IRIN-CEA Update No. 747 [19990831]

IRIN-CEA Update No. 747 [19990831]

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. 747 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 31 August 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: RCD reportedly signs agreement

Rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) signed a ceasefire agreement in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, on Tuesday under a compromise formula negotiated by South Africa, news agencies said. Reuters reported that the signing ceremony was witnessed by Zambian President Frederick Chiluba and ministers of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as well as Rwanda and Uganda. Leaders of the six nations involved in the DRC conflict signed the accord on 10 July.

Great Lakes analyst Richard Cornwell of the Institute for Security Studies, located in South Africa, told the South African Broadcasting Corporation that the signing - achieved through intense diplomatic pressure on the rebels - was "a minor breakthrough at least" in a climate where there was considerable ground for scepticism about the chances for peace, but that a key issue remained to be decided in the days and weeks to come: who would represent the Congolese rebels on the Joint Military Commission (JMC) mandated to supervise the ceasefire, and on what basis?

The Lusaka accord was a broad framework document designed to draw in and mollify the various belligerents, said Cornwell, but the whole deal still rested on what would happen on the ground - not just 24 hours after the signing, when a military ceasefire is supposed to come into place, but later on with the number and seriousness of ceasefire violations, and the even more difficult disarming of militia groups, including the Rwandan Interahamwe.

UN to deploy military liaison officers by the weekend

The UN on Monday announced that the first 17 of 90 military liaison officers and advisers to be deployed in capitals in and around the DRC to support the peace agreement - initially in Kinshasa, Kigali, Kampala and possibly Lusaka - are expected to be in place by 5 September. That would soon be followed by deployment in the capitals of the other state signatories of the Lusaka ceasefire, a press announcement stated. The Security Council voted unanimously on 6 August to authorise a three-month deployment of 90 military officers, together with the necessary civilian, political, humanitarian and administrative staff, to prepare for a possible wider UN role under the terms of the Lusaka peace accord. The Security Council on Friday agreed to a proposed list of countries to contribute military personnel to the preliminary deployment of UN military liaison officers, which included: Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Britain, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Ghana, India, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Nepal, Pakistan, Poland, Senegal, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania, Uruguay and Zambia. The officers would be deployed in the capitals of the signatory states, the provisional

headquarters of the JMC and, as security permits, to the rear headquarters of the main belligerents in the DRC, and to other areas deemed necessary by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a press release received by IRIN stated.

UN flight brings medicine and hope of educational advancement

A direct, cross-line humanitarian flight between Kinshasa and Goma left the DRC capital on Monday, carrying supplies for the second round of polio vaccinations in the east. On its return flight to Kinshasa, the UN plane will carry a North Kivu provincial education inspector and three boxes of examination scripts for last year's state exams in North and South Kivu provinces, a humanitarian source told IRIN. In July 1998, the students of secondary and high schools, and of a number of universities and institutes in the eastern provinces, completed their state exams, the correction of which is done only in Kinshasa. Because of the war, the scripts remained uncorrected in the rebel-held east and thousands of students could not obtain their marks or qualifications, which has become a sources of tension and instability in the Kivus.

The UN flight will bring the exam scripts to Kinshasa for marking, in what UN sources in the DRC have described as "a little but important step towards national reconciliation" to coincide with the signature of the Lusaka peace deal by the RCD.

Tutsi detainees flown to Benin

Some 180 ethnic Tutsis held under "protective custody" in Kinshasa for the past year were on Monday flown to Cotonou, Benin, as part of an operation arranged by the US government and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), an OCHA official in Kinshasa told IRIN on Tuesday. The Tutsis will remain in Benin for "a month or two", during which they will be assisted by UNHCR and will undergo US immigration formalities. "After that, they will be flown to the US," the official said. Another 180 detained Tutsis are scheduled to be flown from Kinshasa to Benin in the next few days, he said.

The Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the DRC assisted in planning the relocation operation by serving as an "intermediary" between IOM and the government, a OCHA/UNDP bulletin said. It said a number of persons of Tutsi origin who had remained in hiding since August 1998 had been encouraged by recent developments to come out of concealment. Some had started to arrive at the "protective custody centres" in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, where some 1,500 Congolese Tutsis were currently registered, the report added.

BURUNDI: Authorities strengthen civilian self-defence

Military and civilian authorities on Monday "boosted" civil defence forces around Bujumbura after the weekend attack by Hutu rebels during which more than 50 civilians and rebels were reportedly killed. The Rwandan government officials visited many areas around Bujumbura to "alert the people... that terrorist genocide perpetrators have decided to intensify attacks", Radio Burundi quoted Defence Minister Alfred Nkurunziza as saying. "We have increased the number of security force personnel and have asked the people to redouble their vigilance and patrol at night alongside the security forces," Nkurunziza added. Informed IRIN sources suggested on Tuesday that the authorities were thinking of arming the civilian district security committees and tightening the curfew in Bujumbura from midnight to 10 p.m.

