IRIN-CEA Update 727 for 3 Aug [19990803]

IRIN-CEA Update 727 for 3 Aug [19990803]

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. 727 for Central and Eastern Africa (Saturday-Tuesday 31 July - 3 Aug 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Bemba signs Lusaka accord for MLC

Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), on Sunday became the first of the Congolese rebel leaders to sign the Lusaka peace accord. Bemba told reporters he had signed the accord to give peace a chance in his country, but threatened to withdraw his support for the deal if the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) did not sign up within a week, Radio Rwanda reported on Monday. After signing, Bemba flew from Lusaka to Pretoria for a meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki, who said he was hopeful the RCD would sign this week, news agencies reported. Bemba's signing came two days after his MLC rebels reportedly seized the town of Zongo on the Oubangui River.

RCD-Goma cautiously welcomes Bemba signature

The main Goma faction of the rebel RCD on Monday welcomed Bemba's signing of the accord. Its leader, Emile Ilunga, claimed Bemba was "not to be trusted", but added: "We are gratified to learn that he has signed the accord as we had hoped he would. We have always wanted to sign the accord together with him", Radio France Internationale reported.

The mainstream RCD said it was ready to sign also but was concerned that ousted leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba should not be allowed to do so. "We call upon the people to remain calm," RCD-Goma Coordinator Jean-Marie Matuka told rebel-controlled radio in Uvira. "The RCD, which favours peace, security, freedom and reconstruction will sign the agreements ... The mediator must understand that the RCD has its president who was officially and legally installed by the collegiate of founders ... As soon as Wamba renounces his bid to sign the ceasefire agreement, our president, Emile Ilunga, will sign immediately."

Talks continue on RCD signing peace deal

Ilunga, who was due to travel to Uganda on Monday evening for a meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, earlier that day accused Uganda of not respecting the rebels' decision-making process. "Wamba has no troops, and there is no point in his signing the ceasefire agreement ... We're astonished by Ugandan support of an individual, rather than working in the interest of the Congolese people," AP news agency quoted Ilunga as saying. Zambian President Frederick Chiluba was also expected to visit Rwanda on Tuesday in an attempt to talk the RCD into signing the truce, Radio France Internationale reported.

EU warns rebels about dangers of "playing with fire"

The EU's special envoy to the Great Lakes region, Aldo Ajello, said at the weekend on Gabonese radio that the international community could not understand the RCD's behaviour, "not only in refusing to sign the agreement but also in continuing the war with other people who are not involved in their internal affairs". Ajello said it was "totally unacceptable" to hold the Lusaka process ransom to "problems that are purely their internal affair". He warned that such behaviour would "change completely the attitude ... towards the rebels" and warned that they "should be very careful because they are playing with fire".

Peace march flops

A peace march by civil society groups in Kinshasa on Monday to mark the anniversary of the current rebellion turned into a demonstration by three different groups, the march's organisers said on Tuesday. In a report sent to IRIN, the Campagne nationale pour la paix durable en RDC (CNPD) said it was "literally checkmated" by the government. There was a march by the army, a march by "movements making propaganda for Kabila" and finally that of civil society. The CNPD was informed by the governor of Kinshasa that its message was "not favourable" towards Kabila and that its representatives would not be allowed to deliver a speech. "The government has again missed a chance to demonstrate a sense of openness," the group said.

Bukavu businessmen strike

Businessmen in Bukavu went on strike Friday to protest against a five-fold increase in taxation. Local sources said the rebel authorities of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) had established a new border post in the Virunga national park, as income from the frontier at Beni and Butembo was now going to Kisangani, and not Goma. According to the sources, Beni and Butembo - reportedly under the control of Ernest Wamba dia Wamba's RCD-Kisangani faction - are now "out of bounds" to officials from Goma. In Bukavu, RCD military commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane was heckled and stones were thrown when he tried to address a large rally in the town recently. Observers say tension between the RCD and local people is on the increase.

Tension in Maniema

In the often-forgotten eastern DRC province of Maniema, Rwandan troops are reported to be controlling the airports of Kindu, Kasongo, Kalima and Punia. Local sources said there was tension between the English-speaking Rwandans and French-speaking Congolese soldiers. In addition, many of Kabila's soldiers had fled the rebel advance into the surrounding forests and were now re-emerging to mix with the local residents. Others are reported to have joined Mayi-Mayi fighters in the region where "intense insecurity" is reigning in rural areas.

Katanga seeks assistance for 10,000 displaced

Approximately 10,000 people have fled fighting in Manono and Mbudi to settle in Doubie, leading the governor of Katanga province to request urgent food assistance from WFP, an emergency report from the agency, received by IRIN on Tuesday, stated. Local authorities and humanitarian organisations expect the number of displaced persons to increase still further and WFP is preparing an assessment mission to the area with NGO partners, the report added. WFP also said it has not yet received any funding for its US $25 million appeal launched in mid-June for an emergency operation to assist 350,000 war-affected people and vulnerable groups in DRC for six months.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Refugee numbers rise as Zongo falls to DRC rebels

Scores of civilians and Congolese army soldiers arrived in the capital city, Bangui, on Friday after the town of Zongo, just across the Oubangui river in DRC, was captured by rebels of Jean-Pierre Bemba's MLC, humanitarian sources said. Fighting across the border resulted in buildings in Bangui being shaken by mortar fire. On arrival in Bangui, the Congolese soldiers were disarmed by CAR soldiers and the MINURCA mission to the country.

