IRIN-CEA Update 720 for 22 July [19990722]

IRIN-CEA Update 720 for 22 July [19990722]

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. 720 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 22 July 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebel groups due to meet in Tanzania

The three rebel groups - mainstream Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), Ernest Wamba dia Wamba's breakaway RCD faction and the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) - have been invited by Tanzania for discussions in Dar es Salaam regarding the Lusaka ceasefire accord. So far, none of the rebel groups has signed the agreement and some reports suggested ex-Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere was attempting to mediate between the three in a bid to persuade them to sign. The initiative appeared to be at the behest of the Tanzanian government, rather than the Nyerere Foundation. A spokesman for the Foundation told IRIN on Thursday he knew nothing of the rebel meeting. "We don't have anything to do with it as far as I'm aware," he said.

RCD Vice-President says accord will not be "automatically signed"

RCD Vice-President Moise Nyarugabo told IRIN on Thursday he wasn't exactly sure what the Dar meeting was about nor the intended objective. "All we know is Mwalimu [Nyerere] called the rebel groups, saying he wanted to discuss some issues with us," he said. The meeting did not mean the Lusaka accord would automatically be signed by the rebels. RCD leader Emile Ilunga had however gone to Dar at the head of a large delegation, and the meeting would probably be held Thursday night. Nyarugabo added it did not necessarily mean Nyerere had taken on the role of mediator between the three rebel factions.

He also clarified reports that ousted RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba had been completely thrown out of the movement. "He hasn't been thrown out, but the process has started," Nyarugabo said. "If he returns to the cradle, then we welcome him, but if continues to behave like a traitor, he must go." Nyarugabo reiterated that the movement refused to acknowledge Wamba's signature of the Lusaka accord on behalf of the RCD. "But if he forms a separate group, then he can sign for that group," he said.

Wamba group believes accord will be signed

Meanwhile, the rapporteur of Wamba's breakaway faction, Jacques Depelchin, told IRIN that Wamba was taking part in the Dar es Salaam meeting "at which all groups in the rebellion would sign the ceasefire". The meeting would also follow up the rebel reconciliation agreements reached in Kabale, Uganda, in May, he said.

Algerian appointed to chair JMC

The OAU has reportedly appointed an Algerian army general to chair the Joint Military Commission (JMC) which will oversee implementation of the Lusaka ceasefire accord, Zambian radio said on Wednesday, quoting Zambian Presidential Affairs Minister Eric Silwamba. The JMC, made up of two officials from the six warring countries in DRC, was officially formed in Lusaka on Wednesday but the rebels failed to attend.

RWANDA: More details of alleged Zimbabwean training of Interahamwe

Rwandan Minister in the President's Office Patrick Mazimhaka on Wednesday said the JMC could not work unless the rebels were involved, news organisations reported. Meanwhile, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) said more details had emerged on the alleged training and recruitment of ex-FAR and Interahamwe militia by Zimbabwe. It quoted Rwandan army spokesman Major Emmanuel Ndahiro as saying it was "no secret" that Zimbabwe had been involved in "actively training" the militias. RNA also cited other sources as saying "full relations with ex-FAR and Interahamwe were established in October 1998 when more than 30 former Rwandan politicians and ex-FAR officials were given political asylum [in Zimbabwe] to assist the war effort in DRC". More ex-FAR/Interahamwe recruits had been arriving from Kenya, Central African Republic, South Africa and other countries, RNA's sources added. They claimed that since January 1999, at least 505 company commanders had received training at the Gweru army college in Harare.

Reuters, however, said Zimbabwe dismissed the accusations. "There is nothing like that. It's another load of cheap propaganda from Rwanda," Zimbabwe army spokesman Colonel Chancellor Diye was quoted as saying on Thursday.

BURUNDI: Government surprised over Nyerere comments

The Burundian government has expressed surprise over comments by Julius Nyerere, the facilitator of the Arusha peace process, who accused it of obstructing the talks at the end of the last session on Saturday. In a statement sent to IRIN on Thursday, the government said the allegations had no foundation whatsoever. Stressing its commitment to both the internal and external peace processes, the government said it refused to be the scapegoat for the slow progress in Arusha. It noted the urgent need for an end to the violence in Burundi. "Whereas other [peace] negotiations begin with a ceasefire, in Arusha the issue is constantly avoided," the statement said. "The continuing hostilities render the peace process nonsensical." Nyerere had accused the government of trying to "stall" the process, when it suspended talks for a day in memory of the victims of violence.

