IRIN-CEA Update No. 742 (fwd) [19990824]

IRIN-CEA Update No. 742 (fwd) [19990824]

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. 742 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 24 August 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels agree to sign peace agreement

The long-awaited signing of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement by rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) was on Tuesday reported to be imminent after the RCD-Goma faction said it intended to sign. All the founding members of the RCD - covering both factions currently antagonistic towards each other - are expected to sign in a breakthrough arrangement agreed at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in the Mozambican capital Maputo last week, news agencies reported. The development had been previously flagged, with some sources suggesting it could be signed as early as Monday.

"We have accepted the proposal following the meeting of founding members on Monday night'', the Rwandan News Agency (RNA) on Tuesday quoted RCD-Goma official Bizima Karaha as saying. "We prefer to sign as a group instead of one person as initially proposed", he added. The next step, he said, was to suggest to the mediator, Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, a proposal on when and where the signing could take place. Karaha told RNA the faction had been convinced to sign by the visiting South African Foreign Minister, Nkosazana Zuma, and the Rwandan minister in the President's Office, Patrick Mazimhaka, who met the rebels in Goma, eastern DRC, on Sunday and Monday. RCD-Kisangani faction leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba had earlier indicated, in a statement received by IRIN, his intention to sign the accord.

Museveni says there was no battle for control of Kisangani

Last week's clashes between the Uganda People's Defence Forces and the Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA) could not be considered a battle for control of the town because the UPDF had not committed its troops and weaponry from Bangoka airport in the town into an offensive, according to Ugandan President and Commander-in-Chief Yoweri Museveni, in a letter to the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper. Ruling out "control of Kisangani in a military sense", Museveni said there were four possible reasons for the street battles: "wanting to dominate political mobilisation in the city; economic reasons by controlling the banks; the desire to assassinate Wamba; or confused egoistic reasons".

The Ugandan president said the UPDF had been deployed in Kisangani to protect Wamba and to guarantee a verification exercise by the Zambian and South African foreign ministers as part of the Lusaka peace process, and that the fighting had started as an attempt to stop the verification exercise. The clashes could have erupted into an all-out battle but "fortunately Major General (Paul) Kagame and myself established a joint command post at Mweya on 16 and 17 August and stopped that possible tragic evolution", Museveni added.

Burundi troops supported Rwanda in Kisangani clashes

Claims by Uganda and RCD-Kisangani that Burundi had some 4,000 troops in Kisangani and that they had supported Rwanda in last week's fighting were on Tuesday confirmed by IRIN sources in Kisangani. Burundi has repeatedly denied that it was a combatant in DRC, insisting that it was merely

protecting its own security interests. Residents, meanwhile, reported that the town was quiet, with civilians moving about their business, after last week's fierce fighting, and that the Rwandan and Ugandan forces involved in those clashes were again talking and drinking together. Uganda had control of the main airport while Rwanda retained control of the smaller second airport, they added.

ICG report warns tension could further destabilise region

A new report by the influential International Crisis Group think-tank has warned that the current high level of tension between Uganda and Rwanda is likely to affect the geopolitical order of the region. "It could lead to further fragmentation and a 'de facto' partition of the DRC, with each army occupying a sector and a very volatile military situation," the report, entitled The Agreement on a Ceasefire in the Democratic Republic of Congo, noted.

The report said that if Ugandan troops remain in the north, Rwanda may be tempted to concentrate its efforts on Mbuji-Mayi. It could also convince Uganda to give up and withdraw, leaving Rwanda alone facing accusations of aggression. "Last but not least, anti-Rwanda feelings are already growing in the Ugandan army, even though government officials in both countries have played down the impact of the Kisangani clash," the report said, adding: "The Ugandans have lost a lot of soldiers in the battle and some of their strongholds have been taken by the Rwandans, which is perceived as a humiliation by the UDPF."

The report maintains that the DRC conflicts has three dimensions - local, national and regional - and calls on the international community to take the current peace deal as an opportunity to reengage with the region, to demonstrate a commitment to African peace processes and to rebuild credibility with national partners in central, eastern and southern Africa.

(for full report see

BURUNDI: Security in western province "very alarming"

The security situation in western Burundi was "very alarming", having deteriorated in recent weeks during which assailants have intensified ambushes, stolen cattle and attacked innocent people, according to the Governor of Bujumbura Rural, Balthazar Ntamahungiro. Burundi news agency ABP quoted him as having deplored the insecurity and urged people to be more vigilant in order to "monitor infiltration corridors of the assailants." The situation was reported to have resulted in the widespread movement of people, with Ruziba, 10km south of Bujumbura, having become "completely deserted".

