IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 26 1999 [19990703]

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 26 1999 [19990703]

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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Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 26 covering the period 26 June - 2 July

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: No ceasefire after week of talks

The DRC peace process on Saturday failed to deliver a ceasefire in the conflict as had been hoped, but negotiations to reach agreement on a draft truce document continued among regional ministers and rebel representatives throughout the week in the Zambian capital, Lusaka. Delegations of the DRC government and three Congolese rebel groups went into direct talks with each other in Lusaka on Friday, without their respective allies and the Zambian mediators, in an effort to achieve progress.

Vagueness of draft ceasefire raises concern

A particular difficulty noted by talks' observers earlier in the week was the extreme vagueness - in lack of implementation details, modalities and mechanisms - of the ceasefire text. The draft agreement referred, for instance, to "a mechanism for the verification and monitoring of the ceasefire" and said foreign forces should withdraw "after the effective deployment of a peacekeeping operation" without detailing what would occur on the ground and at what point, one regional security analyst told IRIN.

If an agreement can be pushed through, the signatories would be the DRC, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the Congolese rebels - with just one representative signing for the three rebel groups: the two factions of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), and the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), according to the sixth revision of the draft agreement, seen by IRIN.

Rwanda deploys 7,000 more troops, Zimbabwe says

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe - which came under fire last week for deploying some 3,000 additional troops in the DRC even as it talked peace in Lusaka - asserted on Monday that an insertion of 7,000 fresh troops in the DRC by Rwanda two weeks ago (after its unilateral ceasefire declaration) had left DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila's allies with no option but to strengthen their forces, AFP reported.

Fighting brings fresh displacement

Renewed heavy fighting has been reported in parts of South Kivu and Katanga provinces since 23 June, resulting in new displacement of civilians, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Wednesday. Some 7,000 newly-displaced people were reported in the Uvira, Kiliba and Lulingu areas of the Ruzizi plain, while over 8,000 people who fled recent fighting in Manono were reported to have arrived in the Malemba-Nkulu area of Katanga. Some residents of Malemba-Nkulu and Kinkodja were reported to have fled in panic as a result of the influx and were heading towards Lubumbashi, the sources added.

Kabinda airport reportedly captured

Meanwhile, the RCD on Thursday said its forces had captured the Kabinda airport in Kasai Oriental province, news agencies reported.

Call for unity to fight "aggression"

Interior Minister Gaetan Kakudji, speaking at a Kinshasa parade to mark the DRC's 39th independence anniversary on Wednesday, appealed to the Congolese people to unite in the face of a "barbarous aggression," news agencies reported.

ICRC evacuates Tutsi internees

The ICRC has transported 356 civilian detainees, mostly Congolese Tutsis rounded up by government security forces at the start of the conflict in August, to Kigali and another 14 to Bujumbura on Sunday and Monday, an ICRC spokesman told IRIN on Monday. He said another 120 people were scheduled to be evacuated from Kinshasa and Lubumbashi under the operation. "All accepted to go to Rwanda because they have relatives in the country. That was one of the conditions," the spokesman said, adding that the 14 flown to Bujumbura had relatives in Burundi.

Cholera spreading in east

The epidemiological situation in the DRC continues to deteriorate, the UN Humanitarian Coordination Unit in Kinshasa said in a report received by IRIN on Wednesday. It said a cholera epidemic in Kitshanga, some 72 km north of Goma, had resulted in 11 registered deaths, with a total of 208 cases reported. Another 25 cases were reported in Pinga, 150 km northwest of Goma, between 17 May and 13 June, with a 20 percent mortality rate recorded, it said. The Bunia area of Province Orientale had also been "seriously affected" by cholera since end May.

Ethnic clashes in Ituri

Sources in contact with Ituri district in Province Orientale told IRIN on Wednesday that hundreds of homes had been burnt in the Djugu area due to conflict between the Hema and Lendu tribes since early June. Several people have been killed or wounded in the clashes, and displaced populations were reported to be heading towards the Lake Albert plain.

