IRIN-CEA Update No. 762 [19990921]

IRIN-CEA Update No. 762 [19990921]

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. 762 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 21 September 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels deny Kasai offensive plan

The Rwandan-backed and Goma-based faction of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) on Monday denied government claims that rebels were making "intensive preparations" for an attack on the diamond-rich town of Mbuji-Mayi in Kasai Orientale by massing troops and military equipment at Kole and Lodja, but it said the situation was very tense. "There are no troops being massed, there are just troops sitting there, deployed on the defensive ... We are not planning any offensive", Reuters quoted rebel spokesman Lambert Mende as saying. Both sides in the conflict have accused the other of violating the Lusaka ceasefire agreement.

Mbeki confident in peace process

Meanwhile, South African President Thabo Mbeki on Monday said he was "sure" that the war in the DRC would not flare up again now that all the parties have signed the Lusaka cease-fire agreement, news agencies reported. "I am quite certain that there is not going to be a collapse in that [peace] process," Mbeki was quoted as saying following his address to the UN General Assembly. "Nobody wants war there," he added.

Relative economic stability in rebel areas

Isolated from the rest of the country and relatively well integrated into the economy of the Great Lakes region, the rebel-held provinces of North and South Kivu and Province Orientale have avoided the "hyperinflation and economic collapse that has ravaged" western DRC, the latest monthly report from the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator said. A "booming" Rwandan economy and its increasing demand for Kivu farm produce had contributed to relative economic stability in RCD-controlled regions, with the difference between the foreign exchange rates in Kinshasa and Goma ranging from 100-150 percent, the report said. However, it said a "rapprochement" of the country's two "monetary zones" in the aftermath of the Lusaka peace agreement may undermine economic stability in the east in the short term, while potentially slowing down inflation in the west.

Impact of salary arrears

Meanwhile, the government last week approved a new salary scale and paid a "considerable number" of civil servants and military personnel, the report said. Salary arrears were becoming an increasing source of instability in Kinshasa, reflected in frequent strikes, some of which were "contained by armed forces," it said.

Tutsis come out of hiding

Last month's evacuation of some 370 detained Tutsis to Benin has led to a significant increase in the number of people coming out of their "hiding places" in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, the Humanitarian Coordinator's report continued. An average of 50-60 people a day were arriving at the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights or to the Ministry for Human Rights, with a total of 500 Congolese Tutsis or Rwandan nationals newly registered in Kinshasa as of 15 September, it said.

"Alarming" food situation in Kabinda

A recent assessment mission to the key town of Kabinda, Kasai Orientale, found an "alarming" food situation for displaced and resident populations, the report said. The mission, conducted by WFP and French Cooperation, identified some 20,000 displaced persons who had fled conflict areas in June. An airlift of food aid to Kabinda was being organised, it added.

Haemorrhagic fever presence confirmed

Laboratory tests on samples collected in August have confirmed the presence of the Marburg haemorrhagic fever virus in northeast DRC, a regional WHO official told IRIN on Tuesday. "We have received three positive laboratory tests" for Marburg, he said. The samples were collected from patients in the Durba area of Province Orientale between 11-20 August. However, there has been no laboratory confirmation of haemorrhagic fever among more recent suspected patients, and there were currently no "active" cases reported from the area, the official said. "The hypothesis is that the disease is somehow endemic there," he said. "We are now considering sending a team to proceed with further investigation," he added. Tests results from samples collected by MSF in Durba earlier this month are still awaited.

WFP says emergency operation "seriously underfunded"

WFP's operation for war-affected people in the DRC remains seriously underfunded, the agency said in its latest weekly emergency report. It said only US $5.8 million in donor pledges had been confirmed to date, from a total of US $30 million needed to assist 350,000 people over a six-month period.

UGANDA: Army officers held for "tactical blunders" in Kisangani

Two senior officers of the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) have been detained for "tactical blunders" during last month's battle between Ugandan and Rwandan troops in Kisangani, the independent 'Monitor' newspaper said on Monday. The two, charged with being "friendly" with Rwandan officers, were detained at the Makindye military barracks awaiting a court martial, it said. Meanwhile, members of parliament on Monday expressed concern about the damaged diplomatic relations between Uganda and Rwanda since the clashes, the 'New Vision' newspaper reported. The "growing animosity" between Rwanda and Uganda was "worrying", one MP was quoted as saying.

