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IRIN-CEA Update No. 706 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 2 July 1999)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Inter-Congolese talks tried
The delegations of the DRC government and three Congolese rebel groups went into direct talks with each other in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, on Friday, without their respective allies and the Zambian mediators, in an effort to achieve progress in the peace negotiations that have been alternatively stalling and groping forward all week. The new format had proved effective and there was a feeling that the real issues were finally being discussed, news agencies said. A rebel split on Thursday had threatened to derail the process entirely when the Goma faction of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) refused to participate while ousted RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba remained at the talks.
Rwanda considers political settlement
Rwanda had also shifted its position in agreeing there should be a political rather than merely military solution to the issue of the Interahamwe and ex-FAR elements in DRC, including possible safe return for foot soldiers and 'fellow travellers', media sources stated.
Reassertion of government control still a sticking point
The cruxes that remained were reported to be DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila's insistence on reestablishing government authority over areas seized by the rebels in the past year once a ceasefire was established, as well as the timing of foreign troop withdrawals, integration of rebel forces into a national army and the nature of an internal political settlement.
"Humanitarian disaster" in Kabinda as fighting rages
Heavy fighting for control of Kabinda, 130 km east of the strategically important diamond centre of Mbuji-Mayi, has made the town a "humanitarian disaster", according to human rights workers quoted by the Missionary Service News Agency (MISNA) on Thursday. It reported that between the rebels' attack and counter-attacks by troops loyal to the government, "the human cost has been huge" - with many "baby soldiers" recruited by the rebels among the victims. Congolese officials said thousands of people, including the governor of Kasai Oriental province, Jean-Charles Okoto, had fled Mbuyi-Mayi in the face of rebel advances on Kabinda and Miba, AP news agency reported.
Kabila calls for progress on national debate
Kabila called on Thursday for plans for a national debate on the future of the DRC to be speeded up and for the organising committee to renew contacts with countries that have offered to host the debate, Reuters reported. It quoted vice-president of the organising committee, Delphin Banza, as saying that Kabila - who was receiving details of four draft laws to be put before the forum - was keen to move on from preparations to the debate proper.
Danger follows activists fleeing DRC
Human Rights Watch on Thursday said human rights activists fleeing increased harassment by the government and RCD - "who do not want witnesses to their abuses" - were also faced with increasing risks in neighbouring countries. A statement from the organisation, received by IRIN, cited the case of Medi Djuma-Bihira, a Congolese activist seeking asylum in Uganda, who "disappeared" on 16 June. Suliman Baldo, a Human Rights Watch senior researcher, urged the Ugandan government to investigate the disappearance of Djuma-Bihira and urged UNHCR to make the protection of those most at risk, including human rights activists facing persecution, a key priority.
Rebel court martial sentences six to death
An RCD court martial in Uvira, South Kivu, has sentenced six rebel soldiers to death and another seven to prison terms for illegally selling arms and ammunition, media sources on Friday quoted the rebel Radio Uvira as saying. The court also recommended that the 13 be expelled from the rebel army. The case was reputed to be part of an effort to restore military discipline and win popular support among eastern Congolese civilians disaffected by the war.
TANZANIA: Reduced refugee flow gives camp staff respite
The number of new refugees entering Tanzania from the DRC dropped to 800 over Wednesday and Thursday, giving humanitarian workers some desperately needed respite after more than 4,300 refugees had crossed in boats along Lake Tanganyika on Monday and Tuesday, a UNHCR statement received by IRIN on Friday reported. There was no immediate explanation for the decrease. In the past 10 days, Congolese refugees have fled from South Kivu and from 10 to 12 villages along the border between South Kivu and Katanga provinces where fighting has been heavy, UNHCR said.
REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Eight killed in Ninja attack
Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas killed eight people in an ambush on a military convoy between Linzolo and Bandza-Dounga, 50 km southwest of Brazzaville, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing military sources. Those killed included six soldiers plus a civilian driver and his assistant, it said.
UGANDA: Sudan visit seeks to "pre-empt" Kony return
Northern Uganda officials were planning to meet with the Sudanese government over its support for rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), news agencies said. The semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper quoted Gulu district chairman Walter Ochola as saying his team would travel to Sudan to meet National Assembly speaker Hassan al Turabi "and tell him to stop supporting rebel leader Joseph Kony's war which is killing the innocent people in Acholi." A media source in Gulu told IRIN on Friday that the Khartoum mission was an attempt by Ochola to "pre-empt" a planned return of Kony to northern Uganda in about a month.
GREAT LAKES: EU approves $50 million for humanitarian efforts
The European Commission on Thursday announced its approval of humanitarian aid worth over US$ 50 million (53.31 million euros) for the Great Lakes region to enable humanitarian partners of the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) carry out programmes for the remainder of the year. Almost US$ 20 million will go to WFP to distribute emergency food aid to refugees, displaced people and vulnerable populations in Tanzania, the DRC and the Republic of Congo, according to a press release received by IRIN. The remainder will go to UN and international Red Cross agencies coordinating NGO humanitarian efforts in Burundi, the Republic of Congo, the DRC, Rwanda and Tanzania.
Nairobi, 2 July 1999, 15:00 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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