IRIN Update 685 for 3 June [19990603]

IRIN Update 685 for 3 June [19990603]

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. 685 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 3 June 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Government forces bomb Uvira again

Government forces bombed the eastern town of Uvira late Wednesday, causing damage to houses, humanitarian sources in the area told IRIN on Thursday. They said four people were wounded but could not confirm reports by Rwandan government spokesman Major Wilson Rutayisire that three people had been killed. Rutayisire said the bombing - the second after government forces dropped bombs on the town last month - was a "violation of our good faith ceasefire proposal", news organisations reported. As a result, Rwanda's declaration of unilateral ceasefire "no longer holds", he said.

Kalemie under RCD control, fighting reported in Mboko

Further south, the Katangese town of Kalemie is firmly under the control of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), sources in the area told IRIN. The DRC government had earlier claimed to have recaptured the town. The sources also reported heavy fighting involving Mayi-Mayi warriors in the Mboko area, some 60 km south of Uvira.

The missionary news agency MISNA on Wednesday reported the movement of military trucks at Rwanda's Ruzizi border point with Bukavu in eastern DRC. It claimed Rwandan soldiers were being trucked daily into eastern DRC, and upon arrival in Bukavu were dividing into two convoys: one northwest towards Bunyakiri and the other southwest in the direction of Walungu. The agency also claimed DRC government forces launched an attack on the town of Shabunda, some 270 km west of Bukavu, on Tuesday night.

RCD troops ready to march on Lubumbashi

An RCD commander, Songolo Nura, told AFP his troops were poised to march on the capital of Katanga, Lubumbashi, where he estimated government troop strength at 30,000 men, including "many" Rwandan Interahamwe militiamen, 7,000 Burundian rebels of the Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD) and 6,000 Zimbabweans.

RCD explains changes and divisions

The RCD has clarified the recent changes within the movement. In a press release, received by IRIN on Thursday, it noted that former leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba was removed by a 66-strong convocation of RCD founders because of a "series of crises" brought about by his leadership style. These included "aggravating incipient divisions" and "decamping to Kisangani without valid reason where he remained incommunicado". The statement said that while in Kisangani, Wamba created a new institution - the General Secretariat of the RCD - and surrounded himself with a private military faction which was not under the control of the RCD military command. Wamba's actions, the statement claimed, "are directly attributable to the subsequent tensions between the RCD military and our Ugandan brothers and allies in Kisangani".

However, it stressed that the RCD still regarded Wamba as a "loyal Congolese of integrity and dedication...and a valuable member [of the RCD]". The RCD had reorganised itself so that structures were more efficient, adaptable and less personalised, the statement said. There was now a Congress, a Council and an Executive with the latter two headed by the same person, the new RCD leader Emile Ilunga. In the past, each institution had been headed by different people. The Assembly no longer existed.

The statement ended by listing conditions for a cessation of hostilities in the DRC, including the "clear identification of the belligerents as the RCD and the Kinshasa government". Foreign forces must be withdrawn and the "fascist and genocidal forces" mobilised by President Laurent-Desire Kabila "neutralised". The statement also called for a government of national unity.

RCD "Assembly" faction behind Wamba

Meanwhile, the RCD "Assembly" - now in Kisangani - issued a statement saying the RCD headquarters had been "temporarily transferred" to Kisangani until a new order was in place. Professor Wamba dia Wamba was still the movement's recognised leader, said the statement, signed by Assembly president Mbusa Nyamwisi. The statement rejected the "conspiracies" of the "so-called convocation of founders".

"Firing frenzy" in Kisangani

Nervous rebel soldiers loyal to Wamba, wrongly believing they were about to be attacked by a rival faction, went into a "firing frenzy" from Kisangani's Palm Beach hotel early on Thursday, AFP reported. Fifteen Wamba supporters were staying at the hotel. The agency said prior to the incident there were rumours that the Rwandan-backed faction represented in Kisangani by RCD Commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane would attempt to attack Wamba's headquarters.

BURUNDI: Spokesman denies Congolese refugees detained

Burundi has denied allegations by the DRC that it is detaining 760 Congolese refugees in Rumonge in the southern province of Bururi. The refugees had fled across Lake Tanganyika to escape fighting in Baraka last month. UNHCR said their boat ran out of fuel and came ashore in Rumonge. However DRC Human Rights Minister Leonard Okitundu, in a statement broadcast by DRC television, accused the Burundian army of intercepting the boat and "arbitrarily detaining" the refugees. A spokesman for the Burundian justice ministry, Jean-Berckmans Kaburundi, told the BBC Kirundi service on Wednesday the refugees had been "well-received" in Rumonge and had been visited by humanitarian organisations, including UNHCR. He said the refugees were being given the choice of either returning to DRC or being lodged at a site in Rugombo, in Burundi's Cibitoke province. "They cannot be detained since they aren't accused of anything," Kaburundi said.

TANZANIA: Lugufu refugee camp overstretched

The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) has warned that the sharp rise in DRC refugees crossing Lake Tanganyika has stretched the Red Cross refugee camp at Lugufu in western Tanzania beyond its planned capacity. In a news release issued on Thursday, IFRC said the camp was currently housing 50,000 refugees - 5,000 to 10,000 more than were ever anticipated - and expressed concern that more refugees were on the way. "The world has more or less forgotten them, but more and more refugees are coming here," said Georg Nothelle, head of the IFRC in Tanzania. "There is an urgent need for funding." He warned that the biggest problem may be water, as the camp lies in a remote area and requires its own secure water supply.

UGANDA: Museveni reiterates amnesty offer

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday officially offered an amnesty to all rebels in the country, at the opening of the new parliamentary session. News organisations said the announcement was applauded by legislators since Museveni had previously resisted this as a way of curbing acts of terrorism particularly in the north, west and in Kampala. In his speech broadcast by Ugandan radio, Museveni warned however that the offer was not open-ended. He announced he would recruit more soldiers and buy more military equipment to crush insurgencies. The main challenge to the country's security, he said, were high-altitude aircraft from Sudan "to which we have yet to find a solution".

Improved security enables the displaced to cultivate

Improved security in the Gulu and Kitgum districts of northern Uganda has enabled displaced people to access and cultivate their lands. USAID's Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) in Uganda reported that the onset of well-distributed rains also triggered farming activities. It quoted local NGOs as saying many adults left camps for the farms early in the morning, returning late in the evening. Some had even returned permanently to their farms. FEWS noted that the combination of large acreages being cultivated and good rains favoured increased crop output.

GREAT LAKES: WFP appeals for funds to avert food gap

WFP on Thursday appealed to donors for immediate contributions to keep the food aid "pipeline" from breaking down in the Great Lakes region. In a press release, the head of the WFP Africa desk in Rome, Mohamed Zejjari, pointed out the agency was virtually the sole source of food for over one million people in the region. "Existing stocks will be exhausted by the end of July and fresh supplies are not scheduled to arrive until September," he warned. "WFP urgently needs US $13 million to bridge the gap between June and September." "We have very grave concerns about the ability of the people to sustain the reduction in rations we will be forced to make," he added. He said the three-month gap arose because of delays in deliveries of food to the region.

WFP's representative in Tanzania warned that refugees there are particularly vulnerable to reduced rations because many are already in fragile health. "We've already had rioting on previous occasions when we have tried to cut back the rations," Irene Lacy said. "Continued reductions are extremely dangerous."

Nairobi, 3 June 1999, 14:45 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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