IRIN Update 670 for 5/13/99

IRIN Update 670 for 5/13/99

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. 670 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 13 May 1999)


The authorities in DRC have said they were targeting "military targets" and denied civilians were hit in the bombing raids against rebel-held Goma and Uvira on Tuesday. Press reports cited deputy armed forces chief Commandant Francois Olenga as saying the bombardments were a "warning that we are hardening our position". Humanitarian sources in Goma told IRIN on Wednesday at least 30 people, most of them civilians, had been killed in the raids on the town. The Zimbabwean government daily 'Herald' on Thursday quoted a Zimbabwean military spokesman as saying the air strikes in the east would continue. He claimed the allied forces had the "capability to strike Goma and beyond".

The UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Sergio Vieira de Mello, expressed regret over the bombings, which, he said had "resulted in the deaths of over 40 civilians and the injury of many others". He urged all sides in the conflict "to desist from violence against civilians".

Kinshasa mobilising Interahamwe "to finish the genocide", Rwanda says

A Rwandan defence ministry statement on Thursday accused the Kinshasa authorities of mobilising "thousands" of Interahamwe rebels to fight alongside the allied forces. The eventual aim was to "overthrow the Rwandan government, then complete the genocide they began in 1994", the statement said, according to news organisations. "The government of Rwanda considers their presence in the DRC to be the biggest single threat to the very survival of the Rwandan nation and its people. No effort will be spared in defending the nation against this threat."

RCD accuses Ugandans of splitting the movement

Meanwhile, the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) has accused Ugandan military commanders in eastern DRC of seeking to split the movement. Rebel commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane told the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) in Goma said the Ugandans were trying to disarm the RCD troops and force them to join another rebel movement, the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) led by Jean-Pierre Bemba. RNA said Ondekane "pointed an accusatory finger" at Ugandan commander, Brigadier James Kazini. Ugandan press reports have said the Ugandan army is training MLC fighters ahead of a planned Ugandan pullout from eastern DRC. But Ondekane disputed this, alleging Kazini "is just disarming our units at Kisangani, Isiro, Beni, Bunia, Bafaswende and other towns and forcing them to join Bemba". According to RNA, two RCD battalions, including some top commanders, had gone over to the MLC.

RWANDA: Extradition hearing adjourned

A Tanzanian court, examining Rwanda's extradition request for genocide suspect Major Bernard Ntuyahaga, has adjourned the decision until Monday, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. The court in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday acceded to a request by the defendant for a French or Kinyarwanda interpreter at the proceedings. The Tanzanian authorities on Monday rejected an extradition request by Belgium, saying he must face trial in Rwanda where the alleged crimes were committed, but the extradition must be approved by the court. Ntuyahaga is accused of involvement in the murder of ex-Rwandan premier Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers at the start of the 1994 genocide.

Second generation of army worms feared

The agricultural area affected by an invasion of army worms is now estimated at some 6,000 hectares, of which 3,000 have already been chemically treated, humanitarian sources said. The OCHA office in Kigali told IRIN that the rapid intervention of the government and FAO, combined with the favourable effect of the rains, had reduced the impact of the large-scale worm infestation in the country. Earlier estimates from the agriculture ministry had indicated that up to 100,000 hectares of agricultural land were at risk.

In spite of the improved situation, there is concern about a potential second invasion of army worms at the end of the worms' next reproduction cycle in end-May or early June, which would pose a "serious threat" to crops during the June-September agricultural season, OCHA-Kigali said. Several donor and UN agency contributions have already been made towards a five-month emergency project aimed at combating the worms. The project includes spraying and control efforts, public information campaigns and training activities, OCHA said.

BURUNDI: Independent report hails progress in peace process

An analysis of the peace process underway in Burundi has stated that the country "has and continues to make vast strides towards all-inclusive negotiations". The report, prepared by 'Search for Common Ground' in Washington and 'The Centre for Conflict Resolution' in Cape Town, noted that while virtually all the other countries in the Great Lakes region were involved in "intractable and escalating conflicts", Burundi was the only country "actively talking to and negotiating with all political groupings, whether armed or not". "The fact that the rebels cannot defeat the army, and vice versa, creates the kind of stalemate that further encourages a negotiated settlement," the report said. Urging international support for the ongoing internal and external peace processes, the report stated that the "positive impact a truly successful peace process in Burundi can have on the rest of this very troubled region can be immense".

EAST AFRICA: Regional conference seeks agreement on sharing Nile waters

A two-day conference of water ministers from 10 states with claims on the water of the Nile river opened in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, with calls for cooperation on the sustainable and equitable use of the river's water resources. The incoming chairman of the Nile Council of Ministers (Nile COM), Ethiopian Water Minister Shiferaw Jarsso, said the meeting heralded an era of transition "from confrontation to cooperation" in establishing an agreement for use of the Nile's water resources by riparian states.

Nile COM is to come up with a final framework agreement for utilisation of the Nile's waters by 2002, to replace a 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan which allocates the largest share of the river's water between themselves. The other eight Nile states - Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda - have been lobbying for a fair share of the Nile's water ever since. The DRC is attending Nile COM for the first time, while Eritrea is being represented by the charge d'affaires of its embassy in Addis Ababa.

AFRICA: COMESA meeting commences in Nairobi

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) meeting opened in Nairobi on Thursday with the organisers optimistic that delegates will discuss and map out sound strategies to usher the body into the next millennium. An official of COMESA in Nairobi told IRIN one of the key issues slated for deliberations is the formation of a free trade area by 31 October 2000. "It is feasible. The development gap between member countries is not so big. Members are able to give each other some leeway," the official said.

Senior government officials, ministers and head of member states will also discuss strategies for privatisation, trade and investment, promotion of the private sector, globalisation and economic liberalisation among other issues. The administrative budgetary committee starts its session on Thursday to give way to the inter-governmental committees on Sunday which will be followed by the council of ministers and finally the heads of state panel. The meeting ends on 25 May. COMESA has 21 members and was formed to promote cross-border trade and investment.

Nairobi, 13 May 1999, 14:25 gmt


Date: Thu, 13 May 1999 17:19:52 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 670 for 13 May [19990513]

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

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