IRIN-CEA Update No. 763 [19990922]

IRIN-CEA Update No. 763 [19990922]

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. 763 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 22 September 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Chiluba urges "appropriate" UN action

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that UN and other personnel should have no security fears or concerns in the DRC. "I can assure those present that there will be security of personnel in the peacekeeping role, as well as those attending to humanitarian efforts," a UN statement quoted Chiluba as saying during an open briefing on the situation in Africa. Chiluba, the main mediator in the DRC conflict, said implementation of the peace process would proceed smoothly with the support of the international community. He appealed to the Council to send a peacekeeping force to the DRC with an "appropriate mandate and size."

JMC to meet again on 10 October

Chiluba also requested the Council to quickly dispatch a technical survey team to the country, extend support to facilitate the internal dialogue process, mobilise humanitarian relief for displaced persons and refugees, and assist with economic reconstruction. While it was difficult to expect any conflict to end immediately after the signing of an agreement, "things were moving" in the DRC peace process, he said. The Joint Military Commission (JMC) and Political Committee set up to oversee the truce have met and done their initial work, Chiluba said, adding that the next JMC meeting was scheduled for 10 October.

Rebels ponder debate proposal

A faction of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) is considering whether to accept the Rome-based Catholic Saint Egidio Community as a facilitator for the inter-Congolese negotiations called for in the ceasefire agreement, news agencies said on Tuesday. "We met Saint Egidio Community's delegation and we discussed their proposal to be the facilitator in the future national debate...We will give our response to their initiative in the coming days," RCD-Goma vice-president Moise Nyarugabo told Rwanda News Agency (RNA). Under the peace accord, a neutral facilitator acceptable to all Congolese parties was to have been selected 15 days after the accord's coming into force, to lead up to six weeks of negotiations on the political future of the DRC.

Meanwhile, Father Matteo Zuppi of Saint Egidio has arrived in Kinshasa to help plan the national debate, together with another proposed mediator, the former president of Benin, Derlin Zinsou, news agencies said on Tuesday. "We have come to listen and to nudge all sides towards formalising their positions so that we can get to work," Zuppi told state television. A third facilitator suggested by Kinshasa last week, former OAU secretary-general Edem Kodjo of Togo, had not arrived. The government and its opponents have yet to agree on the venue or agenda for the talks.

Enforcement of new monetary rules

Police in Kinshasa have started arresting people for breaking new regulations on the exchange of foreign currency, news agencies said on Tuesday. Some were shown on Congolese television, but the number of people arrested was not known. The government last week banned informal money trading and instructed people and companies to deposit their foreign currency with commercial banks by Wednesday in a bid to curb inflation and the devaluation of the Congolese franc. Residents told IRIN on Wednesday that the monetary situation in the capital had deteriorated since the introduction of the new fiscal rules.

An estimated 836,000 displaced

The estimated number of internally-displaced persons (IDPs) in the DRC has reached 836,000, according to the latest monthly report from the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator. While there had been no recent massive internal displacement reported, the IDP estimate was adjusted as a result of greater accessibility to displaced persons in and around the frontline, the report said. There were now an estimated 195,000 IDPs in South Kivu province, where recurrent hostilities had increased population movements and undermined return and resettlement efforts that had begun during June-August. Katanga and North Kivu had an estimated 185,000 and 160,000 IDPs, respectively, while Equateur was hosting some 126,000 displaced, the report said. There were an estimated 80,000 IDPs in Province Orientale, 60,000 in Kasai Orientale, and 20,000 in Maniema, it said.

UGANDA: Army denies DRC airlifts suspended

The Defence Ministry on Wednesday denied reports that it had run out of funds to airlift supplies to Ugandan soldiers posted in the DRC. A Ugandan military official in Kampala told IRIN that recent news reports had misinterpreted comments made by State Minister for Defence Stephen Kavuma. While "bureaucratic bottlenecks" had lengthened the time it was taking to "settle bills" with cargo companies, the situation would be resolved, the official said. "We have reserve supplies in the DRC," the official quoted Kavuma as saying. The semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper on Tuesday reported that three aircraft had been grounded due to shortage of funds, resulting in a temporary suspension of army airlifts to the DRC.

LRA abducts 20 in northern village

Rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) killed a school teacher and abducted 20 people on Saturday when they attacked two villages near the northern town of Gulu, according to news agencies. Media reports quoted an army spokesman as saying an unspecified number of rebels were subsequently killed by government soldiers during a pursuit.