Affected population tops 700,000

The number of refugees, displaced persons and abducted children in Uganda has reached 732,669, the latest OCHA-Uganda humanitarian update said. There were some 531,670 displaced persons in the country, while the number of refugees had increased to 196,195, the report said. Some 4,804 abducted children remained missing as of June. Among the new refugee arrivals were some 750 Rwandans coming from Tanzania, it added.

Authorities address haemorrhagic fever risk

In response to the laboratory confirmation of the presence of haemorrhagic fever in northeastern DRC, Ugandan health authorities have recommended a series of measures to prevent the possible spread of the disease into the country, the OCHA report said. The recommendations of a national task force include enhanced surveillance in the Arua and Nebbi areas, the dissemination of guidelines for handling suspected cases and the provision of protective clothing in border areas. The affected area of the DRC is some 300 km from the Ugandan border.

TANZANIA: Mkapa asks for more help with hosting refugees

President Benjamin Mkapa told the UN General Assembly on Monday that while Tanzania was hosting "over 800,000 refugees" and had never turned away those fleeing their lives or negotiated refugee quotas, the time had come when it must appeal for more help to allow it give succour and refuge. "UNHCR has done much, but they can only do as much as the international community gives them the resources to do. I urge greater support to UNHCR and other relief agencies working in Tanzania, and greater support to my government" Mkapa said. The 800,000 figure included people in refugee camps, settlement camps and those "elsewhere in society," he said.

RWANDA: OAU genocide team meets Bizimungu, Kagame

An OAU panel set up last year to investigate the causes and consequences of the 1994 genocide concluded a five-day visit to Rwanda on Sunday, Radio Rwanda reported. It said the OAU International Panel of Eminent Personalities met with President Pasteur Bizimungu, Vice-President Paul Kagame and other officials. The radio quoted Bizimungu as saying the panel had sought "clarifications" so it could propose measures to avoid a repetition of genocide. "They have been to Congo, they have been to USA, they have been to Europe, and they have got lots of information - sometimes misinformation - about what happened and what is happening," he said.

No "protective measures" for Ntuyahaga

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha said on Monday it could not order "protective measures" for a defence witness and former Rwandan army officer, Bernard Ntuyahaga, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. The defence counsel for genocide suspect Theoneste Bagasora had argued that Ntuyahaga would be a "key" witness in Bagasora's trial. The trial chamber ruled that the motion was premature, that the defence had not produced sufficient evidence regarding the threat to Ntuyahaga's life and that the court had no power to serve such an order on Tanzania. Ntuyahaga is currently under arrest by Tanzanian authorities, who are considering Rwanda's request for his extradition to face genocide charges there.

BURUNDI: Next round of committee meetings to be the "last"

The facilitators of the Burundi peace process said that "significant progress" had been made in the round of talks that ended in Arusha on Saturday, but that a great deal of time was wasted on grumbling over consultation "methodology". A statement from the Nyerere Foundation, received by IRIN on Tuesday, quoted foundation official Mark Bomani as saying there were no "outstanding" issues that "cannot be concluded at the next round of talks." Meanwhile, Tanzanian President Mkapa told the UN General Assembly on Monday that while the Arusha peace process was "going on well", the main sticking points were "security arrangements that would instill confidence and trust for all, as well as a democratic process involving all stakeholders."

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Relative calm boosts returnee numbers

An estimated 1,000-2,000 returnees a day had arrived in Brazzaville from the Pool Region and the DRC as the security situation calmed down over the past few weeks, the latest WFP weekly emergency report stated. Recent screenings by MSF put the malnutrition rate at 23.8 percent among the returnees, it added. WFP said the monthly food requirement for its relief operation in the country was an estimated 2,650 mt, and that it needed 883 mt of mixed foods to meet the urgent needs of the 80,000 most vulnerable among 200,000 planned beneficiaries.

Nairobi, 21 September 1999, 16:30 gmt


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

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