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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. 700 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 24 June 1999)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Case filed against "aggressor" states
The DRC has filed a complaint at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague for what it called the "invasion of Congolese territory by Burundian, Ugandan and Rwandan troops on 2 August 1998," an ICJ statement said on Wednesday. The DRC accused the three countries of having attempted to seize Kinshasa and assassinate Kabila, "with the object of installing a Tutsi regime or a regime under Tutsi control," the statement said. It also accused the three of violations of "international humanitarian law and massive violations of human rights," including massacres and rapes.
The DRC has asked the Court to rule that the armed forces of Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda must "vacate the territory" of the Congo and that the DRC was entitled to compensation for "looting, destruction, removal of property" and other acts attributable to the three countries, the statement said.
"Tentative" withdrawal plan reported
Officials from countries involved in the conflict reached a "tentative agreement" on troop withdrawal during SADC-organised ceasefire negotiations in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, on Thursday, AFP reported, citing sources close to the talks. "The withdrawal should start sometime in July and end within three months," one source told AFP, which added that there were still differences among the parties.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said in Harare at the end of two days of talks with DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila that the two leaders remained suspicious of Ugandan and Rwandan plans, news agencies said. "To us the most important thing is that we strengthen our defence forces...and prevent more ground being taken and occupied by the invading forces," he was quoted as saying. Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu said on Wednesday that his country would agree to a cessation of hostilities if the DRC made a commitment to deal with Rwanda's security concerns, notably the presence of Hutu militia in eastern Congo, news agencies reported.
Amnesty sees "continuing pattern" of repression
The recent arrests of former minister Etienne Mbaya and four leading members of the Union pour la democratie et le progres sociale (UDPS) were part of a "continuing pattern of intimidation and repression of opposition political activities" in the DRC, Amnesty International said on Wednesday. In a statement received by IRIN, Amnesty said it believed the five people, who remain under detention without charge in Kinshasa, were arrested solely on account of their political activities. Meanwhile, no political party was yet known to have applied for official recognition under Kabila's February political liberation law because the conditions for recognition were so prohibitive, Amnesty added.
Two soldiers killed by firing squad
Two soldiers were executed by firing squad in Kinshasa on Wednesday, news agencies reported. The soldiers, members of the special presidential security unit, had been convicted by a military tribunal of killing a fellow soldier in a brawl, Reuters quoted state television as saying.
BURUNDI: Cholera outbreak in Rumonge
A total of 89 cholera cases with six deaths were reported in the Rumonge health district between 24 May and 5 June, WHO said on Wednesday. In a statement received by IRIN, WHO said the cause of the outbreak was probably the early onset of the dry season, which resulted in people drinking unsafe water from the lake, and the lack of prevention measures by the population. In response to the reported increase in cholera cases, a WHO/MSF team went to the area to investigate and initiate control measures, it said. Since the begininng of the year, some 587 cholera cases had been reported in Burundi, the statement added.
RWANDA: Former mayor pleads not guilty to crimes against humanity
Former mayor of Bicumbi in Greater Kigali prefecture, Laurent Semanza, on Thursday pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity before the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Semanza was pleading on the basis of an indictment newly amended to include seven new charges, including that of rape, to genocide charges originally brought in October 1997, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. The defendant is now charged with 14 counts of genocide, incitement to genocide, crimes against humanity (including rape and torture) and war crimes.
Priest faces genocide investigation in France
Meanwhile, a French appeals court on Wednesday appointed magistrate Herve Stephan to investigate a Rwandan Catholic priest, Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, on allegations that he took part in the 1994 genocide - overturning a 1996 judgement that a French magistrate could not investigate him for crimes that occurred in Rwanda, news agencies reported. Munyeshyaka is alleged to have selected individuals to be killed, left people to starve to death and demanded sex in return for sparing people from the slaughter.
REPUBLIC OF CONGO: World Bank suspends aid
The World Bank has suspended its post-conflict assistance programme to the Congo due to mounting insecurity since December 1998, a World Bank statement sent to IRIN on Thursday said. The statement said the suspension will affect a US$ 915,000 donation approved in June 1998 to support a government recovery programme set up after the 1997 civil war. About half of the donation had already been used by the local European Union delegation, acting on behalf of the World Bank, to purchase computers and other equipment for the planning and finance ministries and to fund a privatisation programme, the statement said. Recent insecurity and population displacements in the city did not permit the fielding of World Bank consultants to conduct required audits of banks, the civil service, public investments and infrastructure, it said.
Patasse offers mediation role
Congo has denied reports that it accepted Central African Republic President Felix-Ange Patasse as mediator in the country's conflict, news agencies said on Wednesday. Patasse told RFI he had been chosen to mediate between President Denis Sassou-Nguesso and his foes, former president Pascal Lissouba and former prime minister Bernard Kolelas. Patasse said: "we have already taken practical measures to host on Central African soil the various delegations that might visit in accordance with a schedule that is to be agreed upon." However, AFP quoted Congolese Communications Minister Francois Ibovi as saying his government had "not confided a mission to President Patasse for any round-table in Bangui."
AFRICA: IFRC report lists re-emerging diseases in Africa
A report launched by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Kampala on Thursday says changing environments are leading to the re-emergence of older diseases and epidemics in Africa. The 'World Disasters Report 1999' says that alongside deadly haemorrhagic fevers, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and new viral and bacterial mutations, other diseases that had diminished so much that they were no longer considered public health problems - such as cholera, tuberculosis, malaria, meningitis and measles - are growing "faster than ever."
An IFRC statement received by IRIN attributed the trend to deteriorating public health infrastructure, increasing resistance of virus bacteria to antibiotics, unprecedented mass movement of people, human confrontation with natural disease reservoirs, and the consequences of conflict and poverty. Environment was also a major factor, the report says. Scientists link global warming and other climatic changes with altering disease patterns and the emergence of some diseases in places they have never affected before.
"They are spreading geographically or, as in the case of malaria, creeping up higher altitudes. African highland cities such as Nairobi and Harare which are at present largely malaria-free, are especially vulnerable," the report says. "Epidemics are inevitable and in the 21st century will be ever more frequent," it warns.
Nairobi, 24 June 1999, 16:30 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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