UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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. 735 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 13 August 1999)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Polio campaign begins
UN agencies in the DRC have appealed to the warring parties to respect their commitment to stop fighting during the first phase of a national polio immunisation campaign, which started on Friday. In a statement received by IRIN, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the DRC and the country representatives of UNICEF and WHO called on the parties to the conflict to observe "Days of Tranquillity," which was an "indispensable condition for the success of the National Immunisation Days". The campaign aims to vaccinate some 10 million Congolese children against polio.
The statement said numerous locations in the country were still affected by violence with some 20 health zones, notably around Kisangani, remaining inaccessible to vaccination teams. "Over the past several months, thousands of people throughout the country have been striving to ensure the success of this event, which transcends the mere medical dimension and testifies to the way a society takes care of its most vulnerable component: its children under five years old," the officials said in the statement. "It is the responsibility of all the parties to respect their solemn commitment...and to put the interest of the Congolese people above all other considerations," they added.
RCD-Goma declares humanitarian ceasefire
The head of the Goma faction of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), Emile Ilunga, has declared a temporary ceasefire to allow the polio campaign to take place, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported on Thursday. The truce, which started on Friday, was a "humanitarian gesture to facilitate the United Nations workers to carry out the polio eradication campaign," Ilunga was quoted as saying. Ilunga's message was broadcast on all radio and television stations under rebel control, RNA added.
Uganda accused of "sabotaging" campaign
The RCD-Goma faction also accused Uganda of "sabotaging" the vaccination campaign by impounding a cargo aircraft carrying immunisation supplies to Buta in Province Orientale, RNA said. The group's vice-president, Moise Nyarugabo, was quoted as saying Ugandan military commander James Kazini had "ordered this act on pretext that the plane carrying 400,000 doses of vaccine had not asked for landing clearance from the Ugandan forces occupying that area." The vaccine risks to be spoiled in a matter of a few hours," he added. Humanitarian sources told IRIN this week that logistical preparations for the campaign had been hindered by lack of flight clearances in several rebel-held areas, and the reduced availability of air transport owing to increased tension between military forces in Kisangani and the requisitioning of aircraft.
BURUNDI/TANZANIA: Refugees repatriated
UNHCR has recently facilitated the voluntary repatriation of some 183 Burundian refugees from western Tanzania, a UNHCR official said on Thursday. The organisation of the repatriation operation followed requests by refugees who said "their communes are safe and they would like to go back," the official told IRIN. "We then counter-check with our offices in the said areas to verify the safety and also whether it will be possible for the officers to monitor the situation," he said. "If all is fine then we transport the refugees from the camps to the border where our staff transport them to their communes," the official added.
Two refugees injured in explosion
Meanwhile, a man and his wife got hurt after an explosive went off at the Mtabila camp in Kibondo district in Kigoma region, a UNHCR official in Kigoma told IRIN on Friday. The man lost four fingers while his wife received a minor injury on her hand in the explosion, which took place last Saturday, the official said. The two were admitted at Kabanga hospital and police were still investigating the "cause" and "nature of the explosive used." There was "no panic in the camp," he added.
Over 265,000 remain in camps
A total of 288,036 Burundian refugees remain outside Burundi, including 265,378 residing in Tanzania, the latest OCHA-Burundi humanitarian situation report said. The report, received by IRIN on Thursday, said that in addition to the camp-based refugee population, an estimated 200,000 additional Burundians who left their country in the 1970's remain in Tanzania.
BURUNDI: Over 140 civilians reportedly killed
Burundian villagers on Thursday accused the army of killing 147 Hutu civilians in revenge for a rebel attack earlier in the week on a market at Kanyosha, seven km from the capital Bujumbura, news agencies reported. The army, however, disputed the report and blamed the rebels for the civilian deaths. "On their way back up the hills, they killed innocent civilians. We don't know how many they killed," an army spokesman was quoted as saying.
Food prices remain high
The price of an average food basket in Burundi is 126 percent higher than before the imposition of the regional embargo against the country in July 1996, the latest OCHA-Burundi report said, citing market price surveys conducted by FAO. The price of a food basket currently averages 11,792 Burundian francs, compared to 5,228 francs before the sanctions, the report said.
UGANDA: Army sends 4,000 soldiers to northeast
The Ugandan military has dispatched some 4,000 soldiers to the northeast villages of Turutuko and Wolinyang, where 140 Bokora Karamojong clan members were reportedly killed by cattle-rustlers of the Matheniko clan on 29 July, AFP said on Thursday. The agency quoted army commander Jeje Odongo as having confirmed that an attack took place in the area but said he was unable to give precise casualty figures.
Meanwhile, the Ugandan parliament on Thursday decried the "massacre" and summoned State Minister for Defence Steven Kavuma to "explain" the security situation in the area, the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper reported. They called on the government to "beef up security" in the area "to avoid further reprisals."
Nairobi, 13 August 1999 13:30 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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