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Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 39 covering the period 25 September - 1 October 1999
BURUNDI: Defence ministry slams MISNA allegations
The defence ministry has 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 others were killed in Burundi's northern suburbs overnight Tuesday.
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 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.
BURUNDI: Government explains policy
The Burundian government said it had adopted measures to group residents of Bujumbura Rural in protection sites to ensure their safety. In a statement received by IRIN on Wednesday, the government explained the move was aimed at "isolating the enemy." 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, the statement said.
BURUNDI: Rwandan military not helping, Buyoya says
Burundian President Pierre Buyoya on Saturday denied that his country was receiving military aid from Rwanda to help it fight Hutu militia groups. Speaking in the Rwandan capital Kigali after meeting with President Pasteur Bizimungu, Buyoya said his country had "all the means" necessary to defeat the rebels.
BURUNDI: Rights group warns of "explosive" situation
A Burundian human rights group last Friday described the situation as "explosive" with tensions mounting and the violence "becoming deadlier" as the country approaches the end of the Arusha peace process. In a letter to international human rights organisations, ITEKA said peace negotiations were advancing at a "forced pace", ethno-centric passions were high, radical wings were emerging within main political parties, the population's living conditions were rapidly deteriorating and there was a feeling of "imminent chaos."
Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group (ICG), a think tank which monitors the situation in the Great Lakes region, told IRIN this week that Buyoya needs to complete the peace process very quickly in order to retain legitimacy. "Arusha is becoming his last political card," ICG said. "He is isolated within his own group, losing part of his Tutsi political base and criticised by the Hutus for not doing enough." Observers pointed out that if the Burundi situation was allowed to escalate out of control, the entire Great Lakes cauldron again risks boiling over.
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 an additional 100,000-200,000 "seriously affected" residents of rural areas, he said. "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.
REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Over 60 said killed as government recaptures town
About 60 people were reportedly killed in a fierce fight between Ninja rebels and government troops for control of the rebel-held town of Kindamba in the Pool region, according to Congolese radio. It said calm had returned to Kindamba and the public security forces were continuing mopping-up operations.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UN observers get "mixed signals"
The UN Observer Mission to the Congo (MONUC), which began its operational stage in the DRC on Monday, has been receiving "mixed signals" from the government of President Laurent-Desire Kabila. "The attitude of some authorities does not seem too supportive of our presence, but we are optimistic that will change," MONUC information officer Lt-Col Pierre Massart told IRIN from Kinshasa. The establishment of the mission's advance headquarters had been hampered by detailed, sometimes petty, administrative procedures, he said. Nineteen UN Military Liaison Officers (MLOs) have so far been deployed and begun operations in Kinshasa, Kampala, Kigali, Bujumbura, Lusaka, Harare and Windhoek to monitor the implementation of the Lusaka peace deal.
DRC: New mediators sought after rebel rejection
The OAU is searching for new mediators to lead the proposed inter-Congolese negotiations on the political future of the country, following last week's rejection by a rebel faction of previously-suggested facilitators, 'The East African' newspaper reported on Monday. The Political Committee created under the Lusaka agreement to supervise the peace plan was also involved in the search, the newspaper said.
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, IRIN sources in Goma confirmed on Wednesday. The Goma grouping had decided that all goods coming from the new RCD-Kisangani 'province' incorporating Beni and Butembo areas - 'Province de Ruwenzori' - were coming from a foreign country, and that traders were due to pay customs duties when importing goods through Kasindi border or from Beni-Butembo, IRIN sources added.
DRC: "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. Their ultimate objective was to make off with Congo's resources, he said.
DRC: 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 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. Reverend Ngoy Mulunda-Nyanga, of the Nairobi-based All-Africa Council of Churches (AACC), said: "We want to see how we at the grassroots can best ensure the success of the agreement."
UGANDA: Kisangani report accepted "with reservations"
At a press conference in Kampala, a visiting senior Rwandan government official, Charles Mirugande, reiterated that Rwanda was fully satisfied with the joint investigation into the recent clashes between Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers in Kisangani. 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. 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".
UGANDA: North Kivu Hutus flee to Uganda
At least 350 Hutus of Congolese origin have fled to Uganda from their homes in the Rutshuru zone of the DRC following a massive deployment of Rwandan troops during the past week, the semi-official Ugandan 'New Vision' newspaper on Tuesday. The displaced, mostly women and children, fled Kitagoma village in North Kivu to Busanza refugee transit camp, about 15 km west of Kisoro town in western Uganda, the paper reported. Rwanda has denied building up troops in North Kivu.
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. "We are on the right track to eradicating the polio virus," Barenzi said.
RWANDA: 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. Meanwhile, some 20,000 vulnerable families in the prefectures of Umutara, Kibungo and Gikongoro are suffering from food shortages, a WFP official in Kigali told IRIN on Wednesday.
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 [www.unhcr.ch/fdrs/my99/toc.htm], 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.
TANZANIA: Nyerere in "critical" condition
Former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, suffering from leukaemia, was readmitted to a London hospital on Saturday in "critical condition", news agencies said. The Tanzanian 'Guardian' newspaper quoted President Benjamin Mkapa as saying Nyerere, facilitator of the Burundi peace process, was diagnosed with leukaemia in August 1998.
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.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Election results rejected "in advance"
Presidential candidates challenging incumbent President Ange-Felix Patasse said on Friday that they "reject in advance" the results of the first-round vote, news agencies reported. In a joint statement, the opposition candidates said the 19 September election results would be rejected because of 'the breaching of legality." The candidates called for "popular resistance to prevent an electoral coup d'etat by the candidate Patasse." Election results are due to be announced by Bangui's Constitutional Court by 3 October.
SOMALIA: UN resumes aid activities in Somalia
The UN on Tuesday rescinded its decision to suspend aid work in southern and central Somalia following the murder of a senior UNICEF official earlier in September. A statement from the Office of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator said while investigations continue in order to identify the killers, discussions held between UN agencies, community leaders, clan elders and civic groups in Baidoa, Jowhar and Mogadishu indicate a "clear determination" to take steps at the community level to prevent such "wanton" killings in future.
SOMALIA: Call for "preventative measures" to avert crisis
Meanwhile, the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB) on Tuesday called for "urgent preventative measures" to address the "worsening" food security crisis in the Bay, Bakool and Gedo regions. An inter-agency assessment mission in early September noted a "chronic depletion of local resources and capacities to cope" which was rendering the population "increasingly vulnerable," an SACB statement said.
KENYA: New alert to alarming AIDS figures
Over 87,000 reported AIDS cases in Kenya in the past five years were "only the tip of the pyramid" and the estimated number of Kenyans with AIDS was over 700,000, according to a new report by the National AIDS and Socially Transmitted Diseases Control Programme (NASCOP). In addition, about 1.9 million adults and some 90,000 children were infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, almost all of whom would develop AIDS and die within the next 10 years or so, the report stated. The adult prevalence of HIV infection was estimated in 1998 at 13.9 percent.
Nairobi, 1 October 1999
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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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