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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. 723 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 27 July 1999)
GREAT LAKES: UNHCR says Rwandan refugees "most pressing problem"
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata on Monday said the most pressing refugee problem for the Great Lakes region was "to tackle the problem of Rwandans who had not yet returned after fleeing the country in the aftermath of genocide". In a briefing to the UN Security Council, she said she had taken two key decisions on the issue: that UNHCR would resume support for the repatriation of Rwandans still in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and that Rwandans in the Republic of Congo would be offered either repatriation or the opportunity to settle in the north of the host country.
UNHCR had received assurances from rebel authorities controlling eastern DRC of access to those Rwandans requesting repatriation, and of the voluntary nature of the process, Ogata said. She added that while donors had supported humanitarian appeals for Rwanda relatively well, assistance had been slower in coming for the country's rehabilitation. On the second point, those Rwandan refugees in the Republic of Congo who opted to settle in the north of the country would receive a one-time assistance package to assist integration in a settlement scheme under discussion with Brazzaville, Ogata said.
Need for humanitarian funding to consolidate peace
UNHCR on Monday again drew attention to disparities between the level of humanitarian assistance to Kosovo and other emergency situations. Ogata said proximity, strategic interests and media coverage had combined to make Kosovo "the focus of unprecedented political attention and material support by the international community", but that had not been the case in other situations, including the Great Lakes where "funding was crucial to the consolidation of peace". She said it was imperative that the Lusaka agreement receive clear and strong international support but that, meanwhile, "humanitarian assistance was needed, not only to bring relief to hundreds of thousands of people, but to contribute to the peace process" by helping to stabilise the sub-region.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Transfer of DRC refugees from Bangui begins
Responding to the arrival in the CAR capital, Bangui, of an estimated 6,000 DRC refugees in the past three weeks, UNHCR has started a process of decongesting the city by moving groups of refugees to Bou Bou, a site 350 km away. A first convoy of 500 refugees left late last week and UNHCR plans to move 5,000 Congolese over the next two weeks, according to a briefing note by the agency, received by IRIN on Tuesday. It added that UNHCR has not been involved in discussions between Bangui and the DRC on some several thousand soldiers among a total of 14,000 to 15,000 Congolese who have entered the country in recent weeks. Members of the UN Security Council on Monday warned that the arrival of the Congolese, some of them armed, threatened to destabilise a fragile situation in Bangui and throughout the country. It called on all concerned to respect the civilian and humanitarian nature of refugee camps.
Former President Dacko to stand for presidency
The founder of the Movement for Democracy and Development, former president David Dacko, has added his name to the list of candidates to contest the presidential election, scheduled in two rounds for August and September, Radio France Internationale reported on Monday. Dacko, who was president from 1960 to 1965 and again from 1979 to 1981, said the country had deteriorated so much, and there was such a chasm between the affluent and the poor that he wanted to "put some order into state affairs".
REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Recent fighting forces 30,000 to flee to Gabon
The number of refugees who fled to Gabon in the past couple of weeks to avoid fighting in ROC now stands at around 30,000, with the border provinces of Nyanga and Haut Ogooue having taken most of the influx. Some 2,000 are estimated to have made their way to the capital, Libreville. A UNHCR statement said it was working urgently to assess the needs of urban refugees, as well delivering aid to forested border regions. The agency is keen that refugee camps should not be established close to the border, and is in talks with Gabon about reception of the new refugee groups, it added.
Meanwhile, Gabon's representative to the UN Security Council said the country was willing to cooperate with UNHCR "to ensure the best possible conditions until the refugees returned home". There were problems associated with settling the Congolese among the local population, especially since some of the refugees were armed, and "Gabon would appreciate proper training, particularly for security forces".
Dozens injured in railway blast
Rebels blew up a train at the weekend as it entered Kibossi station, 50 km west of Brazzaville, injuring dozens of people who were taken to hospital in the capital, military sources said on Tuesday. The army blamed the attack on 'Ninja' rebels loyal to former prime minister, Bernard Kolelas, Reuters reported. The railway line from Brazzaville to the port of Pointe-Noire has been a particular target of the rebels.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OR CONGO: Rebels will "disappear politically" - Kabila
DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila said on Monday that if the rebels "ever sign" the Lusaka ceasefire accord, "peace will be established, but with peace they will disappear", Lubumbashi radio reported. He was speaking to journalists in Lubumbashi before leaving for South Africa. According to Kabila, prospects for the return of peace in the DRC were "good", and the international community was trying to put pressure on the rebels to sign the documents. "Indeed they will have to join the national debate, elections will be held, and being disapproved by the people they will disappear politically," he said.
