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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. 701 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 25 June 1999)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Lusaka peace talks in the balance
Diplomatic efforts to broker a peace deal in the DRC were continuing in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, on Friday under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), with contrasting reports emerging as to the likelihood of a proposed ceasefire being agreed. A spokesman for the Zambian ministry of foreign affairs told IRIN on Friday technical talks were "progressing very well", officials were working to "polish up" a ceasefire agreement and indications were that it would be signed at a heads of state summit on Saturday.
However, DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila said on Thursday the summit was by no means certain. "I'm not sure if the summit will be held now. There are too many documents in circulation and they are contradictory", Kabila told state radio in Kinshasa on his return from talks with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in Harare.
Kabila also denied reports that he had met Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, leader of the Kisangani faction of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), while in Zimbabwe. "It seems he was in Harare, but I didn't meet him", Kabila said.
Zambia's foreign minister, Keli Walubita, flew to Kinshasa on Friday, apparently in a bid to save the summit. He was expected to hold discussions with Kabila, whose attendance in Lusaka on Saturday was in doubt, AP news agency reported.
Kinshasa alleges Rwandan plan to annex eastern DRC
In a statement read by DRC Information Minister Didier Mumengi on state television on Thursday, the government alleged that "the Rwandan authorities have been circulating a plan for a ceasefire whose contents ... calls for our country's partition and demands that the eastern part of the DRC be annexed to Rwanda" and warned that DRC was ready for "all-out war" to defend its territory.
Security Council calls for constructive talks and ceasefire agreement
The UN Security Council on Thursday called on all parties to the conflict to participate in the Lusaka talks "with a constructive and flexible spirit", and to sign a ceasefire agreement, together with the modalities for its implementation. In a presidential statement received by IRIN, it stressed the need for national reconciliation and democracy in the countries of the region, and emphasised the need for an international conference on security, stability and development in the Great Lakes.
UN prepared to consider "active, concrete" support of a ceasefire
The Security Council also reaffirmed "its readiness to consider the active involvement of the United Nations, in coordination with the OAU, including through concrete sustainable and effective measures, to assist in the implementation of an effective ceasefire agreement and in an agreed process for political settlement of the conflict."
Rwanda criticises Zimbabwe for reinforcing troops in DRC
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's reported deployment this week of 3,000 extra troops in DRC, and Angola's dispatch of an extra 1,000, brought sharp criticism from Rwandan presidential office minister, Patrick Mazimhaka, as he left for Lusaka on Thursday. He said Kabila and his allies, including Zimbabwe, were neglecting the peace talks and were "not serious about a negotiated settlement of the war", the German Press Agency reported.
ICJ ruling could take "years"
A ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on DRC's complaint against Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi could take several years, a registry official at the ICJ in The Hague told IRIN on Friday. Depending on the willingness of the parties, the process "could go quickly or it could take up to 4 or 5 years," the official said. The DRC on Wednesday filed a case at the ICJ against its three eastern neighbours for "armed aggression " and it asked the Court to order Ugandan, Rwandan and Burundian troops to leave.
The ICJ official said the next step would be for the Court's president to meet representatives of the four countries to fix time limits for the filing of case documents. Rwanda, Burundi or Uganda could object to the ICJ taking up the case. However, if the Court finds that it has jurisdiction, then its final ruling would be binding on the four concerned countries, since they are all members of the UN. In that case, the DRC could request the UN Security Council to take measures to ensure that the ICJ's decision is implemented, the official added.
RWANDA: Prosecution calls for life sentence for genocide suspect
Prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, on Thursday called for life imprisonment for Alfred Musema, a former tea factory director. Musema, 50, is charged with nine counts of genocide and crimes against humanity for allegedly playing a leading role in massacres and rape of ethnic Tutsis in the Bisesero region of western Rwanda between April and July 1994. The prosecution called for the maximum sentence, saying Musema's crimes were of the most serious order, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. The defence is due to begin its closing arguments on Monday.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Skirmishes leave several dead in Bangui
Several Chadian herdsmen were killed during skirmishes with CAR soldiers in the capital Bangui last weekend, a diplomatic source in the city told IRIN on Friday. The clashes began when a small "misunderstanding" between the herdsmen and a group of Bangui residents attracted soldiers to the scene, the source said. One of the soldiers shot and killed a herdsmen, prompting further confrontation. "About four or five Chadians were killed there," the diplomat said. Following the incident, President Ange-Felix Patasse apologised "on behalf of the CAR to the sister Republic of Chad," adding that "relations between the CAR and Chad are indestructible," Gabonese Africa No 1 radio reported.
REPUBLIC OF CONGO: At least 140 killed in battles
At least 140 people have died in fighting this week between government and rebel forces, the state radio reported on Thursday. Reuters quoted the radio as saying much of the fighting since Monday was for control of the railway line linking Brazzaville and the southern port city of Pointe Noire, with other clashes reported in the northwest.
AFRICA: OAU calls for parity of treatment for Africa's displaced
The OAU's Commission of Refugees on Thursday called for the international community to pay as much attention to refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Africa as it did to those in other parts of the world. Stating that the situation of IDPs on the continent, and especially in Angola, Sierra Leone, the DRC and the Republic of Congo, "was very critical and pathetic", it called for donors to provide food, medicine, clothing and shelter for the affected people as a matter of urgency, news agencies reported.
Ogata calls for donor support and political action
Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata said on Thursday in the DRC capital, Kinshasa, that UNHCR would continue working to ease the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons in Africa but that renewed action was needed at a political level to solve the root causes of the problem, a UNHCR spokesperson told IRIN on Friday. Ogata, on a regional tour, was scheduled to conclude her meetings with DRC officials on Sunday.
Half of child deaths in Africa "preventable"
Fifty percent of child deaths in Africa are preventable by simple community health care, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said. In a statement received by IRIN this week, IFRC said 19 percent of the deaths among African children under five years of age were due to acute respiratory infections, while 20 percent were due to diarrhoea and 7 percent to measles. "It isn't about money, or technology, or a lack of facilities. It is mostly about lack of awareness," senior IFRC officer Roger Bracke told a meeting in Nairobi of some 15 Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies from east Africa, the Horn, the Great Lakes and the Indian Ocean islands.
"If African mothers knew a simple solution of salt, sugar and water could rehydrate their infants when they suffered from diarrhoea you would cut deaths among children under five by ten percent immediately," he said. The meeting approved an IFRC health strategy for the first decade of the 21st century, the statement added.
Nairobi, 25 June 1999, 14:30 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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