IRIN-CEA Update 698 for 22 June [19990622]

IRIN-CEA Update 698 for 22 June [19990622]

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. 698 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 22 June 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Ilunga leads rebels in Lusaka

A delegation of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) led by Emile Ilunga was in the Zambian capital Lusaka to take part in preparatory talks ahead of a regional heads of state summit scheduled for Saturday to sign a ceasefire agreement for the DRC, the Chinese news agency said on Monday. It quoted a Zambian government spokesman as saying the rebels would participate in a meeting of defence ministers scheduled for Wednesday, although confirmation was still awaited from participating countries. The 10-person rebel team in Lusaka included Kabila's former foreign minister, Bizima Karaha, and other senior members of the movement, the agency said.

[See Item: irin-english-1073, titled "DRC: IRIN Background report on peace efforts"]

Rebel factions reportedly not united

Meanwhile, attempts to unite three rebel factions ahead of the Lusaka summit have failed, Uganda's 'New Vision' newspaper reported on Tuesday. It said Ugandan, Rwandan and Tanzanian officials in Kampala had on Monday failed to "harmonise the differences" among the factions because the RCD faction led by Ilunga had boycotted the meeting. Ilunga's group instead flew to Lusaka where it reportedly presented itself as the "de facto RCD delegation," the newspaper said. The other rebel factions are the RCD-Kisangani group led by Ernest Wamba dia Wamba and the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) of Jean-Pierre Bemba. RCD-Goma officials had recently told IRIN the three factions had reconciled.

Kagame, Mubarak discuss conflict

Rwandan Vice-President and Defence Minister Paul Kagame on Monday travelled to Cairo for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on ending the DRC conflict, news agencies said. The three-day visit was undertaken at Mubarak's invitation.

UN Security Council hopes for peace deal in Lusaka

Members of the UN Security Council on Monday expressed concern at the situation in the DRC, following a closed-door briefing by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy for the DRC Peace Process, Moustapha Niasse. The Council, in a statement from its president, expressed its hope that there would be a successful outcome to this week's peace summit in Lusaka. Niasse, who visited 15 African countries in April and May, on Friday briefed Annan on the findings of his mission.

National debate moderators named

The committee appointed by the government to organise the proposed national debate has announced that the moderators of the debate will be Emile Derlin Zinsou of the Francophonie organisation, Don Mateo of the Italy-based St. Egidio Community, and OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim, Congolese state television reported on Monday. The report gave neither a date nor a venue for the proposed inter-Congolese meeting, which had been earlier planned for June in Nairobi.

660,000 people displaced

The total number of internally-displaced people (IDPs) in the DRC is now estimated at 660,000, the latest report from the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator said. The report, received by IRIN on Tuesday, said the provinces with the highest number of displaced persons were South Kivu and Katanga, with 220,000 and 150,000 IDPs, respectively. Meanwhile, the DRC was hosting some 285,360 refugees from neighbouring countries as of 15 June, the report said. The refugees included 145,860 Angolans, 20,000 Burundians, 61,000 Sudanese, 1,500 Ugandans, 25,000 Rwandans and 32,000 people from Congo-Brazzaville. There were an estimated 117,000 DRC refugees in Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, the report added.

Almost 10 percent malnutrition in Kinshasa

Meanwhile, a recent nutritional survey conducted in Kinshasa revealed "alarming" malnutrition rates among the city's residents, the report said. The survey found that 9.8 percent of Kinshasa's population suffered from acute malnutrition, compared to 6.2 percent during the same period last year. The study estimated that the number of malnourished children in the capital already exceeded 100,000. WFP is feeding some 35,000 vulnerable people in Kinshasa, the report added.

BURUNDI: Nyerere meeting intended to heal FRODEBU split

A senior delegation of the Front pour la democratie au Burundi (FRODEBU), headed by first vice-president Frederic Bamvuginyumvira, which met Arusha talks mediator Julius Nyerere in Dar es Salaam over the weekend, was attempting to resolve a serious party split in advance of the next scheduled peace talks on 5 July, media sources reported on Monday. The Tanzanian 'Guardian' newspaper quoted sources in Bujumbura as saying that the closed-door talks were intended to heal a rift between the faction supporting national chairman Dr Jean Minani, who is in exile in Tanzania, and that of its secretary-general, Augustin Nzojibwami.

