IRIN-CEA Update 768 [19990929]

IRIN-CEA Update 768 [19990929]

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 768 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 29 September 1999)

BURUNDI: Army denies "massacre" allegations

The Burundian army has categorically denied allegations by the missionary news agency MISNA of a "massacre" at a church in Nyambuye, 90 km from Bujumbura. Army spokesman Colonel Longin Minani told IRIN on Wednesday the claims were "pure intoxication" and totally false. MISNA, citing sources in Nairobi, on Tuesday claimed 30 people, all Hutus, were killed when a "group of men in uniform" opened fire on worshippers on Sunday. It further claimed the attack was "carried out by soldiers, many of them Ugandan". Colonel Minani stressed Burundi's war "is a Burundian affair". "The Ugandans have nothing to do with this," he said. He urged journalists and relief workers to visit the area to see for themselves. Regional analysts told IRIN there is currently a lot of propaganda in the region in a bid to "isolate the Tutsis". Building up hostility towards the Burundian authorities will affect the whole region, the analysts warned.

BURUNDI: Tens of thousands regrouped in Bujumbura Rural

About 260,000 people in Bujumbura Rural province have been moved into some 30 sites due to the recent rise in rebel attacks on Bujumbura city and the outlying suburbs, according to a report by OCHA-Burundi. This puts the total number of displaced people in the province at 320,000 or nearly 75 percent of the population. The total number of displaced throughout the country is over 800,000 or 13 percent of the national population. The report said the UN and NGO community was working closely with the Burundian authorities to coordinate relief efforts, but some of the sites cannot be visited as they are only accessible by foot. The report concluded that the humanitarian situation at the moment was not considered disastrous, as long as the sites remained accessible and sufficient assistance could be delivered in a timely and effective manner. It warned however that this was the planting season and implications for the January harvest, already forecasted to be poor, could be very serious.

WFP said food would probably be delivered to some of the sites by the end of the week. Spokeswoman Michele Quintaglie told IRIN some people had arrived with nothing but their clothes and these would be the priority cases. Further assessments will be carried out to ascertain needs, but the situation was not yet at crisis point. She expressed concern over people's access to their fields. "WFP is particularly concerned by the longterm implications of regroupment," she said, noting that Bujumbura Rural is a main supplier of food to the capital and that the city would eventually be affected if the situation persisted.

BURUNDI: Government explains policy

The Burundian government said it had adopted the measures to group residents of Bujumbura Rural in protection sites to ensure their safety. In an information note, received by IRIN on Wednesday, the government explained the move was aimed at "isolating the enemy". It said "terrorists" in Bujumbura Rural province had developed systems to "hold the population to ransom" and "bleed them dry". "With the assistance of humanitarian organisations, the government will spare nothing to respond to the needs generated by this new situation," the note said. Measures had been taken to provide the sites as soon as possible with drinking water, medical care and proper sanitation, as well as ensuring that citizens will be able to plant and cultivate their fields. "Therefore it would be completely cynical to look for political gain in exploiting the suffering inflicted by armed groups on innocent people," the note added.

Regional experts told IRIN there were tensions among the authorities over the decision to regroup, with some top-level commanders pressurising the political leadership to carry out the policy. One analyst cautioned that violence in the country was being "reactivated" by extremists on both sides. "If massive violence erupts, we are back to square one," the analyst warned.

Meanwhile, the defence ministry said the security situation throughout the country had improved, with the exception of Bujumbura Rural, Makamba and Rutana provinces, the private Netpress news agency reported. By grouping people into sites, the rebels were now deprived of shelter and were committing "acts of suicide" such as the repeated attacks against Bujumbura city.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Humanitarian situation "much worse" than thought

As access improves, the estimate for the number of people displaced or affected by conflict in the Congo is much higher than previously thought, UN Humanitarian Coordinator William Paton said on Wednesday. In a report sent to IRIN, Paton said an estimated 250,000 people had returned to Brazzaville and three other major towns, another 130,000 people displaced from urban areas remained "in the bush in appalling conditions, now for nine months," and an additional 100,000-200,000 people were thought to be displaced in inaccessible rural areas. There were also between 100,000-200,000 "seriously affected" residents of rural areas, he said.

10 deaths per day in Kinkala alone

"The humanitarian situation is much worse than is understood in the international community," Paton said, adding that many people were dying every day due to malnutrition and related illness. In the town of Kinkala alone, there were about 10 deaths per day among its estimated 12,000 people. Kinkala, some 77 km from Brazzaville, was only recently accessed by the aid agency Caritas during a one-day visit, accompanied by a military convoy. "There were many corpses of the displaced along the road," Paton said. Humanitarian sources told IRIN this week that about a fifth of the displaced children returning to Brazzaville are severely malnourished.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kinshasa meeting to include groups from rebel areas

Representatives of Congolese civil society and religious groups from government- and rebel-held provinces have started arriving in Kinshasa to discuss how to advance implementation of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement, a workshop organiser told IRIN on Wednesday. Some 220 participants from all 11 provinces and the capital are expected to participate in the five-day meeting starting on Monday. It will explore civil society's role and position in the proposed inter-Congolese negotiations, national reconciliation, the resettlement of displaced persons, the maintenance of security and the demobilisation of child soldiers, among other topics. "It's time to forget our differences and unite for peace" said Reverend Ngoy Mulunda-Nyanga of the Nairobi-based All-Africa Council of Churches (AACC), which is funding the event. "We want to see how we at the grassroots can best ensure the success of the agreement."

