IRIN-CEA Update 695 for 17 June [19990617]

IRIN-CEA Update 695 for 17 June [19990617]

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-CEA Update No. 695 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 17 June 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Ceasefire agreement "expected"

The presidents of Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa were among the African leaders attending talks on the DRC conflict in South Africa on Thursday, news agencies said. The meeting was chaired by SADC-appointed DRC mediator President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia. The DRC was represented by Presidential Affairs Minister Victor Pierre Mpoyo. UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said on Wednesday that the UN Special Envoy for the DRC Peace Process, Moustapha Niasse, was also attending the Pretoria talks, ahead of a DRC summit scheduled for 25 June in the Zambian capital Lusaka "during which it is expected a ceasefire agreement will be signed."

Meanwhile, Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu held talks in Pretoria with former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, while Congolese rebel leader Emile Ilunga had separate consultations with South African officials, Reuters said on Thursday.

Over 100 Chadians died

In the first official toll of Chadian casualties in the DRC conflict, Chad's Defense Minister Oumar Kadjallami said on Wednesday that 105 Chadian soldiers had died during the country's military intervention, AFP reported. Kadjallami said 62 had died in battle, 13 from diseases or snake bites and 30 in road accidents, while six Chadians were taken prisoner. Rebels had said earlier this year that they had killed 200 Chadian troops and taken 400 prisoners. Chad sent a total of 2,227 soldiers to the DRC in September in support of President Laurent-Desire Kabila's forces, Kadjallami said. The Chadian troops were withdrawn last month following the signing of the Sirte agreement brokered by Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi.

Thousands displaced in Lusambo

Some 30,000 residents of Lusambo town in Kasai Oriental province fled into surrounding forests due to fighting between rebels and Kinshasa-allied forces earlier this month, journalists flown to the town from Kigali reported on Wednesday. Less than 10,000 displaced people had returned to Lusambo since it was captured by the rebels on 7 June, the PANA news agency said. It quoted local residents as saying the displaced were in need of food and drugs and no aid agency was now operating in the area. AFP reported heavy looting of homes and health facilities, and residents said government soldiers had raped women.

GREAT LAKES: Amnesty reports widespread rights abuses

Amnesty International on Wednesday drew attention in its 1999 annual report to the enormous human cost of conflict in the Great Lakes region which, it said, "continued to be the theatre of widespread human rights abuses" throughout last year. The regionalisation of the conflict in the DRC, together with massive population displacement and the "privatisation of the use of violence" by rebel groups, mean "it is difficult to see any improvement in the situation in the near future", Amnesty's regional representative for the Great Lakes, Patrice Vahard, told IRIN on Thursday.

In the DRC, thousands of people were extrajudicially executed - particularly in the Kivu provinces -, and hundreds of human rights defenders were detained and torture, Amnesty reported. "Scores of people were sentenced to death" after unfair trials, the report added.

There was a sharp rise in 'disappearances' in Rwanda in 1998, while more than 130,000 people were detained for long periods, mostly in connection with the 1994 genocide, in conditions that amounted to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment", Amnesty reported. Hundreds of Burundian refugees were also coerced into returning to Burundi through ill-treatment by security forces and harsh conditions in refugee camps, the report said.

In Burundi, torture continued to be widely used, detention conditions were often "cruel and inhuman" and 'disappearances' were frequently reported. At least 53 people were sentenced to death after unfair trials. In Burundi, as in Rwanda, genocide trials continued to fall short of international standards, the report added.

The response by security forces in Uganda to a series of bombings in Kampala "breached international human rights standards and Ugandan constitutional provisions", according to the annual report. Hundreds of political prisoners were detained, often incommunicado, with Muslims particularly targeted, it added. Torture was "endemic" in police stations, while elements of the Ugandan army engaged in extrajudicial killings, rape and other human rights abuses, Amnesty stated.

Armed opposition groups throughout the region - notably the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda - also committed grave human rights abuses during 1998, including abduction, looting, extortion, rape and other forms of torture, forced recruitment and 'disappearances' as well as deliberate and arbitrary killing of unarmed civilians, the Amnesty report stated.

TANZANIA/RWANDA: Inland port to improve goods transit

Tanzanian Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye on Wednesday assured Rwanda that its imports in transit through Tanzania would be given urgent attention in order to improve the economies of the two countries. Sumaye made the statement as he showed visiting Rwandan Prime Minister Pierre-Celestin Rwigema a parcel of land on which Rwanda is to build an inland terminal to handle transit goods from Dar es Salaam port, Tanzanian radio reported. Sumaye said the terminal would help Rwanda, where high transportation costs are reflected in the price of consumer goods, and improve the economy of both countries.

TANZANIA: One million AIDS orphans by 2000

Tanzania will have up to one million children orphaned by AIDS by the year 2000, government estimates and UNICEF information indicate. "The exact figure is not available but according to cases cited and information that reaches us, the estimate is between 800,000 and one million," a UNICEF consultant in Dar es Salaam told IRIN on Thursday. UNICEF spokesman Robert Tyabji said the agency had initiated "orphan care" projects in 55 districts under its Child Survival Protection and Development Programme (CSPDP). The government had set up a fund to help pay for the education of orphans living in foster families, he added.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Army claims progress in securing rail line

Government troops have captured the railway station at Kibossi, about 50 km west of Brazzaville, in their continuing efforts to clear rebels from the rail line linking the capital with the port city of Pointe-Noire, according to an army spokesman quoted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), on Wednesday. Traffic along the vital rail line has been disrupted due to insecurity over the past six months.

Foreign minister states "peace is near"

Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs Rodolphe Adada on Tuesday told Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos in Luanda that conditions in the Congo had improved and peace was now near, news agencies said.

Nairobi, 17 June 1999, 15:30 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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