IRIN-CEA Update 769 [19990930]

IRIN-CEA Update 769 [19990930]

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 769 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 30 September 1999)

BURUNDI: Defence ministry slams MISNA allegations

The defence ministry has officially denied allegations by the missionary news agency MISNA that soldiers killed a total of 70 civilians in two separate incidents. In a statement, received by IRIN on Thursday, the ministry said it was "staggered" to learn of the allegations. MISNA claimed 30 worshippers were killed at a church in Nyambuye on Sunday, and 40 other people killed in Burundi's northern suburbs overnight Tuesday. MISNA said Ugandan soldiers were involved.

The defence ministry described the claims as "gratuitous lies" and warned the media against information disseminated by MISNA "whose sources are very dubious". The statement said no military operation took place in Nyambuye on Sunday, neither was there an attack on a church. "If Ugandan soldiers are fighting in Burundi, they are not recognised by their country nor by Burundi. In which case, they are on the side of genocidal terrorists acting on behalf of the Interahamwe and ex-FAR," the statement said.

BURUNDI: Five killed in rebel attack

In the same statement, the defence ministry said rebels attacked the Taba area of Gasenyi near Bujumbura on Tuesday night, killing five people and destroying several houses.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: "Aggressors" use peace accord as delaying tactic, UN assembly told

Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda are using the Lusaka ceasefire agreement as a pretext to "prolong indefinitely" their presence in the DRC, Foreign Minister Yerodia Abdoulaye Ndombasi told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. As soon as the agreement was signed, "our aggressors and their Congolese creatures, pompously called rebels, resumed their diversionary tactics to delay as much as possible the implementation of the accord," Ndombasi said.

The Joint Military Commission (JMC) has not started work because the rebels have not designated their representatives, the choice of facilitator for the national dialogue remains unresolved, and Rwanda and Uganda continue to mass troops and weapons around Mbuji-Mayi and other mining towns, he stated. Their ultimate objective was to make off with Congo's immense resources, Ndombasi said in New York. "Today, Congolese cobalt, gold, diamonds and wood, arriving from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda and all stained with the innocent blood of the DRC's children, are being sold unscrupulously at the Stock Exchange," he told the Assembly.

DRC: Kabila says some clauses hindering accord

Meanwhile, President Laurent-Desire Kabila, in a speech on Wednesday before a lightning visit to the Angolan capital Luanda for talks with President Eduardo dos Santos, said that while the Lusaka agreement was the only framework for the search for peace and reconciliation, some of its clauses were hindering full implementation, news agencies reported. Kabila did not specify which clauses he was referring to.

DRC: Opposition leader supports Sant Egidio mediation

Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi of the Union pour la democratie et le progres social (UDPS) on Wednesday said he supported the proposed selection of Father Matteo Zuppi of the Rome-based Sant Egidio community as the facilitator of the inter-Congolese political dialogue called for in the Lusaka peace plan. Under its terms, a facilitator should have been chosen by consensus by 15 September. Tshisekedi also suggested that the Francophonie grouping of French-speaking countries and the OAU "send observers to the dialogue", and that the national debate take place in Rome, AFP reported.

RWANDA: Two former ministers say genocide court "unfair"

Two former government ministers and genocide suspects on Wednesday asked the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha to assign them Canadian lawyers, the Internews service reported. The two, former foreign minister Jermone Bicamumpaka and former interior minister Edouard Karemera, protested a "discriminatory ban" on assignment of defence attorneys from France and Canada. "The charges against me are so serious that the assignment of counsel is extremely important," Internews quoted Bicamumpaka as saying. "The policy of excluding French and Canadian lawyers is discriminatory...This is a serious prejudice," he said. The ICTR has declared a temporary ban on attorneys from the two countries, saying there are already too many French and Canadian lawyers at the tribunal.

Meanwhile, the genocide trial in a Kigali court of Catholic bishop Augustin Misago was adjourned for the third time on Wednesday until 26 October, Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported. It was adjourned to give the prosecution and defence time to prepare and call their witnesses.