The number of Congolese arrivals in CAR stood at some 6,800 in Bangui, 14,000 in Mobaye and its environs, and about 2,000 in Mongounba and the south-west late last week, humanitarian sources stated. Included in those figures were disarmed Congolese soldiers - about 6,000 in Mobaye, 300 in Bangui and 100 in Mongounba - the status of whom was uncertain, with some wanting to remain in CAR but others wishing to return to DRC to resume fighting, they added. Sanitation conditions were reported to be deplorable, especially at the Bangui port area where thousands of refugees, particularly new arrivals, were temporarily based.

Foreign minister says neutrality should not be abused

CAR Foreign Minister Marcel Metefara has stated that the country's neutrality in the DRC conflict must be respected and "should not be an opportunity for anybody to cause trouble on CAR territory". The country had demonstrated again in the current crisis "its solidarity with the Congolese people, by advocating negotiations as well as the culture of peace", Gabonese radio reported Metefara as saying. The Lusaka peace process should also help curb any desires for rebellion and conflicts, he added. Officials from Bangui have held discussions with DRC Interior Minister Gaetan Kakudji on border security, conditions for Congolese refugees and the status of DRC soldiers disarmed within CAR after fleeing MLC advances, news agencies reported.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Brazzaville situation stabilising

The situation in Brazzaville is stabilising, according to humanitarian sources. The authorities are reportedly making enormous efforts to reassure the population and strengthen security. An element of confidence has returned to the city, the sources said. Some 13,000 Congolese have been voluntarily repatriated to Brazzaville, although people arriving from the Pool area are described as suffering from severe malnutrition. Life in the Brazzaville suburbs of Bacongo and Makelekele, much affected by the civil war, is slowly returning to normal. Water and electricity have been restored, and the markets are vibrant. AFP cited state radio as saying the blockade around the city's southern areas had been lifted to enable displaced people to return.

BURUNDI: Trade minister sacked

President Pierre Buyoya has sacked his trade minister Nestor Nyabenda and replaced him with Darius Nahayo, financial director of the national social security institute, the private Netpress news agency reported. Netpress said Nyabenda, a member of FRODEBU like his successor, was accused of mismanaging the ministry. Observers point out that prices of basic commodities had shot up, including sugar which is produced locally.

TANZANIA: Border checks strengthened

Security checks at western border points have been strengthened, Defence Minister Edgar Maokola-Majogo told parliament last week. According to the Tanzanian 'Guardian' daily, he said army troops were being reinforced in the Kagera, Kigoma and Rukwa areas. The newspaper said he was responding to MPs' fears that wars in neighbouring countries would spill over into Tanzania.

New refugee camp to ease Lugufu burden

A new Red Cross refugee camp is to be built in the Kigoma region to ease the burden on the Lugufu camp which has been stretched beyond capacity by refugees fleeing the DRC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies announced on Monday. In a press release, it said the new camp would operate as an extension of Lugufu and would have its own healthcare structure, water supply, sanitation and security. "No-one can foresee precisely what will happen but we have to act now," said Georg Nothelle, head of the IFRC in Tanzania. "The refugees tell us they have no faith in the DRC peace process and we believe that people will continue to cross the lake [Tanganyika]." The IFRC stressed that while fresh funding was required for the buffer camp, it faces a serious shortfall for the existing operation which also includes some 83,000 Burundian refugees in the Kasulu area.

RWANDA: Three ex-ministers transferred to Arusha

Three ex-ministers of the former Rwandan government, arrested in Cameroon this April, have been transferred to the detention facilities of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. The three - former foreign minister Jerome Bicamumpaka, former commerce and industry minister Justin Mugenzi and former civil service minister Prosper Mugiraneza - were members of the 1994 interim government. They are charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity. Also charged with them is former health minister Casimir Bizimungu who was arrested in Kenya and has been held in Arusha since February.

Additional military training needed - Kagame

Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame on Monday said the country had "good soldiers" but they needed "additional training which they could not acquire during the war period". Rwandan radio quoted Kagame as saying "time and material resources" were now available for better military training.

WFP to preposition food stocks for returnees

A recent meeting between UNHCR, WFP and the Rwandan government discussed modalities for the repatriation and reception of returnees from the DRC at Nkamira transit centre. WFP's latest weekly report said the meeting also agreed that the agency should preposition limited food stocks to cater for about 1,500 returnees a week. The agency estimates the number of Rwandan refugees in north Kivu and surrounding areas to be 30,000. UNHCR has registered over 7,000 returnees in Gisenyi.

CARE commends government on forest initiative

CARE International on Friday commended the Rwandan government's announcement to launch a programme aimed at sensitising citizens on the importance of protecting forests. A CARE statement said its experts were working with communities bordering Rwanda's "fragile" Virunga Park as well as heavily deforested areas in the southern parts of the country. "Protecting forests is essential to protecting livelihoods," CARE's natural resource management specialist Uwe Korus said. "Rwanda is a populous country and people desperately need land for firewood and for timber. But if they continue to exploit forests at the current rate, they will have neither." "The genocide and war destroyed the socio-political structures that protected the forests," Korus noted. "Communities are now so fragmented and people are so poor that it has become a major challenge to get people to work together to protect forests."

UGANDA: More troops deployed in western Uganda

More government troops have been deployed in western Uganda following a recent attack on a village by rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in which they shot dead a pregnant woman, the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper reported. The rebels reportedly slit open the woman's belly, removed the unborn baby and cut it into two pieces. According to the newspaper, there have been several attacks recently in Ihandiro sub-county of Bukonzo region, displacing thousands of people.

Nairobi, 3 August 1999, 14:30 gmt


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Item: irin-english-1348

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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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