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 Tel: +254 2 622147 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
IRIN-CEA Update No. 744 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 26 August 1999)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Environmental health factors pose new risk in Kisangani
An inter-agency mission to assess the impact of the recent hostilities between Ugandan and Rwandan troops in the eastern rebel-held town of Kisangani has noted that the "physical damage" was quite limited, but that the human costs were high and the battles had increased the risk of disease by seriously undermining environmental health.
A mission report, received by IRIN on Thursday, noted that a considerable number of corpses had remained unburied for three to four days as fighting raged, posing a serious threat of contamination of soil and water sources. "Intermittent water supply and inadequately treated water supplied to the city's population are additional factors that augment the epidemiological risk within the context of a cholera-endemic city," the report stated. It recommended that efforts be made to improve environmental health in Kisangani, which would include widespread disinfection, inhumation of remaining corpses in appropriate places and chlorination of wells.
Also recommended in the report was that Kisangani's four hospitals be rapidly supplied with essential medicines and surgery equipment. Sanitation and war surgery supplies were already being dispatched to the hospitals and health centres of Kisangani by UNICEF, ICRC and NGO partners in Goma, who had an adequate supply, the mission team said. Its report noted that key facilities such as hospitals, food reserves, water supply and treatment facilities remained intact but that the hostilities had interrupted air traffic which resulted in "temporary shortages" of foodstuffs in the local market. The team also recommended that, subject to security and availability of resources, a UN humanitarian office, similar to those in Goma and Bukavu, should be opened in Kisangani.
ICRC helps Kisangani recover after clashes
As soon as the Ugandan-Rwandan ceasefire came into effect on 18 August, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) began working with volunteers from the DRC's Red Cross Society and staff from the Netherlands branch of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to take more than 50 wounded - both military and civilian - to the town's hospitals or healthcare centres, a statement from the organisation, received by IRIN on Thursday, reported. In all, the ICRC counted 131 military and civilian war-wounded patients, and - with the help of 80 local Red Cross volunteers - removed the bodies of 34 soldiers killed during clashes between Ugandan and Rwandan troops, its statement said.
Red Cross teams also started cleaning and disinfecting the streets, while ICRC staff surveyed the needs of the town's 16 public and private medical facilities and provided emergency supplies. ICRC had evacuated 17 representatives of various UN agencies participating in the polio immunisation programme in the Kisangani area who were taken by surprise by the fighting, it said. The ICRC has since delivered a tonne of relief supplies, while its staff continued to visit people detained in connection with the clashes and assess the security situation together with the parties to the conflict, its statement added.
Kabila praises humanitarian work, including in rebel-held areas
The UN mission team to Kisangani, led by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the DRC Darioush Bayandor, briefed President Laurent Desire Kabila on its return to Kinshasa on the "desperate humanitarian situation" in many parts of eastern Congo and the population's aspiration for peace. Kabila reiterated his full support of humanitarian activities in the rebel-held areas and encouraged the mobilisation of international support, the team's report stated. Kabila said humanitarian bodies had his "permanent clearance" to operate in rebel-held areas and congratulated the team for its willingness to undertake "perilous" missions to the east, and one team member in particular for "living with the rebels."
Diplomats continue efforts to secure date for rebel signing
Diplomatic efforts to set a date for the signing of the Lusaka peace accord by rebels of the Rassemblement Congolais pour la democratie (RCD), who announced on Tuesday that they had agreed to sign, were reported to be continuing through Wednesday and Thursday, with the continued close involvement of Zambian and South African Foreign Ministers, Eric Silwamba and Nkosazana Zuma. Meanwhile, Rwandan minister for the presidency Patrick Mazimhaka, quoted by the BBC, said it was time for all the parties to the conflict to concentrate on implementing the wider peace agreement.