RWANDA: Security concern in refugee camps

UNHCR has approached the Rwandan authorities to improve safety in and around the Gihembe and Kiziba camps housing some 32,000 Congolese refugees, after disturbing reports of assaults on women and girls, UNHCR's mid-year progress report, newly-posted on its website [], has stated. "Recent reports of protection incidents (sexual violence against refugee women and the abduction of young girls) led UNHCR to intervene with both civilian and military authorities to advocate for improved security," it stated. The Rwandan government has also assured UNHCR that it would be able to register the refugee population in the two camps in the near future, the report stated.

UNHCR has also reported some difficulty in assuring suitable living conditions for about 600 Burundi refugees in Kigeme camp. "Even though improvements have been made, conditions are not up to the desired standard" and the agency was continuing to push the issue with the Rwandan government, the report stated. UNHCR would continue to organise cross-border visits for Burundian refugees in Rwanda, and Rwandan refugees in Burundi, "to enable them to make a more informed decision regarding voluntary repatriation," it added.

TANZANIA: Continued upsurge in refugee numbers expected

Given the current political and security climate in DRC and Burundi, "substantial numbers of Congolese and Burundi refugees will continue to arrive in Tanzania," UNHCR's mid-year report stated. In response, UNHCR has amended its plans for the remainder of the year to include between 278,000 and 300,000 Burundian refugees and some 160,000 Congolese. The report stated that, while US $2.4 million had been approved from its emergency fund, "the activation of contingency sites and the costs related to any new arrivals will require additional funding." While UNHCR had hoped to promote the voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees this year, the upsurge in rebel attacks in Burundi had created outflows of refugees that outnumbered the few Burundians repatriated to relatively stable areas - the majority of them awaiting a peace agreement from the Arusha talks before they will return, it said.

UGANDA: UPDF says rebels regrouping in Sudan

A senior army officer said on Wednesday that rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and Uganda National Rescue Front II (UNRF II) were reorganising themselves inside southern Sudan, the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper reported. There were 500 UNRF II rebels receiving military training in the Sudanese town of Rojo near Juba, the officer was quoted as saying at a Gulu peace conference. He said some 2,000 LRA rebels were in Nesitu, also in southern Sudan. "People have to be vigilant because the rebels are not finished," he said.

UGANDA: Good response to polio immunisation campaign

The second round of a national polio immunisation campaign, conducted last Saturday and Sunday, drew "a very good response", a UN official told IRIN on Wednesday. While statistics from the country's 45 districts were still coming in, the organisers were "very optimistic that it will be over 90 percent coverage, as in other years," John Barenzi, manager of the UN Expanded Programme for Immunisation (EPI) said. The first round was completed on 7-8 August. Problems with the campaign were reported in four southwestern districts - Rakai, Mbarara, Bushenyi and Ntungamo - as a result of "negative propaganda from an FM station in the area," but the exercise still had good results there thanks to intensified social mobilisation, he said.

"We are on the right track to eradicating the polio virus," Barenzi told IRIN, adding that analysis of quite a few suspected samples had revealed no new incidence of polio this year. The experimental introduction of a measles vaccine alongside the polio had been tried in two districts in the second immunisation round and proven successful, he said. Supplementary sub-national campaigns in areas along Uganda's long borders with Sudan and the DRC would be organised to reduce the chances of the spread of polio through population movement, Barenzi added.

AFRICA: Progress depends on ending conflicts - Annan

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned that unless Africa gets a handle on its conflicts, progress will remain tenuous, even in nations not affected by fighting. Opening a ministerial meeting on Africa at the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Annan said nations making "good-faith efforts" and adopting enlightened policies deserved much greater support than they were currently getting. "Afro-pessimism is a dead end," he said. "Africa fatigue is an affront to the very idea of a responsible international community." Noting that each crisis situation was different, he said that for the UN and the Council to retain their credibility, "the commitment to peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and other such action must be applied fairly and consistently, irrespective of region or nation."

Nairobi, 30 September 1999, 15:00 gmt


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

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