Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up, 11/28/97

Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up, 11/28/97

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Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 32-97 covering the period 21-27 Nov 1997


The DRC authorities on Wednesday 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. Reconstruction Minister Etienna Mbaya told the investigators "there is nothing stopping you this time deploying your mission where you want." Kinshasa's decision followed a 48-hour postponement of the team's withdrawal announced on Tuesday by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. On Thursday, the UN team members met President Laurent-Desire Kabila who assured them of the government's full cooperation. The mission has been marooned in Kinshasa for over three months despite high-level diplomatic activity to overcome government objections to the probe.

Acting army chief arrested over alleged disagreements with Kabila

The acting DRC army chief-of-staff, Major Masasu Nindaga, was arrested on Wednesday, reportedly for disagreeing with Kabila over the handling of the Mai-Mai rebellion in the east. A large contingent of heavily-armed soldiers surrounded his offices and confiscated cellular phones belonging to his close frinds. No official reasons were given for the arrest, but regional analysts noted his detention could have "grave consequences" for the future of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL). Masasu, 28, who is half-Tutsi on his mother's side, comes from the South Kivu Bashi community and became a frontline commander in the ADFL during the overthrow of ex-president Mobutu Sese Seko.

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 replaced the previous governor who was sacked.

Authorities worried by growing insecurity in the Kivus

Security in the Kivus is again giving cause for concern, according to the official Agence congolaise de presse (ACP). Quoting businessmen in Bukavu, it said Lake Kivu remained the only secure channel for commercial trade between North and South Kivu. Road travel between Goma and Bukavu was particularly risky in the Minova area due to the presence of Mai-Mai fighters "who do not want to see anyone of Nilotic extraction in their way", the news agency reported. It added the South Kivu governor had noted that while some Mai-Mai had been integrated into the regular army, others had allied themselves with Interahamwe militia and ex-FAR members. The Lugushwa and Kitutu areas in the Mwenga zone of South Kivu had recently been subjected to acts of violence by Mai-Mai forces.

Albright to visit region next month

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is due to arrive in Kinshasa on 12 December as part of a tour of Africa. The one-week tour from 9-15 December will take in Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and Zimbabwe. A State Department spokesman said the trip would focus on "advancing US interests in the Great Lakes region, justice and the rule of law, stability and economic opportunity".

Refugees due home from Tanzania

Six hundred DRC refugees were due to leave the western Tanzanian port of Kigoma on Thursday at the start of a resumed repatriation operation. Over 40,000 refugees have registered to return home, according to UNHCR Tanzania. The repatriation exercise was put on hold in September after UNHCR expressed concerns over security in eastern DRC. Humanitarian sources described the current situation in Uvira as calm with shops and businesses reopening and more goods available in the markets.

RWANDA: Minister tells Tanzanians refugee expulsions "deplorable"

Rwandan meanwhile described the recent expulsion of Rwandan refugees from Tanzania as "deplorable". Education Minister Joseph Karemera, who led an official team to Tanzania earlier this month, said he was told by the Tanzanian authorities the intention was to deport "troublemakers" but the order was incorrectly implemented at local level. Rwandan radio recalled that over 1,800 Rwandans - many of whom had been in Tanzania for years - were thrown out by authorities some three months ago. According to the radio, the minister stressed relations with Tanzania were "as a rule, marked by excellent mutual understanding". "I do not see why such incidents should happen again," he stated. A meeting was planned for 3 December between the two countries' defence and interior ministers to try and resolve the problem.

Giciye reported calm after heavy fighting

The Rwanda news agency (RNA) said the town of Giciye, in Gisenyi prefecture, was now calm after fierce fighting erupted there last week following a rebel attempt to storm the local prison. The building was completely destroyed, RNA added. In an interview with Radio France Internationale over the weekend, military spokesman Richard Sezibera said the rebels had no bases in the country. "They pretend to be civilians during the day, and at night they organise and attack," he stated.It was possible the rebels had rear bases in the Democratic Repubic of Congo, but the armies of the two countries were cooperating to combat them, he added.

Meles urges new probe into 1994 genocide

The OAU's conflict resolution committee endorsed a proposal by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for a new investigation into the 1994 genocide. Warning that the fallout was still "potent and pregnant with disaster", Meles told the committee the new probe should look at why the genocide was allowed to happen, in a bid to "come out of the cycle of violence" in the Great Lakes region. He suggested a "panel of internationally-renowned personalities" should look into "where the OAU failed, what the UN did and did not do". The current relative calm in the Great Lakes region was "deceptive", Meles warned. "We obviously cannot play a meaningful role in preventing a slide into the abyss unless we know what might have gone wrong in April 1994," he stated. "There is probably no greater issue that warrants the urgent attention of the OAU".

BURUNDI: Thousands displaced as army battles rebels in south

The Burundi army announced 103 rebels were killed and ammunition seized in an operation mounted by the security forces in the southern Bururi province. Speaking over Burundi radio on Monday, military spokesman Colonel Isaie Nibizi said the operation was carried out during the weekend along the Dama river between the communes of Buyengero and Burambi. Two soldiers were slightly wounded. WFP reported over 10,000 people had been displaced by recent fighting in Buyengero commune, fleeing ongoing rebel activities and military operations in the surrounding hills and forests. It said they were completely destitute, sleeping rough under trees or in the local church.

