IRIN-CEA Update 702 for 28 June

IRIN-CEA Update 702 for 28 June


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. 702 for Central and Eastern Africa (Monday 28 June 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Cautious optimism at peace talks

The Lusaka peace process on Saturday failed to deliver a ceasefire in the DRC conflict as had been hoped, but there remained the possibility on Monday - after intensive negotiations through the weekend - that foreign ministers could agree on a draft accord for an internationally monitored ceasefire, sources in the Zambian capital told IRIN. If an agreement is reached by the ministers, regional heads of state would sign the accord at a summit meeting later this week, the sources said.

Despite progress being much slower than expected, there was still a mood of "very cautious optimism" because the whole exercise was "much better grounded, much more serious" than earlier peace initiatives, the sources added.

Timing of withdrawal key issue

A draft technical agreement due to be considered by defence and foreign ministers on Monday called for combatants to observe a troop standstill on all fronts from the moment an agreement came into force, the deployment of a multinational peacekeeping force under UN, OAU and Southern African Development Community (SADC) control in rebel-held areas, the withdrawal of foreign armies and the disarming of rebel groups, media sources reported.

A key stumbling block was understood to be the timing of troop withdrawals once a ceasefire was declared, with DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila and his allies - notably Zimbabwe - demanding that Rwanda and Uganda withdraw first and the latter insisting that all foreign troops should withdraw at the same time, news agencies reported. "It's easy enough to sign a ceasefire, but difficult to make it stick", one regional analyst told IRIN on Monday, adding that the stakes were high and the prevailing feeling was that a failure of the process could result in quite a serious escalation in fighting.

Rwanda deploys 7,000 more troops, Zimbabwe says

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe - which came under fire last week for deploying some 3,000 additional troops in the DRC even as it talked peace in Lusaka - asserted on Monday that an insertion of 7,000 fresh troops in the DRC by Rwanda two weeks ago (after its unilateral ceasefire declaration) had left Kabila's allies with no option but to strengthen their forces, AFP reported.

Fighting reported on Kabinda front

Heavy fighting between government forces and Rwandan troops was reported between 24-26 June near Kabinda in Kasai Oriental province, news agencies said on Sunday, citing a defence ministry statement. Some 240 Rwandan soldiers were killed in the fighting, which began when rebels launched an unsuccessful offensive on the Kabinda front on Friday night, the statement said.

ICRC evacuates Tutsi internees

The ICRC has transported 356 civilian detainees, mostly Congolese Tutsis, from the DRC to Kigali and another 14 to Bujumbura on Sunday and Monday, an ICRC spokesman told IRIN on Monday. He said another 120 people were scheduled to be evacuated under the operation aboard ICRC-chartered aircraft. "All accepted to go to Rwanda because they have relatives in the country. That was one of the conditions," the spokesman said, adding that the 14 flown to Bujumbura had relatives in Burundi. Of the 190 people transported on Sunday, there were 10 children, the spokesman said, but he did not have a breakdown for the 180 people evacuated on Monday.

Many Tutsi civilians were rounded up by government authorities in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi at the outbreak of the conflict in August 1998. The government says they were placed in internment camps "for their own protection," while the rebels said they were being held "hostage" by the Kabila regime. A recent UN mission to Lubumbashi reported that there were some 520 Tutsi detainees in the city, according to OCHA News. The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the DRC, Roberto Garreton, estimated in February that there were between 1,000-2,000 Tutsis "deprived of their liberty" in government-controlled zones of the DRC, including several hundred still in hiding in the capital.

BURUNDI: Increase in rebel attacks reported

At least 18 people were killed when PALIPEHUTU rebels ambushed and burnt a bus on the Bujumbura-Ijenda road in Bujumbura Rural on Saturday, the Net Press news agency reported on Sunday. Meanwhile, a "significant" increase in rebel attacks was reported during the first half of June, particularly in Bujumbura Rural, Bururi and Makamba, the latest OCHA-Burundi situation report said. Security incidents were also reported in Rutana and Muramvya provinces, according to the report, received by IRIN on Monday.

Hundreds of refugees return to DRC

Almost all the estimated 760 Congolese refugees who recently arrived in the town of Rumonge have returned to the DRC, the OCHA report said. It said that although the Burundian authorities and UNHCR had offered to transfer the refugees to a transit site at Rugombo in Cibitoke province, "the bulk of them decided to return to Baraka" in DRC's South Kivu province. Only eight refugees were transferred to the Rugombo site, the report added. The refugees, who fled fighting in Baraka last month, had come ashore in Rumonge when their boat ran out of fuel.

UGANDA: Sudanese refugees becoming self-reliant

A UNHCR programme initiated with the Ugandan government last year is making progress in gradually "mainstreaming" some 150,000 Sudanese refugees into the normal development process, a UNHCR official told IRIN last week. The official said the programme aims to increase the self-reliance of the refugees and "expand the capacity of their community to cope with and solve their own problems." It trains refugees in skills such as basic health care, honey-making, environmental protection and woodworking, among others.

Local authorities earlier this year approved the integration of the refugee programme into the District Development Plans in Arua and Moyo, and a similar move is expected in Adjumani. "In such a situation, refugees will share benefits and responsibility with nationals," the UNHCR official said.

KENYA: Somali refugees cross into Kenya

Some 330 Somalis crossed into northeast Kenya in search of asylum last week, UNHCR confirmed to IRIN on Monday. The group, now in Dadaab, reportedly fled recent fighting in the Somali town of Kismaayo. A UNHCR official told IRIN the agency had also received reports of the presence of another 200 Somalis along the Kenya-Somali border, who are in search of food assistance because of the drought in their country.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Displaced people "dying in forests"

More than half of the people returning to Brazzaville from the Pool region suffer from acute malnutrition, raising serious concerns about the situation of displaced people still in Pool, ACF said last week. In a statement received by IRIN on Monday, ACF said people in the region were "dying of hunger in the forest, but hesitate to come out for fear of violence." Many displaced people were reportedly victims of looting, rape and extortion by militia, ACF said, adding that the Pool area remained inaccessible to humanitarian agencies. Some 15,000 people have so far returned to Brazzaville from Pool. In view of the situation, ACF estimates that more than 100,000 people in the area were now at risk of dying, the statement said. The NGO has recently opened a therapeutic feeding centre in the Bacongo area of southern Brazzaville to assist severely malnourished people.

Nairobi, 28 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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