Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round-Up, 10/3/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round-Up, 10/3/97


Department of Humanitarian Affairs

Integrated Regional Information Network

for the Great Lakes

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[The weekly roundup is based on IRIN daily updates and other relevant information from UN agencies, NGOs, governments, donors and the media. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original sources.]

IRIN Weekly Roundup 24-97 of Main Events in the Great Lakes region, covering the period 26 Sept-2 Oct 1997

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UN investigative team leaves

After a month of frustration from the Kinshasa authorities, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced in New York on Wednesday he was recalling his stalled human rights investigative team for "consultations pending final clarification of the policy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo". Shortly before Annan's announcement, AFP quoted DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila as denying press reports he had requested the UN to pull out the mission, sent to investigate alleged gross violations of human rights. Meanwhile, UN Human Rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson said the UN team's terms of reference had been fully agreed to by the DRC government. According to news agencies, a US envoy could soon be despatched to the DRC and other Great Lakes capitals to pressure Kinshasa into allowing the UN inquiry to do its work.

Kabila plans intervention in Congo-Brazzaville

Following three consecutive days of artillery and mortar strikes on Kinshasa from Congo-Brazzaville, Kabila on Wednesday announced plans to send troops into Brazzaville to search for the guns and create a security corridor. He however said, what he described as an "observation detachment", would only be deployed after talks with Brazzaville rebel leader Denis Sassou Nguesso. During Wednesday, DRC gunners fired rockets at Brazzaville in retaliation for artillery salvoes from across the river that had killed at least 21 people in the DRC capital. Congo-Brazzaville Premier Bernard Kolelas, in Kinshasa to express "heartfelt" sympathy for the deaths, said there was "convincing proof" that former Zairean special presidential division (DSP) soldiers fighting alongside Sassou Nguesso were responsible for the shelling. Sources in Brazzaville quoted by AFP, however, claimed that at least one 122 mm cannon fired on Kinshasa from positions held by forces loyal to President Pascal Lissouba. A Sassou Nguesso spokesman told Radio France Internationale that Lissouba was trying to bring Kabila "into the Brazzaville conflict."

Fierce fighting in Katana, displaced return to Masisi

Fierce fighting was reported in eastern DRC at Katana, 15 km north of Kuvamu where Bukavu airport is located. One humanitarian source told IRIN the South Kivu town had fallen to Mai-Mai rebels on Wednesday. Sources said the road north of Kuvamu was closed and the airport deserted.

In North Kivu, local populations who fled recent fighting between anti-Tutsi Mai-Mai and Rwandan and DRC troops have started returning to Masisi from Walikale, humanitarian sources reported. Aid workers who had travelled along the main Sake-Masisi road reported the area was quiet although tense. Some 90 percent of the local population are estimated to have fled the violence in Masisi since July. Basic public infrastructure no longer exists and many returnees are reportedly living in makeshift structures.

Mai-Mai surrender, government denies massacre

Meanwhile, the government at the weekend reported that up to 5,000 Mai-Mai had surrendered to the government in the past three weeks and aimed to join the army. Interior Minister Mwenze Kongolo also said that some 800 Interahamwe Hutu militia and soldiers of the former Rwandan army had given themselves up and the authorities were negotiating with Kigali over their settlement in work programmes "far from the frontier [with Rwanda]". The Provincial Security Committee for North Kivu, meanwhile, denied media allegations that the DRC army recently massacred more than 500 Hutu and Mai-Mai fighters who had joined the army.

Police crackdown on radical opposition

DRC police arrested a former Zairean interior minister Celestin Shabani at the weekend. Shabani is a close associate of radical opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi. The local human rights group AZADHO called for an inquiry into the disappearance of two activists of Tshisekedi's l'Union democratique pour le progres social (UPDS). It also said it was seriously concerned for two party leaders it said were seriously ill in detention. In a recent letter to the EU, Tshisekedi described Kabila as a "dictator" and called for international pressure to force the government into creating a rule of law. Meanwhile, police detained the managing editor of the daily 'Le Palmares', Michael Luya, at the weekend.

