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Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-Up 42-98 covering the period 9-15 Oct 1998
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels capture Kindu
Rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) captured the town of Kindu in Maniema province on Monday after an eight-day battle with government forces. Reuters on Thursday said residents of the town were returning home after earlier fleeing into nearby forests to escape the fighting. Rebels said they had taken captive Sudanese troops, ex-FAR, Interahamwe and insurgents from Burundi and Uganda, Rwandan radio reported. They also said there were "many" casualties on both sides and that 1,377 government soldiers had surrendered, according to news agencies. A rebel military commander told AFP that about 200 Rwandan soldiers had fought alongside the RCD in Kindu, but Rwanda has consistently denied any involvement.
"Turning point" for rebels
RCD military commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane said the fall of Kindu, the government's forward military headquarters, marked a turning point in the war in favour of the rebels. The town of Samba further south was also captured, rebels told news agencies, while informed sources in contact with the towns of Kasango and Lusangi, southeast of Kindu, told IRIN that both towns had also recently fallen to the rebels. Aircraft shot down over Kindu
Earlier, a Congo Airlines aircraft with some 40 people on board was shot down by rebels over Kindu airport on Saturday morning, news agencies reported. The rebels told Reuters that the Boeing 727 aircraft was carrying government soldiers and military equipment, but the government said the plane was carrying civilians. The Canadian government condemned the rebels' downing of the plane, news agencies reported on Thursday.
Mugabe "committed" to defending DRC
In Kinshasa, government spokesman Didier Mumengi described the loss of Kindu as a "strategy" by the Congolese army, DRC television said on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe told a news conference in Lubumbashi on Wednesday that his country was "committed" to defending DRC. He was speaking after private talks with President Laurent-Desire Kabila, according to Congolese television.
Rebels still in Bas-Congo
Some 3,000 to 4,000 rebel soldiers remain in the western province of Bas-Congo, threatening security along the Matadi-Kinshasa road, informed sources told IRIN on Wednesday. The rebels have also looted homes and caused "considerable hardship" for local communities in Bas-Congo, the sources added.
Kinshasa economy deteriorating
The economic situation in Kinshasa is deteriorating rapidly due to the impact of the war, with rising unemployment and a dramatic decrease in the purchasing power of the population, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Wednesday. Commercial imports to the capital have been very limited and prices of basic goods are at least twice as high as before the war. Kinshasa has also been suffering severe fuel shortages for nearly a week, DRC television reported.
SPLA denies attacking Dungu refugees
World Vision started a trucking operation over the weekend to rescue vulnerable Sudanese refugees stranded at the Sudan/DRC border, the NGO said in a press release received by IRIN. Some 11,200 returnees had been registered in Yambio, Western Equatoria, but others had arrived and were as yet uncounted, the statement said. More than 40,000 Sudanese were accommodated in the Dungu area of northeastern DRC before the crisis. In a statement received by IRIN, the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has denied its troops are attacking Sudanese refugees in Dungu. UN mission to east detailed
The UN mission to the Kalemie and Uvira areas of eastern DRC on 7-8 October estimated that there were between 8,000 and 10,000 displaced Banyamulenge in the area, the mission leader, OCHA's Kevin Kennedy, told IRIN on Monday. The displaced said they had fled the Vyura area of Katanga Province in August following attacks on their villages. About 250 had been killed in Vyura or on the way towards Kalemie, the mission was informed. The RCD said they wished to relocate the displaced to an area some 35 km north of Uvira, for resettlement. The UN team found that while there was currently no severe humanitarian crisis, the longer-term well-being of the displaced and other vulnerable groups in the area could be in jeopardy. The assessment team included representatives from OCHA, UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF as well as a UN security officer.
Cholera outbreak near Bunia
Humanitarian sources told IRIN on Wednesday that a cholera outbreak in the Nyankunde area of Province Orientale near the Ugandan border had claimed 22 lives, out of a total of 120 cholera cases reported up to the end of September. Meanwhile, the cholera situation in the Shabunda area of South Kivu remains severe, with a serious shortage of treatment drugs reported, humanitarian sources said.