Immunisation effort falls short in Equateur and other pockets
While the National Immunisation Days (NIDs) have been characterised as "an overall success", with preliminary analysis suggesting an average national coverage of around 80 percent, considerable numbers of the 10 million children targeted were not covered in some rural areas, and a combination of security and logistical problems resulted in a disappointing coverage of 23 percent in Equateur province, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Thursday. Immunisation coverage was high in the relatively accessible and densely populated areas - 100 percent in Kinshasa, 92 percent in Bas Congo and North Kivu, and 91 percent in Kisangani, despite the fighting which hampered the campaign - but dipped to 64 percent in Province Orientale, 57 percent in Katanga and 55 percent in Eastern Kasai, they added.
Though inter-agency cooperation among humanitarian bodies was considered excellent and the NIDs were widely publicised in the large cities and towns, thanks in part to an active role by church groups, there was less awareness of the vaccination campaign in rural areas, which probably went some way to explaining the lower coverage, humanitarian sources said. On the negative side, there were serious logistical and security problems in different areas, while health workers and campaign volunteers encountered difficulties in parts of eastern DRC as a result of negative propaganda. The next round of the immunisation campaign, which will include measles vaccination and try to "pick-up" those children missed in the first round, is planned for 17-19 September, with a third scheduled for 22 October.
Amnesty rights mission arrives in DRC
A team of officials from the human rights watchdog Amnesty International officials has arrived in Kinshasa for a two-week visit to investigate alleged human rights violations in both rebel-held territories and in areas under government control, the organisation's regional spokesman Patrice Vahard told IRIN on Thursday. He said the aim was to gather information on human rights violations, promotion and protection, and to assess to what extent human rights considerations were taken into account in the country's conflict areas, and in the process of establishing peace.
"We are here not only to gather information but also to talk with the authorities to discuss with them issues that are of concern to us in promoting and protecting human rights in the DRC," said Musa Gasama, a Gambian magistrate and member of the Amnesty delegation, quoted by Congolese television. He said the authorities in eastern DRC, mainly the Kisangani area, were "very open", had made themselves available and that the Amnesty team was doing its work freely.
BURUNDI: FRODEBU official arrested
The secretary-general of FRODEBU, Domitien Ndayizeye, was arrested on Wednesday at Bujumbura airport as he tried to leave the country to take part in talks with the movement's head, Jean Minani, within the framework of Arusha peace process, the Great Lakes Press has reported. Quoting an authoritative source, the news agency said Ndayizeye was set to take part in high-level consultations between the mediator Julius Nyerere and the leaders of the main political groups.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church says it wants to be involved in the Arusha peace talks. Two weeks before the visit made every five years by Catholic bishops to the tombs of St Peter and St Paul in Rome, the president of the Burundi episcopal conference, Monsignor Simon Ntamwana, told journalists in Gitega that the Church wished to be represented at Arusha. He also recommended the participation of the armed gangs which had recently separated themselves from the CNDD and Palipehutu during the inter-Burundian negotiations.
RWANDA: Genocide trial against bishop adjourned
The Nyamirambo court of first instance in Kigali on Wednesday announced the adjournment to 14 September of the genocide trial of Bishop Augustin Misago in order to allow him study the prosecution case against him. In doing so, it rejected the defence counsel's argument that the charges against Misago, bishop of Gikongoro diocese in southwestern Rwanda, should be dropped because the state had not followed correct legal procedures by detaining the bishop without forwarding details of the charges against him. It also rejected, on the grounds that the charges against him were serious, a defence request that Misago be released until his trial date, Radio Rwanda reported on Thursday. Misago is the most senior cleric to be held on genocide charges in Rwanda and his arrest and detention have drawn strong protests from the Vatican.
HUMAN RIGHTS: 13 African francophone countries not respecting press freedom
Out of 52 countries due to attending the Eighth Summit of La Francophonie from 3-5 September in New Brunswick, Canada, 15 are in breach of freedom of the press, according to the watchdog body Reporters sans frontieres. The countries accused of not respecting press freedoms were named as: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Laos, Mauritania, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Vietnam. The statement said that although the lack of respect of press freedom was not of the same magnitude in all these countries, they were nevertheless a slap in the face of the ideal of La Francophonie, that of "liberty and respect of human rights", declared at the previous summit in Hanoi in 1997.
Nairobi, 26 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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