Government wants US $14 billion debt cancelled

The DRC government called for a "pure and simple" cancellation of its US $14 billion debt. Foreign Minister Bizima Karaha told the UN General Assembly it was "public knowledge that these funds, in fact, never reached the Congo." As a fallback option, he said that if the debt could not be cancelled the UN should help find the US $14 billion he said was invested in banks around the world by ousted President Mobutu Sese Seko. The government has also appealed to the South African authorities to extradite senior Mobutu officials. According to a news report, South Africa's deputy foreign minister said he would investigate.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Peacekeeping force decision postponed

The UN put off a decision to send an international peacekeeping force to Congo-Brazzaville on the grounds that the conditions for deployment have not been met. "We believe that before there is a commitment of a peacekeeping force, there'll be a political framework and that hasn't happened yet," UN Security Council President Bill Richardson said last Friday. Fighting in the battered capital Brazzaville intensified this week with reports of the use of new heavier weapons by the warring parties. WFP estimates that 250,000 people have fled Brazzaville through the port city of Pointe Noire since the fighting began in June. The agency started food distribution with the Congolese Red Cross to 14,000 vulnerable people in Pointe Noire and plans to reach a further 60,000 displaced in four other major towns in the southern region.

RWANDA: UN reports 918 deaths in July/August

The UN Human Rights Field Operation for Rwanda (HRFOR) reported that at least 918 people had been killed during July and August, but estimated the level of violence had markedly declined. The mission said its investigators had found that many of the victims had been killed by Interahamwe militiamen and ex-FAR troops, but also said unarmed civilians died at the hands of the government army, the RPA. In their previous report, UN observers said that at least 2,873 people had been killed in May and June, including 2,022 in the northern Ruhengeri district alone. The HRFOR report also said that according to official figures the population in the 19 central prisons in Rwanda in August totalled around 72,000 compared to 68,000 in May. Detainees in other places of detention bring the total population to around 120,000.

Report notes deterioration in Gisenyi

The same report said there had been a marked deterioration, particularly in August in the security and human rights situation in Gisenyi Prefecture. The mission said it had gathered credible information indicating increased activities by armed groups as well as counter-insurgency operations by the RPA, sometimes resulting in the killing of civilians, and increased violence affecting refugees, genocide survivors and members of the local population.Meanwhile, humanitarian sources reported on Thursday that groups of Hutu refugees were arriving in the Rutshuru region in north Kivu, apparently fleeing violence in Rwerere commune in Gisenyi prefecture. The sources said 699 refugees have already arrived at Kanyaruchinya. Several more are reported to be on the way, but some reports said DRC soldiers were refusing to allow them to cross and pushing them back over the border.

Amnesty on repatriated refugees

Amnesty International reported that 6,000 civilians had been killed in the country this year. Amnesty said in a report issued on Thursday that 6,000 mostly unarmed civilians had been killed in Rwanda between January and August. The rights group said that refugees returning to Rwanda "are suffering in silence, their fate largely ignored by the outside world."

Drought deepens food insecurity

Rwandan radio claimed that "famine" is looming in the southwestern Gikongoro region. Interior Minister Sheikh Abdul Karim Harerimana on Tuesday met the country's prefects to draw up plans to cope with food shortages emerging in some regions. WFP said while there are no signs of famine at the moment, there "are clearly pockets of problems in Rwanda and many people are finding it difficult to cope right now." The FAO Rwandan office said any delay in rains could amplify the food insecurity problem. The rainy season normally begins in September in Rwanda, but an FAO report released on Wednesday noted drought threatened the 1998-A season (September - January 1998). "Taking into account the previous poor harvests, there is a risk, in the short run, of aggravating the existing food shortages, that already existed in eight of the 11 prefectures of Rwanda," the FAO report warned.

UNHCR vehicle ambushed, driver killed

A UNHCR truck operated by the German aid agency GTZ was ambushed in western Rwanda on Friday killing the driver in the resulting crash. The attack took place in Kibumu commune, Kibuye prefecture. The truck had UN markings. Three people travelling in the back of the vehicle were injured and taken to hospital.

BURUNDI: UNESCO meeting stresses dialogue

Participants at a UNESCO-organised meeting in Paris on 'Building the Future of Burundi' stated the need to end the violence and restore peace in the country through dialogue and negotiations, a UNESCO statement said. The September 26-28 meeting drew some 50 representatives from different sections of Burundian society to begin a dialogue. "Beside the need to end violence and restore peace through dialogue and negotiation, participants stated the need to work together with all social and political partners, to find a comprehensive solution to the problems of injustice and impunity," the statement said. The participants called for the continuation of the dialogue process begun by UNESCO.

