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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 810 for the Great Lakes (Friday 26 November 1999)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Serious fighting reported in Equateur DRC: "Organised battles" suggest Lusaka ceasefire coming apart DRC: MONUC chief negotiates deployment authorisation in Goma DRC: Rwandan, Ugandan military hold cooperation meeting DRC: "Self-defence" plan violates peace accord, group charges DRC: Flooding threatens Kinshasa BURUNDI: Main parties push for Mandela mediation BURUNDI: CNDD-FDD says it must be consulted BURUNDI: Severe drought compounds crisis BURUNDI: New regroupment announced in Muramvya RWANDA: Suspect pleads not guilty to new charges
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Serious fighting reported in Equateur
Both sides in the DRC conflict have reported serious fighting in Equateur province on Wednesday and Thursday, with each blaming the other for violating the Lusaka ceasefire agreement. The Goma-based rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) said there were heavy casualties in clashes that started when government troops attacked with two gunboats and two helicopter gunships on a front west of Ikela in an effort to relieve several thousand Zimbabwean and Namibian troops besieged at Ikela airport. Meanwhile, the Congolese army and its Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) allies claimed that "the rebels and their allies" had attacked Isanga-Yenge, Bolunga Wema, Dembo, Makanza and Bolinga. The SADC allied forces had been "well involved in the process for a lasting peace in DRC," but "will not remain there without reacting" if threatened by the rebel side, a press release stated.
DRC: "Organised battles" suggest Lusaka ceasefire coming apart
Regional analysts told IRIN there seemed to be a committed government offensive underway in the northwest, in line with its pledge to "liberate the country by the millennium", but that its SADC allies were less involved and wanted to distance themselves from any major breach of the peace accord. Much will depend on Monday's meeting of the Lusaka accord's Joint Military Commission (JMC) in Zimbabwe, where a show of strong support for the agreement by DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila's allies "could restrain the government side," one analyst said. All the indications from Equateur were that "it's not just skirmishes; it's more structured than that, it's organised battles," the analyst told IRIN.
Meanwhile, an official from the UN Observer Mission in the DRC (MONUC) said the Equateur fighting, if true, would constitute a serious blow to the implementation of the Lusaka accord. "If all the reports are correct - and we do not have the witnesses to be sure - but if it's the case of a major offensive, then the Lusaka agreement is in danger of becoming part of history. It will become some kind of souvenir," the official told IRIN.
DRC: MONUC chief negotiates deployment authorisation in Goma
MONUC commander Colonel James Ellory visited the eastern rebel-held town of Goma on Thursday to get RCD authorisation to deploy there, MONUC spokesman Lt-Col Pierre Massart said on Friday. He said that, with the government having refused MONUC leave to deploy in Lubumbashi and Mbandaka, RCD was also reluctant to have MONUC deploy in the areas which it controlled. Ellory had gone "to clarify the situation" on the deployment of military observers. Massart said Ellory was on his way back to Kinshasa so the outcome of his trip was not known, though Reuters news agency quoted RCD spokesman Kin-Kiey Mulumba as saying it expected four UN observers in Goma on Friday. The RCD had told Ellory of "30 ceasefire violations by Kabila's forces since 25 September," Mulumba added.
DRC: Rwandan, Ugandan military hold cooperation meeting
Rwandan and Ugandan military commanders met at Bombo military barracks in the Ugandan capital Kampala on Thursday to discuss modalities for cooperation between the two countries in the DRC, news organisations reported. "This is just a follow-up of the summit meeting of the heads of state in Kabale (southwestern Uganda) on 8 November," the Chinese news agency quoted Ugandan Army Commander Jeje Odongo as saying. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu agreed at Kabale to resolve outstanding problems between the two countries, adopt a "common vision" on the DRC and set up strategies to help those Congolese opposed to Kabila.
DRC: "Self-defence" plan violates peace accord, group charges
The Congolese human rights group Voix des sans voix (VSV) has said the government's distribution of weapons to newly-created civilian "popular self defence" units in Kinshasa was a dangerous measure that would contribute to scuttle current peace efforts in the country. In a statement received by IRIN on Thursday, VSV said it feared that the distribution of weapons "to a population living in dehumanising misery and abandoned to its own fate will only exacerbate the already very precarious security situation and complicate national reconciliation." It recommended that the government find other "appropriate" ways to improve security, noting that the arms distribution constituted a violation of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement.