Tanzania expels Burundi government representative

Tension between Burundi and Tanzania increased over the weekend after Dar es Salaam expelled the Burundi government's only representative. The Burundi authorities on Friday expressed "deep indignation" over the expulsion of Clavera Maregeya, saying she had been the victim of "inhuman and demeaning treatment". The Tanzanian government denied she had been deported, claiming she was asked to leave the country after the authorities discovered she had no accreditation. The Burundi embassy in Dar es Salaam is staffed by exiled members of the opposition Front pour la democratie au Burundi (FRODEBU) who are not recognised by the Burundi government.

Pressure mounts for lifting sanctions

The chairman of the Eastern and Southern Africa Business Organisation (ESABO) called on the regional economic grouping COMESA to lift the embargo on Burundi because of the "devastating consequences" for member states, PANA news agency reported on Monday. Kassim Owango said that while members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) had stopped trading with Burundi, other business competitors such as China and South Africa had taken over the market. Earlier this month, COMESA itself described the sanctions as futile and urged an end to the embargo. The human rights organisation, International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, ended a conference in Senegal on Monday with a call for lifting economic sanctions. The calls come in the wake of a report by UN Special Rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro which said the embargo was having negative effects on the Burundian people and should be ended.

Tanzania's UN envoy hits out at arms embargo proposal

Tanzania's UN representative has lashed out at Pinheiro's report which also contained proposals to impose an arms embargo upon the Great Lakes region. Musinga Bandora described the suggestion as an attempt to infringe on the sovereignty of countries of the region. The report, presented to a UN committee last week, created an "erroneous impression that the problems of Burundi, which were purely internal, emanated from the region," the envoy stated. He added his delegation had been "appalled" by the "misinterpretation of facts and malicious assertions" that regional economic sanctions on Burundi were a violation of human rights.

TANZANIA: UNICEF concerned over Burundian round-up

UNICEF in Tanzania expressed concern over the situation of Burundian women and children being rounded up by the Tanzanian authorities and taken to refugee camps in the Kigoma and Kagera regions. It said families, who had been living in villages in the region for some 20 years, were being separated as a result of the operation. UNICEF stated it was assessing cases of rights violations against children and women, who were Tanzanian by law, but had been treated as illegal immigrants. According to an article in the 'EastAfrican' weekly, the Tanzanian government had denied there was deliberate operation to expel Burundians from the country, saying the exercise was a "military surveillance" of border areas for "security reasons". The weekly quoted a US diplomat as saying the move had "grossly marred" Tanzania's position as a peace-broker in the Burundi crisis.

UGANDA: Babies reportedly killed by rebels

At least 14 people were massacred by rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army near the northern Ugandan town of Gulu on Wednesday, the state-owned 'New Vision' reported. It quoted army commander Brigadier James Kazini as saying the incident occurred at dawn near the river Ayugi in Pabo. Seven of the victims reportedly were babies aged under one. Most of the victims were hacked to death and their bodies strewn along the roads, the newspaper added. Earlier in the week, the 'New Vision' said the DRC and Ugandan armies would launch a joint military operation to fight rebels along their common border where another Ugandan group, the Allied Democratic Forces, is active.

UGANDA/KENYA: Deaths and hardship as torrential rains continue

Floods caused by torrential rain in Uganda's eastern Mbale district left 35 people dead, according to the 'New Vision' on Monday. Bridges were swept away and electricity and running water supplies disrupted. In northeastern Kenya, heavy rains battered refugees camps at Dadaab putting thousands of people at risk. The three camps of Ifo, Hadgera and Dagahaley house some 120,000 mainly Somali, Sudanese and Ethiopian refugees. According to the USAID Famine Early Warning System (FEWS), up to 10 times more rain than normal for October has fallen in the usually arid northeast.

KENYA: Government to register all parties where applications pending

The Kenyan authorities on Wednesday 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.

SUDAN: Garang says SPLM does not oppose Islam

Sudanese rebel leader John Garang stressed his Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) was not hostile to Islam, neither was it separatist. In an interview with the Egyptian news agency MENA, Garang who is visting Cairo, said the SPLM was trying to unify Sudan on the basis of justice to accommodate all ethnicities and religion. His visit to Cairo, he added, was aimed at briefing Egyptian officials on developments in Sudan. He blamed the failure of the recent Nairobi peace talks on the Sudanese government, claiming the government delegation had "insisted on its views".

Military denies existence of poison gas factory

The Sudanese government denied allegations it was 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 poison gas weapons and using them against the rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in southern Sudan.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Assistance urgently needed

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on Friday said over 370,000 Congolese people were in urgent need of food, shelter and medical care. In a statement issued in Nairobi, it appealed for around US$ four million to assist vulnerable people in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire. The NGO consortium, Action by Churches Together, described the devastation of Brazzaville as "terrifying" and said security had still not returned. The need for humanitarian assistance was urgent, it stressed in a report following a visit to the city.


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Nairobi, 28 November 1997, 09:00 gmt


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Date: Fri, 28 Nov 1997 12:05:08 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 32-97 21-27 Nov 1997 97.11.28 Message-ID: <>

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

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