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Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-Up 45-98 covering the period 30 Oct-5 Nov 1998
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kabila allies agree on offensive
Allies of President Laurent-Desire Kabila, meeting in Lubumbashi on Sunday, vowed to step up military operations in eastern DRC, state radio reported. The summit was attended by Kabila and his counterparts from Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, and Namibia, Sam Nujoma. Angola was invited but President Jose Eduardo dos Santos did not show up because the meeting was "convened at short notice", according to Mugabe who stressed Luanda's "continued solidarity" with the DRC.
Angola rejected subsequent media reports that it was withdrawing from the conflict. "We will leave Congo when the conflict is over", AP cited an Angolan official as saying. On Wednesday, Kabila arrived in Zimbabwe for further talks with Mugabe amid civil unrest in that country, news reports said.
EU wants Rwanda to admit role
The European Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries met on Wednesday in Vienna, Austria, and urged Rwanda to "admit its military presence" in the DRC in order to bring about a ceasefire, Radio France Internationale reported. "The rebels are getting favours from the United States, while Kabila's government is getting sympathetic understanding from Europe," the radio commented.
US envoy meets regional leaders and rebels
US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice held talks with Rwandan leaders on Wednesday as part of her regional tour to discuss the DRC crisis, news agencies said. In comments broadcast by Rwandan radio, she said a peaceful solution to the conflict should be found which addressed the legitimate border security concerns of DRC's neighbours. RFI reported that Rice also met in Kigali with rebel leaders Bizima Karaha and Ernest Wamba dia Wamba. Rice then travelled to Uganda for talks with President Yoweri Museveni.
Earlier in the week, Rice met Kabila in Kinshasa, President Frederick Chiluba in Zambia and Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Following his meeting with Rice on Saturday, Kabila said her proposals for advancing the peace process were "not acceptable" and would work against the interests of the DRC, news agencies reported. A US diplomat told IRIN on Wednesday the meeting had been "stormy" with Kabila insisting the war was the result of an "invasion not a rebellion."
Tanzania says Rwanda obstructing peace process
Tanzania, meanwhile, accused Rwanda of obstructing the DRC peace process, news organisations reported. Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete told journalists Kigali's refusal to admit its troops were involved in the conflict was a major obstacle to a ceasefire agreement adopted at last week's Lusaka meeting. He also warned that if rebels from the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) used Tanzanian airspace during the conflict, their planes would be shot down. Tanzania was neutral in the conflict, Kikwete added, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, South African President Nelson Mandela travelled to Nigeria on 29 October where he discussed the DRC crisis with General Abdulsalami Abubakar and other west African leaders gathered for a summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), news agencies said.
Up to 60,000 rebels reported in east
A report, received by IRIN, said rebel forces in eastern DRC were estimated at 45,000-60,000, including Ugandans and Rwandans. Of these, 30,000-35,000 were Congolese, the report said. Rwanda has consistently denied its army's involvement in the conflict, while Uganda states it has troops in eastern DRC solely to defend its territory against DRC-based Ugandan rebels.
Rebels control Buta
Journalists who travelled to Buta in Province Orientale this week confirmed that the town was under rebel control. Kinshasa had earlier claimed that government forces had retaken the town, located some 250 km north of Kisangani. Conflicting reports continued to be received on the security and military situation in Kalemie and other areas of Katanga province. Combat helicopters used by government forces or their allies sank two boats carrying rebels on Lake Tanganyika between Fizi and Kalemie on Saturday, news agencies reported on Tuesday.
"Bleak" humanitarian situation in east
Humanitarian sources, who travelled recently to areas of eastern DRC, said the situation in the region looked "bleak", with the possibility that high insecurity would jeopardise agricultural activity. Current humanitarian needs were tremendous", especially basics such as food and medicines. Cholera remains a major concern, especially in the Shabunda area. One NGO reported that the cholera mortality rate in South Kivu was up to 40 percent.
Humanitarian sources also expressed concern over the deteriorating food situation in Lubumbashi, where basic foodstuffs are expensive and becoming increasingly rare in the markets. Flooding in the province has destroyed up to 70 percent of last year's crops, they added.
Meanwhile, UNICEF said 37 mt of humanitarian goods for relief programmes in Bas-Congo and Kisangani were airlifted to Kinshasa on Wednesday.
UN report finds "ethnic cleansing"
Government and rebel forces have committed serious human rights violations since the start of conflict, including summary executions, arbitrary detentions and sexual violence, a UN human rights investigator has found. In his latest report released on 29 October, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the DRC, Roberto Garreton, said the Kabila government had adopted an "ethnic-cleansing approach" to combating the rebellion. He said Tutsis or people thought to be Tutsi were summarily executed by government forces.
The government has protested to the UN against the report. Speaking over DRC television on Friday, Human Rights Minister Leonard Okitundu said the report was "based on false allegations and reflects a lack of seriousness".
BURUNDI: Government says violence may disrupt peace process
The government of Burundi has expressed satisfaction with the third round of Arusha peace talks, held last month, but said it was concerned by continuing rebel violence in the country despite an assertion by rebel groups that they would cease hostilities. In a statement, received by IRIN on Thursday, the government warned that the Arusha negotiators' and facilitators' "inability" to end the violence risked leading Burundians to believe the process was not a "path to peace, but a source of danger". The statement also expressed concern that regional sanctions had still not been lifted.
UN rapporteur hails peace efforts, notes existing tension
Meanwhile, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burundi, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, has hailed the government's efforts to promote peace, while observing that tension still remains at communal level. In an interim report presented to the General Assembly, Pinheiro noted a "minimum level of trust" had been established between the government, political parties, national assembly and civil society, but he expressed concern over the lack of progress in the trial of military personnel accused of taking part in the 1993 coup attempt.