DRC: Flooding threatens Kinshasa
The government on Thursday warned that Kinshasa faced imminent serious flooding on account of recent heavy rains in the northwest and southwest basins, UN sources said. At an information meeting, DRC officials said the level of the Congo river was now over 5 meters and rising, and the river was about to burst its banks at Kinshasa. Some city neighborhoods along the river were already underwater, people had lost their homes, and 14 of the city's 24 communes could be flooded in the coming days, the officials said. Electricity had been cut off in affected areas, flooded septic tanks had already exposed people to potential epidemics, and cholera had spread to 10 communes. A government-led crisis committee had been established to address the situation, the sources added.
BURUNDI: Main parties push for Mandela mediation
Representatives of Burundi's influential Convergence nationale pour la paix et la reconciliation (CNPR) - which groups together 10 parties within the country including the main FRODEBU and UPRONA parties - have been travelling in the region ahead of next week's Arusha regional summit to explain their position on the peace talks mediation and their support for a team of three facilitators, headed by former South African president Nelson Mandela. FRODEBU leader Augustin Nzojibwami, who is also president of the CNPR, told IRIN on Friday he believed they had the support of the sub-region, although he pointed out they had only visited Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya, whereas the summit would group 10 countries. "But it is difficult to turn down Mandela," he said. Nzojibwami believed the various sides would "harmonise" their positions when they meet in Arusha.
BURUNDI: CNDD-FDD says it must be consulted
Meanwhile, spokesman Jerome Ndiho of the rebel CNDD-FDD - which has so far been excluded from the peace process - told IRIN his group favoured a team of mediators, but stressed there must be no dominant personality in the team. While acknowledging that the region will take the final decision, Ndiho expressed reservations over the way the new mediation was progressing. CNDD-FDD's acceptance of the region's decision would not necessarily depend on the choice itself, but on whether the group had been consulted. "So far, the region has not consulted us," he remarked. [For further details please refer to separate IRIN item: "IRIN Focus on the Arusha summit"]
BURUNDI: Severe drought compounds crisis
Malnutrition and hunger are on the increase, particularly in drought-affected areas such as the northeastern provinces of Kirundo and Muyinga, CARE said on Friday. In a statement, the NGO said it had begun distributing food this week to some 250,000 drought-affected people in Kirundo following rapid assessments. CARE country director David Rhody said in some areas of Kirundo "even the banana trees, a stable crop, are dying for lack of water." "The security situation is perilous and the humanitarian situation, now exacerbated by a severe drought, is going from bad to worse," he said. The NGO this week also began distributing food to over 300,000 conflict-affected people in Bujumbura-Rural, the statement said. CARE's food distribution activities had been suspended since the October killings in Rutana, it added.
BURUNDI: New regroupment announced in Muramvya
The governor of Muramvya province, Rogatien Ndoricimpa, has decided to regroup the population of the Kirama-Kavya-Gatebe area, radio Burundi reported on Thursday. He was quoted as saying that the move was needed to restore security in the area, which had been destabilised by armed gangs. "People will be regrouped so as to provide them with better security and if necessary, to dismantle the conniving network in the sector," he said. The decision was to be implemented from Wednesday.
RWANDA: Suspect pleads not guilty to new charges
The former director of Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), Ferdinand Nahimana, on Thursday pleaded not guilty to three new counts of genocide and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania. An ICTR press release said Nahimana had pleaded not guilty to the four counts in his previous indictment, which was amended on 5 November. Meanwhile, ICTR judges on Thursday heard a motion by the prosecution for joining Nahimana's trial with that of another media-related genocide suspect, Hassan Ngeze, former editor of Kangura newspaper. Newly-appointed chief ICTR prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, who was on her first visit to the Arusha court this week, presented argument in support of the joinder motion, the statement said.
Nairobi, 26 November 1999, 14:30 gmt
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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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