There existed a risk of FRODEBU splitting further, with its domestic wing yearning for greater influence in government, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) stated in a report received by IRIN on Monday. The split is considered a threat to the Arusha talks, which donors are expecting to make "substantial progress" as a precondition to providing additional funding, the EIU added.

International protest at editor's arrest

Reporters sans frontieres (RSF) on Monday protested against what it called the illegal and unfounded detention of Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, head of the Burundian press agency Net Press. In a statement received by IRIN, RSF said Kavumbagu was arrested on 17 June for allegedly violating a law obliging newspapers to register for copyright but that the proceedings were "unfounded and contrary to Burundi law". Claiming that Kavumbagu may be a victim of "politically-motivated considerations," RSF demanded that he be freed immediately and that "Net Press be allowed to continue to publish its daily reports with complete freedom."

RWANDA: Both prosecution and defence appeal ICTR judgements

The prosecution in the cases of Clement Kayishema and Obed Ruzindana has appealed against the Trial Chamber's 21 May finding that the pair was not guilty of charges of crimes against humanity, according to a statement from the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), received by IRIN on Tuesday. In the appeal, the prosecutors argue that the judge's erred when they contended that the same facts could not be used to hold the pair responsible for both genocide and crimes against humanity. The defence counsel has also appealed the judgements and sentences imposed on the two men, the statement said.

Semanza indictment amended to include rape charges

Meanwhile, the prosecution in the case of genocide suspect Laurent Semanza, former mayor of Bicumbi, has been granted leave by trial judges to amend the indictment against him to include seven extra charges, including rape, under crimes against humanity. Semanza thus became the fourth person to be charged with rape at the Arusha trials, an ICTR statement said. Semanza is scheduled to enter a plea to the amended charges on Thursday, with his trial expected to start in late August.

Former journalist "to seek forgiveness from the people"

Valerie Bemeriki, a former journalist with Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) who was arrested last week on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, has admitted to some of the charges and said she was "sincerely prepared to seek forgiveness from the people of Rwanda," news agencies reported. Bemeriki, arrested for her alleged role in inciting the 1994 genocide, told Radio Rwanda: "I must admit to the sins I committed and not to the ones I did not commit." The prosecutor of the Kigali tribunal has indicated that charges will soon be brought against Bemeriki and a former RTLM colleague, Noel Hitimana, RNA news agency reported.

UGANDA: Cholera outbreak on DRC border "under control"

An outbreak of cholera which has claimed 14 lives in camps for the war-displaced in Nyahuka, Bundibugyo district, along the border with DRC, since the start of June was now "under control" and on the wane, a spokesman for MSF-France told IRIN on Tuesday. There had been 218 cases of cholera and 14 deaths reported in Nyahuka in the first two weeks of the month, MSF told IRIN - stressing, however, that none of the deaths had occurred between 9 and 18 June. In Bundibugyo, there were 26 cases of cholera and no deaths in the two weeks to 18 June.

AFRICA: G8 debt relief plan welcomed as step forward

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday welcomed what he called "very significant commitments" towards providing relief for the world's heavily indebted poor countries at the G8 Summit in Cologne at the weekend. He also expressed the hope "that financial resources will be made available shortly to implement the proposed measures," according to a UN statement.

World leaders at the G8 Summit - seven of the world's richest countries, plus Russia - agreed at the weekend to relaunch the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative as a vehicle for faster, deeper and broader debt relief. According to a final communique, the central objective of the initiative was "to provide a greater focus on poverty reduction by releasing resources for investment in health, education and social needs."

The agreement means that up to US$ 70 billion could be cut - US$ 50 billion in trade debts backed by government guarantees and a further US$ 20 billion in Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) lent on concessional terms - from the debt of the world's countries, Reuters news agency on Monday quoted French President Jacques Chirac as saying.

Jubilee 2000, an international debt-relief advocacy group, also welcomed the plan. But a spokesman, John Garrett, told IRIN on Tuesday that many poor countries had gained nothing and that "a bolder programme" was required. Jubilee 2000 estimated that Rwanda, for instance, could see its debt service burden reduced by between a half and two-thirds, and Uganda and Ethiopia between a third and a half, but that other countries targeted for help, such as Congo and Tanzania, would receive no significant debt service relief. "The debt problem has certainly not been solved by the Cologne Summit," Garrett said.

Nairobi, 22 June 1999, 16:00 gmt


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Item: irin-english-1076

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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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