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IRIN Update No. 302 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 28 November 1997)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Shooting reported in Kinshasa
Heavy gunfire broke out in Kinshasa this afternoon (Friday) in the city centre and around the presidential palace, news organisations reported. They said sporadic outbreaks of firing were also heard last night and again this morning. Residents told IRIN they saw heavy troop movements in the DRC capital on Friday, but said the reason for the shooting was not clear.
Supporters condemn Masasu arrest
Meanwhile, supporters of detained acting DRC army chief General Masasu Nindaga claim he has been falsely accused of coup plotting and have warned that his arrest could lead to a serious rift within the ruling party. News agencies reported that although the government has stressed his arrest was for "disciplinary reasons", it is an indication of deep divisions within the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL). These allegedly centre on the rivalry between President Laurent-Desire Kabila and his followers who are from the southern Shaba province, and some soldiers who are from the east and loyal to Masasu, a co-founder of the ADFL.
Radio France Internationale reported yesterday (Thursday) that Deogratias Bugera, the ADFL's secretary-general, has publicly backed Masasu. Bugera described him as "reliable". However, in an interview with Reuters today in Nairobi at the end of a three-day visit, Foreign Minister Bizima Karaha defended Masasu's incarceration on the grounds that he was involved in "dubious activities". Karaha said his detention would have no effect on the power dynamics of the ADFL as "Masasu was never in charge of the military command". Regional analysts say that Rwandan Vice President and Defence Minister Paul Kagame was kept closely informed of events and condoned the arrest to preserve stability in Kinshasa.
Foreign minister seeks normalisation of relations with Kenya
Karaha said he was in Kenya to normalise bilateral relations and President Daniel arap Moi had promised to rein in exiled Congolese political dissidents. He told Reuters that the move would also pave the way for DRC's participation in regional cooperation, security, trade and investment matters. "My mission to Kenya was to meet President Moi and open up serious, normal channels of communication between our two countries. We had to defuse an impression that the two countries were enemies," Karaha said.
Amnesty issues alert over arrests
Amnesty International (AI) has issued an alert over the fate of 11 leaders of the opposition Forces du futur who were arrested on Tuesday while holding a meeting in Kinshasa. According to the rights group the men have been tortured and denied access to medical treatment. They are currently being held by the the Police d'Intervention Rapide (PRI) at the gendarmerie headquarters known as the Circo. Among them is the president of the movement, Zahidi Arthur Ngoma. According to Amnesty, the detainees were told they were arrested for their political activities. Ten journalists were also picked up in the initial swoop on the meeting and were beaten up and had their equipment stolen, Reporters sans frontieres said in a press statement.
In a separate release, AI yesterday also said it was concerned for the safety of two human rights activists. Roger Sala Nzo Badila, Secretary-General of the Christian NGO Centre national des droits de l'homme (CENADHO) was arrested on 23 November at his home in the capital. He is not known to have been charged, but his arrest is apparently related to an article he wrote criticising the human rights record of the government. Nsii Luanda Shandwe, president of the Comite des observateurs des droits de l'homme (CODHO) has gone into hiding after being warned that the security forces were looking for him. He recently published a report on allegations of massacres by the ADFL.
Fleeing Goma residents asked to return
According to humanitarian sources, a senior commander of the 10th Army Brigade in Goma has asked people who fled their homes near the airport to return, state radio in Goma reported today. The panic was apparently prompted by the arrival of soldiers and weapons at the airport. According to the commander, the deployment was "for the security of the airport and the population."
TANZANIA: Repatriation of Congolese begins
Six hundred DRC refugees repatriated from Tanzania by UNHCR arrived in Uvira today. They are the first returnees out of the 48,402 DRC refugees in Tanzania who have registered to go home as part of the renewed UNHCR-assisted operation. Humanitarian sources report a further 160 Congolese refugees who were in Zambia arrived yesterday in Uvira following a "spontaneous repatriation". A total of 1,000 refugees have left Zambian camps this week, most of them heading for Lubumbashi.
