IRIN Update 679 for 26 May [19990526]

IRIN Update 679 for 26 May [19990526]

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. 679 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 26 May 1999)

BURUNDI: Minister warns of retaliation if DRC attacks

Defence Minister Alfred Nkurunziza has warned that Burundi will fight back if the DRC carries out its threat to attack. In an interview with the BBC Kirundi service on Tuesday, he said Burundi had been "surprised" by DRC army chief Faustin Munene's threat. He denied Burundian helicopters had overflown the eastern DRC town of Baraka, as alleged by Munene. "Helicopters look alike when they are in the air," he said. "We have no helicopters to send there, and in fact we are short of them." He added that no-one could stop the DRC from attacking, but Burundi would retaliate "strongly".

PALIPEHUTU "opens new front"

Meanwhile, the rebel PALIPEHUTU group says its armed wing, Forces nationales de liberation (FNL), has opened another front in Kinyinya commune in the eastern Ruyigi prefecture. In a press statement, signed by vice-president Jean-Bosco Sindayigaya, PALIPEHUTU listed a series of clashes that had allegedly taken place with the army between 17 April and 21 May. It claimed large numbers of soldiers had died, with one dead from its own side.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Bid to kill Wamba, paper claims

The semi-official Ugandan 'New Vision' on Wednesday claimed the weekend clashes in Kisangani were the result of a foiled plot to assassinate ousted rebel leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba. The newspaper said the plot was blamed on the "Goma faction" of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD). Four soldiers, including two RCD-Goma members, one RCD-Kisangani member and a Rwandan, were killed when Ugandan troops came to Wamba's rescue, the report claimed. The 'New Vision' described the situation in Kisangani as tense, fanned by radio and television stations which support rival rebel factions. Wamba has reportedly addressed the public over Radio Liberte, owned by another rebel group, the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) of Jean-Pierre Bemba.

Rebel gains in Kabinda denied

The governor of Kasai Oriental province, Jean-Charles Lolakomba Okoto, has denied rebel claims to have taken the town of Kabinda, close the diamond city of Mbuji-Mayi. In an interview with DRC state television on Monday, he described the reports as "disinformation", although he acknowledged there had been clashes in nearby Loubao with "heavy losses" on the rebel side.

KENYA: COMESA summit ends with sharp differences over DRC conflict

A summit by 12 heads of states from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) ended in Nairobi on Tuesday with sharp differences over the DRC. President Laurent-Desire Kabila left the summit early, in a move described by observers as "very hurried", reportedly to respond to Burundi's "aggression". The proceedings were broadcast by Kenyan television. DRC Foreign Minister Yerodia Abdoulaye Ndombasi told the summit there was "no way COMESA can achieve regional integration if it and African nations continue to turn a blind eye to foreign invasion, such as the one in DRC". His remarks drew a sharp reaction from Uganda's Yoweri Museveni who said the summit was the wrong forum to discuss the issue and called on Kinshasa to get to the root causes of the war.

Meanwhile, the heads of state issued a statement on Tuesday in which they agreed among other things to commence a "countdown" to the COMESA Free Trade Area (FTA) by 31 October 2000. However, the summit noted that the elimination of intra-COMESA tariffs could worsen uneven levels of development between member states and directed the secretariat to explore appropriate compensatory mechanisms.

RWANDA: UN names investigators into its actions during genocide

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday announced the names of the two people to join panel chairman, former Swedish prime minister Ingvar Carlsson, in an investigation into UN actions in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. The two are former South Korean foreign minister Han Sung-Joo and Nigerian General Rufus Kupolati, who served three years as head of the UN peacekeeping mission based in Jerusalem. The team, which will begin work immediately, is expected to "establish facts and to draw conclusions as to the organisation's response to the tragedy" and present its report to the Secretary-General within six months, according to a UN statement received by IRIN.

Human rights commissioners elected

The seven members of the National Human Rights Commission were elected by the National Assembly on Monday evening, five months after adopting the law which established it, the Rwanda News Agency reported on Tuesday. The chairman of the commission is Gasana Ndoba and the six other members are: Theodore Sumburudari, Deogratias Kayumba, Celina Nyirahabimana, Denis Uwimana, Anne-Marie Kanyange and Tom Ndahiro.

Army worm outbreak reported in northwest

Rwandan radio on Tuesday reported that Gisenyi Prefecture in northwestern Rwanda has recently seen five communes attacked by army worms: Nyamyumba, Rubavu, Kibilira, Satinskyi and Kayove. About 79 hectares of farmland, planted mainly with sorghum gardens, have been destroyed. The worms were first sighted in Gisenyi on 14 May, and farmers have called on the government to intervene rapidly. An FAO official told IRIN on Wednesday that the organisation did not have information on the spread of army worm infestation since 12 May, when the south and west of the country were reportedly worst affected, but that it was continuing to monitor the situation.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Ninjas warn of aid obstruction

Ninja militiamen, who support ousted prime minister Bernard Kolelas, have warned they will obstruct any humanitarian aid to the south of the country unless certain conditions are met. In a statement received by IRIN, the Force d'autodefense Ninja (FAN) said it had learnt of pledged international assistance for displaced people in the Pool and Niari regions, which would be escorted by government troops. FAN said that while it welcomed the aid, it could not accept the escort of the "belligerent forces". Furthermore, any assistance to the south which is under the control of FAN and the Forces congolaises de liberation (FCL) must first be negotiated with Kolelas and other exiled leaders, the statement said. "All moves that do not conform to these requirements will run into the military obstruction of the FAN and the FCL".

KENYA: Over 500,000 children in need of special protection

Kenya has more than 500,000 children in need of special protection, and that number is rising steadily as the effects of HIV/AIDS become increasingly evident, according to figures from UNICEF and the Kenyan government.

"The figures have multiplied to an unimaginable degree" in recent years, a spokeswoman for the Kenyan Ministry of Home Affairs told IRIN on Wednesday. There is a wide definition of "children in need of special protection", she said, with 15 categories covering virtually all children in difficult circumstances - whether they are street children, involved in child labour, suffering from poverty, family breakdown or the effects of HIV/AIDS.

An increasingly large number of Kenya's children are in need of protection because of the direct and indirect effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a UNICEF spokesman confirmed to IRIN. Not only have many been infected themselves, but the disease has had a negative impact on many thousands of children made homeless, left in poverty or pushed into work. Already, 600,000 children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, according to UNICEF estimates.

Nairobi, 26 May 1999, 14:05 gmt


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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

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

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