Humanitarian workers in Burundi reiterated on Monday that there was "a problem" with the security situation in Bujumbura Rural, which surrounds the capital. They said an estimated 12,000 people have been moved by the

authorities to the commercial centre for their protection, a move has met resistance from the local population. "Our problem is access. These areas are not always accessible," a humanitarian source told IRIN. "There is serious humanitarian situation in the area," he said, adding that there were an estimated 150,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) within Rural as a whole. Humanitarian agencies in the area are to send a rapid inter-agency assessment team to one of the recently attacked areas, Mtambu, to assess the needs, IRIN sources added.

RWANDA: $6.7 million pledge for education and civil service programmes

The Dutch government has given $6.7 million to the UNDP Trust Fund for Rwanda to strengthen educational institutions and the civil service in the country. A UNDP statement said the contribution comprised $2.5 million each to the Kigali institute of Science, Technology and Management and the National University of Butare, $1 million to strengthening the Kigali Institute of Education and $657,000 for a UNDP/Ministry of Public Service civil service reform and capacity building project.

"Following the genocide, there is a very urgent need to rebuild human resources and I believe that these projects are absolutely key to that process," said the UNDP Resident Representative in Kigali, Stephen Browne. The agreement with Netherlands increases to $22 million the total UNDP contribution to Rwanda's institutes of higher learning since 1994. UNDP has helped rehabilitate the education sector and was also working with the government to establish a fair and equitable justice system, the agency's statement said.

Isaka inland port to provide improved route to Dar es Salaam

The inland dry port to be established by Rwanda and Tanzania at Isaka in northwestern Tanzania, in order to ease the transportation of goods in and out of Rwanda, is to open by the end of September, according to Transport

and Telecommunications Minister Vincent Baruta. "The dry port is set to provide an efficient sea link at competitive tariff, rapid transit time, safety and security of cargo, easy documentation and proactive customer services," Rwandan News Agency (RNA) quoted Baruta as saying. The conversion of Isaka container terminal into a dry port is intended to make it a viable gateway for Rwanda's sea-borne trade, using a road connection to Dar es Salaam 502km shorter than the existing route. The Rwandan commercial sector has hailed the initiative, anticipating that it will help reduce consumer prices by cutting 40% off transportation costs, RNA reported. UN human rights director on Great Lakes visit

UNHCR's Director of Africa Bureau Albert-Alain Peters has arrived for a "familiarisation visit" of the Great Lakes region, a UNCHR official in Nairobi told IRIN. He arrived in Kigali on Monday for a three-day working tour and will also visit Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Cote d'ivoire.

KENYA: Border with Somalia closed

President Daniel arap Moi on Sunday announced the closure of the Kenya-Somali border with "immediate effect". Humanitarian sources told IRIN on Monday it had little impact on Somalis so far but could create problems

if the need for asylum arose again. Moi said the closure of the border extended to the Somali port of Kismayo to "curb smuggling of contraband goods into the country" and check "criminal activities", especially the "proliferation of illegal firearms" from Somalia to Kenya, Kenyan radio reported. The Kenyan president said he had awaited the formation of a factional government in Somalia in vain, and asked factional leaders in that country to "seek his counsel on the matter" so that a solution could be found for the "suffering people of Somalia."

UNHCR in Nairobi said there was no "direct impact" of the closure because there have not been an influx of refugees since 11 June, when there was a change of administration in Kismayo. "We would like to be sure that refugees have access to asylum at any given time when such a need arises. At this point, the closure of the border could create such difficulties," a UNHCR official told IRIN.

KENYA-UGANDA: Elders resolve to end cattle rustling

Elders from five pastoralist communities: Turkana in Kenya, Jie and Dodoth in Uganda, and Toposa and Dongiro in Sudan, held a three-day peace meeting in the northern Kenya town of Lodwar and resolved to end cattle rustling in the region. The 'Daily Nation' newspaper in Kenya reported on Monday that the elders agreed at a meeting which ended on Sunday that they would share pastures and water resources during the current dry spell. They also appealed to NGOs in the region to initiate joint projects.

Turkana District Commissioner David Amdany was quoted by the paper as saying cattle raiding was to blame for food insecurity in the region, and that conflict between the pastoral communities had made it difficult for them to access pasture and water. The meeting was sponsored by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the Inter-Africa Bureau for Animal Resources, through the Pan-Africa Rinderpest Campaign.

Nairobi, 24 August 1999, 15:00 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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