IRIN-CEA Update 699 for 23 June [19990623]

IRIN-CEA Update 699 for 23 June [19990623]

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. 699 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 23 June 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Ministers arrive for truce talks

A ministerial meeting to formulate a DRC ceasefire agreement will be held on Thursday in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, the spokesman for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe told IRIN on Wednesday. News agencies said foreign and defence ministers from countries involved in the conflict had already begun arriving in Lusaka to work out a draft agreement, ahead of a heads of state summit scheduled for Saturday.

Kabila, Mugabe plan joint strategy

DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila and Mugabe held talks in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, on Wednesday for a second day to prepare a joint strategy for the Lusaka summit, news agencies reported. After meeting Kabila on Tuesday, Mugabe told journalists he would only sign a "practical" ceasefire declaration. "We want a ceasefire that has meaning," Mugabe said. There were unconfirmed reports that Ernest Wamba dia Wamba of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD)-Kisangani faction had also met Kabila in Harare on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, told IRIN he was "not optimistic" about the outcome of the Lusaka ceasefire talks. "Our forces have come under severe fire by the Rwandans," Charamba said, adding "I don't think there is a peace disposition on the part of Rwanda."

Kagame seeks Egyptian role

Rwanda is seeking further involvement by Egypt in peace efforts to end the DRC conflict, news agencies said on Tuesday. The Chinese news agency quoted Rwandan Vice-President and Defence Minister Paul Kagame as saying in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, that "Egypt's role in achieving stability is essential." Rwanda "is looking forward to Egypt's support to continue its efforts," Kagame said after meeting President Hosni Mubarak.

Crisis "all but forgotten," UN official says

As world attention has focused on Kosovo, the "tragedy that engulfs" the DRC has been all but forgotten, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the DRC, Darioush Bayandor, has warned. In a commentary published in the 'International Herald Tribune' newspaper on Tuesday, Bayandor said that UN assessment teams had returned from some areas with "harrowing accounts of famine and epidemics." Massacres of civilians had been reported in rebel-held areas, while Tutsis in government-controlled zones remained in hiding or protective custody, some "under trying conditions."

With the deterioration of the population's living and food security conditions, "it is to be feared that a critical threshold is about to be reached," Bayandor said. Meanwhile, UN agencies in the country remain "chronically underfunded," with only 60 per cent of the US$ 26 million sought in last December's UN consolidated humanitarian appeal for the DRC having been funded, he said.

Mbaya arrested

Kabila's former reconstruction and planning minister, Etienne Mbaya, was arrested at his home in Kinshasa on 2 June and was being held at the Kokolo military camp, news agencies said on Tuesday. Mbaya served as minister until May 1998, when he was dismissed along with several others for alleged corruption.

Meanwhile, the Centre des Droits de l'Homme et du Droit Humanitaire said in a statement received by IRIN that security forces in Lubumbashi had on Tuesday arrested Godefroid Kyangwe Muleya, editor of the local newspaper 'Mukuba'.

RWANDA: UNHCR chief visits Kigali

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, in Kigali on a two-day visit, said on Tuesday that the international community should continue assisting Rwanda in its post-emergency rehabilitation phase, news agencies said. "We should come more in the programming of the community development and reconciliation so as not to destroy the progress that has been achieved," AFP quoted Ogata as saying. "The emergency phase is over. But for a longer term stabilisation, the money gets very tight," she said.

Meanwhile, Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu on Wednesday appealed for more help to reintegrate returnees. "I call on the community of donors to continue to support the UNHCR in its reintegration efforts," AFP quoted Bizimungu as saying. "Repatriating people is not enough, they have to be set up in minimal conditions," he said.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: 60,000 move back

About 60,000 displaced people have returned to southern Brazzaville since 1 May, humanitarian sources said. Some of the returnees have come the the Pool region - many in very poor nutritional condition - while others have returned from northern Brazzaville or the DRC. Four health centres were now operational in the Bacongo and Makelekele areas of southern Brazzaville, several feeding centres had been set up to assist malnourished people, markets were open, and water and electricity supplies had been reestablished, the sources said. Some 200,000 residents of Bacongo and Makelekele fled their homes in December due to conflict between government forces and Ninja militia.

WFP lacks funds for emergency programme

Inadequate resourcing continues to hamper emergency assistance to war-affected people in Brazzaville, WFP said in its latest weekly emergency report. WFP needs close to 3,500 mt of food per month to assist 200,000 people. WFP has appealed to donors for urgent contributions to assist these people, who are "emerging from their hideouts in dense forest where they hid for almost ten months," the report said. Some 8,600 people in Brazzaville received WFP food aid during the second week of June, it added.

Northern town attacked by Ninja

Ninja militia attacked the town of Djambala, some 300 km north of Brazzaville, on Monday, wounding several people, news agencies reported. Reuters cited witnesses as saying the rebels retreated into neighbouring hills when government troops went on the counter-attack. A first attack on the town by the Ninja last month had killed two people, the PANA news agency reported.

"Catastrophic" human rights situation reported

The human rights situation in Congo-Brazzaville has become "catastrophic" over the past six months, the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (IFHR) said. In a report dated 17 June, received by IRIN on Wednesday, IFHR said there had been a progressive and visible deterioration in the country's human rights situation, characterised by arbitrary executions, arrests, looting, rape and harassment of civilians by government forces and private militia groups.

Based on personal testimonies, IFHR estimates that between 5,000 and 6,000 people were "methodologically and deliberately massacred" during the conflict between government forces and Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas in southern Brazzaville between 18-23 December alone. Armed groups killed unarmed civilians they suspected of sympathising with their opponents, the report said. A member of Congo's National Transitional Council has contested the reports findings, RFI reported on Sunday.

Returnee persecution alleged

Meanwhile, several people have been reportedly killed or taken away to unknown locations by the authorities or government-allied Cobra militia upon their arrival at Brazzaville's port from the DRC, where they had sought temporary refuge from conflict in the Pool region, IFHR said.

UGANDA: ICRC reestablishing its presence in Bundibugyo

ICRC told IRIN on Wednesday it was reestablishing its presence in Bundibugyo in western Uganda to assist internally displaced persons. "We have resumed our operations and are installing an office there with a permanent representation of national and international staff," ICRC's Head of Delegation in Kampala, Georgios Comninos, said. Most aid agencies suspended their activities in the area in April due to insecurity.

KENYA: Almost 40 percent malnutrition found

Results from an MSF-Spain survey in the Mandera area of northeastern province in May showed a global acute malnutrition rate of 39.2 percent, up from 21 percent in January, USAID's Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) reported recently. This rate is close to that reported during the severe drought in 1996/97, the FEWS report said. MSF on Sunday re-opened its therapeutic feeding centre in Mandera town and is distributing UNIMIX once a week to surrounding villages.

"We are trying to save children's lives. Some of them are very, very thin and some are sick," MSF's Country Coordinator Johan De Smedt told IRIN on Wednesday. "We are trying to get the rate down to 20-22 percent, which is normal in Mandera," he said. Many very vulnerable people with no proper income source have moved to Mandera town from surrounding villages, he added.

Meanwhile, WFP on Tuesday warned that below average rainfall in May and June in Kenya had put food availability at risk in pastoral districts, drought-prone areas (particularly in the north-east) and some key grain-producing areas of the Rift Valley. "The pastoralists who have only received meagre rainfall this year will be worst affected", WFP's Robin Wheeler said in a statement received by IRIN.

Nairobi, 23 June 1999, 17:00 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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