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IRIN Update No. 693 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 15 June 1999)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels claim capture of port town
Rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) on Tuesday claimed to have captured the strategic port town of Lusambo as part of their slow advance towards the diamond-rich town of Mbuji-Mayi, 120 km further south, news agencies said. RCD-Goma vice-president Moise Nyarugabo said Lusambo had fallen to the rebels last week. Meanwhile, RCD-Goma military commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane told AFP that his forces had shot down a Zimbabwean helicopter, captured a tank and killed 15 soldiers during fighting with government troops and their allies on Sunday near rebel-held Manono in Katanga province.
Preparatory talks held for SADC summit
DRC Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Ndombasi Yerodia held talks in Kinshasa on Monday with a delegation from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as part of preparations for the heads of state summit scheduled to be held in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, on 26 June, news agencies reported. State television said the 13-member delegation, representing a committee formed under the Lusaka peace process to look into the security concerns of the DRC and its neighbours, had already visited Goma, Kampala, Kigali and Bujumbura where it had held talks with the various belligerents. The television station quoted a foreign ministry statement as saying heads of state at the Lusaka summit would be invited to sign a document prepared by SADC and the OAU to end the conflict.
Over 5,000 displaced in Lubumbashi
A recent inter-agency assessment mission to Lubumbashi found that there were 5,000-6,000 internally-displaced persons (IDPs) currently in the city, according to a UN report received by IRIN. About 900 displaced people living in a transit site were receiving limited food assistance from MSF-Belgium and ICRC, while some 500 displaced at two other sites were being assisted by UN agencies. Many other IDPs living with local families in the city would receive WFP food distributions, the report said. Prospects of return to communities of origin in northern Katanga were slim due to continued conflict and the presence of landmines, it added.
Most of the displaced in Lubumbashi were found to be in reasonable health, according to a spokeswoman for WFP, which participated in the mission. WFP started to distribute food aid to the displaced last week, the spokeswoman said.
Truce needed to immunise children, IASC says
There is an urgent need to organise "days of tranquility" in the DRC to prevent the failure of global polio eradication efforts, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) said. In a statement received by IRIN on Tuesday, the high-level humanitarian policy-setting body - composed of UN agencies, ICRC, NGOs and other international organisations - said that if the disease were not soon eradicated from the DRC and other polio-endemic countries at war, "there is a risk that the global polio eradication initiative will fail, leading both to a resurgence of the disease and the loss of the billions of dollars invested so far."
UNICEF and WHO are working together to eradicate polio from the world by the end of the year 2000. The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) was designated earlier this year to facilitate the negotiation of a truce between the DRC's warring parties to allow an estimated 10 million Congolese children under five years to be immunised against the disease on both sides of the conflict. The IASC statement said the two major parties to the conflict had agreed to work with UN agencies in conducting the immunisation campaigns, and it called on the ERC to continue his efforts.
Meanwhile, a regional WHO spokesperson told IRIN on Tuesday that the first round of DRC polio vaccinations had been scheduled for 13-15 August, with two additional rounds to be held in September and October. The third round would also include measles vaccinations, she said.
RWANDA: Rwanda denies Chad holding its war prisoners
The Rwandan government has denied Chadian claims that it was detaining Rwandan prisoners of war (POWs) captured in the DRC. "There is no single Rwandan soldier held by Chad," an official from the Rwandan Defence Ministry told the Rwanda News Agency (RNA). He said Chad could not be holding any Rwandan POWs since the DRC-based Rwandan soldiers had never fought against Chadian troops, who were stationed in another part of the country. Chadian Foreign Minister Mahamay Saleh Annadif last week said his country was holding 119 prisoners of war captured in the DRC, including 27 Ugandans and a dozen Rwandans.
Ntuyahaga extradition case adjourned
Genocide suspect Bernard Ntuyahaga, who is facing extradition from Tanzania to Rwanda, on Tuesday asked a Tanzanian court to allow Belgian lawyer Luc de Temmerman to defend him, news agencies reported. The case, which was due to be heard by a Dar es Salaam court on Tuesday, was adjourned to 29 June to allow Ntuyahaga's Tanzanian lawyer time to apply for papers giving the Belgian lawyer authority to act as an attorney in the country. Ntuyahaga is wanted in connection with the murder of former Rwandan premier Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers during the 1994 genocide.
US pursuing extradition of genocide suspect from Texas
Meanwhile, the US Justice Department was making "vigorous efforts" to secure the extradition of genocide suspect Elizaphan Ntakirutimana to stand trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), according to an ICTR statement received by IRIN on Tuesday. The statement quoted US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, David Scheffer, as saying in Arusha on Thursday that the extradition efforts were part of his country's "continuing commitment" to the ICTR. Ntakirutimana, a Hutu cleric, was set free in 1997 by an American court, which said his detention was unconstitutional. He was later rearrested and is currently under detention in Texas.
REPUBLIC OF CONGO: EU donates emergency aid for displaced
The European Union on Saturday announced a humanitarian aid donation of US$ 5.2 million to help feed people displaced by conflict in the Congo, news agencies said. Reuters quoted EU representative Frederic Baron as saying the aid would be distributed by WFP. The UN agency last week said it was seeking US$ 7 million in emergency funds to feed 200,000 people, mainly women and child returnees, over the next three months.
Government claims fresh Ninja defeat
Government troops killed about 50 Ninja militiamen allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas at barracks near the Mindouli area of the Pool region, AFP said on Monday. It quoted army spokesman Jean-Robert Obargui as saying the barracks, some 120 km west of Brazzaville, had recently been turned into a logistical base by the Ninja.
Meanwhile, the Force d'Autodefense Ninjas (FAN) denied last week's government claim that the army had recaptured another Ninja base at Lueto in Pool. In a statement received by IRIN on Tuesday, the FAN said the government's attack on Lueto had been repulsed by the militia.
Nairobi, 15 June 1999, 16:15 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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