IRIN-CEA Update No. 746 [19990830]

IRIN-CEA Update No. 746 [19990830]

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:

IRIN-CEA Update No. 746 for Central and Eastern Africa (Monday 30 August 1999)

BURUNDI: Intense fighting reported to have claimed 50 lives

More than 50 people are believed to have been killed at the weekend during rebel attacks on civilians in two districts and subsequent clashes between rebels and the Burundi army, according to diplomatic and media sources. A diplomatic source in Bujumbura told IRIN on Monday that it was hard to verify the information, especially the number of casualties, since it is "not easy to go to the affected areas" but confirmed "there was hard combat on Saturday and Sunday" and the situation was tense. "Today (Monday) it is quiet and there is no problem," he said. The diplomat added that residents of Burundi were "waiting for the outcome of the human rights officials set to investigate the killings".

Reuters news agency quoted officials and eyewitnesses as saying that some 58 people had died following the attacks on the districts of Musaga and Mutanga when the rebels attacked minority Tutsi populations, burning their homes and shooting them as they fled. The agency reported that 33 civilians, most of them children, had been murdered in the southern district of Musaga while another five were killed in the northern district of Mutanga.

Army claims to have killed 20 rebels

Defence Minister Alfred Nkurunziza, quoted by Reuters, said his forces had the better of the fighting in the early hours of Sunday, forcing the rebels to pull out of the capital. "They killed innocent civilians but they also had many fighters killed. We further saw that we killed 20 rebels and we think we killed even more because they pick up the bodies of their dead fighters. Only one soldier was injured in the clashes," Nkurunziza said. President Pierre Buyoya expressed shock at the attacks and pledged to "crack down on the rebels", Reuters added.

Arusha peace talks postponed

The Tanzanian mediators of Burundi's peace talks in Arusha, the next round of which was scheduled for 6 September, have postponed them by a week to give all parties more time for "extensive and intensive consultations", AFP news agency on Monday quoted Hashim Mbita, an aide to talks coordinator and former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, as saying. Meanwhile, Reuters news agency reported that the talks were postponed because Nyerere was in ill health and expected to travel to Britain this week for treatment. It said he had also cancelled a meeting with President Buyoya that was planned for Sunday, citing health reasons.

EU deplores violent clashes and civilian suffering

Meanwhile, the European Union has deplored recent clashes between the army and the rebels which have resulted in "very many civilian victims" and expressed concern at the reprisals taken against civilians. "In particular, it calls on the government of Burundi to work in close collaboration with observers from the United Nations Human Rights Office, and set up an internal inquiry to establish any responsibility of the army involved and to bring the latter to justice," an EU Presidency statement said. "The Union draws the attention of the government of Burundi to the fragility of the final phases of the Arusha peace process and to the dangers that such incidents represent", it added.

The Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie-forces pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD), in a statement received by IRIN on Monday, called for a "neutral international inquiry" to determine "collective and individual" responsibilities for the recent civilian massacres in Bujumbura Rural, including the killing of more than 250 Hutus in Ruziba. The inquiry should cover other provinces as well as Bujumbura, the statement said.

UN report warns of rising malnutrition risk

A recent joint crop and food assessment by the government, FAO and WFP has forecast a 22 percent shortfall pulse production and a 10 percent drop in cereals compared with last year as a result of poor rains and an army warm invasion earlier in the 'B' season, according to a recent report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). Since most of the annual bean and cereal production is obtained in this season and WFP shortages have resulted in reduced food distributions, global malnutrition rates are expected to rise in certain parts of the country by the end of the year, it said. Surveys throughout most provinces of children under 5 years had already indicated earlier this year that the malnutrition situation, though improving, was "still precarious and compounded by the poor health status of the population", the report added.

The total number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Burundi stood at 617,108 as of 19 August, with a preponderance of IDPs in the districts of Bubanza and Bujumbura (Mairie and Rural), according to UNOCHA's report. Those IDPs, it stated, accounted for a majority of the 646,072 "affected population" requiring humanitarian assistance; the remainder comprised 22,161 refugees, mostly from DRC but including 1,671 Rwandans, and 6,803 unaccompanied children.

GREAT LAKES: Human suffering grows as conflicts intensify

The last three months have seen the humanitarian situation in the Great Lakes region grow significantly worse, with best estimates showing a 19 percent increased in "affected populations" requiring assistance, while those populations have also become more vulnerable. The increase in affected populations - from 3,300,419 in May to 3,932,421 as of 19 August - was mostly attributable to "continued instability in the region arising from the intensification military activities on various front", a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, received by IRIN, stated.

