IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 2-99 1999.1.15

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 2-99 1999.1.15

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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Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-Up 2-99 covering the period 8-15 Jan 1999

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Chiluba in pre-summit talks with Kabila

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba flew to Lubumbashi on Thursday in an attempt to secure direct talks between President Laurent-Desire Kabila and DRC rebels. A Reuters dispatch quoted diplomats as saying Kabila still opposes face-to-face negotiations with the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) - a pre-condition the rebels had set for attending this weekend's Lusaka peace summit. Other reports said Kabila would meet the rebels, but only in Kinshasa.

Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa insist that the Lusaka meeting can only make progress with the active participation of the RCD at the negotiating table. Meanwhile, regional defence and foreign ministers also gathered in Lusaka on Thursday to prepare the weekend summit. Zambian government officials said the ministerial talks would also involve officials from SADC, OAU and the United Nations.

Shooting breaks out in Bukavu

Shooting was heard in the rebel-held town of Bukavu on Thursday. Humanitarian sources told IRIN they believed Mayi-Mayi forces had infiltrated the centre of town, with firing particularly heavy around the radio and television station. The sources reported that Goma was quiet.

New DRC refugee arrivals

A total of 926 new DRC refugees arrived at Kigoma's Nyarugusu camp between 8-11 January, UNHCR reports. The arrivals bring the total number of Congolese refugees in the Tanzanian camp to 20,352. Humanitarian sources told IRIN they feared renewed fighting in south Kivu could lead shortly to another far larger influx.

Last Sunday, more than 40 people were apparently killed in a bombing raid on Kisangani. Rebel leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba said an Antonov aircraft, previously identified as friendly, suddenly veered off during an approach to Kisangani airport and dropped bombs on the town. The rebels claimed the aircraft was Sudanese. Aid workers fear the incident could jeopardise operations in the area as many humanitarian organisations charter and use Antonov planes.

Rwandan rebels kill six in Masisi

Rwandan Hutu rebels killed six people last Friday, including two RCD rebel soldiers at Kiwinja, in the Rutshuru region of north Kivu. The private Rwanda News Agency quoted eye-witnesses as saying the night attack was carried out by a large group of Interahamwe militia, who also looted drugs, goods and cattle. RCD commander Jonas Padiri said the situation was quickly brought under control by RCD forces in the area. "Although security has been re-established in the areas of Masisi and Rutshuru, there still exists some pockets of Rwandan Hutu extremists who had been operating from those regions," he said.

Garreton accepts invitation to open probe

UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the DRC Roberto Garreton told IRIN this week he had "every intention" of accepting an invitation by the Kinshasa government to probe alleged rights violations. "Absolutely, after all it was me who asked for it in the first place," he noted. The government of President Laurent-Desire Kabila on Monday invited the special rapporteur to return to the county in February. But Garreton said the exact date was now a matter of negotiation. He stressed his mandate was to investigate the human rights situation in the whole of the country during 1998, and not just probe alleged massacres in the east of the country in the run up to Kabila's take-over in 1996. "I don't exclude it, but as of today that is not my mandate," he said.

Only limited food distributions have been carried out in Kinshasa pending the replenishment of food stocks, according to WFP's latest Emergency Update. There are 120,000 persons in the city who require food assistance, including war-affected persons, malnourished and street children, orphans, hospital in-patients and other vulnerable groups. In the Lubumbashi area, WFP is preparing an assistance programme for some 6,000 Congolese and an estimated 40,000 Angolan refugees.

Government recaptures three northwestern towns

DRC government forces have recaptured three towns in the northwest, Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba said. He told the Associated Press that a week of bombing forced the withdrawal of his forces from Gemena, Businga and Libenge. Bemba said they had fallen back to Lisala. "We are fighting Central Africans, Sudanese, Chadians, Interahamwe, but virtually no Congolese," AFP reported him as saying: "we are being bombed every day by Sudanese Antonovs. The Chadians now have tanks which come from Libya, and CAR is supporting Kabila."