FAO distribute seeds to more than 400,000 needy

FAO coordinated distribution of agricultural inputs for the 1998-A season is taking place in Bubanza, Cankuzo, Cibitoke, Karuzi, Kayanza, Muramvya, Rutana and Ruyigi. The organisation reports that 413,070 of 685,915 beneficiaries, or approximately 60 percent of the beneficiary population, have now received a standard ration of seeds and hoes. DHA reported that the site of Rwegura in the northeastern province of Kayanza, which currently holds about 3,000 persons, is to receive more support. A second site may also be set up if more people continue to arrive to join the others who emerged in very poor condition from the Kibira forest after fleeing inter-rebel fighting in neighbouring Cibitoke.

TANZANIA/BURUNDI: Border skirmish

Tanzanian and Burundian troops exchanged fire on their tense Lake Tanganyika border over the weekend. Both sides accused each other of starting the shooting. Dar es Salaam claimed a Burundian patrol vessel had harassed Tanzanian fishermen inside Tanzanian territorial waters and fired on Tanzanian troops that came to investigate. Bujumbura said the patrol boat incident was a pretext for Tanzanian artillery to open up on Burundian positions. No casualties were reported in the exchange of fire that reportedly lasted six hours into Sunday morning.

UGANDA: Joint operation planned to clear ADF

Uganda is planning a joint military operation with the DRC to secure the border and wipe out Ugandan rebels operating in the area. Western Uganda operations Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Angina said he was waiting to hold discussions with a representative from the DRC, AFP reported. "If Congo does not have the military capacity at present because of its own problems, we will ask for joint operations so we can seal the border and deal with this problem finally," Angina said. The rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) are based in the Rwenzori mountains which straddle the Uganda-DRC border, but also take refuge just inside the DRC. Angina told AFP there were only 63 rebels left in Bundibugyo district, after 250 infiltrated the area in June, and less than 300 operating in neighbouring Kasese district.

Splits in LRA reported

A top official in the exiled political wing of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has been expelled by the rebel group, the private 'Monitor' reported. Alfred Banya, LRA's secretary for political and human rights affairs, said in a letter to the newspaper that his sacking came after he raised concerns about ill-treatment of civilians by the rebels. Meanwhile, 300 travellers have been stranded for three weeks in Gulu town while the army clears the road leading north to the Sudanese border of LRA-planted mines, the 'Sunday Vision' reported. On 23 September, Kony and his rebel "brigade", known as Control Altar, crossed the road to join other rebel groups in Gulu district's Kilak county, AFP said.

SUDAN: Beshir/Museveni to meet

Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir is to meet his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni, in South Africa on 5 October. The talks in Pretoria are part of President Nelson Mandela's peace initiative to mend relations between the two neighbours. Zimbabwean leader and OAU chairman Robert Mugabe is also to attend the summit.

US embassy opening postponed

Under pressure from Congress, the US State Department on Tuesday reversed its decision to re-open its embassy in Sudan to allow lawmakers to consider a sanctions bill against Khartoum, AFP reported. "There is still no decision to re-staff our embassy in Khartoum," spokesman James Rubin said. Senators are considering measures to punish Sudan for its poor human rights record and failure to engage in a serious effort to end the civil war.

US accused of "acts of aggression"

Meanwhile, Sudan's Foreign Minister has accused the United States of "an act of aggression" by increasing military aid to hostile neighbours Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda. Last week US officials announced Washington was seeking to boost non-lethal military aid to the three countries to contain Sudanese-sponsored insurgencies. Taha complained the move was "absolutely unjustified".

Arms shipments from Asia alleged

A former Sudanese envoy in Malaysia has alleged the embassy in Kuala Lumpur has been coordinating arms deals with east Asian suppliers and reached an agreement with a Malaysian company to covertly ship the weapons to Sudan. The ex-attache, Abd al-Aziz Kattab, resigned and defected to the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA). According to NDA radio monitored by the BBC, he claimed that Khartoum was planning to buy "heavy weapons" from China, Indonesia and the Russian mafia.

ANGOLA: Government "disappointed" over sanctions delay

The Angolan government was "disappointed" with the UN Security Council's decision to give the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) another 30 days to comply with the Lusaka peace agreement. "We think that this process must be concluded, otherwise we will have a country which will be eternally postponed," a spokesman for the Angolan presidency told Portuguese Renascenca radio. The Security Council voted on Monday to extend the deadline to 30 October for UNITA to demonstrate "concrete and irreversible steps" on compliance before considering travel sanctions. The Security Council noted that although UNITA had made some progress in validating the 1994 peace accord, the process was not yet irreversible.

Nairobi, 3 October 1997, 12:00 gmt


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Date: Fri, 3 Oct 1997 14:58:13 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round-Up Update 24-97 26 Sept-2 Oct 1997 97.10.3 Message-ID: <>

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

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