IRIN-CEA Update 718 for 20 July [19990720]

IRIN-CEA Update 718 for 20 July [19990720]

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. 718 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 20 July 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: MLC to send commander to Lusaka meeting

The rebel Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) will be represented by one of its commanders at talks in Lusaka aimed at forming a Joint Military Commission (JMC) to oversee the ceasefire, MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba told IRIN on Tuesday. Speaking from the recently-captured town of Gemena, Bemba said he did not see why the JMC team "insisted" on having the rebels represented, yet they were not signatories to the Lusaka peace accord. "What is the problem? Is there a peace agreement or not?," he asked. The Lusaka meeting, due to begin on Monday, has been held up due to the late arrival of Rwandan and rebel representatives.

Bemba said his invitation to the meeting came late, but he had asked his military commander to travel to Lusaka. "It is hard for him even to reach here [Gemena] because of the poor state of roads, but once he gets here, he will leave for Lusaka," he said. He added that there had been no fighting of late in the DRC.

Rebel troops reportedly advancing on Zongo

However, humanitarian sources said MLC rebel forces were advancing on the northwest town of Zongo, across the border from the CAR capital Bangui, from the directions of Gemena and Libinge. Increasing numbers of Congolese refugees are said to be pouring across the border into the Central African Republic and morale among DRC troops is described as low.

Ceasefire difficult to implement, analysts say

Analysts say the ceasefire accord contains a number of provisions that will be very difficult to implement. In a paper sent to IRIN, Laurie Nathan of the Centre for Conflict Resolution in South Africa, said the timetable for implementation was unrealistic. "The DRC national dialogue is expected to commence within 45 days of signing the agreement and to be concluded within less than two months. In contrast, formal negotiations (following lengthy processes of informal dialogue) were conducted over a period of four years in South Africa and 27 months in Mozambique."

Concerning the deployment of UN peacekeepers, he notes the Security Council is "notoriously slow" in establishing peacekeeping forces. "The most serious problem" is that guerrilla groups such as the Interahamwe and ex-FAR will resist disarmament and repatriation. "In all probability, the peace enforcement objectives of the ceasefire agreement are unattainable by military means," Nathan said.

Rwanda, DRC accuse each other of violating ceasefire

Rwanda and DRC have traded accusations of ceasefire violations. A statement issued by the Rwandan President's Office on Monday said that in addition to "continued air and ground shelling" by the DRC and its allies, Interahamwe militiamen were being trained in Zimbabwe and deployed in DRC. "This constitutes a serious violation of the agreements which call for the disarmament of these genocide-prone forces," the statement said.

Meanwhile, a statement by the general headquarters of the allied forces in Kinshasa on Saturday accused the rebels and their allies of attacking areas in Ikela and Dibelenge.

US urges rebels to sign

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice said she believed there was a genuine commitment to see the Lusaka peace accord stick. In a briefing on Monday, she said it was "imperative" for the rebel groups to sign the agreement. "They must not get hung up over what are really quite mundane protocol issues," she added. "We would find it impossible to understand if they took this opportunity to continue to wage a battle using force, when there is a comprehensive and, we think, very thoughtful ceasefire agreement that has been signed by all concerned belligerents." Rice said the US looked to the rebels "and those that have a close relationship with the rebels" to ensure the swift signing of the documents.

TANZANIA: Refugee camp "overwhelmed"

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has said people fleeing fighting in DRC "need more than a peace agreement". In a statement, it warned that the Lugufu refugee camp in Kigoma, western Tanzania, would soon be "overwhelmed". It was currently housing over 58,000 people, 18,000 more than it was designed for. "There is no way the present camp can go beyond 62,000 and refugees are still coming in," the IFRC representative in Kigoma, Jane Buchan, said. While an extension site had been identified, there remained an urgent need for funding and the needs would be long-term, the statement stressed. Health in Lugufu had suffered and mortality rates had risen, particularly among the under-fives.

BURUNDI: Bujumbura suburb attacked

The Bujumbura suburb of Kinindo came under rebel attack over the weekend, news organisations reported. Three people were reported killed and three injured. Observers point out the mostly-Tutsi neighbourhood, not far from the city centre, is home to several army officers and politicians.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Thousands fleeing to Gabon

Thousands of Congolese refugees have been arriving in neighbouring Gabon, affecting six provinces in the country, UNHCR said. In a statement received by IRIN, it said the number had climbed from 1,500 two weeks ago to an estimated 20,000. Fighting in the Republic of Congo has intensified, and more arrivals are feared after the town of Pointe Noire was reportedly shelled on Saturday. According to UNHCR, the majority of refugees are women and children. Some have been taken in by the local population but many others are sleeping in packed shelters of their own construction, or in the open. Some Congolese are already making their way to urban centres such as Libreville, Port Gentil and Franceville. UNHCR added that one of the most urgent needs was for safe drinking water, and the agency is planning six wells in several of the main shelter sites as well as trying to obtain purification kits for use elsewhere. WHO and UNICEF are preparing to vaccinate the most vulnerable recent arrivals.

Nairobi, 20 July 1999, 13:45 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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