IRIN-CEA Update 707 for 5 July

IRIN-CEA Update 707 for 5 July

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. 707 for Central and Eastern Africa (Monday 5 July 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Peace deal said to be within reach

The parties to the DRC conflict were on Monday continuing the lengthy process of negotiating a peace settlement in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, with a deal reported to be within sight, diplomatic sources told IRIN on Monday. The reported significant progress in the negotiations, now entering their third week, was achieved when the Congolese belligerents had met each other in direct talks, the sources said. News agencies reported that DRC Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia had held six-hours of talks with representatives of the two factions of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) and the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) on Friday. "We arrived at formulations on which we are all agreed," Reuters quoted Yerodia as saying after Friday's talks.

The parties involved "are now polishing up the details of an agreement", one diplomatic source close to the talks in Lusaka told IRIN, adding that it could be signed on Monday or Tuesday. "We have passed the major hurdles... it will be signed", the source said, adding that the peace deal constituted four documents: a ceasefire agreement proper, plus three annexes detailing the modalities of its implementation. The source added that the delegates on all sides were "very authoritative" and could conclude a deal that would not need to be renegotiated by heads of state at a future regional summit.

All parties to talks using selective leaks

The diplomatic source said reports of continuing difficulties - such as the make-up of a peacekeeping force, post-ceasefire authority over rebel-held areas and the disarming of Hutu militias - should be viewed in the context of all the parties to the talks using the media to gain negotiating position and squeeze last-minute concessions with "everyone leaking what is advantageous to one's interests". But a regional security analyst told IRIN there was a danger that the parties to the Lusaka talks would sign "something for the sake of it" under pressure, without looking at the "problem areas".

Mayi-Mayi reject any ceasefire accord

A Mayi-Mayi group has said it will not honour any ceasefire accord reached in Lusaka "as long as the autochthonous people are still under foreign occupation and aggression". In a statement received on Monday by IRIN, the "politico-military council" of the "Forces Mayi Mayi-Forces d'autodefense populaires (FAP)" said the DRC's problems should be handled by the Congolese themselves. The statement also warned that any attacks against rebel groups, which it described as "freedom fighters", combatting the Burundian, Rwandan and Ugandan governments would be "tantamount to attacking Forces Mayi-Mayi and the latter will not hesitate to hit back". The statement furthermore condemned the rejection by "some participants" at the Lusaka talks of the "rational and principled Sirte accord" in favour of a "pro-West-Mandela-Tutsi-minority sponsored plan". The statement was signed by Mayi-Mayi commander Dunia Lwengama and "member of the politico-military council", Litambola Tambwe Vincent.

Rebels claim Gbadolite taken

MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba said his troops had captured the northwest town of Gbadolite in Equateur province on the border with the Central African Republic (CAR), news organisations reported. He said Gbadolite, the birthplace of ex-President Mobutu Sese Seko, was taken on Saturday after fierce fighting with government troops, supported by Sudanese forces and Rwandan Interahamwe militia. Bemba also warned neighbouring CAR to stay out of the conflict, accusing it of supporting DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila.

More Tutsi internees flown out

ICRC on Sunday evacuated another 109 civilian internees from Kinshasa to Kigali via Nairobi, an ICRC spokesman in Geneva told IRIN on Monday. Most of the evacuated internees - part of the estimated 1,000-2,000 ethnic Tutsis rounded up by the authorities in Kinshasa and Katanga province at the start of the conflict in August - were Congolese and the remainder were Rwandan nationals. ICRC evacuated 366 internees from Katanga to Kigali and another 12 to Bujumbura on 27-28 June, while the 109 evacuated on Sunday had been interned in Kinshasa, the spokesman said. There were "no other planned rotations for the coming days," he added.

Anger in Uvira over lack of international help

Local leaders and NGOs in Uvira, South Kivu, have expressed anger against the lack of response by the international community to the plight of thousands of displaced people in the area. The region is facing a prolonged drought and local aid workers are afraid there will not be enough food to last until the next harvest. The bulk of the humanitarian effort falls on CARITAS, but its director, Dr Miteyo Nyenge, told IRIN he feared aid from the organisation's international network will be channelled towards Kosovo, with little left for his region. [For full report, see IRIN English item 1152 of 2 July 1999, headlined "DRC: Population left alone to cope with effects of war".]

BURUNDI: Arusha talks set to resume

A new round of peace talks was due to start in the Tanzanian town of Arusha on Monday, amid an upsurge in rebel attacks in Burundi. The four negotiating committees were due to discuss their recommendations for a plenary meeting set for later this month, news organisations reported. The talks have been making slow progress, although the mediator, ex-Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, has expressed optimism that a peace accord will be signed in the next few months. The international community says an agreement is necessary before it provides badly-needed assistance to Burundi. Analysts point out that an agreement reached in haste will not resolve Burundi's problems.

WFP suspends up-country travel

WFP has temporarily suspended all travel out of Bujumbura following an ambush on one of its vehicles last week. In a press release received by IRIN on Monday, the UN food agency said a staff member was shot and injured in the incident, which occurred on 30 June along Route Nationale 1, 15 km outside Bujumbura in Bujumbura Rural province. It said the vehicle was sprayed by unidentified gunmen.