Pool refugees in poor condition

Refugees from the Pool region of Congo-Brazzaville are arriving in "increasingly poor condition," UNHCR said. In its latest Great Lakes update received by IRIN on Thursday, UNHCR said malnutrition rates among recent arrivals had risen dramatically, with eight deaths registered during one day last week at the Luozi transit centre.

RWANDA: Economic discipline likely to bring IMF reward

The IMF has begun a detailed analysis of Rwanda's economy and debt and expects Rwanda to benefit from substantial debt relief under the expanded Highly-Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative agreed by the G-7 richest countries last week, an IMF spokesman told IRIN on Monday. The Rwandan economy has performed well for the past two years despite the difficult legacy of the 1994 genocide and its involvement in the DRC conflict, and it was expected to receive debt relief next year as a reward for its good economic performance, the spokesman said.

Genocide trial ends

Genocide suspect Alfred Musema should be found not guilty because he was not at the scene of the crimes, defence lawyers told the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Monday. "The defence is one of alibi," the independent Hirondelle news agency quoted defence counsel Steven Kay as saying during the trial's closing arguments. Musema, a former tea factory director, is accused of ordering and participating in massacres in the Bisesero region of Kibuye during the 1994 genocide. He is also accused of rape.

BURUNDI: 26 killed in escalating violence

At least 18 people were killed when PALIPEHUTU rebels ambushed and burnt a bus on the Bujumbura-Ijenda road in Bujumbura Rural on Saturday, the Net Press news agency reported. Meanwhile, an armed gang killed two people and injured three in the Rumonge area on Tuesday night. Six other people were reported killed in attacks in the Musaga and Kanyosha areas, media reports said. An army spokesman was quoted as saying the "rebels" were trying to sabotage celebrations of Burundi's 37th independence anniversary on Thursday.

WFP, UNICEF support over 200 feeding centres

A recent WFP report received by IRIN said that UNICEF and WFP were providing nutritional assistance to beneficiaries in some 196 supplementary feeding centres, 29 therapeutic feeding centers and nine hospitals in the country. It said that over the past year, WFP had provided UNICEF with an average of 1,400 mt of food per quarter for the nutrition programme, which benefitted a quarterly average of more than 49,500 people.

TANZANIA: "Huge" numbers of DRC refugees

UNHCR on Wednesday said conflict in eastern DRC, particularly in South Kivu, had caused "huge numbers" of people to flee into western Tanzania in the last few days with 2,167 new arrivals registered on Tuesday alone. A UNHCR official in Dar es Salaam told IRIN the new arrivals were generally in good health. The official said UNHCR was "adequately prepared but there is need for additional sites." There are currently some 39,000-40,000 Congolese refugees in Nyarugusu and another 55,000 at a camp at Lugufu, which is now full.

UGANDA: Over 400,000 displaced persons

While internally-displaced people (IDPs) have benefitted from recent increased stability in northern Uganda, the humanitarian and security situation in the southwest has deteriorated since the end of 1998, ICRC said. In a report received by IRIN on Thursday, ICRC said that a majority of the estimated 320,000 displaced people living in 28 camps in the Gulu and Kitgum areas of the north now had regular access to farmland. But in the Rwenzori mountains region of the southwest, a serious deterioration in the security situation had provoked massive displacement of civilians, mainly in Bundibugyo district where there were now an estimated 85,000 IDPs, the report said.

WFP launches new development initiative

WFP on Tuesday said it had signed a US$ 30 million five-year development package with the Ugandan government to provide the country's rural poor with productive assets and incomes and to strengthen their ability to cope with man-made and natural calamities. A WFP statement received by IRIN said the programme would run parallel with WFP's relief and recovery operations in the northern and western parts of the country.