BURUNDI: Peace talks underway in Arusha
The third round of Arusha peace talks started on Tuesday, after a one-day delay, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. Hirondelle said the agenda adopted by the meeting included debate on democracy and good governance in Burundi, but not on the issue of sanctions. At the opening session, the leader of the pro-monarchist Parti pour la reconciliation du peuple (PRP), Mathias Habimana, called for the resignation of President Pierre Buyoya, news reports said.
FROLINA proposes granting general amnesty
Delegates attending the peace talks in Arusha, Tanzania, debated a proposal by the rebel group FROLINA to grant a general amnesty in Burundi, AP reported. FROLINA leader Joseph Karumbi said establishing a commission to investigate all massacres since 1962, then declaring an amnesty would usher in a new beginning.
Factions dismiss talks
The rebel CNDD/FDD faction, in a statement received by IRIN, said it would not be bound by any agreements reached in Arusha, since it was not represented at the talks. Meanwhile, the sacked leader of the pro-Tutsi UPRONA party, Charles Mukasi, dismissed the talks as a "manoeuvre by the authorities to institutionalise ethnic racism, crime and genocide", news reports said.
RWANDA: UN commission finds evidence of arms supplies to ex-FAR
The UN International Commission of Enquiry investigating arms flows in the Great Lakes region has found there is still significant organised support for the ex-FAR in the region. In an interim report received by IRIN, the Commission said it had investigated the reported trans-shipment of weapons from the Horn of Africa to the Great Lakes region via the Kakuma and Lokichokio refugee camps in Kenya. Rwandan exiles in Nairobi are also recruiting young men from the Lukole and Karagwe refugee camps in Tanzania "to open a new front in eastern Rwanda", the report quoted its sources as saying. The Commission further found evidence of arms trafficking from South Africa through Zimbabwe and Zambia, and of links between the ex-FAR, ex-FAZ and rebel groups from Burundi and Uganda. The final report is due out next month.
Over 350 rebels killed in military sweep
The Rwandan army has killed 378 rebels in the course of a big military sweep in the northwest, the Rwanda News Agency reported on Tuesday. It cited military sources in Ruhengeri who said the operations, launched this month, covered the Ruhengeri and Bushiru areas. One captured rebel leader said he was part of an armed group responsible for the recent attack on Goma airport in eastern DRC.
Rwanda to release 10,000 genocide suspects
Rwanda said it was planning to release about 10,000 genocide suspects who have no files. Justice Minister Faustin Ntezilyayo, who made the announcement, said however that should any evidence be found, they would be rearrested and tried, Rwandan radio reported. However, a genocide survivors' organisation, ASRG MPORE, described the decision as a threat to the security of survivors.
Operation to produce quality seeds launched
The FAO, in collaboration with the ministry of agriculture, has launched an operation for the production of bean and pea seeds, the UN agency reported. It said that a total of 250 hectares would be cultivated by eight farming associations for the 1999 A season. Meanwhile, the Rwandan Red Cross Society is to distribute seeds and tools to 6,800 households in four communes in Gikongoro prefecture, the latest WFP emergency report said.
TANZANIA: DRC refugees top 10,000
Over 1,000 refugees from eastern DRC arrived in the Kigoma area of western Tanzania between 8-11 October, bringing their total number to 11,289 since early August, according to UNHCR. Most of the latest arrivals come from the Kalemie area of Katanga. The refugees reported that clashes were taking place between Mayi-Mayi warriors and DRC rebels in the Kalemie area and that rebel soldiers were harassing civilians, humanitarian sources said. In addition to Congolese refugees, some 3,000 Burundians have arrived in the Kigoma area since August.
SUDAN: Government extends ceasefire
The Sudanese government has extended the ceasefire in Bahr al-Ghazal by three months for "humanitarian" purposes, AFP reported on Monday. The SPLA last week announced that it would extend the ceasefire by three months and that the extension would also apply to the western Upper Nile region, news agencies reported. The current ceasefire expires on 15 October. UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Sergio Vieira de Mello on Monday said the cease-fire extension would enable OLS to continue its relief efforts in famine-stricken Bahr al-Ghazal, but he noted that there was also a serious humanitarian situation in other areas of southern Sudan.
Khartoum claims it controls Juba-Torit road
Sudanese state radio said that government forces have regained control of the road between Juba and Torit in Eastern Equatoria, which is not covered by the ceasefire. The SPLA confirmed that its troops had withdrawn from the town of Liria in eastern Equatoria "for tactical reasons."
