IRIN-CEA Update No. 736 for 16 Aug [19990816]

IRIN-CEA Update No. 736 for 16 Aug [19990816]

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. 736 for Central and Eastern Africa (Monday 16 August 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Heavy fighting in Kisangani

Heavy fighting continued in rebel-held Kisangani for a third day on Monday, apparently between Rwandan and Ugandan forces backing different factions of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), news agencies and residents said. They said the clashes began at Kisangani's main airport on Saturday and later turned into fierce street battles within the city. Residents contacted by IRIN said the fighting in the city had intensified on Monday morning.

Women and children stranded in vaccination centres

People in Kisangani remained holed up in homes, offices, markets or wherever they were when the fighting spread into the city on Sunday afternoon, residents said on Monday. "Hundreds" of women and children were still stranded in health centres and other sites where they had gone to receive polio immunisations as part of the three-day national vaccination campaign that started on Friday, one resident told IRIN. Water and electricity supplies had been cut on Sunday, but had resumed on Monday in some parts of the city. Several civilians had been injured or wounded but casualty figures were not yet available, the sources said.

Origin of clash disputed

The Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported on Monday that the clashes started when about 400 Ugandan soldiers were flown to Kisangani and ordered to encircle Rwandan positions at the airport, some 17 km outside the city. "It became inevitable to respond to this attack which was aimed at driving us out of the airport normally shared by our two armies," a Rwandan senior army officer told RNA.

Meanwhile, the Uganda-backed RCD-Kisangani faction said in a statement received by IRIN on Monday that the clashes started when Rwandan soldiers fired gunshots at a Ugandan army convoy "to provoke a direct confrontation in an effort to establish a position" between Ugandan headquarters and the main airport. An estimated 4,500 Rwandan reinforcements had been flown into Kisangani since last Wednesday as part of Rwandan preparations for "an offensive to capture and occupy the city of Kisangani against the will of the population," the statement added.

Ugandan and Rwandan leaders meet to resolve conflict

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda's Vice-President Paul Kagame were due to meet on Monday at a lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park, southwestern Uganda, in a bid to find a solution to the conflict between their troops in Kisangani. "The leaders and top government officials are meeting from this afternoon but I don't have the agenda of their meeting. The duration of the meeting is also not known yet," Ugandan Presidential Press Secretary Hope Kivengere told IRIN on Monday. Rwandan radio reported on Monday that Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu would also be attending the meeting.

Disruption of vaccination effort "crime against humanity"

Meanwhile, DRC Health Minister Mashako Mamba has accused Rwanda and Uganda of committing a "crime against humanity" because the power cut resulting from the clashes in Kisangani had led to the "spoiling of three million doses of vaccines" against polio, measles and other fatal but vaccine-preventable childhood diseases. "By cutting power, the aggressors have thus shortened the lives of these children," Mashako told state television on Sunday. Humanitarian sources told IRIN on Monday that vaccines stored in a cold room in Kisangani might have been affected by the power cut, but it was still not known whether back-up power systems had been activated to prevent the vaccines from being ruined.

RWANDA: Rwanda and OPEC agree to resume cooperation

Rwanda and the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) reached an agreement to resume bilateral relations, RNA reported on Friday. The head of OPEC, Rilwa Lukman, said during a two-day visit to Rwanda that OPEC would release over US $18 million, which had been allocated to the country before the 1994 war and genocide. "Before 1994, OPEC had given Rwanda financial support to implement different projects including the construction of roads," Lukman was quoted as saying. "The same relations were extended to other fields like communication, transport, agriculture and health," he added. The funds will be used to import petroleum products, according to RNA.

Three sentenced to life imprisonment

A criminal court in Rushashi on Thursday sentenced three genocide suspects to life imprisonment, Rwandan radio reported on Friday. The three were part of a group of 17 genocide suspects from the Rushashi and Musasa commune who had been jointly tried by the court. Four of the suspects were sentenced to jail terms ranging from five to 25 years while five others found guilty of theft and destruction of property were told to compensate the victims. Five other suspects were released after the court found them not guilty.

BURUNDI: Amnesty expresses concern at attacks on civilians

The human rights organisation Amnesty International has expressed its concern over the reported extrajudicial killing of scores of unarmed civilians, including children, in Bujumbura Rurale and demanded that the government "ensure that unarmed civilians taking no part in hostilities are not targeted by its forces during counter-insurgency operations." Amnesty also called on the armed opposition "to refrain from committing human rights abuses." Humanitarian sources have told IRIN that rebel groups had been increasingly active in the region in the past few weeks and appeared to be largely unaffected by increased counter-insurgency operations by the army. More frequently emerging reports of brutal reprisals on civilians indicated the army's growing frustration, they added.

