IRIN-CEA Update 710 for 8 July [19990708]

IRIN-CEA Update 710 for 8 July [19990708]

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. 710 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 8 July 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Warring sides adopt ceasefire agreement

The warring sides in the DRC conflict are reported to have adopted a ceasefire agreement, due to be ratified by heads of state on Saturday. DRC Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia said he was "very happy" with the accord whose provisions include a joint military commission made up of African countries to monitor implementation of the ceasefire and disarmament of the Interahamwe militia. The UN will eventually send a peacekeeping mission, but says this will take several months to organise. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stressed the gap should be as short as possible, and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations is speeding up contingency planning for the deployment of military observers, a UN spokesman said.

Wamba hails accord

Ernest Wamba dia Wamba who leads a faction of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) in Kisangani described the agreement as a "very good thing". "We hope all the parties will sign the agreement in good faith so that its implementation will not pose a problem," he told IRIN in a telephone interview on Thursday. "We believe that those who want to pursue the war will now be more and more in the minority." He said his group had participated at all levels of the Lusaka negotiations, including the ministerial meeting. It was important the three rebel groups each be signatories to the accord so that there would be "no confusion" when it came to implementation on the ground. "Bemba's group [the Mouvement de liberation congolais] agrees with that," Wamba said. "But the [RCD] Goma group has demands that we don't understand."

Wamba also denied reports of large-scale defections to Goma from his group. "They are still in Kisangani," he said.

Analysts note uphill struggle ahead

Regional analysts told IRIN there was a long way to go to assure implementation of the ceasefire and secure peace. Professor Filip Reyntjens of Antwerp University described the accord as "a good deal, in the sense it's the only possible deal". He said there remained "a few blank spots", particularly the non-involvement at Lusaka of Mayi-Mayi fighters from eastern DRC and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) from Uganda, and the logistics of disarming the Interahamwe and ex-FAR.

Another close observer of the talks in Lusaka added that the rapid deployment of a peacekeeping force to monitor the ceasefire and disarm militia groups would be crucial to the peace deal. "You just cannot wait three months or more for a fully-fledged UN force to go in," he said. Reyntjens concurred, saying the absence of a defined frontline in the DRC conflict would also mean "deploying troops in dozens of different pockets", some in government-controlled and some in rebel-held areas, which would lead to considerable logistical problems, enormous expense and serious danger for soldiers on the ground.

"There is no way the conflict will be solved, no matter how the parties stick to the terms - and that's by no means certain - if they're not given the means to tackle a fundamental problem, which is the complete breakdown of the Congo state," Reyntjens added.

Poor access affecting Maniema health situation

The health situation in the Kampene area of Maniema province is "worrying" due to insecurity and the population's lack of access to basic health care services, Medical Emergency Relief International (MERLIN) said on Thursday. "I suspect the health of the population has been severely compromised, but we have no way of accessing Kampene," a MERLIN official told IRIN. The area's health structures had not been resupplied with drugs since MERLIN was forced to evacuate in August 1998, he said, adding that a new attack on the town was reported within the past two weeks. Another area of concern was Punia in the north of the province, where MERLIN now had only limited access. Main health problems included very high rates of malaria and diarrhoeal diseases, he said.

Kindu displaced in "reasonable" condition

Meanwhile, MERLIN has been able to assist in reestablishing basic health services in the provincial capital, Kindu, as well as in nearby Kalima town. The MERLIN official said most of Kindu's 120,000 residents - displaced by conflict last year - have since returned to the city, but about 10 percent have decided to remain in the surrounding forests. "They have set up displaced settlements near their fields and are in reasonable shape," he said. A cholera outbreak in February/March was brought under control and the health situation in both Kindu and Kalima was now stable, he said. A MERLIN statement said the NGO was supporting 35 health centres and two hospitals in Maniema province, which is under rebel control.

RWANDA: Foreign Minister sacked

President Pasteur Bizimungu has sacked his Foreign Minister Amri Sued Ismael, the Rwanda News Agency reported. A presidential statement gave no reason for the dismissal, but RNA quoted political sources as saying Sued Ismael "did not defend the country's interests in a suitable manner, notably in his press statements". According to RNA, the minister - a former ambassador to Egypt - was also guilty of financial misdemeanours. Rwandan officials have denied the dismissal is connected to the DRC peace process. The new foreign minister is former information minister, Augustin Iyamuremye.

Court overturns death sentence

A court of appeal in Cyangugu, southwest Rwanda, has overturned the death sentence against a former government official charged with genocide, Rwandan radio reported on Wednesday. Theodore Munyengabe had been found guilty on eight counts of genocide crimes, but the court argued he did not have any defence counsel during the trial and therefore overturned the death penalty and acquitted the defendant.

BURUNDI: Arusha peace process "tense"

The Arusha peace process resumed on Wednesday after a 24-hour suspension in memory of victims of recent violence in Burundi. The Internews agency reported that the talks were increasingly tense, and observers said the process was at a "low point" amid stalemate over whether to include the main rebel group Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD). President Pierre Buyoya's UPRONA party believes the FDD should not be excluded from the process, otherwise any agreement signed would only be "a piece of paper", according to one delegate. Internews quoted Aldo Ajello, the EU special envoy to the Great Lakes region, as saying the negotiating sides "don't have a whole lot to be optimistic about today".

TANZANIA: Government dismisses human rights report

The Tanzanian government on Thursday dismissed a recent report by Human Rights Watch which accused it of "mistreating" refugees. An official from the interior ministry's refugee department told IRIN the report was "all rubbish and untrue". The government would react officially, he added. Other news organisations also quoted the permanent secretary in the ministry of home affairs, Bernard Mchomvu, as saying the refugees had been treated in "compliance with the law". The rights body charged that Tanzania "rounded up" and "confined" refugees unfairly in camps. An international humanitarian worker in Tanzania however told IRIN this was not the "current state of affairs", adding that the report was a "bit outdated" since it covered the 1997/98 period.

UGANDA: "Offensive" against Sudan denied

The Ugandan government and rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) on Thursday denied accusations by Khartoum that they were planning an offensive, along with "allies", against Sudan. "These are the usual lies about Uganda," Uganda's Presidential Press Secretary Hope Kivengere told IRIN. The SPLM termed the accusations a "big propaganda network" and "pure lies". "Whenever Khartoum is threatened it creates such rumours to attract the attention of the Arab world to get support," SPLM spokesman Samson Kwaje told IRIN. "Tanzania has never come that close to us, Burundi has its own internal problems, while Uganda also has its troops in the DRC, besides the rebel insurgencies. We completely deny this allegation."

The Sudanese government, for its part, maintained that from its own observations "it is true that Uganda, SPLA and their allies are massing at the border". "Now that Uganda is not fighting in the DRC, they have some soldiers to spare," Sudanese embassy official in Nairobi, Al Mansour Bolad, told IRIN. The 'Indian Ocean Newsletter' recently reported that various SPLA bases were being led by Ugandan, Rwandan and Burundian military commanders "who are closing in on Sudan with the aim of attacking it from the south". The official SUNA news agency also mentioned Tanzania as another ally included in the alleged plan. On Wednesday, Sudanese army commander Muhammad Uthman Yasin reaffirmed his country's readiness to "repulse any external attack that targets the gains of the nation".

Nairobi, 8 July 1999, 14:00 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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