"The rebels wanted the workshop to be held in Nairobi, not Kinshasa, but people said no, we are all children of the Congo and we want to show symbolically the unity of the country," he said. The Lusaka agreement allows for the free movement of people throughout the country, Mulunda-Nyanga said, adding that participants travelling from rebel-held areas were nevertheless "conscious they could be arrested" upon their return home.

DRC: Traders furious over new tax by RCD-Goma

In a further deterioration of relations between the rival Goma and Kisangani factions of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), the Goma faction has imposed new taxes on goods entering their areas of control from the RCD-Kisangani-controlled areas of Beni and Bunia, IRIN sources in Goma confirmed on Wednesday. "All goods coming from Butembo and further north are subject to tax at newly-erected tax points on the road south of Kanyabayonga and Goma," they added. "The Goma traders are furious. They went on strike immediately the new tax measures were announced and then kept their shops closed for at least another day. Everybody is pretty upset. Truck drivers who were in or around Goma when the measures were first announced did not pay and were, consequently, sent back to Butembo." Stricter implementation of customs duties by RCD-Goma along the borders with Uganda has also been reported, targeting diamond, gold, timber and coffee in particular.

DRC: Rwanda denies North Kivu troop build-up

A Rwandan "goodwill mission" visiting Uganda on Tuesday denied that Rwanda was massing troops in North Kivu province. At least two Rwandan battalions have been deployed recently north of Rutshuru, according to media reports. "We are not massing troops in North Kivu. We have had these troops there before," the Panafrican News Agency (PANA) quoted Charles Mirugande, secretary-general of the ruling Rwandese Patriotic Front as saying in Kampala. The Rwandan delegation was in Kampala "to forge a peace deal with the Ugandan leadership", according to Ugandan radio.

DRC: Rwandan contingent in sweep against Interahamwe

Meanwhile, Goma residents told IRIN on Wednesday that "larger numbers of Rwandan troops than ever" were crossing the border into North Kivu. General opinion in the town was that some were heading north "in an attempt to rout increasing numbers of Interahamwe", and possibly heading on towards the "de facto" provincial border between Ishasha and Kanyabayonga, while the rest were thought to be headed by air to Lodja, and generally in the direction of Mbuji-Mayi. A senior Rwandan military officer, cited by AP news agency on Tuesday, said that while there were no new deployments or special operations in DRC, the army had begun "a very big mop-up exercise" against Rwandan Interahamwe around Rutshuru on Friday.

UGANDA: Rwanda responds to Museveni letter

The Rwandan delegation visiting Kampala also delivered Vice-President Paul Kagame's formal response to a letter from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni stating Uganda's official position on the joint report into the mid-August clashes between Ugandan and Rwandan troops in Kisangani. At a press conference in Kampala, RPF leader Charles Mirugande reiterated that Rwanda was fully satisfied with the investigation. However, "if somebody is not pleased with the report, I think it is fair that a question is asked to the committee that produced it", news agencies quoted him as saying.

UGANDA: Kisangani report accepted "with reservations"

At the same press conference, Uganda's national political commissar, James Wapakhabulo, denied reports that Kampala had rejected the findings of the report into the mid-August clashes. He said Uganda accepted the report, but with "some reservations". It believed there were some conclusions that were inconsistent with the facts established and that the report may not have correctly addressed some issues. Kampala had suggested that "some areas need deeper analysis", PANA reported. The Uganda Army High Command was reported to have rejected the report, saying it tended to blame the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) more than was warranted.

RWANDA: Food deficit reported in some parts

Some 20,000 vulnerable families in three prefectures are suffering from food shortages, a WFP official in Kigali told IRIN on Wednesday. The families live in Umutara in the northeast, Kibungo in the east and Gikongoro in the southwest. "We are experiencing a low food pipeline and it is difficult to cover all these families," he said. He said WFP would soon start a free food distribution in the areas and expects a shipment of 1,600 mt of food in October. He said other people would also be targeted with a food-for-work programme in the pre-harvest period.

Figures show increase in overall production

A joint assessment carried out by the Rwandan government, FAO, WFP, the European Union and USAID's Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) has noted a nine percent increase in overall agricultural and livestock production compared to last year. A report released by FEWS attributes this to increased cultivation in the northwest due to improved security and recent agriculture rehabilitation efforts. The team found that livestock numbers had also increased. It established a provisional food balance for July-December 1999 showing a commercial import requirement of some 50,000 mt and a food aid requirement of 73,000 mt of cereal-equivalents.

TANZANIA: Outbreak of plague near Kenyan border

An outbreak of bubonic plague has been reported in the Lushoto area of Tanzania near the Kenyan border, a WHO official told IRIN on Wednesday. A total of 64 suspected cases were reported up to 22 September with two deaths attributed to the disease. The presence of the plague has been confirmed by laboratory analysis in four cases, the official added.

Nairobi, 29 September 1999, 14:50 gmt


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

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