IRIN-CEA Update No. 738 for 18 Aug [19990818]

IRIN-CEA Update No. 738 for 18 Aug [19990818]

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. 738 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 18 August 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Fighting eases after Uganda-Rwanda deal

Fighting between Rwandan and Ugandan troops in Kisangani was reported to have died down on Wednesday, following four days of clashes, after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame on Tuesday agreed a ceasefire to take immediate effect. A joint statement, received by IRIN, said the two leaders had also agreed modalities for the implementation of the ceasefire and a cessation of "verbal battles in the media by officials of either country". Museveni and Kagame also said they had agreed a common position on securing Congolese rebels' signatures to the Lusaka ceasefire, and affirmed their commitment to the peace agreement and cooperation with the ceasefire verification team. Unconfirmed media reports on Wednesday suggested that control of Kisangani rested with the Rwandan army, while informed sources claimed the Ugandan army had up to 200 soldiers killed in the fighting.

The conflict in Kisangani started on Saturday between forces of the two countries, traditional allies but supporting different factions of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), both on the ground in Kisangani and in the diplomatic struggle as to whether RCD-Goma leader Emile Ilunga, backed by Rwanda, or RCD-Kisangani head Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, supported by Uganda, should sign the Lusaka accord and represent the rebel movement. Ugandan military sources have suggested that Rwanda's shelling of Kisangani on Monday and Tuesday was targeted on areas where Wamba was thought to be, fuelling rumours of RCD-Goma's intention to "eradicate the problem" posed by the ousted leader.

Kabila skips SADC summit meeting

Congolese President Laurent Desire Kabila on Tuesday left the Mozambican capital, Maputo, a day after arriving for a summit meeting of the 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, at which the DRC conflict was expected to feature prominently. Officials of the DRC delegation, some of whom have remained in Maputo, said Kabila flew out citing "pressing problems at home". South African news reports said he held meetings with the three heads of state backing his government in the war: Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola and Namibia's Sam Nujoma prior to his sudden departure. Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu and Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni were expected to brief the SADC summit on the strife in Kisangani and the current state of the Lusaka process.

Security Council voices concern over Rwanda-Uganda conflict

Members of the Security Council on Tuesday demanded that all sides in the DRC stop fighting and abide by the Lusaka ceasefire agreement. After a Security Council briefing by Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, on the latest developments in DRC and the outbreak of fighting between Rwandan and Ugandan troops, Council President Ambassador Martin Andjaba of Namibia voiced serious concern at the fighting

in Kisangani and called on RCD leaders to resolve their differences, sign the Lusaka agreement without further delay and abide by its provisions.

Security Council response criticised as weak and "inappropriate"

The permanent representative of the DRC to the UN, Andre Kapanga, later condemned the Council for "shying away from its responsibilities" by issuing a statement which he claimed was "absolutely inappropriate to the crisis". In a statement received by IRIN, he called for an urgent meeting of the Security Council to condemn "the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers against the citizens of Kisangani", impose sanctions on the two countries for "systematic pillaging of Congolese natural resources" and demand the withdrawal from DRC of "the two invading forces."

Kinshasa says clashes were over resources, not strategy

The fighting in Kisangani - a key centre for the timber and diamond trade - was not just over strategy but over the control of resources, Kapanga said, adding that what had previously been described as a war triggered by security concerns "had clearly been proved to be a war for the control of the diamonds, gold, timber and other natural resources of the DRC". The UN needed to "condemn and take action", not urge and demand, in order to address the plunder of resources, he added. Kapanga added that the DRC government had made a commitment to respect the Lusaka accord and would "continue to abide by that", but demanded that the Security Council ask Rwanda and Uganda to respect their signature of it and expedite the signing of it by the RCD and the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC).

Immunisation cover good during days of relative tranquillity

Humanitarian organisations involved in the mass polio immunisation campaign from Friday to Sunday said on Wednesday the exercise was "successful" and that almost 90 per cent of the country was covered, despite localised fighting in Kisangani. UNICEF officials in Nairobi said the coverage was "good" and that they had enjoyed the support of government and local health organisations. "People respected the days of tranquility, although fighting erupted in the Kisangani area. However, almost 70 per cent of Kisangani was covered," they said. Discussions were continuing with the relevant authorities in DRC to see if the 'Days of Tranquility' could be extended or if the remaining uncovered areas could be included in the next phase of the mass immunisation process, the officials added.

