IRIN Update 669 for 5/12/99

IRIN Update 669 for 5/12/99

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. 669 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 12 May 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Over 30 killed as Uvira, Goma bombed

The rebel-held towns of Goma and Uvira came under air attack by the allied forces on Tuesday night, with at least 30 people reported killed in Goma, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Wednesday. A further 50 people were wounded, 15 seriously, as five to eight bombs were dropped on the town apparently by two aircraft, a jet and an Antonov 28. A search is currently underway in the affected areas, and the death toll is expected to rise.

Some sources said the intended target was probably the airport, but a Goma resident told IRIN this was unlikely as the airport was so well-lit "it could not have been missed". The resident felt the entire town was being targeted, adding that one bomb fell into Lake Kivu and another on the town centre. He said the situation was now "relatively calm". Observers say the incident was probably a one-off, as was the case when Kisangani was bombed several months ago.

The planes then went on to bomb Uvira further south. Sources in nearby Bujumbura, who are in touch with the town, told IRIN two people are so far reported dead and one wounded from the raid. Humanitarian sources on the ground said two out of three bombs, which were dropped on the town, exploded. The area was apparently a suburb with a large number of Banyamulenge residents and where Rwandan soldiers had their headquarters. People have been fleeing Uvira into Bujumbura, the sources added.

"Desperate act", rebels says

The rebel authorities in both areas have strongly condemned the raids. The foreign minister of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), Alexis Tambwe Mwamba, told the Rwanda News Agency the bombing was probably in retaliation for the rebels' seizure of Manono, President Laurent-Desire Kabila's hometown in Katanga province, on Monday. He said the RCD's anti-aircraft artillery was confused by the simultaneous landing of their own plane from Kisangani. "Otherwise we could have downed Kabila's Antonov because Goma is a well-defended town," he added. Mwamba said the situation in Goma had now returned to normal and an urgent meeting would be held to assess the situation. RCD military commander General Celestin Ilunga described the raids as "a desperate act of somebody who is losing the war".

Haemorrhagic fever epidemic "diminishing"

The bombing raids come hot on the heels of the first direct flight between Kinshasa and rebel-held territory, carrying a medical team and equipment to the northeastern Durba/Watsa area where an epidemic of haemorrhagic fever has been raging.

A spokeswoman for MSF-Belgium told IRIN on Wednesday very few new cases of the fever were now emerging in the area and there was no indication the epidemic was spreading to other areas. "The epidemic is clearly diminishing and seems to be closing down," she said. An International Technical Coordination Committee has been formed on the ground, and teams are focusing on epidemiological surveillance, treatment, public information, water and sanitation, research and logistics.

Latest figures indicate a total of 90 cases, of whom 60 have died. Most cases were from Durba in Province Orientale, with a few cases from Watsa, Nzopi and Monya. The majority of patients were men working in local goldmines, but the most recent case was of a nine-year-old boy, who is currently under observation at an isolation centre set up in Durba, the spokeswoman said. WHO on Friday said the epidemic could be caused by the Marburg virus after one of five samples analysed in South Africa tested positive. More samples have been sent for testing.

Outbreak hits soldiers in Bumba

Meanwhile, an outbreak of a similar haemorrhagic fever reported last week in the Bumba area of Province Equateur appeared less alarming than originally rumoured, the MSF spokeswoman said. Latest available information indicates that the Bumba outbreak had involved five or six patients since early February, all of them military personnel who were subsequently transferred to Kampala, she said. No deaths were reported. "It is not clear if it's the same thing, and it could be viral hepatitis," she said, adding that samples from those patients were currently being analysed.

Security Council urges participation in national debate

The UN Security Council on Tuesday urged all parties to sign a ceasefire agreement "without delay" and called on the international community to provide financial support for the Lusaka peace process led by Zambian President Frederick Chiluba. In a press statement, the president of the Council said its members welcomed the agreement signed last month in Sirte, Libya, "which is an integral part of the Lusaka process". The president made the statement after the Council heard a briefing by the UN Special Envoy for the DRC peace process, Moustapha Niasse, on the eve of his second cycle of consultations in Africa. The council reiterated its full support for the envoy's efforts. It also called on "all the parties" to participate in the proposed national debate to be held in Nairobi in June.

RWANDA: Virunga park to reopen

The Rwandan authorities are to reopen the Virunga National Park in the north, after it was closed two years ago due to the rebel insurgency in the area, the Rwanda News Agency reported. It quoted Lieutenant Colonel Denis Nkizinkiko, director of the National Tourism Office as saying the park will be reopened next month, thus bringing in badly-needed tourism revenue. The move indicated a return to normality in this area of Rwanda, the news agency added.

UGANDA: Humanitarian agencies "cautiously" returning to Bundibugyo

Humanitarian agencies who pulled out of the western town of Bundibugyo last month because of insecurity are "cautiously" returning to the area as there is a "slight improvement" in the situation. WFP on Wednesday sent eight trucks from Fort Portal to the area to distribute food to some 40,000 people in the town and 12 surrounding areas. The food convoy is escorted by the military and food will be distributed by the local authorities. "We are very concerned about getting to the area to see whether more people have become displaced," WFP told IRIN. "We need to find how many are without food, proper sanitation and shelter because there are not many agencies operating in the area."

MSF-France is also returning to Bundibugyo, an MSF source confirmed to IRIN on Wednesday. He said part of the team arrived in the town on Tuesday to continue the work that had been started and reassess the situation. "The measles immunisation should take off, as the supply of non-food items like plastic sheeting and water continues," he said.

ADF rebels killed in army crackdown

The Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) has killed at least 34 rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the Ruwenzori area and captured five others during a week-long crackdown in the mountain ranges, the semi-official 'New Vision' daily reported. It said a joint force of UPDF and Local Defence Units (LDUs) destroyed seven camps and seized arms and ammunition in the swoop. In another incident, the paper noted that government troops killed 15 Rwandan Hutu extremists at the Virunga National Park in a battle at Kihito, some 50 km inside the Democratic Republic of Congo. The government has launched a massive mopping up exercise to flush out rebels in the Bundibugyo district.

Nairobi, 12 May 1999, 15:30 gmt


Date: Wed, 12 May 1999 18:34:16 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 669 for 12 May [19990513]

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

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