Earlier, the Roman Catholic Missionary Service, MISNA, reported that a "large group" of government soldiers and civilians drowned at the weekend in the Uere river escaping the capture of Ango in the northeast by DRC rebels. MISNA also quoted sources as saying the Catholic mission in Amadi, southeast of Ango, had been repeatedly looted by Mayi-Mayi in the last few weeks.

Jury out on Makobola massacre

Journalists who recently visited the alleged massacre site of Makobola in south Kivu told IRIN they found no firm evidence that an atrocity had occurred. "Something happened but we don't know the scale," one journalist who accompanied an RCD investigation team said. "My impression was that there was a [RCD] counter-offensive which was pretty indiscriminate." DRC refugees in Tanzania claimed that up to 500 people were killed in the village over the New Year in reprisal for a Mayi-Mayi attack on an RCD unit in the area. RCD officials said the civilian death toll did not exceed 10 people, who were caught in crossfire. Journalists reported Makobola residents as saying there had been a massacre, but could find no mass graves during their short stay.

NGO fighting cholera in south Kivu

SCF-UK is working with all local authorities in south Kivu to fight a cholera epidemic. Cholera treatment medicines, food and non-food items have been distributed in 12 affected areas of the 14 health zones in the

region, SCF told IRIN. Additional training on cholera treatment has taken place in five of these health zones.

SUDAN: Civilian hospital bombed

Sudanese aircraft on Wednesday bombed a civilian hospital in Kajo Keji, Western Equatoria. Three of the five bombs dropped hit the hospital compound in which MSF works, completely destroying the immunisation block and causing extensive damage to the surgical theatre and outpatient department, an MSF statement said. There were no casualties. "MSF questions whether this is a deliberate policy of the government of Sudan to target civilian populations and hospitals," MSF's head of mission in southern Sudan, Etorre Larici said in the statement. He added the bombing would have a "huge impact" on the local population. "Many displaced people and refugees have been returning to Kajo Keji county primarily because of the medical services available."

MSF calls for ceasefire extension beyond Bahr al-Ghazal

MSF has urged the extension of the ceasefire in Bahr al-Ghazal, due to expire on Friday 15 January to cover the rest of southern Sudan. "The population of south Sudan is still on the emergency threshold and in a fragile state," MSF spokeswoman Malini Morzarta told IRIN.

A source within the Sudan People's Liberation Army told IRIN that: "We believe there will be no obstacle to the extension of the ceasefire in Bahr al-Ghazal." However, humanitarian workers stressed that a truce would not apply to pro-government militia and competing warlords. They added that former SPLA commander Kerubino Kwanyin Bol had recently defected back to the government's side with a force of 600 men, and was believed to be heading towards Bahr-al-Ghazal.

Sudan charges Eritrea with massing troops on its frontier

Sudan has charged Eritrea with massing troops on the frontier in preparation for an attack. In a televised statement, armed forces spokesman Lieutenant General Abdel Rahman Sir Al-Khatim, said information indicated an Eritrean troop build-up along the common border with the objective of launching an attack in the next few days. He said this attack should have taken place last month, but declined to say why it had failed. No independent source has confirmed this claim yet. Meanwhile, the Sudan army said it was monitoring the situation "very closely" and would hit back in case of an attack.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: WFP resumes food airlifts

WFP early this week resumed an emergency airlift of food supplies to feed some 50,000 displaced Congolese whose nutritional status had reached alarming levels as a result of shortages in the capital Brazzaville. The first of 30 cargo flights from Pointe Noire arrived in the city on Monday carrying 22 mt of relief food, WFP said in a statement. A total of 600 mt, some of which will be barged across to Kinshasa for war victims there who have been short of food since October, will be distributed this week through the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) assisted by WFP.

According to WFP, most of the refugees who fled to northern areas of the city last month to escape fierce fighting are huddled in 21 ad-hoc sites, living in cramped, unsanitary conditions in churches, schools and

abandoned buildings. Many have had virtually nothing to eat for the past three weeks. "Malnutrition is reportedly setting in on the weakest, with children and pregnant mothers rapidly losing body weight. Many are reduced to lying on the ground throughout the day to conserve their limited energy," Rigobert Oura, WFP's Emergency Officer for Brazzaville said in the statement. Insecurity has cut-off the city from external sources of food except for the agency's aid flights which can only bring in limited supplies.