He said regional economic sanctions had aggravated the already precarious situation in the country and the time had now come for the international community to reassess its position regarding humanitarian aid.
Meanwhile, Pinheiro on 29 October issued a statement condemning last week's attack south of Bujumbura in which 34 civilians were killed and 25 others wounded by armed groups. Local authorities have blamed Hutu rebels for the attack, news agencies said.
RWANDA: Verdicts in collective genocide trial
Eleven people were acquitted of genocide charges by a court in Nyamata on Monday, while 11 other suspects were sentenced by the same court to life imprisonment, the independent Hirondelle news agency said on Tuesday. The court also sentenced another 23 people to jail terms ranging from 12 and 20 years. Hirondelle said that the Nyamata trial was one of largest and fastest collective genocide trials seen so far in Rwanda, where about 136,000 people remain under detention.
Akayesu ends hunger strike
Ex-mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu, recently convicted of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), ended his hunger strike at the ICTR's detention facilities in Arusha on Friday. An ICTR press release, received by IRIN, said Akayesu had informed the Registrar he would utilise "the established procedures" to pursue his request for a defence lawyer of his choice to handle his appeal.
Nine judges appointed to ICTR
The UN General Assembly on Tuesday elected nine judges to serve at the ICTR, Hirondelle reported. There are five new faces, while the remaining four are already serving at the Tribunal. Newly elected were Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia, Mehmet Guney of Turkey, Dyonisios Kondylis of Greece, Erik Mose of Norway and Lloyd George Williams of Jamaica and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
TANZANIA: Over 316,000 refugees recorded
More than 14,000 Congolese refugees have arrived in western Tanzania since the beginning of the crisis in August, according to UNHCR. The newly-arrived refugees said they fled because of insecurity and fears of a government counter-offensive in eastern DRC. According to OCHA's latest report on affected populations in the Great Lakes region, Tanzania now hosts over 316,400 refugees, including some 265,000 Burundians, 47,000 Congolese and 4,400 Rwandans.
KENYA: Northeast massacre
Official figures indicate 142 people were killed by raiders in the northeast district of Wajir on Sunday, local media reported. The 'Daily Nation' said about 500 bandits had crossed from Ethiopia and had plundered several villages along the border. Both the Ethiopian government and the rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) have denied any involvement in the massacre. The Kenyan authorities were searching the Moyale and Wajir areas for survivors and perpetrators of the attacks, local media reports said.
The ICRC sent a team to Wajir with medicines and food. In a press release, it expressed concern over the raids, which even targeted children and pregnant women.
UGANDA: LRA, Sudanese troops said massing on border
Sudanese government troops and rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have reportedly massed at the Uganda-Sudan border, threatening to invade Uganda, the state-owned 'New Vision' reported on Wednesday. It cited Ugandan military and security sources who said the troops were planning to enter the country via the Kitgum area. An army intelligence officer said the army was prepared for the insurgents whose numbers were put at 200-300.
Fewer displaced in north
Meanwhile, the number of displaced people in Uganda has decreased since September and is now estimated at 474,327, according to figures provided by OCHA. In its latest report on affected populations in the Great Lakes region, OCHA said improved security conditions in northern areas, notably in Gulu district, have permitted many people to leave their camps and engage in farming activities. The western district of Bundibugyo also experienced a decrease in the number of displaced people, from 27,500 in September to 11,000 as of 30 October.
SUDAN: OLS workers evacuated from Western Equatoria
Forty-two UN and NGO workers were evacuated from Western Equatoria to Lokichokio in northern Kenya on Tuesday and Wednesday following looting and attacks on vehicles since 28 October, an OLS spokeswoman told IRIN. The most recent incident occurred on Monday when a truck transporting WFP food was attacked and two passengers were seriously injured. Local authorities have attributed the attacks to SPLA deserters. Some 20 OLS workers remain in the area to continue essential assistance activities.
Impact of insecurity detailed
Restricted access, insecurity and lack of resources impeded OLS efforts to respond to Sudan's most serious humanitarian crisis in a decade, according to the UN Secretary-General's annual report to the General Assembly on emergency assistance to the Sudan. The report, received by IRIN on Friday, said between August 1997 and June 1998, over 200 relief personnel were evacuated from 37 locations in Sudan and indiscriminate bombing by the government in civilian areas was reported on 31 separate occasions. Meanwhile, NGOs working in rebel-held areas had faced new restrictions on their operations during the same period, the report said.
CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: WFP stocks almost depleted
Food distributions to some 150,000 vulnerable people in Brazzaville and Kinshasa may soon be halted because of the continued suspension of rail traffic between Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville, WFP said. In a press release received by IRIN on Friday, WFP said the closing last month of the railway line due to insecurity south of Brazzaville has prevented the transport of food aid from Pointe-Noire, and WFP food stocks in the two capitals are now almost exhausted.
The insecurity in the Pool region south of Brazzaville has led to population displacements in the area with many of the displaced taking refuge in nearby forests where they have no access to food, according to humanitarian sources.
AFRICA: UN launches malaria initiative
Four UN agencies on Friday launched a new global campaign to fight malaria, which unlike most other major diseases is still spreading. The initiative, involving WHO, UNICEF, UNDP and the World Bank, will focus on Africa where 90 percent of malaria cases occur, the agencies said in a joint statement received by IRIN. In sub-Saharan Africa, malaria kills each day about 3,000 children under five years of age and is a major impediment to economic development. The campaign will seek, among other things, to strengthen health systems to ensure better access to health care, especially at community levels.
Nairobi, 6 November 1998, 12:00 GMT
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Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 14:54:35 +0300 (GMT+0300) From:
IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <email@example.com>
Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-Up
45-98 1998.11.6 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.981106144539.8492Afirstname.lastname@example.org
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