IRIN-CEA Update 724 for 28 July [19990728]

IRIN-CEA Update 724 for 28 July [19990728]

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. 724 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 28 July 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: South African minister in peace bid

South Africa is launching a fresh attempt to bring about a ceasefire in DRC, news organisations reported. Foreign Minister Nkosazana Zuma travelled to Uganda and Rwanda on Tuesday, for talks with leaders of those countries aimed at persuading Congolese rebels to sign the Lusaka ceasefire accord. She met Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, before moving onto Rwanda where she had consultations on Wednesday with rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD). A senior RCD official Bizima Karaha described the meeting as "very useful". Uganda and Rwanda are the main backers of the rebel factions.

Rebels still wrangling

Prospects for the signing remained bleak, after talks between the rebel factions in Dar es Salaam ended in stalemate on Tuesday. Wrangles continued between the leader of the mainstream Goma faction of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) Emile Ilunga, and his ousted predecessor Ernest Wamba dia Wamba who leads a breakaway faction, based in Kisangani. Rebel-controlled Uvira radio said Ilunga rejected a proposal that the two men sign jointly, stressing he was the "sole guardian" of the RCD movement. According to the radio, the talks came to an "abrupt end". The Tanzanian 'Guardian' daily on Wednesday quoted Tanzanian Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete as saying the consultations had been postponed until a later date.

Size of UN peacekeeping force depends on its mandate - Annan

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said the size of a peacekeeping force for the DRC will depend on the mandate it is given, as well as the situation on the ground. He told reporters following a briefing to the Security Council on Tuesday that the force would have to be "credible, competent" and the "right structure to be able to defend itself and its mandate". He said he was awaiting the findings of an advance team, before deciding on the numbers of troops to be sent to DRC.

Kabila denies seeking asylum

President Laurent-Desire Kabila on Tuesday denied reports that his visit to South Africa was intended to prepare for possible political asylum, news organisations said. A report in the Johannesburg daily 'The Star' said there had been speculation in diplomatic circles that the DRC leader might be seeking asylum in South Africa if the war in his country went against him. "The fact that Kabila is in South Africa seeking help is being seen as a sign of his desperate situation," the newspaper commented. Kabila later on Tuesday arrived back in Kinshasa via Lubumbashi, describing his trip as "fruitful", DRC state television reported.

Kinshasa peace march planned for anniversary of war

Prominent civil society groups in Kinshasa have called for a huge peace march on 2 August in the DRC capital. According to a statement sent to IRIN on Wednesday, the Campagne nationale pour la paix has organised the march to coincide with the first anniversary of the current civil war. "The consequences of this war are disastrous," the statement said. "There are thousands of dead, numerous families split, towns and villages every family there is a victim." The statement said the march was a way for people to express their opposition to the war and their support for a ceasefire and national reconciliation.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Continuing concern over DRC refugees

Humanitarian sources continue to express concern over the condition of tens of thousands of Congolese refugees pouring into CAR. They warned that the "precarious" condition of the refugees could lead to epidemics at any time. UNHCR meanwhile said the refugees fall into two distinct groups, with a concentration of 6,000-7,000 in the Bangui area and a further 13,000 - comprising some 6,000 DRC soldiers - in the Mobaye area. Most of them are fleeing the Zongo area, across the border from Bangui, ahead of an advance by rebels of Jean-Pierre Bemba's Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC). It said the influx had now stabilised, but that the refugees required urgent humanitarian assistance.

BURUNDI: WFP resumes operations outside Bujumbura

WFP has resumed operations outside the capital Bujumbura, suspended earlier this month after one of its vehicles was attacked and a staff member injured. In a statement, received by IRIN on Wednesday, WFP said it began on Monday by distributing 288 mt of food to over 17,000 people in the areas of Gihanga and Gihungwe.

Foreign Minister says ties with Nyerere "not cut"

Burundian Foreign Minister Severin Ntahomvukiye has said that despite accusations against the government by peace process mediator Julius Nyerere, the "ties have not been cut". The Agence burundaise de presse (ABP) reported him as telling diplomats last week it was time to "close the chapter and move forward". "The government does not believe the mediator has it in for us," he said. He added that Nyerere himself "regretted having gone so far in his accusations" and that he had sent his envoy, former Tanzanian premier Joseph Warioba, to Bujumbura for discussions.

The Burundian government was still in favour of the Arusha process, although it wanted a change in the "methodology", Ntahomvukiye added. "If we carry on as we have been doing for the last 13 months, the process risks stalling, becoming desperate and failing. It's necessary to improve the procedure and the rhythm." He reiterated the government's position that all sides in the conflict should be represented at Arusha, including the rebel CNDD-FDD faction of Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye, so far excluded from the talks and responsible for many of the armed attacks in Burundi. Nyerere has accused the Burundi government of "blocking" the peace process.

RWANDA: Appeal for northwest

The government, in conjunction with the UN, on Tuesday launched an extension of its December 1998 donor alert for northwestern Rwanda, appealing for US $19.6 million - including US $6.9 million in food aid - to cover funding gaps from the previous appeal. The alert also covers additional nutrition and agriculture needs to the end of this year. Only 58 percent of arable land in the northwest had been cultivated for the late 1999 season, increasing an already substantial demand for food aid between now and December. Approximately 600,000 people were relying on emergency materials that provided minimal and short-term protection, the appeal document, received by IRIN on Wednesday, stated. The northwest was recovering slowly but remained "a time bomb", it added.

Up to 30,000 Rwandan returnees from the DRC are anticipated in the next few months, to join more than 21,000 who crossed between January and June, so the funding was important to consolidate the relative stability of the region, a UN report from Kigali added. Referring to the repatriation of Rwandans, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata on Monday said there would be a collection point in the Kivu region where refugees would gather, as long as they were unarmed. The government of Rwanda would then take them, without the need for screening, Ogata added.

New focus on effects of resettlement policy

Observers in the international community remain unclear about the details and potential consequences of the "umudugu" policy for resettling refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northwestern Rwanda, a UN report received by IRIN on Wednesday stated. When the policy was started, the government provided assurances that this further movement of the displaced population was voluntary and that new laws would resolve issues of land tenure, ownership and transfer affecting the displaced, it said. With resettlement largely complete, however, there has been little formal dialogue by which the government, villagers, donors and humanitarian bodies could "strike an understanding about what 'umudugu' means for the economic and social future of Rwanda", it noted. A formal discussion on the issue this week, together with regular sectoral meetings in the future, would attempt to establish "increased understanding of the resettlement process", the report added.

Nairobi, 28 July 1999, 13:55 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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