IRIN Update 547 for 17 Nov 1998.11.17

IRIN Update 547 for 17 Nov 1998.11.17

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa

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IRIN Update No. 547 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 17 November 1998)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: South Africa accused of backing rebels

DRC Foreign Minister Jean-Charles Okoto yesterday (Monday) accused South Africa of supporting the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), the South African news agency SAPA reported. He was speaking to reporters in the course of a two-day visit to South Africa. "When you look around, there is not any other African country where those rebels are receiving everything they need," he said. "They are really welcome in South Africa." His South African counterpart Alfred Nzo today (Tuesday) denied backing the rebels, but urged the DRC government to open negotiations. The rebels were no longer a myth, but a "real factor in the political dynamics of the Congo," Nzo said, according to Reuters. Okoto rejected all calls for dialogue.

Pressure for negotiations mounting

Italy is to try and persuade President Laurent-Desire Kabila to talk to the rebels when he visits Europe next week, Reuters reported, quoting Italian diplomats in Kinshasa. According to the diplomats, it was possible the Sant'Egidio Community - which has been involved in various African peace initiatives - could also play a role. Reuters noted that last week Kabila met, for the first time, DRC's influential archbishop of Kisangani, Monsignor Laurent Monsengwo, who had recently returned from the Vatican. Kabila is hoping to meet the Pope during his visit to Rome, scheduled for 22-24 November. Catholic bishops in DRC have also urged Kabila to hold peace talks with the rebels. On Saturday, the Belgian daily 'Le Soir' commented it appeared that behind the scenes preparations for negotiations were underway.

Kabila will also visit Belgium and France, where he will attend a Franco-African summit in Paris later this month. A French foreign ministry spokeswoman, quoted by AFP, said the rebels had not been invited, but a leading member of the RCD, Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma argued they should be allowed to put forward their views to the French-speaking community.

Rebels claim control of Moba, Kongolo

Rebels this week claimed to have taken the Katangese towns of Moba and Kongolo. The Rwanda News Agency today quoted rebel-controlled Radio Bukavu which said 352 Congolese soldiers were captured during the "short battle" for Moba. The fall of Kongolo, on 9 November, meant the rebel forces were heading for Lubumbashi, rebel-held Goma radio said.

Bumba residents reportedly fleeing

Meanwhile, the independent "Le Phare" daily reported yesterday that residents of Bumba, in Equateur province, were fleeing the town in fear of a rebel attack. A second rebel group, the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), is active in the region. Humanitarian sources in contact with Bumba said there had been looting in the town and a curfew had been clamped on the provincial capital of Mbandaka.

Mobutu sons deny backing rebellion

Two sons of former president Mobutu Sese Seko told 'Le Soir' they wanted be involved in DRC affairs again. In an interview with the Belgian daily published yesterday, Manda and Nzanga Mobutu said the DRC situation was becoming "untenable". "We must get involved", they added. They stressed they were not financing the rebellion as they were opposed to a military solution. They however admitted they had been contacted by the rebel leaders, but gave no further details. The two criticised Kabila for "never attempting reconciliation", adding "we have no great liking for him, but he is there."

DRC urges UN to intervene

The DRC has called on the UN to urge Rwanda and Uganda to halt "all acts of violence" against the Congolese population. In a letter to the Security Council, the DRC ambassador to the UN Andre Kapanga gave a detailed list of alleged massacres and human right violations he claimed had been committed by Rwandan and Ugandan troops in eastern DRC. The letter, dated 6 November, alleged 150 people were killed in Kabare, 55 in Lubarika and a communal grave containing 600 bodies was found in Buegera. The letter also claimed over 648 people were massacred in Kasika. Dozens of houses in Bubembe, Luhuinja and Luindi villages, in South Kivu, had reportedly been set ablaze. Kapanga also appealed to the UN to condemn the "invasion" of DRC territory by Rwanda and Uganda and to call for the immediate withdrawal of their troops.

Rice says intention was not to deliver "pre-cooked US plan"

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice on Friday said her trip to the region earlier this month was marked by a "positive atmosphere" and a "genuine interest in dialogue". In a press statement on her return, she said the object of the visit was not to deliver a "pre-cooked US plan" on how to end the DRC conflict. The intention was to listen, learn and share ideas. She added that Rwanda's admission of involvement in the war was encouraging and it was hoped the sides could now negotiate a ceasefire and resolve the conflict.

RWANDA: Army officer killed by rebels

A Rwandan army officer and his escort were killed in a rebel ambush on Friday near the northwest town of Gatonde, AP reported today. According to Rwandan officials, the rebels fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an army pick-up truck. AP noted that rebel attacks on army convoys and other military targets are rare.

ETHIOPIA: Refugees in Kenya begin returning home

UNHCR yesterday began the voluntary repatriation of over 2,500 Ethiopian refugees living in the Dadaab camps of northeastern Kenya. In a statement received by IRIN today, UNHCR said the first 98 refugees were airlifted to the border town of Moyale in an operation that is expected to last five weeks. Over 50,000 Ethiopians fled to Kenya in 1991 following the collapse of the Mengistu regime as well as severe famine, UNHCR said. Many of them have steadily returned home.

SUDAN: Food production up in south

While food production in southern Sudan has increased substantially compared to last year, food aid is expected to be required throughout the coming year in several cereal-deficit areas, particularly in Bahr al-Ghazal region, an FAO crop and food supply assessment mission has found. In a report released yesterday, FAO forecast the total 1998 cereal production in southern Sudan at 537,700 mt. It said production in the traditional farming sector was double last year's poor harvest due to better rains and relatively few losses from pests and diseases. However, it is unlikely that surpluses produced in Upper Nile and Western Equatoria will reach food-deficit areas because of insecurity and the breakdown in trade routes and infrastructure, the report added. The mission visited government and rebel-held areas of southern Sudan from 1-23 October.

Nairobi, 17 November 1998, 14:35 gmt


Date: Tue, 17 Nov 1998 17:37:05 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 547 for 17 Nov 1998.11.17 Message-ID: <>

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

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