World Bank approves $90 million loan for roads

Meanwhile, the World Bank on Thursday approved a US$ 90.98 million credit to help Uganda improve its access to rural and economically productive areas and build up road sector planning and management capability. A World Bank statement received by IRIN said the loan would support the government's US$ 360-million Road Sector Development Programme and would help upgrade two main roads.

UGANDA-DRC: Sudanese flee DRC camps

Recent insecurity in northeast DRC has led Sudanese refugees to cross into Uganda, UNHCR told IRIN on Thursday. A UNHCR spokesperson in Kampala said 550 Sudanese refugees from the Biringi, Aba and Dungu camps in the DRC had recently been registered in northwest Uganda. The refugees said they had left the DRC because of deteriorating relations with local Congolese communities as a result of looting by soldiers of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). An SPLA spokesman, Samson Kwaje, disputed the report. "We do not have forces in the DRC," he told IRIN. He attributed the looting to local Mayi-Mayi militia.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Displaced people "dying in forests"

More than half of the people returning to Brazzaville from the Pool region suffer from acute malnutrition, raising serious concerns about the situation of displaced people still in Pool, ACF said last week. In a statement received by IRIN on Monday, ACF said people in the region were "dying of hunger in the forest." Many displaced people were reportedly victims of looting, rape and extortion by militia, ACF said, adding that the Pool area remained inaccessible to humanitarian agencies. Some 15,000 people have so far returned to Brazzaville from Pool.

Amnesty offer reiterated

The Congo has repeated its offer to give amnesty to "all young men who have taken up arms within Congo provided they give up violence and surrender," government spokesman Francois Ibovi said on Radio Congo on Thursday. Ibovi also said those outside the country could "come back home without being bothered" if they gave up fighting, the radio reported.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Former minister to run in presidential polls

The chairman of the Democratic Forum for Liberty, Charles Massi, has announced his intention to contest this year's presidential election. President Ange-Felix Patasse has also said he will be standing for reelection. Meanwhile, Patasse, in an interview with RFI last week, indicated that the elections would be held before the constitutional deadline, at the end of August.

SUDAN: Nuba mountains mission completed

A UN humanitarian assessment mission to rebel-held areas of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan found evidence of malnutrition among children but no signs of widespread famine, a UN press release said. The 19-27 June mission visited five villages where it found "significant humanitarian needs in the areas of food security, water, health and basic education." The UN had negotiated access to the area with the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). It was the first UN humanitarian mission to the area in 10 years.

Although the food situation was difficult, there was a feeling that the population could manage to cope, provided the rains this year were as good as last year, according to a statement received by IRIN. The UN was "relatively optimistic" of getting follow-up access to deliver the humanitarian assistance, but there were no plans for a permanent UN presence in the area, it said.

SPLA denies reported role of Great Lakes commanders

The SPLM on Tuesday dismissed as "propaganda" a recent report in 'The Indian Ocean Newsletter' that claimed a planned SPLA offensive against the government had been "fine-tuned" by several Rwandan, Burundian and Ugandan officers. SPLM spokesman Samson Kwaje told IRIN: "The war in Sudan is fought purely by Sudanese people and in the wider context under the umbrella of the National Democratic Alliance, but there are no foreigners," he said.

Meanwhile, the pro-government Alwan newspaper reported on Monday that government troops had recaptured the "strategic" town of Akobo on Sunday after two days of fighting.

Food aid for displaced squatters

WFP has provided food relief to more than 10,200 internally-displaced persons (IDPs) who were recently displaced again as a result of the demolition of their shelters in four Khartoum squatter areas, a recent WFP report said. The IDPs have "stepped up construction of new dwellings in the new site" in anticipation of the rainy season, the report said.

ETHIOPIA/ERITREA: OAU peace process enters critical phase

Diplomatic moves, led by Italy and also involving Libya, to broker an end to the Ethiopia-Eritrea war have entered a delicate and critical phase in the run-up to the OAU summit meeting in Algiers on 12 July, a diplomatic source told IRIN on Thursday. Much hope was resting on the incoming chair of the OAU, Algeria, carrying more weight and having "a more concrete engagement" with the process than the outgoing chair, Burkina Faso, the source said.

