IRIN-CEA Update 697 for 21 June [19990621]

IRIN-CEA Update 697 for 21 June [19990621]

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. 697 for Central and Eastern Africa (Monday 21 June 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Ministers' meeting deemed crucial

Officials from countries involved in the DRC conflict began meeting on Monday in the Zambian capital Lusaka to prepare for a ministerial meeting on Wednesday and a planned heads of state summit on Saturday, news agencies said. Chief SADC mediator, Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, on Sunday called on the concerned governments to empower their ministers to make decisions to advance peace prospects, news agencies reported. "I am asking my brother presidents to please give full mandate to their ministers not to be afraid to do that which is rights," Chiluba was quoted by AFP as saying at an interdenominational church service.

Rebels "very optimistic" about talks

The second vice president of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) in Goma, Moise Nyarugabo, told IRIN he was "very optimistic" about this week's peace talks. However, he said that for the talks to be successful, DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila would have to refrain from coming up with "fanciful preconditions," and the SADC mediators would have to take the RCD's interests fully into account. The rebels had to be part of the process and it would no longer agree to "proximity talks," Nyarugabo said.

Meanwhile, Nyarugabo denied the existence of different factions within the rebel movement. He told IRIN that Kisangani was not a divided city, and there had been a "rapprochement" between the RCD and the rebel Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) of Jean-Pierre Bemba. "Bemba is close the RCD," he said, adding that negotiations between the two groups were underway.

Buyoya cautious about talks outcome

Burundian President Pierre Buyoya said on Friday that "nothing concrete" had resulted form the meeting of regional leaders held last week in Pretoria, South Africa, to discuss DRC peace prospects. Buyoya told Radio Umwizero in Bujumbura, monitored by the BBC, that the planned Lusaka summit was not certain. "Let us wait and see if it will take place in the first place," Buyoya said, adding that "things that are planned in this framework are later postponed or cancelled."

Meanwhile, a South African government source told IRIN on Monday that the holding of Saturday's head of state summit would depend on what emerged from the ministerial meetings starting on Wednesday.

Rebel leader alleges bombing of civilians

Emile Ilunga, leader of the Goma-based RCD, on Saturday accused Zimbabwe and Sudan of having bombed civilians in the southern town of Kalemie on Friday, killing at least three and wounding others. The southeastern town of Kongolo was also reportedly bombed on Saturday. "Kabila and his allies must target the military and not civilians", Reuters quoted Ilunga as saying. The RCD leader said the attacks, which could not be independently verified, jeopardised rebel participation in the Lusaka meetings to negotiate terms for a ceasefire.

Government claims rebels "in disarray" in Manono

Meanwhile, DRC Interior Minister Gaetan Kakudji said in a radio broadcast on Sunday that the rebels were "in disarray" after Congolese government and Zimbabwean planes had "heavily bombarded" the southeastern rebel-held town of Manono and sunk a boat-load of rebel soldiers as they made their way across Lake Tanganyika from Burundi. The RCD-Goma group denied the reports.

RWANDA: UN inquiry on its role in genocide starts

The independent inquiry set up by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to investigate UN actions before and during the 1994 genocide started its work of Friday, a UN press release said. "Our task is to establish the facts and draw conclusions about the response of the United Nations to the genocide in Rwanda," the chairman of the three-man panel, former Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlson, told a press conference at the UN Headquarters in New York. He said the investigators were guaranteed "full access" to UN records and would immediately begin examining files and compiling a list of potential interviewees both inside and outside the UN. The panel is to submit its final report to Annan by the end of the year. The other panelists are former Korean Foreign Minister Han Sung-Joo and Nigeria's Rufus Kupolati.

