IRIN-CEA Update 705 for 1 July [19990701]

IRIN-CEA Update 705 for 1 July [19990701]

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. 705 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 1 July 1999)


The Goma faction of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) on Thursday boycotted peace talks in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, for the second day due to a dispute with another rebel faction, news reports said. The group is insisting that ousted RCD president Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, who now heads a rival RCD faction based in Kisangani, not be allowed to participate in the negotiations. The Associated Press quoted RCD military chief Jean-Pierre Ondekane as saying Wamba "has no power and he doesn't represent anyone anymore."

Ministers from the DRC, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Rwanda met once again on Thursday to discuss a draft ceasefire agreement under the Southern African Development Community (SADC) peace process chaired by Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, while the leader of a third Congolese rebel group, Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), was also reported to have arrived in Lusaka, Reuters said.

Faction setting talks "trap"

Meanwhile, the RCD-Kisangani faction said on Thursday that it should be a party to the ceasefire accord. "Our understanding is that each group can sign. That was the agreement," Jacques Depelchin, rapporteur for the RCD-Kisangani political council, told IRIN. By seeking to exclude Wamba from the talks, the Goma group was trying to create a "fait accompli." He said it "would be sad if the leader of the (Lusaka) meeting falls into the trap of those guys." While the RCD-Goma faction wanted to be the only rebel representatives, "the facts on the ground are different," Depelchin said, adding that Wamba had been ousted as RCD leader as a result of a "coup."

Kabinda airport reportedly captured

The RCD on Thursday said its forces had captured the Kabinda airport in Kasai Oriental province, news agencies reported. Last week, Kinshasa said some 240 Rwandan soldiers had been killed in a failed rebel offensive on Kabinda, located some 70 km southeast of the diamond-rich town of Mbuji-Mayi.

Call for unity to fight "aggression"

Interior Minister Gaetan Kakudji, speaking at a Kinshasa parade to mark the DRC's 39th independence anniversary on Wednesday, appealed to the Congolese people to unite in the face of a "barbarous aggression," news agencies reported. "Our brothers and sisters under occupation are victims of massacres amid scandalous indifference from the international community," Reuters quoted him as saying.

Ethnic clashes in Ituri

Sources in contact with Ituri district in Province Orientale told IRIN on Wednesday that hundreds of homes had been burnt in the Djugu area due to conflict between the Hema and Lendu tribes since early June. Several people have been killed or wounded in the clashes, and displaced populations were reported to be heading towards the Lake Albert plain. The sources said RCD Ugandan and Congolese soldiers were involved in the violence. The pastoralist Hema and agriculturalist Lendu communities have fought over land resources several times since the 1960s, the sources added.

Pool refugees in poor condition

Refugees from the Pool region of Congo-Brazzaville are arriving in "increasingly poor condition," UNHCR said. In its latest Great Lakes update received by IRIN on Thursday, UNHCR said malnutrition rates among recent arrivals had risen dramatically, with eight deaths registered during one day last week at the Luozi transit centre, which shelters 270 people. Meanwhile, UNHCR since April has transferred some 13,000 Congolese refugees back to Brazzaville, by road through Bas-Congo and then by boat from Kinshasa, avoiding the Pool region that has been dubbed by the refugees as a "corridor of death," the update said. Another 10,000 refugees are estimated to have returned to Brazzaville on their own.

Emergency appeal for US $2.3 million

Church organisations working in the DRC have appealed for over US $2.3 million to provide "basic life sustaining" relief items to needy populations. A statement from the coordinating body Action by Churches Together (ACT), received by IRIN on Thursday, said that war, population displacement, the breakdown of infrastructure and the influx of refugees from neighbouring countries had resulted in many regions experiencing a dire need of emergency assistance, such as food, medicines, health services and potable water. The funds sought would support, among other things, efforts to improve food security conditions, run selected church-assisted health centres and rehabilitate severely-affected schools in Kisangani, Bunia and Isiro.

Currency deadline passed

The year-long phase-in of the Congolese franc ended on Wednesday, and the former currency is now no longer legal tender, news agencies reported. The Central Bank announced that the old Zaire notes would now be completely withdrawn from circulation.

RWANDA: Aid for former DRC internees

UNHCR staff were trying to determine whether people of Tutsi origin evacuated from the DRC to Kigali on Sunday and Monday were Rwandan returnees or of Congolese nationality, the latest UNHCR Great Lakes update said. ICRC this week said it had transported some 356 civilian internees, mainly Congolese Tutsis, from Kinshasa and Lubumbashi to Kigali. UNHCR has provided assistance to the evacuees upon their arrival in Kigali, while WFP has given them food rations, the UNHCR update said. A determination of their status was needed to plan further assistance, it added.

BURUNDI: Several people killed in escalating violence

At least eight people were reported killed or injured in rebel attacks over the past few days, local media organisations said. The reports said an armed gang killed two people and injured three in the Rumonge area on Tuesday night. Six other people were reported killed in attacks in the Musaga and Kanyosha areas, media reports said. Burundian army spokesman Serge Nizigama was quoted as saying the "rebels" were trying to sabotage celebrations of Burundi's 37th independence anniversary on Thursday.

UGANDA: Over 400,000 displaced persons

While internally-displaced people (IDPs) have benefitted from recent increased stability in northern Uganda, the humanitarian and security situation in the southwest has deteriorated since the end of 1998, ICRC said. In a report received by IRIN on Thursday, ICRC said that a majority of the estimated 320,000 displaced people living in 28 camps in the Gulu and Kitgum areas of the north now had regular access to farmland. The upcoming harvest, which is expected to be very good, should improve food security conditions for those IDPs, although the humanitarian situation in the north remained fragile, it said.

In the Rwenzori mountains region of the southwest, on the other hand, a serious deterioration in the security situation had provoked massive displacement of civilians, mainly in Bundibugyo district where there were now an estimated 85,000 IDPs, the report said. A recent ICRC assessment found urgent needs in Bundibugyo's 46 overcrowded IDP camps, particularly in the areas of hygiene, non-food items and medical monitoring, the report added. There were another 23,000 IDPs in Kasese district.

World Bank approves $90 million loan for roads

The World Bank on Thursday approved a US$ 90.98 million credit to help Uganda improve its access to rural and economically productive areas and build up road sector planning and management capability. A World Bank statement received by IRIN said the loan would support the government's US$ 360-million Road Sector Development Programme and would help upgrade the main roads of Busunju-Kiboga-Hoima and Karuma-Oliwiyo-Pakwach-Nebbi-Arua. "Strengthening the road networks will lead to substantial savings in vehicle operation and infrastructure maintenance costs as well as reductions in travel time and transport costs for road users and the rural population," the statement said.

UGANDA-DRC: Sudanese flee DRC camps

Recent insecurity in northeast DRC has led Sudanese refugees to cross into Uganda, UNHCR told IRIN on Thursday. A UNHCR spokesperson in Kampala said 550 Sudanese refugees from the Biringi, Aba and Dungu camps in the DRC had recently been registered by UNHCR at Arua in northwest Uganda. The refugees said they had left the DRC among other reasons because of deteriorating relations with local Congolese communities as a result of looting by soldiers of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

An SPLA spokesman, Samson Kwaje, disputed the report. "We do not have forces in the DRC," he told IRIN. Kwaje said the Sudanese refugees "started moving out of DRC last year when the war started and security crumbled." He attributed the looting to local Mayi-Mayi militia.

Nairobi, 1 July 1999, 15:30 gmt


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Item: irin-english-1148

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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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