IRIN Update No. 680 [19990527]

IRIN Update No. 680 [19990527]

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. 680 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 27 May 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rwanda, Uganda deny split

Both Uganda and Rwanda have denied reports of a split over policy in the DRC. Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu said the two countries shared the same views and the "same "objectives and strategies" in fulfilling them. "During the negotiations in Lusaka, we always adopted the same position and our strategies remain convergent," he told Radio France Internationale. He reiterated Rwanda's position that the weekend clashes in Kisangani between supporters of ousted rebel leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba and the new incumbent Emile Ilunga had no effect on relations between the two countries. "It is a mere incident that can happen anywhere," he said.

Uganda's Senior Presidential Adviser in charge of media and public relations John Nagenda reiterated Bizimungu's sentiments saying, "even in the best, loving families occasionally friction arises. President Bizimungu is absolutely right". Nagenda told IRIN on Thursday both countries were in the DRC to defend their territorial interests because of the "anarchic" situation there.

"We have to make sure places held in the DRC are not taken up by the Khartoum government, which is supporting northern Uganda rebels," he said. He added that Uganda was also supporting its "friend", Rwanda, which "is very much at risk at the hands of the Interahamwe militia supported by DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila". Reports of a split, he stressed, were "wishful thinking" by those who wanted to sow discord. Uganda and Rwanda had different programmes and ways of implementation, but this did not mean a split.

Bemba claims Kabila soldiers defecting

Jean-Pierre Bemba, who leads a rival rebel group in DRC - the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) - has claimed 2,000 DRC soldiers have defected to his movement, along with a brigade of rebels from the mainstream Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD). He told AFP that "Kabila's deserters" were integrated into the MLC "after military training by the Ugandans and political education". However, leading RCD member Bizima Karaha on Thursday denied to the BBC that RCD fighters were moving over to the MLC.

Wamba to "unite" with Bemba

Meanwhile, some Wamba supporters in Goma are reported to have crossed into Uganda. The semi-official Ugandan 'New Vision' on Thursday quoted Wamba as saying he did not blame the Rwandan government but "elements of the Rwandan army" for backing the "coup" against him. Wamba said his group planned to hold talks with the MLC "very soon". "We are fighting the same enemy, we have the same cause. I must unite with Bemba," he said.

Goma residents march to support Ilunga

Meanwhile, several hundred Goma residents marched through the town on Wednesday in support of the RCD's new leader, Emile Ilunga, Rwandan radio reported. It said an RCD official later addressed a rally, saying Wamba and his supporters had turned out to be "undemocratic".

Mayi-Mayi said advancing on Uvira

Sources in eastern DRC continue to send IRIN reports of ongoing violence in the Fizi and Uvira regions. Intense clashes between Mayi-Mayi fighters and the RCD have reportedly been underway since last Friday. Some sources claim Burundian troops entered the region to counter Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD) rebels fighting alongside the Mayi-Mayi. The Mayi-Mayi are said to be advancing towards Uvira, from Makobola some 20 km away. The sources further denied the presence of any DRC government troops in the area.

Mweso cholera outbreak shows signs of decline

Fifty one new cases of cholera resulting in four deaths were reported in Mweso health zone, in North Kivu, over the last week compared to 89 new cases and eight deaths the previous week, a UN report received by IRIN stated. The UN has sent medicines and continued to fund the chlorination of water from Lake Kivu distributed to poor areas of Goma to help combat the outbreak, which it hoped was now in decline.

TANZANIA: Militamen raping refugee women

Armed militias are raping refugee women in northern Tanzania, very often in front of their husbands and children, Refugees International said following a visit to the camps. It said one in four women had been the victims of either rape or extreme sexual harassment. "Women are at risk from sexual predators each step of the flight from their homes to the refugee camps," the report stated. "The risk continues during the arduous trek to Tanzania as refugees spend weeks walking in circuitous routes to avoid militias and landmines." The report also warned that many young men, who themselves had frequently been brutalised as children, were susceptible to recruitment by armed gangs and militias. A campaign run by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) - the Gender Violence Programme - has had some success in protecting women, the report said. Its most important progress has been the arrest and punishment of the perpetrators of sexual assault.

BURUNDI: Burundi negotiators moving towards peace

The four committees which met in Arusha as part of the Burundi peace process from 11-22 May achieved "appreciable" progress, according to the Nyerere Foundation which is facilitating the talks. In a press release received by IRIN, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere urged delegates "to continue in the same spirit" during the next session, due in July. "The talks are progressing in the right direction. Committees were able to discuss and finish certain agendas and pick up new ones," Nyerere Foundation spokesman Hashim Mbita told IRIN on Thursday.

Meanwhile, donors have contributed more than US $6 million towards the facilitation of the Burundi peace talks, a press release from the Nyerere Foundation said. About 21 countries and aid agencies have been contributing since 1996. Mbita told IRIN there had been general concern that the patience of donors "cannot be overstretched". "So far, they have shown us goodwill," Mbita said. He said this could be attributed to the "seriousness and determination" the groups have shown

RWANDA: Genocide suspect appeals for refugee status in Tanzania

Genocide suspect, Major Bernard Ntuyahaga, who is facing extradition from Tanzania to Rwanda, has appealed for refugee status in Tanzania. According to the Tanzanian 'Daily Mail' on Thursday, the appeal was filed by his lawyer on Wednesday. A court in Dar es Salaam is due to hear the extradition case on 15 June. Ntuyahaga is wanted in connection with the murder of former Rwandan premier Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers during the 1994 genocide.

UGANDA: Rebels abduct 20 in northern Uganda

Rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) abducted 20 people in a village in Kitgum, northern Uganda, on Tuesday night, barely a day after President Yoweri Museveni's tour of the area. Media sources in the area told IRIN on Thursday army officers were in pursuit of the rebels who they said may have crossed over to neighbouring Sudan. "When the number is that big, if caught, they can use the abductees as human shields," the media source said. Analysts say the attack could be a way of the rebels letting the government know they "still exist" and have not "changed their stand". An LRA spokesman told the BBC the group believed Museveni was not genuine in his recent amnesty offer. "This is not surprising," presidential adviser John Nagenda told IRIN. "It just shows the kind of people the LRA are. They are killing, maiming and abducting their own people."

Nairobi, 27 May 1999, 14:30 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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