IRIN-CEA Update No. 740 [19990820]

IRIN-CEA Update No. 740 [19990820]

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. 740 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 20 August 1999)

BURUNDI: Secretary-General condemns killing of innocent civilians

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday strongly condemned various incidents of violence committed recently in Burundi, particularly those that "resulted in the killing of innocent civilians by both rebel forces and government troops." He said he was particularly shocked by the attacks that occurred in Kanyosha and Ruziba in the province of Bujumbura Rurale on 10 and 12 August respectively, and called on both sides "to put an end to all attacks on the civilian population" and abide by international humanitarian law and principles. The Secretary-General also reiterated his support for the peace process, "in its internal and external dimensions", and called on all parties to cooperate with the facilitator, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, to ensure progress.

US wants investigations into killings

The US government has asked the Burundian government to allow independent investigations into the killings, citing reports that the army killed some 147 Hutu civilians in revenge for a Hutu rebel attack in the southern outskirts of Bujumbura. Reuters news agency quoted US State Department spokesman James Rubin as saying the department had "credible reports" that the army was responsible. The US deplored all attacks against civilians and asked the Burundi government "to ensure that human rights organisations and others are allowed to carry out independent investigations," Rubin said.

Government and army reject accusations

Burundian government spokesman Luc Rukingama said the government was carrying out an investigation into "those (rebel) killers who attack the population" and that it had the means and skills to carry out investigations into its own security problems, the BBC reported on Thursday. "On our side, we would like to see the army doing everything possible to protect citizens and their properties", Rukingama added.

Army spokesman Lt-Col Mamert Sinarinzi said on Thursday that 31 people and no more had died, some of them "assailants", and that talk of any more was just manipulation. He told Burundi radio that Kanyosha market had been attacked by armed gangs who killed people, including a gendarme, and that 11 assailants were killed in a pursuit operation. Attacks and counter-attacks continued, and when there was an attempt by people to flee into the capital, their movement was contained "and assailants died during the operations", Sinarinzi said. The situation was complicated by the rebels' use of "human shields" and the civilian total had also been distorted by the fact that some of the "assailants" wore uniforms while some did not, he added.

Food-for-work resumed as pipeline is filled

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has resumed food despatches to food-for-work projects that had been suspended due to food pipeline

shortages, an emergency report by the agency, received by IRIN, stated. A total of 587mt of food has been despatched for 69 projects in Bujumbura town and seven provinces, with each participant getting a food ration for a family of five so that the total number of beneficiaries was over 87,000, the reported added. WFP also reported that although some of the major roads in Burundi were blocked at times in early August due to fighting, it had been able to continue all its planned operations.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Planning underway for UN military liaison team

The UN is preparing to deploy the first group of 90 military liaison officers and civilian staff as part of the plan to help the regional mediators of the DRC peace process implement last month's Lusaka ceasefire agreement, the Secretary-General's Deputy Spokesman, Manoel de Almeida e Silva, said on Thursday. The liaison officers will be deployed first in DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, he added. Another team will work with the Joint Military Commission (JMC) established under the accord to disarm the fighters and monitor the ceasefire and will be based wherever its headquarters are established. Its current base of is the Zambian capital, Lusaka. De Almeida e Silva said the UN was not yet planning to deploy further within the territory of the DRC until the ceasefire was signed by the (RCD rebel) parties who have not yet done so and the necessary security assurances had been obtained. IRIN sources said that, after budget approval, the liaison team could deploy within weeks, and that humanitarian staff would be deployed alongside.

Normality begins to return to Kisangani

Life in Kisangani was reported to be returning to normal on Thursday after fierce fighting earlier in the week between the Ugandan and Rwandan armies, with some shops open and civilians going about getting their lives back in order, news sources reported on Friday. Rwandan troops were reported to control most of the town after the fighting, despite the ceasefire agreement that both sides should return to the positions held before the outbreak began. The Kinshasa press, meanwhile, bitterly criticised the summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for its failure to advance the peace process or exert sufficient pressure on Uganda and Rwanda to tell the different RCD factions they support to sign the Lusaka accord, AFP news agency reported.

Rwanda accused of deception over ceasefire

Meanwhile, Wamba dia Wamba, leader of the Kisangani faction of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), and Ugandan military sources claimed that Rwanda had used deception to take military advantage on Tuesday, launching a major assault in disregard of the agreed ceasefire while the Ugandan side was already abiding by it. The situation was understood to be tense in Kisangani, with elements of the Ugandan army itching to respond but under strict instructions to abide by the ceasefire. The Ugandan military said on Thursday that about 30 Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers had been confirmed dead and perhaps 120 injured, significantly fewer than earlier reported. "The truth is that nobody knows the exact total on either side. We don not know how many UPDF soldiers died; we don't know how many RPA (Rwanda Patriotic Army) soldiers. The Rwandese also don't know how many soldiers died on either side", the 'Monitor' newspaper on Friday quoted a Ugandan intelligence officer in Kisangani as saying.

