IRIN-CEA Update 722 for 26 July [19990726]

IRIN-CEA Update 722 for 26 July [19990726]

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. 722 for Central and Eastern Africa (Monday 26 July 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Bas-Congo situation "critical"

Humanitarian sources have described the situation in Bas-Congo province as "critical", compounded by the influx of Angolan and Republic of Congo (ROC) refugees and intensified fighting along the Angola-DRC border. The sources told IRIN the worst fears of aid agencies were now being realised, with ever greater numbers of refugees from ROC's Pool region surging into the country. On average, 300 refugees were arriving a day via three different entry points. Their condition is described as "appalling", with high mortality due to malnutrition. Some 20,000 Angolan refugees, fleeing border fighting, are said to be in a stable condition, but the clashes are causing security concerns among relief officials. Angolan troops have reportedly been deployed on the border to launch counter-offensives against rebel UNITA troops.

Security Council set to vote on military liaison group

The UN Security Council on Friday announced it was prepared to vote shortly on the deployment of up to 90 military personnel who would liaise with the signatories of the ceasefire agreement reached at Lusaka and the Joint Military Commission (JMC) tasked with overseeing the ceasefire. In a press statement, Council members said they had finalised consultations on a draft resolution authorising the deployment of the military liaison personnel, "who would also begin planning for a UN role in the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, once it is signed by all parties". The Council again urged Congolese rebels "to take the first step in the process of peace and national reconciliation by signing the agreement without further delay".

The three rebel groups, meeting in Tanzania in an attempt to resolve differences as to who should sign the deal, were on Monday still far from agreement despite four days of intense diplomatic efforts, news agencies reported. The talks were said to be continuing.

Meanwhile, the Algerian general whom the OAU appointed to head the JMC has taken up his post in Lusaka. General Lalli Rachid said on arrival that he hoped to move quickly to have the ceasefire implemented, the BBC reported on Monday.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UN report notes continued suffering of civilians

The UN has noted the "immense impact" of renewed military activities on a population that was just starting to recover from the effect of a devastating civil war in 1997. A UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal (CAP) said the outbreak of hostilities at the end of last year again reflected the pattern of violence and social polarisation that has persisted since the early days of independence. "Insecurity still reigns in the countryside where government forces are encountering a guerrilla activity of uncontrollable, ethnically-drawn militia," the report said. A Common Humanitarian Action Plan has therefore been formulated aimed at tackling the issues of displacement and demilitarisation. The report noted that the relatively small size of the population, richly available natural resources, high level of urbanisation and positive ratio of industrial over agricultural production make the ROC a potentially prosperous country. Sustained political stability and timely humanitarian assistance, followed by structural aid, could mean that urgent humanitarian needs would not persist nor become chronic.

Mounting international pressure for compromise

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has said keeping the army under control, amid mounting international criticism, will be one of the ROC government's top priorities. In its latest analysis of the country, EIU noted ROC's geography of bush, rainforest and mountains was ideally suited to guerrilla warfare and unless troops were regularly paid, the country could be "condemned to an indefinite period of political instability". "Fighting resumed more than eight months ago, and it is becoming increasingly clear that neither the Ninja and Cocoye fighters loyal to (ousted premier) Mr Kolelas and (ousted president) Mr Lissouba, nor the government troops, have the capacity to win the war," the EIU analysis said. It noted that the government was likely to come under renewed international pressure to reach a compromise with Lissouba and Kolelas who are now living in exile, otherwise financial assistance could be suspended.

RWANDA: Oxfam says debt service requirements violate human rights

The NGO, Oxfam International, has called for Rwanda's multilateral and bilateral creditors "to take bold steps to alleviate Rwanda's debt burden", not just as a development requirement but also as a human rights imperative. In a report received by IRIN, Oxfam International said that with development challenges as huge as those in Rwanda, "not only is the prioritisation of creditors' claims over children's lives a human rights violation, it is also inconsistent with donor programmes aimed at promoting peace and development".

The report lambasted the fact that US $42 million worth of debt-service payments - falling due in 1998 mostly to multilateral creditors - was more than 10 times Rwanda's operational health-sector budget. Rwanda last year paid out US $35 million in debt- service, one quarter of its entire budget. "Debt directly limits the provision of basic life necessities: thousands of people do not have access to clean water; children die of diarrhoea and other preventable diseases; many people do not have access to healthcare. These are violations of human rights," the report said. While acknowledging that debt relief alone was not the answer to Rwanda's challenges, and the importance of ensuring the government spent any savings accrued from debt relief on priority social sectors rather than military operations, Oxfam said it was "essential that the international community uses fast and deep debt relief as part of a wider strategy of building peace, reducing poverty and fostering greater respect for human rights".

Chief Justice tasked with increasing efficiency, ending corruption

Rwanda's new Chief Justice, Simeon Rwagasore, and five other high-ranking judges, sworn in last week, were called on by President Pasteur Bizimungu to strengthen the judicial system countrywide, fight corruption within the system and look for new ways of tackling the enormous number of outstanding genocide trials, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported. The five judges sworn in alongside Rwagasore were: President of the Constitutional Court Pierre Ndorimana; President of the State Council Louis Marie Mugenzi; President of the Cassation Court Hodari Nsinga; President of Courts and Tribunals Tharcisse Karugarama; and President of the Accounts Court Marie-Jose Mukandamage.

Rwandans urged to halt destruction of forests

The scale of deforestation problems, and the associated degradation of land, has prompted the minister of state for forestry, Thaddee Habiyambere, to urge Rwandans to stop the destruction and protect forest resources. Nyungwe forest in southwestern Rwanda had been destroyed by gold-mining in the area, while Gishwati forest in northwest Rwanda had shrunk from 28,000 hectares in 1960 to 3,800 hectares in 1996, RNA news agency quoted Habiyambere as saying. The main reasons cited for forest depletion were encroachment for farming, settlements, fuel, mining and construction activities. Mining would be suspended in forest areas "until proper procedures are put in place to avoid the destruction of forests", Habiyambere announced. He added that a massive programme would be undertaken to sensitise Rwandans on the importance of protecting forests.

BURUNDI: Buyoya celebrates third year in power

President Pierre Buyoya celebrated his third year in power on Sunday by urging the population to remain vigilant against attackers, the private Netpress news agency reported. Buyoya, who was brought to power in a bloodless military coup, told people in Musaga commune, near Bujumbura, they should stick together in a bid to restore security, the agency said. He also spoke about the Arusha peace process, reiterating the government's denial that it was to blame for blocking the talks and criticising the organisation of the negotiations.

Nairobi, 26 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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