Biot said there had been no more deaths from the epidemic, but further investigations were necessary to check on the local population. One of the deceased is a local doctor who had been treating the community. The total number of recorded cases so far, according to MSF, is 76. Figures issued by the World Health Organisation put the number of deaths at 63. Humanitarian sources have said it appears unlikely the disease is caused by the Ebola virus.

Humanitarian operations in North Kivu

Some 46,000 children were immunised against polio and 35,500 against measles during April under two UNICEF-supported vaccination campaigns organised in North Kivu province, according to the latest monthly report from the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the DRC. The report, received by IRIN, said that WHO and UNICEF, working with MSF and ICRC, were currently building up stocks of vaccines and other supplies in response to a continuing meningitis epidemic in the province, particularly in Walikale. Some 20,400 internally-displaced persons and malnourished children received supplementary and therapeutic feeding in Goma through a WFP-funded programme, while about 1.8 mt of seeds were distributed by NGOs to some 10,000 displaced families under an FAO-sponsored food-security project, the report added.

Traditional chiefs "marginalised" by Mayi-Mayi "warlords"

Meanwhile, regional analysts told IRIN that tension between Congolese Hutu and Mayi-Mayi militia and between Banyamulenge and Rwandans persisted in North Kivu. "Warlords" were emerging among the Mayi-Mayi, who were reportedly recruiting ex-FAR and Interahamwe in the province. This trend has weakened the position of traditional chiefs, who appeared to be gradually marginalised within their communities, the sources said.

Purchasing power decreases by one third since war

A recent study conducted by FAO and UNDP in Kinshasa indicates a high increase in food insecurity since August 1998 linked to a reduction in supply sources due to the war, lack of currency for importing goods, a shortage of fuel, high inflation and rising unemployment, among other factors. An FAO report received by IRIN said the rapid study, undertaken between mid-March to early April, showed that the purchasing power of the city's population since the outbreak of the war had diminished by 30-35 percent, while the annual inflation rate for 1999 was estimated at 200 percent.

The availability of food items covers only 55 percent of the city's needs, and price increases have forced Kinshasa's residents to consume foods of a lower nutritional value. While it was estimated that some US $550 per person per year were required to cover their minimum dietary needs, recent surveys have shown that people were now consuming only US $261 worth of food, the report said.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Thousands return to Brazzaville

Some 10,000 displaced people have returned to southern areas of Brazzaville, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Thursday. The return to the Bacongo and Makelekele areas of the capital began in earnest at the weekend, mostly from the Pool region. The two districts were emptied during fierce fighting between government and rival militia forces in December and January. In accordance with a government programme, the displaced people are now being transported back to their home area by the Congolese army. Humanitarian organisations say many of them are in a poor nutritional state and warn that the capacity to assist them could be limited if the return becomes an influx. An estimated 200,000 displaced people are believed to be in the Pool region and they are currently returning at the rate of 1,500 to 2,000 a day.

In addition, the sources pointed out, Congolese refugees in the DRC have, for several weeks, been spontaneously returning to Brazzaville. The Congolese authorities put the number of returnees from DRC at 7,000 out of 30,000.

UGANDA: Findings to determine resumption of relief work in Bundibugyo

Humanitarian agencies who pulled out of Bundibugyo area in western Uganda are awaiting the findings of their missions to the area to determine whether they will resume relief work. The agencies left the area last month because of insecurity. "The situation disrupted planting and farming activities in the area and displaced several families," a humanitarian source told IRIN on Thursday. An assessment team from MSF-France, which had frozen its activities in Bundibugyo, is due to return to Kampala on Friday. The Uganda UN Security Officer is also in the area to ascertain the situation. WFP has continued sending food which is distributed by the local administration. AFP quoted the resident district commissioner, Edward Masiga, who said the town was "overflowing" with displaced people, and humanitarian sources told IRIN their condition was not yet known.

Donors demand cutbacks in defence spending

Donors have called on the Ugandan government to cut down on its defence expenditure, which they say has risen to over two percent of GDP in the current fiscal year, compared with the 1.9 percent budgeted for. An analysis by 'Oxford Analytica' found out that the government's war against domestic insurgent groups, together with its military involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo, had resulted in an increase in defence spending from US $150 million in 1997-98 to US $350 million in 1999. Diplomatic sources confirmed to IRIN that this had caused concern for some time, because "it usurped funds designated for social welfare projects".

Meanwhile, the British minister for development on Wednesday discussed the issue with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. "The [Ugandan] government made some commitment", a source at the British High Commission in Kampala told IRIN.

Ugandan media sources pointed out that Kampala had been asked to close down the controversial Greenland Bank "which it did" and now "the president has also talked of pulling out of Congo". A senior official in the defence ministry denied there had been any over-spending. "There is no expenditure out of the normal, there is no evidence," he told IRIN. In March, the IMF threatened to withhold disbursement of US $18 million of a loan package approved in 1997 if Uganda failed to curb spending on defence. Finland, for its part, suspended aid to Uganda, while the Paris Club of donors has increased pressure on Museveni to make peace with Sudan as a means of halting rebellions in northern Uganda.

RWANDA: Kigali still wants extradition of genocide suspect

Rwanda is still pressing for the extradition of genocide suspect, Major Bernard Ntuyahaga, to Kigali after the prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Tanzania withdrew the charges against him. The Rwanda News Agency quoted Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo as saying Rwanda had not dropped its request. Belgium is also seeking the extradition of Ntuyahaga - who is now being held by the Tanzanian authorities - in connection with the murder of 10 Belgian peacekeepers during the 1994 genocide. They were guarding former Rwandan prime minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana who was also killed. Mucyo stressed that "the crimes he is charged with were committed on Rwandan soil against Rwandans".

Army expels indisciplined soldiers

The Rwandan army has expelled 178 soldiers, including 12 officers, for "indiscipline", RNA reported on Wednesday. Army officials said they would be watched in their home communities to ensure they do not cause security incidents. The secretary-general in the defence ministry, Colonel Frank Rusagara, said the expulsions were meant as a warning that indiscipline in the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) will not be tolerated.

Nairobi, 6 May 1999, 14:00 gmt


Date: Thu, 6 May 1999 17:05:33 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 665 for 6 May [19990506]

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

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