Urgent measures needed to be taken to alleviate the suffering of affected populations - varying from emergency assistance in DRC, Republic of Congo, parts of Uganda and Tanzanian refugee camps, to shelter and reintegration efforts in Rwanda and Burundi - but the donor response to the various consolidated appeals remained poor, the report said.

[For more detail, see separate report of 30 August headlined: "Great Lakes: Humanitarian situation worsens significantly"]

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UN racial committee 'gravely concerned'

The UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has said it continued to be "deeply concerned" over the persisting grave situation in the DRC. In a press statement released late last week, the committee also expressed its concern at "violations" of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In a decision adopted without a vote, the Committee reiterated its previously expressed deep concern about the persistence - in "flagrant violation of the Convention" - of ethnic conflicts in the DRC which were, in general, "inspired by a policy of ethnic cleansing and might constitute acts of genocide."

The Committee also decided to propose to the preparatory committee for the upcoming World Conference against Racial Discrimination that it should consider how the international community might "prevent or mitigate" mass and flagrant violations of the human rights of persons belonging to ethnic and racial groups and minorities - especially since its failure in recent years to respond to numerous conflicts around the world had resulted in "genocide, ethnic cleansing, the mass movement of refugees and displaced persons, and disruption of regional peace and security by armed groups able to commit atrocities with impunity."

Peacekeeping meeting expected to follow Lusaka signing

Zambian presidential affairs minister Eric Silwamba has said that the signing of the Lusaka peace agreement by rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) would take place on Tuesday, 31 August. "The signing will take place on Tuesday. All rebel groups will take part in the ceremony", Silwamba told Reuters news agency on Sunday, adding that it would be followed on Wednesday by a meeting of the Joint Military Commission (JMC) - comprising the belligerents, the UN and the Organisation of African Unity - to discuss the deployment of a peacekeeping force to implement the treaty.

Minister seeks diplomatic pressure on Rwanda, Uganda

Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia Ndombasi met French diplomats and officials of La Francophonie in Paris at the weekend in advance of a scheduled summit meeting of francophone countries in Mocton, Canada, from 3 to 5 September, to press that "a stance be taken against Rwanda and Uganda" to pressure them into implementing the Lusaka peace accord and withdrawing their forces from the DRC, news agencies reported. Ndombasi especially welcomed Thursday's request by French president Jacques Chirac that the UN send an international peacekeeping force to DRC "to monitor a peace settlement", just as it had committed itself massively in Kosovo, AFP news agency added.

RWANDA: Minister denies overspending on defence

Rwandan Minister for Finance and Economic Planning Donat Kaberuka on Saturday said his government had not "excessively spent" on defence, Rwandan radio reported. Kaberuka was speaking to the press after a two-week discussion between his government and the IMF on the country's economic

reform programme. "On this issue of defence spending, I want to make it very clear that the government of Rwanda has not excessively spent on defence, given the security challenges it faced," he said. "The resources we are committing to security, in our judgement, are still within reasonable margins .. the idea that you can reduce defence spending and, therefore, have more development is not always true, and is unlikely to be true in the case of Rwanda", said Kaberuka. "There is even the threat that if we are not spending the minimum as we have done on defence, then development would have been compromised."

Kigali twinned with Sud-Kivu

The eastern province of Sud-Kivu has been twinned with Kigali Prefecture in Rwanda in what has been described by both signing parties as a measure to improve economic, socio-cultural, political and security cooperation, but reported by Congolese television as an annexation of the province by Rwanda. The twinning protocol was signed in Kigali last week by Norbert Basengezi Katintima, governor of Sud-Kivu, and the prefect of Kigali, Marc Kabandana, to facilitate exchange on economic and commercial matters; transport and communication; socio-cultural issues; agriculture, livestock, fisheries, conservation and tourism; town planning; and political and security concerns, the rebel-controlled Radio Bukavu reported.

Government denies planning fresh Kisangani attack

The government has rejected as "pure lies" claims by RCD-Kisangani leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba that 3,000 RPA (Rwandese Patriotic Army) soldiers were planning a renewed attack in Kisangani on the Ugandan army (Uganda People's Defence Forces) and Wamba's faction of the RCD, and that fresh attacks were expected any time. ''Our troops are at standstill waiting for the outcome of the joint investigation commission set up at Mweya", by Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame, Rwanda News Agency quoted government spokesman Lt-Col Wilson Rutayisire as saying.

ICTR finalises deal for Benin to jail genocide convicts

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has finalised and signed an agreement with Benin for it to provide prison facilities for people convicted of crimes relating to the 1994 genocide, making Benin the second country after Mali to accept Rwandan genocide convicts.

NAIROBI, 30 August 1999, 16:00 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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