IRIN-CEA Update No. 755 [19990910]

IRIN-CEA Update No. 755 [19990910]

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. 755 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 10 September 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Radio stations fuel rebel rivalry

Two Kisangani radio stations supporting rival Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) groups are broadcasting factional propaganda to the city's population, reflecting a continuing leadership dispute within the rebel movement, sources in contact with Kisangani told IRIN on Friday. Radio Liberte on Wednesday began broadcasting a joint message from RCD-Kisangani leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba and Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) leader Jean-Pierre Bemba calling on the population to be "vigilant" in the face of intimidation by the "militarists". The radio has also asked supporters not to openly expose their political inclinations to avoid encountering problems from their rivals. The rival RCD-Goma authorities were reported to have recently arrested and interrogated several people suspected of supporting RCD-Kisangani, the sources added.

Clash deepens residents' hardship

Meanwhile, prices of goods on Kisangani's markets have increased since last month's conflict between Ugandan and Rwandan forces, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Friday. Factors contributing to the price hikes included worsening exchange rates, the suspension of commercial flights from Uganda and the city's deepening isolation, they said. The situation has aggravated the population's already poor food security conditions. Eleven supplementary and therapeutic feeding centres in Kisangani are currently assisting some 1,700 malnourished children under five years of age, and the number of admissions was increasing, the sources said. Malnutrition rates throughout Province Orientale and north Equateur were reported to be on the rise, although detailed figures were not available, they added.

Warning over severe malnutrition in S.Kivu

A group of UN agencies and NGOs in South Kivu have addressed an alert to the international community warning over severe malnutrition in the region. The document, sent to IRIN on Thursday, said an estimated 250,000 people were at immediate risk of life threatening levels of malnutrition. "Famine is knocking at the door," the report warned. The situation was due to drought, poor soil, erosion, refugees and exacerbated by ongoing war in the region which had caused the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. If assistance is not received soon, "the misery affecting the province could spiral into a very serious humanitarian catastrophe", the report warned. To address immediate needs, the aid organisations are requesting 15,000 mt of food ready for distribution to displaced and local people, as well as 1,600 mt of seeds to allow families to plant for this month's major agricultural season.

Rebels declare amnesty in Masisi

The North Kivu provincial security committee this week granted a general amnesty to militiamen in the Masisi area - Mayi Mayi, Mongol and Hutu fighters, the Goma-based Nouvelle agence congolaise de presse (NACP) reported. It said no action would be taken against militiamen who gave themselves up.

Wamba to probe business partner's dealings

Leader of the RCD-Kisangani faction, Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, has said his group is investigating reports that a business partner is a fraudster, the Ugandan 'New Vision' daily reported on Thursday. The Kisangani faction signed a deal with an organisation, the African Union Reserve System (AURS), establishing the "African Reserve Bank" as Congo's central bank, and a monetary system based on Congolese diamonds and gold, the paper said. "RCD-Kisangani signed an agreement with people we believed to be sincere," Wamba said in a statement. "If our prospective partners are not who they claimed to be, we will declare the preliminary agreement null and void and proceed no further."

Kinshasa students prevented from marching

Hundreds of Congolese troops surrounded the university campus in Kinshasa on Thursday to prevent a planned student march, Reuters reported. The students were protesting against non-payment of salaries for their teachers which had delayed the academic year. The march went ahead within the campus, and a university administrator said a protest letter had been sent to President Laurent-Desire Kabila, demanding that the situation be resolved.

BURUNDI: Defence Minister warns journalists

Defence Minister Colonel Alfred Nkurunziza has criticised some news organisations for "spreading rumours" and warned that journalists working in Bujumbura Rural should be considered as "enemies". In an address to army commanders in the province on Thursday, broadcast by state radio, Nkurunziza took issue with Radio France Internationale (RFI) which he said had broadcast a false report claiming the main Bujumbura-Bugarama road had been closed for security reasons. "They [RFI] are openly supporting the rebels," he told the commanders. "When you see journalists here you consider them as enemies, as rebels." Violence has intensified in Bujumbura Rural as the army battles to put down rebel attacks.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Friday said it was "appalled" to learn that the Burundian army had been "ordered to treat journalists as legitimate military targets". In a letter to President Pierre Buyoya, it said the present threat appeared to target journalists who were critical of the government and called for the comments to be withdrawn.

Governor speaks of constant fighting

The governor of Bujumbura Rural, Major Balthazar Ntamahungiro, said fighting between the security forces and armed gangs was "almost perpetual", the Agence burundaise de presse (ABP) reported on Thursday. The main problem was identifying the assailants who hid themselves among the local population. Sensitisation campaigns were underway to persuade local residents to dissociate themselves from the rebels, he said.