RWANDA: No let-up in search for Interahamwe, Kagame says

Vice-President Paul Kagame has said that unless the Interahamwe and ex-FAR are disarmed, Rwanda has no choice but to continue looking for them and fighting. In an interview with the 'EastAfrican' weekly newspaper, he stressed Rwanda was not involved in DRC's internal affairs. "Dictatorship could have gone on in Congo for hundreds of years without our involvement," he said. "But for as long as this dictatorship is directly linked with our problem, arming Interahamwe and pushing them across the border, it means you are inviting me to your territory."

Kagame said Rwanda would never compromise with the "genocidaires". "If these were people with a cause, then we could find some kind of agreement," he said. "We shall fight them - that is the solution." He said his country had the capacity "to continue fighting in Congo for a long time".

Meanwhile, Rwandans on Sunday celebrated the fifth anniversary of the ousting of the regime blamed for the 1994 genocide, Reuters reported. Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu said his government had restored security, rehabilitated the economy and stabilised a society torn apart by the genocide.

Cabinet approves government's extension

The Rwandan cabinet supported last month's decision by a forum of political parties to extend the transitional government by four years until 2003, Rwandan radio reported on Saturday. The cabinet members also adopted a constitutional law that will guide the country after the transitional period, the radio said. Rwanda's transition period had been due to end on 19 July.

Nine sentenced to death for genocide

A criminal court in western Rwanda last week sentenced nine people to death and 16 others to life imprisonment for participation in the 1994 massacre of Tutsis in Kibuye Prefecture. Radio Rwanda reported that nine other genocide suspects were acquitted by the court for "lack of evidence." Meanwhile, 47 genocide suspects were released from Gikongoro prison in southwest Rwanda after a local court ruled it also "lacked enough evidence for their alleged crimes," the radio said. More than 120,000 people are being held in Rwandan prisons awaiting trial for their alleged involvement in the 1994 genocide.

TANZANIA: Lugufu refugee situation "potentially explosive"

Lugufu camp, 90 km east of the Lake Tanganyika port of Kigoma, has been grossly overstretched for weeks by the flow of refugees from eastern DRC and, with mortality rising and health suffering, camp managers are in danger of being overwhelmed, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said. "We face a potentially explosive situation but we cannot turn people away if there is no other option", an IFRC statement received by IRIN said. Lugufu, run by the Tanzanian Red Cross, was designed for a maximum 40,000 people but was now catering for 55,000 and expecting another 7,000 by the end of this week - putting health services, water supplies and staff under great pressure, it added.

Camp managers needed two or three more refugee villages as well as health posts and staff, medical supplies and water points, the IFRC stated. "We warned this could happen but the world's eyes were on the Balkans and nobody listened to us. They'd better start listening now if they want to avert a tragedy", said Jane Buchan, Acting Head of Delegation for the IFRC in Tanzania.

Cereal harvest hit by inadequate rains

The government has announced a cereal production deficit of 589,000 mt as a result of short and unevenly distributed rains, a WFP emergency report received by IRIN on Monday stated. Despite the deficit, which would indicate a 14 percent shortfall on annual production, the government has reaffirmed its intention to restock a strategic grain reserve of 150,000 mt of maize grain in anticipation of shortages expected in central regions, the report added.

UGANDA: Museveni signs referendum bill amid public "outrage"

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday signed into law the Referendum Bill, prompting harsh criticism from advocates of a multiparty system, news agencies said. The independent 'Monitor' newspaper said "outrage" and "protests" followed the signing of the bill because of a "lack of quorum" when it was passed in parliament on Thursday. The bill is designed to pave the way for a referendum, to be held next year, which will give Ugandans a choice of either returning to party politics or retaining the present "movement" system. Some members of parliament who support a multi-party system boycotted Thursday's session, saying voting on "fundamental rights infringed on the UN and OAU charters on human rights," the newspaper said.

ADF kill 10 in Bundibugyo

Meanwhile, ten people including three policemen were killed by rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) on the outskirts of the western town of Bundibugyo, local media reported at the weekend. The semi-official 'New Vision' said the rebels ambushed a vehicle carrying villagers who were being escorted to their farms by the army.

AFRICA: 18 months to eradicate polio

Although polio eradication efforts in Africa have accelerated over the past year, several "serious constraints" remain, WHO has warned. A report in WHO's Weekly Epidemiological Record said civil conflict, insecurity, economic decline and the high burden of HIV in many African countries had resulted in damaged public health infrastructure, declining routine immunisation coverage and low morale among health staff involved in polio eradication efforts. In Angola, Chad and the DRC, the poor condition of road networks had also made crucial house-to-house immunisation and surveillance activities very difficult, the report said.

Despite these obstacles, "an intensely focused effort" in the next 18 months could reach the goal of polio eradication by the end of the year 2000, the report said, noting that about 88 million African children received two rounds of polio vaccinations in 1998 during national or sub-national immunisation days. The current funding shortfall for supplementary immunisation in the African region was US$ 13 million, the report added. To reach the year 2000 target, WHO recommends that intensified national immunisation days be conducted this year in Angola, Chad, the DRC, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Nairobi, 5 July 1999, 16:30 gmt


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Item: irin-english-1170

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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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