Journalist arrested on genocide charges

Meanwhile, Rwandan Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo on Sunday announced the arrest of journalist Valerie Bemeriki, who is alleged to have led a radio hate campaign by making inflammatory statements that contributed to sparking the 1994 genocide, news agencies said. The journalist, broadcasting on Radio Mille Collines, allegedly urged Hutus to kill minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Bemeriki, whose name was on the list of the 1,000 "most wanted" Rwandans, will be prosecuted for genocide and crimes against humanity, news agencies said.

BURUNDI: Agreement before November "probable", Nyerere says

The facilitator of the Burundi peace process, former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, on Friday said the negotiations had achieved "appreciable movement." A statement from the Nyerere Foundation in Arusha, Tanzania, received by IRIN on Monday, quoted the facilitator as saying he was encouraged by efforts made by the negotiating groups to "harmonise their positions" on the issues under consideration. Nyerere said he was hopeful that the Arusha committees will make more progress when they next meet in July. Should there be delay in further progress, "it would be more due to the nature of issues rather than unwillingness to negotiate," the statement said. An agreement was likely to be reached before the end of the year, "probably in September or October," the statement added.

Hutu opposition delegation leaves Tanzania

Meanwhile, a delegation from the FRODEBU party left the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, on Sunday after "routine talks" with Nyerere, news organisations reported. AFP said the group met Nyerere on Saturday for consultations on the peace process and on the crisis within the movement.

KENYA: Malaria situation "worsening"

The malaria situation in the Kisii district of southwestern Kenya has "worsened" with the death toll rising to 180, Kenyan media reported on Monday. The hospital in neighbouring Kericho district recorded seven malaria-related deaths last week, but media reports said the official death toll was "just the tip of the iceberg" as many other deaths were going unreported. Provincial Commissioner Peter Raburu, who visited the hospital on Thursday, was quoted as saying the malaria situation in the area was "pathetic and desperate."

AFRICA: Ogata calls for renewed commitment to Africa's refugees

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, on Sunday called for governments and the public to renew their pledges to the OAU's 30-year-old refugee convention. "This year especially, while much of the world's attention is focused on the refugee crisis in Kosovo, let us not forget this important African anniversary and its enduring meaning for refugees all over the world," Ogata said.

In a statement to mark African Refugee Day on Sunday, Ogata said the OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa contributed significantly to international refugee law - especially in relation to defining refugees more broadly than before, the principle of voluntary repatriation and the concept of burden-sharing - and UNHCR would be "working throughout 1999 to promote its effective implementation."

Speaking at the start of an African tour to remind the world of the continent's refugees, Ogata also told journalists in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Monday that while Kosovo had attracted attention and funding because of its proximity to world powers and international media centres, the humanitarian effort there should not be to the detriment of programmes in other regions. Kosovo's "immediacy" had helped put it at the top of the agenda, Ogata said, while in Africa at times, "when conflicts drag on for years and there is no solution in sight, and the causes are perceived to be leadership, power feuds, you find it very, very difficult to get sympathy, and commitment to solve these problems."

UNHCR devoted 50 percent of its resources to African crises, Ogata added, and as of January 1999, there were 7.2 million people of concern to UNHCR in Africa, out of a global total of 21.1 million.

Figures released by UNHCR revealed the five African countries generating the highest number of refugees to be: Sierra Leone (with 410,900); Somalia (with 401,300); Sudan (with 372,900); Eritrea (with 342,300); and Burundi (with 299,400, not including 200,000 Burundians who have been in Tanzania since the early 1970s and who are not assisted by UNHCR).

The four African countries hosting the most refugees are: Guinea (with 413,700); Sudan (with 391,500); Tanzania (with 343,900, not including 200,000 unassisted Burundian refugees from the early 1970s); and Ethiopia (with 262,000). The stream of Congolese fleeing into Tanzania due to fighting in the DRC had reached 62,000 by the end of May and was perhaps the most regular flow of refugees anywhere on the continent at present, according to a UNHCR report received by IRIN.

Nairobi, 21 June 1999, 16:30 gmt


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Item: irin-english-1069

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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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