WFP barge along Sobat
A WFP barge convoy started delivering 1,244 mts of food to over 100,000 people in some 40 locations along the Sobat river in Upper Nile State. In a statement received by IRIN, WFP said the three-barge convoy left the port of Kosti in White Nile State on 1 October and was scheduled to arrive at Nyandit near the Ethiopian border at the end of October.
Flood emergency still critical
Although flooding has receded in northeast Sudan, the flood emergency has now entered a "critical public health phase" as large areas remain under stagnant water, according to the latest OCHA Sudan situation report. There is concern that the emergency situation, affecting hundreds of thousands of people, could worsen in the coming months due to outbreaks of water-borne diseases, lack of shelter and poor food-security conditions, the report said.
63 nomads killed by floods
Sixty-three people were killed by torrential rain and floods in western Sudan on Monday night, the interior ministry announced. It said massive downpours in parts of Sodari province, North Kordofan state, had flooded the Wad Sulayman valley. The 63 Arab nomads were swept away by the torrents of water, the ministry said, according to Sudanese television. Livestock and property were also destroyed.
UGANDA: Army declares no-fly zones
The Ugandan army has banned aircraft from overflying Kampala and the industrial town of Jinga, the independent 'Monitor' newspaper has reported. The ban covers all commercial, charter and scheduled flights and came into effect this week. "There is growing violation of our airspace. This is a normal action taken for security reasons that bear in mind threats from [neighbouring] Sudan," Army Commander Jeje Odongo told the paper.
Situation calmer in north
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which operates in Uganda, told IRIN on Wednesday that the situation in the north of the country has quietened down considerably with no real threats by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) of late. However, it warns that the LRA may step up its activities later in the year. The troubled Gulu and Kitgum areas are relatively calm at the moment, although there is still the sporadic kidnapping of children from protected villages by the rebels. The NRC noted however that the displaced population in the region currently stands at 500,000, up from 180,000 a year ago.
Defence adviser goes to Kigali for consultations
Ugandan military adviser Major-General Salim Saleh has flown to Kigali following reports of a rift between the two countries' armies over the DRC conflict, the state-owned 'New Vision' said. According to the newspaper, the semi-official 'New Times' of Rwanda claimed differences had emerged between the Rwandan army and a "clique" of Ugandan army officers over operations in DRC. The 'New Times' article appeared to be in response to an earlier report by the independent Ugandan 'Monitor' daily which described the Rwandan troops in DRC as "indisciplined, arrogant and colonialist".
ADF camps destroyed, army says
The Ugandan army says it has destroyed 18 camps belonging to the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the Rwenzori mountains and rescued 222 civilians, the state-owned 'Sunday Vision' reported. It cited Second Division Commander Colonel Nakibus Lakara who said 22 of the civilians were students of Kichwamba technical college who were abducted by the ADF three months ago.
CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Rail traffic still suspended
Humanitarian sources told IRIN on Wednesday that rail traffic between Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire remains suspended. The rail line was closed on 28 September following several attacks on villages in the Pool region south of Brazzaville by suspected Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas, news agencies said. Recent insecurity and the closure of the rail line has led to bread and fuel shortages and the doubling in the price of many basic goods in Brazzaville, humanitarian sources said.
Children's plight one year after war
One year after the end of the 1997 civil war in Congo-Brazzaville on 15 October, the lingering impact of the five-month conflict combined with renewed insecurity in parts of the country are taking an increasingly heavy toll on Congolese children, UNICEF has warned. In many remote areas, children have remained un-vaccinated over the past 18 months, access to adequate food supplies is precarious and the successful re-opening of the coming school year has been jeopardized, UNICEF said in a statement received by IRIN on Wednesday.
The presence of large numbers of arms and unemployed ex-militia are among the factors fueling rampant violence against women and children, including sexual violence, it added. "While a pattern of hopelessness and despair appears to be taking hold of youth in the country, Congolese children are being deprived of their basic rights," UNICEF representative Eric Laroche said in the statement.
Nairobi, 16 October 1998
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Date: Fri, 16 Oct 1998 14:23:49 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <email@example.com> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-Up 42-98 1998.10.16 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.981016142120.20511Ofirstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar, email@example.com