"Excluding certain armed groups from the Arusha talks constitutes a hindrance to the peace process which must be removed," the statement went on. "In so-called global negotiations, what possible reason can there be for rejecting one party or another?" Nyerere has so far resisted including the main armed rebel group, Forces de defense pour la democratie (FDD), in the talks. The government believes FDD should take part in the process, and FDD has warned it will continue the violence unless it is invited to Arusha.

Army says 10 rebels killed near Bujumbura

Burundian army troops killed 10 Hutu rebels during clashes in the hills surrounding Bujumbura on Wednesday, Reuters news agency on Thursday cited a senior army official as saying. There has been an upsurge in fighting in Bujumbura Rurale in the last week, although the government has imposed a virtual blackout on information from the area, the agency added. Residents have complained of being caught in the middle in a situation where the government wanted them to leave their homes for security reasons and rebels insisted they remain, Reuters reported.

GREAT LAKES: Funding crisis facing UNHCR

UNHCR on Thursday warned it only had two weeks of finances left to assist more than 750,000 refugees in the Great Lakes region. In a statement received by IRIN, the agency said that in spite of having only US $3.4 million available, new camps were needed in Tanzania, Gabon and the Central African Republic in light of more than 50,000 refugees fleeing fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo in the last three weeks alone. "Contributions are not even meeting all the needs of long-time refugees, much less the newest arrivals," High Commissioner Sadako Ogata warned.

UNHCR said 600 refugees a day were fleeing DRC to Tanzania to escape fighting between Congolese rebels and local opposition groups, and over 14,000 Congolese had fled the north into remote areas of the Central African Republic in the past few weeks. Furthermore, conflict in the Republic of Congo had pushed thousands of refugees into neighboring Gabon since the start of the month. Almost 100,000 Congolese refugees are now crowded into two refugee sites in western Tanzania and aid workers feared a rise in tension in the camps, the statement added.

UGANDA: Red Cross prepares contingency plan for refugees

The Ugandan Red Cross Society, supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has completed a contingency plan for the southwest of the country designed to allow it respond quickly and efficiently to an influx of refugees arising either from political unrest in the Great Lakes region or periodic small scale disasters such as floods, droughts and epidemics. "The situation in this region is volatile and, despite repeated efforts to secure peace, an influx of refugees into Uganda from surrounding countries cannot be dismissed," a Federation report stated on Thursday.

The Red Cross has given some branches in the region - and particularly the branch in Kisoro, a major entry point from the Kivus in DRC - particular technical support and training to enable them to cope, the report stated. It has also been working closely with the government on a Disaster Preparedness Policy and related legislation currently before cabinet. Nakivale camp has been designated by the government as a reception camp for any major influx of refugees into the country, it added.

Ugandans taking advantage of camp services

With the backing of WFP, UNHCR and the Federation, the Ugandan Red Cross is currently running a support programme for approximately 10,000 refugees in two camps about 30km from Mbarara town: one at Orukinga, housing about 6,000 refugees from Rwanda, and another at Nakivale, housing approximately 4,000 refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, DRC and Rwanda, the Federation report stated. The two camps also provide health services and - especially since a serious lack of rainfall in the area in the past three months - water supplies to Ugandan nationals from surrounding villages, it added.

Expired drugs pose health risk to 700,000

Ugandan police on Wednesday said 700,000 people were at risk from some 10,000 tins of out-of-date drugs imported from India in mid-May. Police spokesman Eric Naigambi said only 4,000 of 14,000 tins imported - with the apparent collusion of the national pharmaceutical watchdog, the National Drugs Association - had been recovered and a big part of the population had either taken the drugs or remained at risk, AFP news agency reported. Naigambi warned people against taking any of the expired drugs, but AFP quoted health officials as saying the warning may have come too late, especially in the case of paracetamol tablets which are widely and frequently used as a multi-purpose painkiller.

Nairobi, 22 July 1999, 14:45 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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