Peace talks to resume on Monday

Peace talks aimed at finding a solution to the Burundi conflict will resume on Monday in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, an official of the Nyerere Foundation mediating body, Mark Bomani, told IRIN on Friday. He said the talks will resume as scheduled to continue with discussions "which are at an advanced level". He denied media claims that the ill-health of former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, who is the talks' facilitator, was the reason for postponing the talks from 6 September. The independent 'Internews' service quoted the Foundation's spokesman, Hashim Mbita, as saying the talks would go ahead as planned "whether he [Nyerere] is there or not".

The Tanzanian government on Thursday commented on Nyerere's ill-health, saying he was undergoing treatment at a London hospital. The 'Guardian' daily quoted Presidential Press Secretary Geoffrey Nkurlu as saying Nyerere was sick but "his condition is not life-threatening".

UGANDA: Majority of Kampala residents want army out of DRC

An opinion poll carried out by the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper last week revealed that 81 percent of Kampala residents want the Ugandan army to pull out of the DRC. Fifty-four percent of the respondents favoured an immediate pullout while 28 percent preferred a pullout over a six-month period with another 18 per cent saying the army should withdraw over a longer period of time, the paper reported. President Yoweri Museveni last week asked parliament to support the army's presence in Congo. He said following the Lusaka agreement, the Ugandan army had become a peacekeeping force. "Uganda is no longer isolated because with the peace agreement, Uganda is now friendly to Angola, Zimbabwe and the rest of the countries involved," he said.

Some 600 flee homes following rebel attack

Some 600 people have reportedly fled their homes from several western Ugandan villages following rebel attacks earlier this week, Uganda's Central Broadcasting Service (CBS) said. Nine people were killed in the attacks believed to have been carried out by the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The people were from Kisomoro village in the Fort Portal district. CBS said police had confirmed the movement of people but had no details of the figures.

RWANDA: US aid hailed

The Rwandan government has welcomed a US contribution of US $5 million towards its debt trust fund, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported on Thursday. "This is yet another concretisation of the support of the USA to the reconstruction of our country," Finance Minister Donald Kaberuka was quoted as saying. He stressed that Rwanda's unsustainable foreign debt burden, estimated at over US $1.2 billion, was seriously hampering development efforts.

TANZANIA: USAID awards development funds

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is to give Tanzania US $31.6 million in development aid for the current fiscal year, AFP reported, citing a USAID statement. The money is to be used to help Tanzania achieve sustainable development and improve human welfare.

Over 300,000 refugees by end 1998

Tanzania hosted some 330,000 refugees by the end of 1998, according to a new report by the US Committee for Refugees. The 'World Refugee Survey' said of that number, 260,000 were from Burundi, about 60,000 from the DRC, 5,000 from Rwanda and 4,000 from Somalia. It says Tanzania also hosted more than 100,000 persons whose refugee status was "unclear" but who lived in "refugee-like" circumstances. This category comprised some 5,000 Rwandans whose entitlement to full refugee status remained "undetermined" pending possible future screening, and approximately 100,000 Burundians and some Rwandans who fled to Tanzania in previous decades and continued to live there in 1998.

Most of the Burundian refugees live in eight camps along western Tanzania's 320 km border with Burundi. Burundian government officials claim that the refugee camps in Tanzania serve as rebel military bases, a charge denied by the Tanzanian authorities and UNHCR. "Inspections of the camps by US government officials and independent human rights researchers concluded that the camps were not used for significant military activity," the report said. It added however that some of the camps were "highly politicised with competing political factions".

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Marchers demand stop to elections

Supporters of opposition presidential candidates challenging the incumbent, Ange-Felix Patasse, marched through the capital, Bangui, on Thursday to demand the cancellation of Sunday's scheduled election, the BBC reported. The opposition groups said the election had been badly organised and was destined to favour Patasse. Nine candidates are challenging him for a six-year term. A second round of voting will be held on 3 October if no single candidate receives over 50 percent of Sunday's votes.

Preparations "generally satisfactory" - UN

Meanwhile, UN Special Representative Oluyemi Adeniji said on Thursday preparations for the election had been "proceeding generally satisfactorily" although there had been delays in the preparation of some electoral materials. In an IRIN interview, Adeniji said those delays had been due mainly to the technical capability of some of the CAR enterprises involved in material preparation. The UN Mission in the CAR (MINURCA) was "doing all it can" to ensure the elections were transparent and to avert grounds for potential post-election conflict, Adeniji said, adding that over 200 international observers were being deployed throughout the country for Sunday's voting. [For the full interview, see separate item on 10 September headlined "IRIN interview with UN Special Representative Oluyemi Adeniji" - IRIN-English item 1581]

Nairobi, 10 September 1999, 13:15 gmt


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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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