Church group launches appeal for Kisangani and Kasai

Kisangani and Kasai have been targeted for relief projects by Action for Churches Together (ACT) in the areas of food security, building rehabilitation and improved health services. Citing widespread suffering among a large proportion of the population in need of food, medicines, health services and potable water, the Lutheran World Federation, Eglise du Christ au Congo (ECC), and The United Methodist Church planned to focus particularly on vulnerable groups such as orphans, the elderly, pregnant and lactating mothers, a $2.4 million appeal stated. Assistance would also be given to selected health centres and farmers, and the most severely affected schools rehabilitated, ACT added.

TANZANIA: Refugees back to full food rations

WFP has said full rations would be distributed to over 400,000 refugees in Tanzanian camps in its next distribution cycle as a result of food availability for its Great Lakes operation having "gradually improved." The agency's latest emergency report noted that refugees had only been receiving half rations in recent months and that some "tension" had been evident. WFP also reported that while a total of 2,295 refugees crossed into Tanzania between 26 July and 8 August, the influx of both Congolese and Burundian refugees was decreasing - with 614 Congolese and 1,405 Burundians received in Kigoma, and 232 Burundians and 44 Rwandan refugees in Ngara.

UNHCR in Nairobi confirmed to IRIN that the number of Congolese refugees crossing into Kigoma had dropped to about 10 new arrivals a day, from a figure of 1,000 a day a month ago. Humanitarian sources told IRIN this could be because refugees tried to stay as long as possible in the bush in the hope that the situation at home would improve enough to allow their return. "It is only when they prove otherwise, that they move on to cross the border," they said. It was also reported that the facilitated voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees from Ngara had been suspended following reports of an unstable security situation in Burundi.

Drought operations extended as emergency continues

A recent budget revision of the ongoing WFP emergency operation in the drought-affected areas of Tanzania put the total number of beneficiaries at 1.14 million and the total cost of the operation at $8.3 million. A WFP report said the operation, which started in March and was originally planned to end on 31 May, would now be continued until the end of December. Assessments carried out by WFP, the government and donors in July and August concluded that an emergency situation "continues to exist" in Dodoma, Mara, Shinyanga, Singida, Tabora, Tanga and southern Mwanza regions, all of which have now "suffered three consecutive bad harvests." In Shinyanga and parts of southern Mwanza there had been both "very poor" crop performance and a collapse of cotton production, which is the main cash crop, the agency added.

RWANDA: Catholic bishop stands trial for genocide

Bishop Augustin Misago of Gikongoro diocese, southern Rwanda, went on trial in Kigali on Friday on genocide-related charges. The bishop, who was arrested in April shortly after a memorial service marking the fifth anniversary of the genocide during which President Pasteur Bizimungu said the Catholic church's role in the slaughter should be investigated, is charged with collaborating with Hutu militias during the genocide, German Press Agency reported on Friday. The Vatican has sharply protested Misago's arrest.

UGANDA: Museveni asked to explain Kisangani clashes

Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi has requested President Yoweri Museveni to address parliament on this week's outbreak of fighting between Ugandan and Rwandan troops in Kisangani, following political disquiet in Uganda about the clashes, the 'Monitor' newspaper reported on Thursday. "Possibilities exist for the president agreeing to meet you. I'm on the brink of getting an answer", Nsibambi said, adding that he had suggested 30 August as a suitable date but that it would be subject to the president being available.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Government calls for aid to avoid disaster among refugees

The authorities in Congo-Brazzaville have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in the south-west of the country, where large numbers of people have taken refuge in forests to escape fighting. The head of the health ministry's humanitarian section, Ernest Stephane Mouitaya, said the international community had to intervene as soon as possible to relieve the situation, BBC reported on Friday. Mouitaya also said that refugees from DRC, including 2,000 government soldiers and 6,000 civilians, had been dispatched to several localities in the Likuoala region and had ''pressing needs'' beyond the means of the government, which needed emergency aid "to avoid a humanitarian disaster", news agencies reported. ''Our aim is to ensure that these people return to their country, but we will do so in respect of international standards and conventions,'' Mouitaya added.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Bemba asks Patasse to stay clear of DRC conflict

Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of the MLC rebel group in DRC, this week held political discussions with President Ange-Felix Patasse in Bangui, assuring him that Bemba's forces did not intend to attack the Central African Republic and encouraging him to stay clear of the Congolese conflict, well-placed sources told IRIN on Thursday.

Nairobi, 20 August 1999 12:00 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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