Over 50,000 displaced in Katanga identified

A two-week assessment mission in northern Katanga identified more than 54,500 displaced persons in the area. The mission, sponsored by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), was the first for which the UN and its humanitarian partners had obtained "full and unconditional access" to areas affected by population displacement since the onset of war. Over 28,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) were registered in Lubumbashi, of whom only 3,300 area were being assisted, the team found, adding that the influx of IDPs into the area was continuing. An estimated 125,000 residents of Manono area were also believed to be dispersed in "hardly accessible" areas of Kiluba. High morbidity and mortality among children was reported in most displaced communities assessed.

The assessment mission noted that the coping mechanisms of host communities in Katanga were "seriously weakened" and they had difficulty supporting the displaced. Several IDPs and host communities were found to need protection from arbitrary displacements, extortion, looting by retreating military elements and reprisals by belligerents. Vulnerable unaccompanied minors constituted a significant proportion of many displaced communities.

In Nairobi on Wednesday, it was reported that the church's capacity to support "vulnerable populations" had been diminished by repeated looting and destruction since November 1998, but that the provincial Catholic Church had been identified as a viable partner for the implementation of emergency humanitarian interventions through its humanitarian branch, CARITAS. The mission team had proposed an immediate and 'medium short-term' $490,000 plan of action to stabilise the humanitarian situation in Katanga by providing emergency medical and food assistance, implementing family reunification activities, promoting respect for the rights of the displaced, and protecting them against arbitrary displacement.

UGANDA-RWANDA: Ugandan officials deny over 500 Rwandan refugees entry

Security officials in Mbarara district, southwestern Uganda, on Monday denied entry to some 580 Rwandan refugees who were reportedly expelled from Tanzania last month, the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper said. "They were expelled from Tanzania, but what is unclear is why they flock into Uganda when there is no war in Rwanda," the paper quoted the area's security secretary Stephen Rwakanuma as saying.

The UNHCR in Kampala told IRIN on Wednesday it had registered 735 Rwandans from Tanzania since May and that these were refugees dispersed in Tanzanian villages during mass repatriation from the country in 1996. The refugees had been transferred recently to Nakivale refugee settlement in Mbarara district and sample interviews revealed that a majority come from the districts neighbouring Uganda, notably Karagwe, UNHCR said. The reasons given by the refugees for their flight included harassment from local authorities and destruction of their property by the local population in Tanzania, the agency added.

RWANDA: Former ministers plead not guilty to genocide charges

Two former cabinet ministers on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, and one had a not guilty plea entered on his behalf by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha after he failed to plead. Former Minister of Trade and Industry Justin Mugenzi and former Minister of the Civil Service Prosper Mugiraneza pleaded not guilty and the trial chamber entered the same plea for former Foreign Affairs Minister Jerome Bicamumpaka, a tribunal press release received by IRIN on Wednesday stated. The charges included eight counts of conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity, and a ninth of direct and public incitement to commit genocide. A fourth co-accused on the first eight, former Health Minister Casimir Bizimungu, could not plead because his American lawyer had not yet arrived in Arusha.

The prosecution alleged that the accused jointly participated in the planning, preparation or execution of a common plan to commit atrocities against ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus during the 1994 genocide, the ICTR press release stated. "The crimes were committed by them personally, by persons they assisted or by their subordinates, and with their knowledge and consent" the trial chamber was told. Mugenzi, Bicamumpaka and Mugiraneza were arrested in Cameroon on 6 April and transferred for trial to Arusha on 31 July.

BURUNDI: Malaria epidemic imposes a great burden

One hundred and one cases of cholera were reported in the country during the month of June, for which figures have just become available, but malaria remained the highest cause of morbidity in the population, with 182,529 cases reported from 25 reporting facilities, a WHO bulletin received by IRIN on Wednesday stated. A cumulative total of almost 800,000 malaria cases was recorded between January and June, well up on comparative 1998 totals, while Karuzi province reported 34 deaths during the first two weeks of June alone, it said. WHO had responded by providing malaria drugs, strengthening the capacity to cope of health workers and continuing to track the disease, it added.

Half the cholera cases occurred in Rumonge district, mainly due to a lack of preventive measures and an inadequate potable water supply, the report stated, while Rwibaga district accounted for 266 of 374 typhus cases reported. Two hundred and seventy nine suspected cases of HIV-AIDS were recorded by hospitals and district health centres.

Nairobi, 18 August 1999 14:30 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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