A number of recent suggestions by Italy, described as "starting mechanisms" to build trust and facilitate the implementation of the OAU framework agreement - nominally accepted by the two countries -, were being considered in the run-up to the Algiers summit, he said. If Eritrea rejected the OAU's apparent interpretation that it should withdraw from all territories occupied since fighting began in May 1998, then the OAU peace process was effectively at an end and "we have simply war without any visible means of resolving it", the diplomat added.

Fighting intensifies as rains set in

Meanwhile, fighting between Ethiopian and Eritrean troops has escalated over the past week on the Mereb-Setit front of the border war, despite heavy rains, news agencies reported. Sunday and Monday saw particularly heavy engagements in the area.

ETHIOPIA: Food aid to be rushed to seriously affected areas

The Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) of the government has made a budget allocation for the local purchase of 20,000 mt of food aid while it awaits the response of main donors to an emergency appeal. That quantity of food would be issued to seriously affected areas from the Emergency Food Security Reserve stock while the purchase was being finalised, a DPPC statement received by IRIN said.

The food situation is considered very critical in parts of south Tigray, North and South Wello, North Shewa, East Hararghe and Konso. Humanitarian sources told IRIN the local purchase could be considered a response to donors' concern at the massive expenditure on Ethiopia's war efforts while millions of people were faced with hunger.

OLF denies operating in Kenya

The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has denied operating on Kenyan soil and said it was not involved in ethnic violence on the Ethiopian-Kenyan border, alleging that such accusations against it were an effort by Addis Ababa to "damage its credibility by portraying it as a destabilising force". In a statement received by IRIN, the OLF appealed to Kenya to maintain its neutrality in relation to the Oromos' conflict with Ethiopia, "and to be vigilant of Ethiopia's motive to drag Kenya into conflict with the Oromo people." A Kenyan government report last week into the 1998 Bagalla massacre in northeast Kenya said OLF elements were present in that area.

SOMALIA: Ethiopia extends involvement in southwest

Ethiopia moved to extend its defensive 'buffer zone' in southwest Somalia by seizing two more towns, Garbahaarrey and Burdobo, in Gedo Region this week, security sources told IRIN on Thursday. Some 3,000 Ethiopian troops and about 50 armoured vehicles helped capture the towns, former strongholds of the Somali National Front (SNF), according to media reports. A regional analyst said the seizure of the towns was the latest move in Ethiopia's bid to create a security zone inside Somalia and clear the border area of Ethiopian rebel movements and Somali factions armed by Eritrea. Reuters on Thursday reported SNF claims that they had retaken the two towns. Ethiopia has repeatedly denied having a military presence in Somalia.

SACB calls for suspension of relief efforts in Gedo

Meanwhile, the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB) - comprising donors, UN agencies and international NGOs - on Wednesday called for the suspension of all rehabilitation and development assistance to Gedo Region in protest at the lack of justice from local authorities and community representatives after the murder in January of an NGO veterinarian.

Return of stolen weapons averts Kenyan military action

Somali militiamen on Friday returned vehicles, equipment and weapons stolen from a military camp in Amuma in Kenya's north-eastern province, an army spokesman told IRIN. Kenya had threatened to launch "robust military action" inside Somalia if the stolen items were not returned by Thursday. About 400 Somali militiamen - aboard eight trucks mounted with weapons - had on Tuesday attacked the Amuma base, disarmed some 23 Kenyan soldiers and stolen the military supplies before returning to Somalia, news agencies said.

Somali refugees cross into Kenya

Some 330 Somalis crossed into northeast Kenya in search of asylum last week, UNHCR confirmed to IRIN on Monday. The group, now in Dadaab, reportedly fled recent fighting in the Somali town of Kismaayo.

Nairobi, 2 July 1999, 15:30 gmt


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Item: irin-english-1158

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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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