Community accuses army of forceful conscription

Meanwhile, residents of Aswa county in Gulu district have accused the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) of torture, arrest and forceful conscription of youths into Local Defence Force Units (LDUs), the 'New Vision' reported on Tuesday. "A new form of insecurity has begun in Gulu. Youths are being arrested, tortured and forced into the LDU," the residents said in a memorandum presented to the visiting Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, John Nasasira.

Karamojong warriors kill three soldiers

Suspected Karamojong warriors killed three Ugandan soldiers and injured seven others in an ambush in the Kapchorwa district of eastern Uganda, the 'New Vision' reported on Tuesday. It quoted the area's army commander, Geoffrey Taban, as saying the soldiers had been carrying out routine patrols when the ambush took place.

TANZANIA: Commonwealth aims to bolster Zanzibar reconciliation plan

The Commonwealth of Nations' Special Envoy to Zanzibar, Moses Anafu, is in Tanzania to set up a timeline for implementation of the reconciliation agreement reached in May to resolve a four-year-old political crisis in Zanzibar, a spokesman at the Commonwealth Secretariat confirmed to IRIN on Wednesday. The Pan-African News Agency (PANA) reported at the weekend that, with Anafu's support, a 14-member Inter-Party Committee due to implement the accord would soon begin operations. The committee has been largely non-operational due to lack of funding. The crisis stemmed from the widely-disputed 1995 general election victory of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). The May agreement outlined measures to restore normal political life in Zanzibar. However, apart from the return of Civic United Front (CUF) members to parliament, few other terms of the agreement have been implemented.

Amnesty concerned at "politically-motivated arrests"

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has expressed concern that 10 CUF members, for whom warrants have been issued in Zanzibar, "may be arrested and face the death penalty on fabricated charges of treason." If arrested, they would join in prison 18 other CUF members - including four members of the House of Representatives - detained on treason charges since late 1997 and early 1998 but who have still not been tried, a press release stated. Amnesty said it believed the charges were "politically motivated and aimed at silencing peaceful opposition to the Zanzibar government."

Opposition protests alleged electoral irregularities

Political opposition parties in Tanzania on Tuesday said they would file an injunction in an attempt to block local government elections scheduled for 8 November, claiming that the ruling CCM had failed to tell the public about voter registration programmes and was trying to assure that only CCM voters registered.

Economic outlook brighter

A combination of sound macroeconomic policies, fresh funding from multilateral organisations and donors, recent favourable weather and better than expected agricultural performance mean that Tanzania's real growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should increase from 3.8 percent in 1998 to 4.4 percent for 1999 and 5.2 percent in the year 2000, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has predicted. There remained food security concerns in some parts of the country due to adverse weather conditions earlier this year, but food crop production should begin to recover in the next few months, the report added. The EIU reported that the greatest challenge the government faces is to convince voters that World Bank- and IMF-inspired structural reforms, which have been heavily criticised for hitting poorer sections of the population, "will begin to deliver tangible improvements in living standards and increases in disposable income."

Western villages need "urgent" help

Urgent action is needed to alleviate the "very poor" nutritional situation of children in villages located near western Tanzania's refugee camps, a UNICEF report said. Increasing numbers of malnourished children from local villages were being admitted to therapeutic feeding centres in the refugee camps, with community children now making up about 60 percent of the centres' beneficiaries. The nutritional status in camps was now four or five times better than in the surrounding villages, the report said. The problem was "threatening the survival of many young children" in local communities in the Kigoma and Kagera areas, it said. The situation was attributed to two years of consecutive poor harvests and lack of agricultural inputs, among other factors. Recent surveys have found a 8.9 percent malnutrition rate among children under five years old in villages surrounding camps, while the prevalence of stunting ranged from 43-63 percent of the children surveyed.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels lose town, militiamen "surrender"

Government forces have recaptured the southwest town of Zanaga from rebels allied to former president Pascal Lissouba, news agencies reported on Tuesday. Reuters quoted an army spokesman as saying the town, which had been held by rebels for 10 months, was retaken after fierce fighting. Meanwhile, PANA reported over the weekend that some 600 Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas had surrendered to military authorities since the government's amnesty offer in August. About 320 had travelled via the DRC and the rest had gone to Brazzaville from the Pool region, PANA said, citing a police source.

Nairobi, 22 September 1999, 15:30 gmt


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

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