Government disputes reports of civilian dead

The presidential spokesman, Appollinaire Gahungu, has denied that over 475 civilians were killed last week in renewed clashes with Hutu rebels in the southern suburbs of the capital Bujumbura, saying that only 11 rebels and one gendarme had been killed in fighting. "This is mere speculation. I do not know where those reports got those figures", RNA quoted Gahungu as saying on Friday.

Alarming body count cited by human rights group

Amnesty cited sources which said 100 bodies had already been counted in Busoro and Nkenga, with still more buried in destroyed houses. An Amnesty release received by IRIN also reported scores more civilians killed on Friday in Ruziba, Kabezi commune; 30 or more unarmed civilians shot in Busoro and Nkenga areas in retribution for a rebel attack on Kanyosha; and up to 80 killed when soldiers from Gitaramuka military post, Ruziba, threw hand grenades into a group of hundreds of civilians detained by the road at Butoza after first demanding information on the attack on Kanyosha market. Amnesty also reported extrajudicial killings in Bujumbura itself.

TANZANIA/BURUNDI: Training of rebel groups denied

Tanzanian Defence Minister Edgar Maokola-Majogo told reporters in Dar es Salaam on Friday that Bujumbura had finally conceded Tanzania did not provide military training to Burundian rebel groups, the 'Guardian' newspaper reported on Saturday. "We could never, ever train their rebels in order to fan the conflict in their country", said Maokola-Majogo. "After all, Tanzania is now tired of living with refugees," he added. Maokola-Majogo and Burundian Defence Minister Alfred Nkurunziza last week pledged to bolster security along their common border after talks in Kigoma, western Tanzania. News reports quoted the final communique as saying Tanzania promised not to allow Burundian rebel groups to use its territory as a rear base while Burundi pledged to improve internal security and create conducive conditions for the repatriation of refugees. Both sides also agreed to improve consultation and cooperation on border security issues, and to combat banditry by armed groups and undisciplined soldiers on the border and on Lake Tanganyika.

KENYA: Malnutrition in Mandera

The nutritional situation in the northeastern town of Mandera remains precarious, MSF-Spain told IRIN on Friday. "The number of children benefiting from the therapeutic feeding centre is going up," MSF-Spain's Country Coordinator Johan De Smedt said. "There are 80 children in this centre and some 2,000 others benefiting from the dry distribution centres within Mandera township," he added. He said MSF's latest survey, covering up to 50 km from the township, revealed a 6-7 percent malnutrition rate, and there was a likelihood that the situation could deteriorate. "This results from a bad rainy season which just elapsed," he said.

UGANDA/KENYA: About 5,000 Pokots camping in Karamoja

About 5,000 Kenyan Pokot tribesmen are camping in hastily set up villages in Uganda's northeastern Karamoja region, Uganda's semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper reported on Sunday. The group of farmers, with their herds and families, have "joined their cousins" in the northeastern region but officials are worried that the influx "might result in ethnic killings" following the most recent one in which about 140 people were killed, the paper said. "The Pokot are fleeing the drought in Kenya and have joined their cousins in Karamoja in search of food, grazing grounds and water", the chairman of Moroto district, Terrence Achia, was quoted as saying.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Presidential elections delayed

Despite the postponement of the first round of presidential elections, UN officials have expressed hope that the electoral process will be completed before the mandate of the UN mission to the country, MINURCA, expires on 15 November. The postponement of the election, which the opposition has been demanding as a result of problems with logistical preparations for the poll, was announced on Thursday by the Mixed and Independent Electoral Commission. The first round was rescheduled from 29 August to 12 September and the second, should it be required, to 3 October.

A UN press release said it was important to hold the elections before MINURCA's mandate ended because the mission was to play an important supporting role, as it had during legislative elections last year, in addition to maintaining and enhancing security and stability during an increasingly tense period for the country. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan would be reporting to the Security Council on the situation by the end of September, the statement added.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: President offers rebels conditional amnesty

President Denis Sassou-Nguesso on Saturday marked the 29th anniversary of independence with an address to the nation on state media in which he announced a conditional amnesty for rebels who renounced violence. "I have decided to grant an amnesty to all men in arms guilty of acts of war who, from this day, renounce all violence and agree to lay down their weapons", AFP news agency quoted Sassou-Nguesso as saying. The president also claimed the army had made advances in the southwest against Ninja rebels loyal to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas and another militia faction supporting former president Pascal Lissouba.

Nairobi, 16 August 1999 15:30 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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