REPUBLIC OF CONGO: IRIN News Briefs [19991029]

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: IRIN News Briefs [19991029]

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: IRIN News Briefs, Friday 29 October


MSF details atrocities "Unbearable" silence of international community "Unprecedented" humanitarian crisis Soldiers warned of execution risk Clash west of capital Kinkala relief efforts Flooding affects polio campaign Cuba to build 6,000 houses

MSF details atrocities

The army, pro-government militia and armed rebel groups have "generated massive and blind atrocities" against civilian populations since the resumption of conflict in December 1998, MSF said in a report released on Wednesday. It said more than 10 percent of the country's population had been displaced, including over 250,000 people who fled the capital Brazzaville and sought refuge in the forests of the Pool region south of the city, where they became "de facto hostages" of the Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas. "Victims of indiscriminate violence, they have had no access to food or medical care," it said, adding that those who managed to return to Brazzaville were now the victims of indiscriminate attacks from the government army and its Cobra militia.

"Unbearable" silence of international community

Civilians caught in the country's "forgotten war" have been subjected to arbitrary executions, mutilations, rapes and disappearances, the report said, citing recently-collected testimonies from affected families. Given the gravity of the situation, "the silence and indifference of the international community is unbearable", according to MSF, which was awarded the Nobel peace prize last week. Although the capital has been relatively calm since July, there is today "little hope of a rapid and negotiated solution to the conflict", and both sides reject responsibility for violence against the population.

"Unprecedented" humanitarian crisis

Meanwhile, MSF teams in the Congo have reported an "unprecedented nutritional and medical crisis". Out of the 200,000 displaced people who have returned from Pool to Brazzaville since May, 14,700 people - including more than 3,300 children under five years old - have been treated for serious malnutrition in the city's nutritional centres. There were now 1,000-2,000 people arriving every day, and many were still dying during their trip back to Brazzaville or soon after. The Pool region remained inaccessible to humanitarian organisations, and hundreds of thousands of civilians were still caught in the fighting, the report said.

Soldiers warned of execution risk

Congo's chief of defence staff, General Jacques-Yvon Ndodou, said last week the army would no longer put up with undisciplined elements within its ranks, Radio Congo reported on 21 October. During visits to Brazzaville's garrison units, Ndodou warned soldiers they could face execution for bad behaviour. "Military tribunals will soon be put in place to try and even, if need be, execute soldiers who carry out reprehensible acts," Ndodou said. "Officers should henceforth assume their responsibilities," the radio quoted him as saying.

Clash west of capital

Four Ninja militiamen were killed during a clash with government forces at Mayama about 80 km west of Brazzaville, army spokesman Colonel Jean-Robert Obargui said last week. Reuters quoted him as saying several government soldiers had been wounded in the clash.

Kinkala relief efforts

A team from the NGO, Caritas, has been posted in the town of Kinkala to start relief activities in the area, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Friday. The team, which includes two doctors, arrived last Friday with food and medical supplies provided by WFP, WHO and UNICEF, the sources added. An inter-agency mission to Kinkala last month found a "grave humanitarian crisis", with many people in a state of life-threatening malnutrition.

Flooding affects polio campaign

A government team on Thursday travelled to northern Congo to assess the impact of recent flooding in several areas, UN and media sources said. UN agencies provided some drugs and water purification tablets for the mission. State television last Friday reported that some 40,000 people in about 30 villages of the Cuvette regions had been affected by the floods. Meanwhile, the flooding would add to the already existing access problems for the national polio vaccination campaign, which targets some 400,000 children, according to a UN report received by IRIN on Friday.

Cuba to build 6,000 houses

Foreign Minister Rodolphe Adada on Tuesday said Cuba had agreed to build 6,000 houses in Brazzaville, news agencies reported. The agreement was signed in the Cuban capital Havana at a recent meeting of the Congo-Cuba joint commission, the Panafrican news agency (PANA) said. The agreement also provided for the relaunching of Congo's building industry, it said.


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

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