RWANDA: President hints elections to be postponed
Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu has not ruled out postponing elections and extending the five-year transition period for parliament and government beyond 1999. "On my behalf, I never thought the transition was primarily a question of duration, or simply a question of time alone," he told parliament on the commemoration of its third anniversary on Tuesday. He said the transitional arrangement was a response to the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, and "to my knowledge, these challenges have not yet been overcome," the privately-owned Rwanda News Agency reported.
Hutu group accuses army of massacres
The Rwandan pro-Hutu Centre for the Fight Against Impunity and Injustice has accused the Rwandan army of killing more than 8,000 Hutu civilians in the Kanama region of Gisenyi. The Brussels-based centre said the killings occurred last month during an army counter-insurgency operation against Hutu rebels. The BBC World Service reported that eyewitnesses claim the victims were chased into caves by the Rwandan army which then shelled them, leaving no survivors. In reaction to the allegations, Rwandan presidential advisor Seth Kamanzi denied that civilians had been killed. He said the Buvomo area where the killings were alleged to have taken place was a Hutu rebel base from where ambushes had been launched. "There are no citizens in the area", only rebels. "They will either move out or die there," he added.
The military commander for the northwestern region told AFP the army had stumbled across the base two weeks ago as it pursued a rebel group. Colonel Kayumba Nyamwase said there had been no fighting around the caves and instead the army was attempting to starve the rebels out. He said that "since we discovered" the caves, "we haven't had a single road ambush in this sector." The region is a traditional home of Hutu nationalism and has seen increasingly intensive clashes between rebels and the army since the town of Gisenyi was attacked in mid-September.
70 percent of church massacre victims were women and children
Seventy percent of the victims of a massacre at a Roman Catholic church in the western district of Kibuye during the 1994 genocide were women and children, a US forensic expert told the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). William Haglund, of the Boston-based group Physicians for Human Rights, gave the evidence Wednesday at the trial of the former Kibuye prefect, Clement Kayishema, and businessman Obed Ruzindana. Both are accused of being responsible for the murder of thousands of people in various parts of Kibuye, and the church massacre where 8,000 people are believed to have perished.
Meanwhile, a former army lieutenant, Samuel Imanishimwe, yesterday pleaded not guilty to eight counts of involvement in the 1994 genocide before the ICTR. Imanishimwe, the former commander of the Cyangugu barracks, is accused of ordering the execution of Tutsi refugees held at the barracks, and the selection of names from a pre-established list of Tutsis and moderate Hutus confined in a local stadium who were later executed.
UGANDA: Sudanese refugees cross into Uganda to escape fighting
Some 1,800 Sudanese have crossed into northern Uganda's Kitgum District since the weekend, AFP quoted aid workers as saying. The refugees reportedly came from areas around the southern Sudanese town of Torit, where initial reports suggested they had been forced out due to rebel activity and shortage of food in areas surrounding their villages. There are currently close to 250,000 Sudanese refugees living in refugee and settlement camps across northern Uganda.
KENYA: Moi nominated by KANU, Safina to contest election
President Daniel arap Moi was nominated yesterday as the candidate of the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) for his Baringo Central constituency in the Rift Valley. Meanwhile, the newly-registered opposition party Safina has announced it will take part in the 29 December general elections, but will attempt to persuade opposition parties to rally behind a single presidential candidate. Safina Interim Chairman Muturi Kigano told a press confrence that the party supported the idea of a two-year interim government of national unity, KTN TV reported.
AFRICA: Aids scourge worse than previously thought
A report released yesterday by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and WHO shows that infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is far more common than previously thought. Over 30 million adults and children are now believed to be living with HIV infection - one in every 100 sexually active adults worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa, 7.4 percent of all those aged between 15 and 49 years are now thought to be infected with HIV. Levels of infection vary, however, widely across the continent. Southern Africa continues to be the worst-affected area.
Meanwhile, Rwanda's National Centre for AIDS Control (PNLS) has reported that one out of four Kigali residents is HIV-infected, the Rwanda National News Agency reported.
Nairobi, 28 November 1997, 15:00 gmt
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Date: Fri, 28 Nov 1997 18:55:59 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <email@example.com> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 302 97.11.28 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.971128184752.17747Afirstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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