IRIN-CEA Update No. 748 [19990902]

IRIN-CEA Update No. 748 [19990902]

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. 748 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 1 September 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebel ceasefire signing welcomed by Annan

The signing on Tuesday of the Lusaka peace agreement by the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) has been welcomed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said it "should clear the way for the timely implementation of the ceasefire agreement, enhance the peace and security of the region and facilitate the long-awaited international support towards national recovery." Meanwhile, the mediator of the Lusaka peace process, Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, cautioned that the signing would not automatically bring peace to the DRC and called on the UN Security Council to deploy a peacekeeping force "with a mandate commensurate to the task at hand", the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported on Wednesday.

[For more detail, see separate IRIN item headlined: "UN welcomes rebel signing of peace accord"]

Economy continues downward spiral

July and August were marked by continued economic decline and a worsening humanitarian situation marked by high mobility of affected populations within the country and across borders, a humanitarian bulletin by UN OCHA and UNDP reported. "Economic indicators continued to depict an incessant decline", with a depreciating Congolese Franc (CF) - from 9.5 to 12 CF to the dollar between July and August - and soaring inflation which "affected the Congolese market in its entirety", the report stated.

"Copper and cobalt production, as well as diamond mining, that constitute the pillars of the country's economy and the only major sources of income of the state budget are undergoing a dramatic recession" since last year, it added, citing a drop of 96 percent for mineral production and 26 percent for diamonds. In addition, agricultural production has been severely affected by conflict, insecurity and population displacements.

Sizeable population displacements

With persisting tensions in South Kivu and inter-ethnic clashes between the Hema and Lendu tribes in Ituri district of Province Orientale, there was considerable population displacement in both areas in the past two months, the humanitarian bulletin added. While many internally displaced persons (IDPs) have returned to their homes in Shabunda and along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, "persisting tensions in Haut and Moyen Plateaux, in Katana and Walungu generate additional numbers of displaced and refugees", with an average 200 people a day moving into Tanzania, the report stated.

Clashes between the Hema and Lendu uprooted an estimated 30,000 people in Province Orientale in July - more sporadic clashes are reported to be continuing - and some 50,000 IDPs were still in western parts of the region (Opala), in upper north (Dungu) and around Isiro, it added.

Relief agencies secure greater access to affected populations

Although long bureaucratic formalities had to be undertaken to get access to conflict zones, no cases of denied access, by either the Kinshasa government or rebel movements, had been reported in the last month, the UN OCHA/UNDP bulletin stated. That improved access to war-affected communities "should be attributed both to active lobbying on the part of the relief community as well as to the recognition by authorities at all levels of humanitarian imperatives", it added. The remaining pockets of inaccessibility were primarily down to military activity on the northern (Equateur) and southern (Katanga and Kasai) fronts, protracted insurrection in the Kivus and Orientale, and the re-emergence of tribal clashes in Orientale.

Unaccompanied children without support

Humanitarian sources told IRIN on Wednesday that 96 children who lost their parents during the August 1998 Kazika massacre were now in the Mwenga area of South Kivu province where they were not receiving any kind of assistance, except that provided by the local community. The minors were part of a group of 109 unaccompanied children who had escaped Kazika. Thirteen others in the group had already died, the sources said. Meanwhile, a total of 1,324 unaccompanied children in South Kivu have been registered and are receiving support from local NGOs, while another 883 have been identified but remain unassisted, the sources added.

Government increases political repression

The past two months have been marked by a wave of intimidation, including arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights activists, journalists and political opponents in Kinshasa, in what amounted to "the largest political repression campaign in the government-held areas of the DRC since the outbreak of the war", a UN report from Kinshasa, received by IRIN, has stated.

Correction on refugee numbers

The number of refugees in DRC was mistakenly attributed to Rwanda in an IRIN article on Monday headlined: "Great Lakes: Humanitarian situation worsens significantly" [19990830]. There were, in fact, 282,000 refugees in the DRC and 33,711 in Rwanda as of 19 August, from a total in the Great Lakes region of 1,042,408, according to the UN OCHA report cited in the article.

UGANDA: IMF approves $22.78 million credit

The IMF has approved access for Uganda to $22.78 million in credit after welcoming the authorities' commitment to "prudent macroeconomic policies and strong structural adjustment reforms" in a recent review. Noting also that Uganda had continued to rationalise the public service, improve social services and implement a robust poverty reduction programme, IMF Deputy Director Shigemitsu Sugisaki said these policies had "sustained Uganda's track record of rapid economic growth and moderate inflation, and had contributed to a notable drop in the incidence of poverty."

Sugisaki welcomed "the increased priority given to poverty reduction" and supported the intention to increase public spending on poverty and social areas "within the context of disciplined expenditure management", while urging the authorities to achieve the targeted cut in defence spending and to continue working towards "greater transparency, accountability and efficiency."

BURUNDI: Annan condemns "murderous rebel attacks"

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned recent attacks by rebels in Burundi's capital in which civilians, including women and children, were killed and property destroyed, his deputy spokesman, Manoel de Almeida e Silva, said on Tuesday. Annan said he had learned with "great distress" of the murderous attacks committed on 28 and 29 August in Bujumbura against civilians in Mutanga North and Musagao - attacks which were reported to have claimed over 50 lives. "The Secretary-General reiterates his call on the rebels to end all attacks against civilians and abide by international humanitarian and human rights norms", De Almeida e Silva said. Sources in Bujumbura, meanwhile, told IRIN that the attackers particularly targeted Tutsi populations and, on the basis of their uniforms and the fact that they spoke Kinyarwanda, were suspected to be ex-FAR.

RWANDA: Minister welcomes new Brussels flight

The minister for public works, transport and communication, Vincent Biruta, on Tuesday welcomed the launch of the first Kigali-Brussels flight by Rwanda Airlines at Kanombe International Airport as "an initiative of crucial importance" for the freedom of landlocked Rwanda. The new flight is scheduled to operate once a week, via the Burundi capital of Bujumbura. Biruta also promised that a new connection linking Kigali with the American continent would be established in the near future.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Council wants election timetable respected

The UN Security Council on Tuesday encouraged the CAR authorities and opposition leaders to ensure that the country's presidential elections are held as scheduled. In a press statement, Council President Martin Andjaba of Namibia said the members noted the progress made in preparing for the elections, scheduled for 12 September. A second round of voting is slated for 3 October. The members "stressed that the full implementation of the Bangui Agreements is the only viable option for obtaining peace and security" in the country, Ambassador Andjaba was quoted as saying in the statement.

Ten candidates - incumbent President Ange-Felix Patasse, six opposition leaders and three independents - are vying for a six-year term. [For additional information, see separate item on 1 September headlined: "IRIN special report on elections"]

Nairobi, 1 September 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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