IRIN Update No. 300 for Central and Eastern Africa, 11/26/97

IRIN Update No. 300 for Central and Eastern Africa, 11/26/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
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for Central and Eastern Africa

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IRIN Update No. 300 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 26 November 1997)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UN probe given green light

The DRC authorities have agreed to allow the UN human rights investigation to deploy into the field and begin its work. Mission spokesman Jose Diaz said the green light was given at a meeting with government representatives this morning. Reconstruction Minister Etienna Mbaya told the leaders of the UN team "there is nothing stopping you this time deploying your mission where you want," BBC World Service reported. Kinshasa's decision follows a 48-hour postponement of the team's withdrawal announced on Tuesday by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The mission has been marooned in Kinshasa for about two months despite high-level diplomatic activity to overcome government objections to the probe.

Acting army chief arrested

The acting DRC army chief of staff, Commandant Masasu Nindanga, has been arrested. The BBC World Service reported that a large contingent of heavily-armed soldiers surrounded his offices before he was taken away. The government has not acknowledged the arrest. Nindanga, previously a senior commander in President Laurent-Desire Kabila's former rebel movement, has been acting chief of staff since Kabila came to power in May.

Two opposition leaders included in government

Kabila broadened his government in a minor reshuffle on Monday by naming two opposition figures as deputy ministers. Both Frederic Kibassa Maliba, who joins the mines ministry, and Fernand Tala Ngai, who joins the finance ministry, have distanced themselves from veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, Reuters said. However, according to Gabonese radio, Kibassa Maliba is yet to accept the post. Monday's presidential decree also named a new governor and deputy governor for the diamond-producing region of eastern Kasai. Omar Kamba replaces the previous governor who was sacked.

TANZANIA: Repatriation of DRC refugees to resume

The repatriation of DRC refugees in Tanzania is set to resume on Thursday.Around 600 refugees will leave Kigoma tomorrow on one boat for Uvira. Most of them will then be transported by UNHCR to the Fizi area. UNHCR Tanzania said 48,402 refugees in Nyaragusu and Lugufu camps in Kigoma have registered to go home. Some 7,000 people have already been repatriated by UNHCR from Kigoma, but the operation was suspended in September due to concerns over security in eastern DRC. There has however been a steady flow of people returning under their own steam, particularly following the recent crackdown by the Tanzanian army on refugees living outside their camps. An estimated 74,000 DRC refugees are in Tanzania.

Food aid pledged to overcome drought-induced shortages

Foreign donors have pledged 64,000 mt in food aid for Tanzania to help offset the country's 916,000-mt food deficit. A senior Tanzanian government official announced on Monday that food pledges have come from the EU (25,000 mt), the United States (17,000 mt), Canada (3,000 mt), Australia (2,025 mt), Germany (1,515 mt) and Belgium (1,000 mt), AFP reported. In addition, Ireland has pledged $350,000 and Finland $560,000. The response follows an appeal for international assistance to help the country overcome a prolonged drought made by Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa in September.

ZAMBIA: Former Mobutu soldiers' escape foiled

Some 250 elite former Zairean soldiers who had escaped from their camp in Zambia's northern province yesterday and were walking home, were persuaded to turn back by the authorities. Zambian radio said the soldiers had got 40 km from their camp before they were stopped by the province's refugee committee and security personnel. The radio said the ex-soldiers are being held in a local prison "for safety".

RWANDA: Power sharing under scrutiny - AFP

According to AFP, reporting from Kigali, the future of the power-sharing principles of Rwanda's transitional parliament "remain unsettled." The parliament seats MPs from all the main political parties with the exception of the former ruling Hutu-led party. But, the news agency says, the multi-ethnic character of both parliament and government evident in 1994 has since been undermined. "There is a current of opinion in the RPF which thinks it was an error to share power after the genocide," AFP quoted a Rwandan official who requested anonymity. The escalating Hutu rebel insurgency has also served to concentrate power in the hands of the military, according to an unnamed analyst. In three years of operation, the parliament has passed only 45 pieces of legislation. Its mandate runs out at the end of 1999, but it is not clear whether elections will be held. According to parliamentary speaker Joseph Sebaranzi, "the system there is ensures a balance between the parties. It's not sure that the elections would do that."

Trial of Interahamwe leader adjourned

The trial of George Rutaganda, a former leader of the Interahamwe militia accused of crimes against humanity, has been adjourned for more than three months. The trial, before the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, opened in March. It was halted following expert testimony from Belgian historian Filip Reyntjens. The hearing will resume on 4 March.

UGANDA: World Bank set to disburse $75 million

Uganda will receive the first tranche of a $75 million loan from the World Bank in April next year under the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC)Initiative. The money will be used to finance the government's Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme, PANA reported. Uganda was designated by the World Bank and IMF in 1996 as the first country to benefit from the HIPC Initiative.

Development programme launched for the north

President Yoweri Museveni has unveiled a poverty alleviation programme for under-developed and war battered northern Uganda. The state-owned 'New Vision' said today the plan covers 12 districts and involves providing feeder roads, a loan credit scheme, ploughs and oxen, and new schools and hospitals.

ANGOLA: UN condemns UNITA deaths

The UN observer mission in Angola has denounced as an act of "barbaric cruelty" the death in custody of 10 former UNITA soldiers. The BBC World Service quoted a UN spokesman in Luanda as saying the police had confirmed that the men died while being held in the central town of Malanje two weeks ago. They are thought to have suffocated in an overcrowded cell. UNITA radio yesterday accused the government of eliminating its supporters.

France closes UNITA offices

France ordered the closure of UNITA's offices in Paris yesterday, in line with UN sanctions imposed on the former Angolan rebel movement at the end of October. According to Angolan television, the French foreign ministry said the bureau would not be allowed to reopen under the pretext of a cultural or human rights centre.

SUDAN: Military denies existence of poison gas factory

The Sudanese government has denied allegations it is in possession of a poison gas factory built with Iraqi assistance, the German news agency DPA reported a local newspaper as saying on Tuesday. The 'al-Rai al-Akhar' quoted a military statement which said the allegations were "manufactured to serve the imperialist interests." The statement followed reports first published by Uganda's 'New Vision' and the London 'Sunday Times' which claimed the Sudanese army was manufacturing gas weapons and using them against the rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in southern Sudan.

KENYA: Government to register all parties where applications pending

The Kenyan authorities today registered all political parties whose applications had been pending. The measure primarily affects the broad-based Safina party and the Islamic Party of Kenya (IPK) led by fiery preacher Khalid Balala. Twenty-four parties were already fielding presidential or parliamentary candidates for the 29 December polls, in which President Daniel arap Moi is seeking a new five-year term as head of state and candidate of the Kenya African National Union (KANU), which has ruled since independence.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Lissouba to sue Elf over his overthrow

Former Congo president Pascal Lissouba has filed a suit against French oil company Elf, claiming it backed his rival Denis Sassou Nguesso who seized power last month. Lissouba filed the suit in France last week against Elf managers including chairman Philippe Jaffre. He alleges that Sassou Nguesso offered them financial inducements to back him, AFP reported Lissouba's aides as saying. According to the French daily 'Liberation', the judicial authorities are considering whether the suit is admissible.

Nairobi, 26 November 1997, 15:00 gmt


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

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