Burundi asks South Africa to play "an active role" in peace process

Buyoya has requested South Africa to play "an active role" in ending the Burundi conflict and said he would like to see South Africa facilitating talks between his government and rebel movements, news organisations reported on Monday. "South Africa's experience in achieving a negotiated solution to its own problems could be beneficially applied in Burundi," the 'Business Day' newspaper quoted Buyoya as saying at the weekend at a meeting with his South African counterpart, Thabo Mbeki. Buyoya said he would like to see Mbeki use his influence internationally to make the world see the issue of violence in Burundi in a more realistic way, it added.

Buyoya also regretted that after the lifting of the regional embargo on the country, it was incomprehensible that development assistance from the international community had not resumed. "Perhaps some key players in the western world do not understand the realities of Burundi. Mbeki could contribute in this regard by making some of those people in the west understand that denying assistance to Burundi is not the best thing for our peace process," the paper quoted Buyoya as saying.

Mbeki says DRC peace must cover Burundi militias

Mbeki said during the weekend meetings with Buyoya that the involvement of Burundian militias in DRC conflict would have to be resolved before peace in the Great Lakes region could be secured, South Africa Press Agency reported on Monday. "There are armed groups from Burundi that are involved in that military conflict. The resolution of the Congolese problem will require that that particular matter should also be addressed in the same way that it was agreed that the Interahamwe from Rwanda should also be addressed", SAPA quoted Mbeki as saying.

On the Burundi peace process in Arusha, Mbeki said: "It is clear progress is being made to find a solution ... our hope is that agreement can be reached before the end of the year." He said it was important that South Africa increased its contact with all the various forces in Burundi "to encourage them to participate fully, openly and in an honest and frank manner in finding a solution" and that South Africa was keen that "everything should be done to assist the socioeconomic recovery of Burundi."

Mbeki also renewed the appointment of Deputy Director-General of Foreign Affairs for Africa, Welili Nhlapo, as his special envoy to Burundi.

RWANDA: Affected people greatly concentrated in northwest

A report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) has set the number of "affected people" requiring humanitarian assistance in Rwanda at 673,003 - a figure that includes over half a million IDPs in addition to 33,711 refugees, 6,569 unaccompanied children and 124,198 detainees. The vast majority of IDPs, numbering 365,414, were in Ruhengeri while 143,111 were in Gisenyi, the report said. Some 17,000 refugees at Byumba and 14,500 at Kibuye accounted for most of their number, with much smaller pockets in Kigali, Gikongoro and Cyangugu. The detained people included in the number of affected people included a large number of long-term detainees kept in conditions which amounted to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment", according to an Amnesty International report from mid-June, cited by UN OCHA.

Government fears DRC returnees include Interahamwe

The Rwandan authorities are concerned that a proportion of the estimated 13,000 Rwandan returnees from North Kivu in the DRC into Gisenyi and Ruhengeri prefectures could be Hutu Interahamwe rebels. Unconfirmed reports estimated that between 1,000 and 2,000 Interahamwe militia members have entered the country and were lying low in Gishwati forest, a OCHA report stated. However, screening and re-education activities were ongoing and up to 30,000 more Rwandans were expected to return in the next few months, it added. In addition to the returnees from North Kivu, there have been 2,462 other returnees, mostly from South Kivu but also from Burundi and Uganda, the report added.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Pool civilians bombed "daily," militia says

Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas, responding to the government's recent call for rebels to renounce violence, have said they would not lay down their weapons "until the Brazzaville regime stops bombing southern regions of the Congo, notably in Pool." In a statement received by IRIN on Tuesday, the Haut Commandment des Forces Congolaises de Liberation-Ninjas (FCL-Ninjas) charged that the government's "daily bombardment" of civilian populations was being conducted "with the massive assistance of foreign occupation troops, and of African and European mercenaries."

Meanwhile, the Congolese army has claimed in an unconfirmed report to have killed 15 rebels in clashes at Loutete on the strategically important Brazzaville-Pointe Noire railway line, sustaining minimal casualties itself, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported on Tuesday.

UGANDA: Army claims to have killed 14 ADF rebels

The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) reportedly killed 14 rebels of the Allied Democratic Front (ADF) in an ambush recently, the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper said. The army claimed it engaged the rebels as they crossed from Semliki National Park to a new headquarters in Kikura, eastern DRC. The paper quoted a military source as saying the rebels numbered 30 to 40 and were carrying drugs and foodstuff "looted" from Bundibugyo in western Uganda. "Fourteen were killed in one spot, and many wounded, in a deadly morning ambush," he claimed.

Nairobi, 31 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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