In South Africa meanwhile, Kabila asked President Thabo Mbeki to "use his influence" to bring about a cessation of hostilities, SAPA news agency reported. Mbeki replied that his country would do everything possible, adding it was "imperative" for the rebels to sign the Lusaka accord. Mbeki told reporters South Africa was looking at ways it could help in the DRC's reconstruction.
Kabila also said the Italian Catholic Sant' Egidio community would mediate the national debate in DRC, news organisations reported. He said the group was first waiting for the rebels to sign the Lusaka ceasefire accord.
Radio prevented from broadcasting
The authorities of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) have stopped Radio Maendeleo [Kiswahili for development] in Bukavu from broadcasting, accusing it of "dealing with issues other than development", rebel-controlled Radio Uvira reported on Monday. It said the radio's equipment was confiscated at the weekend "until further notice". "The people have expressed their indignation and appealed for leniency from the authorities so that the radio can resume its broadcasts as soon as possible," Radio Uvira said.
BURUNDI: Joint Commission with Rwanda meets in Bujumbura
The fourth meeting of the Burundi-Rwanda Joint Commission opened in Bujumbura on Monday, with an agenda dominated by ways of increasing cooperation and addressing joint concerns on social, commercial, agricultural and security issues, Radio Burundi reported. In a meeting opened by Burundian Foreign Minister Severin Ntahomvukiye and his Rwandan counterpart Augustin Iyamuremye, the delegations hoped to achieve progress in university education exchange and cooperation; social security of migrant workers and naturalised citizens; exchange of agricultural research findings; and joint ventures on rail and road infrastructure. It was Rwanda's hope to reinforce extradition arrangements and the principle of close collaboration in tackling border security, fraudulent activities and banditry, the radio reported.
UGANDA: Pilots ferrying supplies to DRC reportedly on strike
Three expatriate crew of a Uganda Air Cargo (UAC) C-130 plane, a subsidiary of the defence ministry, have been on strike for almost a month over unpaid allowances, the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper reported on Monday. The plane had been airlifting Ugandan troops and military supplies to eastern DRC. However State Minister for Defence Steven Kavuma, while admitting that his ministry was "indebted to the parastatal", denied the crew was on strike. "We are making arrangements to clear the arrears. We had problems adjusting our budget when the new financial year opened," the 'New Vision' quoted him as saying.
Civilians attack rebels
Civilians in the northern Ugandan town of Apac "hacked" four members of the new rebel organisation, the Citizens' Army for Multiparty Politics (CAMP) until they revealed where they had hidden their guns. The 'New Vision' quoted the Northern Reserve Force Commander, Julius Oketa, as saying villagers became suspicious of the group "that was roaming bare-chested". "The four were then chased, captured and cut with pangas [machetes] and forced to disclose where they had kept their guns before being handed over to the UPDF [Ugandan army] in Lira town. Two guns and a pistol were recovered," Oketa said. The CAMP was said to have been headed by ex-president Milton Obote's former chief-of-staff Smith Opon Acak, who was killed by the Ugandan army last week.
Government lifts logging ban
The Ugandan government has lifted a ban on felling trees in state-owned forests, but has disqualified 50 companies from resuming operations, 'The EastAfrican' weekly reported on Monday. It said the lifting of the ban - imposed last month to allow an assessment of the forestry industry and a verification of the companies involved in it - followed revelations that the government had lost huge amounts of money to "illegal operators". "Tax arrears of the disqualified companies total over 80 million Ugandan shillings, while the amount of money the government has lost is still unknown," the paper said. The minister of state for the environment, Kezimbira Miyingo, was quoted as saying that out of 60 companies, only three were found operating with valid licences. A new system, whereby all trees have to be paid for in advance, will now be introduced, the minister said.
Nairobi, 27 July 1999, 14:25 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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