IRIN-CEA Update 709 for 7 July [19990707]

IRIN-CEA Update 709 for 7 July [19990707]

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. 709 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 7 July 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: "Breakthrough" reported in Lusaka

Latest reports from Lusaka on Wednesday said there had been a "breakthrough", with the opposing sides agreeing to sign a ceasefire document aimed at ending the DRC conflict. According to the South African Broadcasting Corporation, this could happen "as early as this afternoon" and the move now paved the way for heads of state to ratify the accord. However, there still appeared to be differences between the sides on how the Interahamwe militia should be disarmed. Rwanda and Uganda believe a proposed UN peacekeeping force would not have the staying power to identify and disarm the militiamen. Rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) concurred, stressing that "leaving the UN alone to identify and disarm the Interahamwe is not possible". "We believe we are in the best position to do this job, because we know the ground ... we will be able to identify, disarm and encamp them," he told Gabonese radio on Tuesday. "As long as the Interahamwe operate on Congolese territory, there will be no peace in Congo," he added.

DRC Interior Minister Didier Mumengi meanwhile accused Rwanda of using the Interahamwe as a "pretext to continue its aggression", news reports said. "We are convinced the Interahamwe are not with us," Mumengi was quoted as saying.

Reports of new "autonomous province" in northeast

According to reports from northeastern DRC, a new "autonomous province" has been created from the erstwhile Ituri district, called Kibali-Ituri. Sources in contact with the region told IRIN the situation was very confused, with some reports alleging ousted rebel leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba was trying to establish himself there. Ethnic clashes have reportedly been raging since mid-June between the Walendu and Wahema groups in areas around Bunia. Some deaths have been reported, along with looted and burnt houses.

BURUNDI: Arusha talks suspended for a day

Participants in the ongoing peace talks in Arusha suspended the meetings for 24 hours on Tuesday, in commemoration of the victims of the latest violence in Burundi, the Hirondelle news agency reported. It said a statement issued by the mainly-Tutsi parties at the talks called for the suspension, in view of a "two-week campaign of cowardly killings on Burundi's roads by terrorist groups who have been prevented from attending the Arusha talks". Hirondelle noted that some 40 people have been killed in the recent spate of violence which targets vehicles on the main roads leading to Bujumbura.

Human rights group condemns surge in violence

The Burundian human rights organisation ITEKA on Wednesday condemned the escalation of violence, accusing the government of "keeping worryingly silent" over the attacks. In a statement received by IRIN, ITEKA also noted the rebels had stepped up their attacks to coincide with the current round of talks in Arusha which "appear to be moving towards a peace accord". It urged rebel leaders to stop targeting civilians and called on the government to "confront the reality" and take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of Burundians. It also demanded that the international community "break its silence" on the current violence, noting that tension was high in the capital, Bujumbura.

TANZANIA: "Unfair confinement" of refugees

The New York-based Human Rights Watch group on Wednesday accused the Tanzanian government of "rounding up" and "confining" thousands of mostly Burundian refugees to camps. In a new report, it accused the Tanzanian army of "an indiscriminate response to security risks from outside the country". "Tanzania has a long and generous tradition of hospitality to refugees but unfortunately, it hasn't been on display in this crisis," the report said. "To date, refugees in Tanzania continue to live with uncertainty and fear that they could be subjected again to similar arbitrary mistreatment." The report called on the government to restore "long-standing refugees" to their old settlements and to seek alternate means of addressing "valid security concerns" without violating national and international laws.

Noting reports that Burundian rebels have been operating from Tanzanian bases, it suggested that the government increase police patrols at the border, relocate refugee camps and settlements further away from the border and investigate and prosecute individuals responsible for criminal activity. The report also called on the international community to provide greater financial and logistical support to the Tanzanian government to enable it to adopt alternative security measures that comply with human rights and refugee law.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Over 1,000 refugees arrive in Gabon

About 1,500 Congolese refugees arrived in Gabon on Tuesday after fleeing ongoing fighting and unrest in the Republic of Congo. A statement from UNHCR described the refugees as "malnourished" and in "poor health". They reportedly crossed over at the weekend into three provinces along the 1,000 km border stretch. Some 650 people are said to have entered the southern provinces of Nyanga and Ngounie, with another 800 arriving in Haut Ogoou to the north. UNHCR, WHO and ICRC "are bringing first aid and supplies and making arrangements to fly in blankets and purchase food locally", the statement said. Gabon is the second country to receive refugees from Brazzaville since rival forces restarted fighting late last year. Almost 32,000 have fled to DRC from the Pool region.

Villagers abducted by Ninja

Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas abducted 53 people from the village of Oka in the Plateaux region southwest of Brazzaville last week, news agencies reported. Reuters said the abducted villagers were taken to Ninja rear bases in the Pool region.

GREAT LAKES: Increasing needs anticipated

UN agencies are preparing a regional humanitarian contingency plan in anticipation of rising relief needs in the coming months. "Chances are that needs will probably be even greater next year," an OCHA official told a briefing of donors on Wednesday following a two-day UN planning workshop held in Nairobi. Reasons for the anticipated increase included greater humanitarian access in some areas, continued instability and the increasing vulnerability of populations. "We don't have an optimistic view of the situation," he added. The meeting brought together UN agency officials from Angola, the DRC, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and the Republic of Congo to identify potential emergency "scenarios" and discuss how to integrate short- and medium-term expectations into a global regional strategy.

Nairobi, 7 July 1999, 14:15 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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