Humanitarian sources told IRIN that some of the displaced had crossed the border into DRC. An estimated 5,000, of which only 1,700 are believed to be Congolese, had been sighted by UNHCR at Mbanza-Ngungu. The remaining 3,300 are from DRC and west African states.

BURUNDI: CNDD-FDD faction inclusion in talks "being negotiated"

A breakaway faction of the Burundi rebel group Conseil national pour la defense de democratie (CNDD), the CNDD-FDD faction, may join the Arusha peace process next week, a source close to the talks told IRIN. A spokesman for the CNDD-FDD told IRIN on Wednesday that it had not yet officially been invited, but warned that if the CNDD-FDD "is not involved in the peace process, there will be no peace". The CNDD-FDD is led by former CNDD chief-of-staff Colonel Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye. A Burundi analyst told IRIN that the original CNDD, led by Leonard Nyangoma has no real military power any more, and that "Jean-Bosco calls the shots militarily".

The absence of the CNDD-FDD from the Arusha peace process undermined the credibility of a ceasefire agreed last year. The analyst told IRIN it was "ludicrous" to have attempted a ceasefire without "the armed party". The source close to the talks told IRIN the decision on CNDD-FDD's participation in the discussions set to start on Monday would be made by the current participants of the talks, not by facilitator Julius Nyerere. The participation of CNDD-FDD in addition to the original CNDD was being "negotiated amongst the parties... once they are agreed he [Nyerere] has no problem." The talks are set to last until 28 January, and will overlap with a regional summit on 23 January that is expected to suspend sanctions on Burundi.

Food distribution halted by military

A distribution of food commodities and non-food items to 13,000 displaced persons in Kabezi, Bujumbura Rurale was recently halted by the military authorities, WFP reports. The distribution teams had travelled to the area under a military escort, following the government's request for assistance to some 30,000 recently displaced persons in Bujumbura Rural and subsequent to joint assessment missions that visited various areas of the province.

Meanwhile, Food Economy Analysis and Rapid Assessments carried out by WFP teams in the provinces of Bubanza, Bururi and Kayanza identified another 19,500 persons who require food assistance in January, with another 3,100 persons needing longer term assistance.

Sanctions have passed "sell-by date"

A new report on Burundi sanctions, commissioned by ActionAid, says the policy has passed its "sell-by date". The embargo should have been lifted

after the new political partnership between the government and the opposition FRODEBU party, which the report described as a turning point in the history of sanctions. Humanitarian exemptions to the embargo have not sufficed to reverse a decline in social indicators, and vulnerable people have been more and more affected by the sanctions which have made it difficult for donors and creditors to provide fresh credit, development assistance and balance of payments support to Burundi.

The report notes that many of the regional players originally involved in imposing sanctions now want them lifted, with the exception of Uganda, Tanzania and the peace process mediator Julius Nyerere. It argues that the latter, "by acting so inflexibly" has given President Pierre Buyoya an "astonishing propaganda victory" by allowing observers to conclude it is Nyerere and not the Burundian government who is obstructing a peace settlement.

RWANDA: Hutu refugees return from DRC

More than 2,000 Rwandan Hutus have returned home from the Masisi region of DRC since the start of the year, news organisations report. A local official in Rwerere told state radio that some of the returnees surrendered arms and ammunition. UNHCR told IRIN it was visiting Rwerere to assess the situation.

Resettlement of displaced continues

Displaced persons in the two north-western prefectures of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi continue to settle in new villages, according to WFP. In Ruhengeri, more than 50 percent of the displaced population has now been housed in the new villages. In total there are 715,000 displaced persons in Ruhengeri and Gisenyi benefiting from WFP food assistance.

Health and nutrition improves

The health and nutritional situation of the displaced persons in camps in the north-western prefectures has improved, WFP reports. Government health officials are now regularly visiting the health centres established in the camps, therapeutic feeding programmes have been initiated by Concern and MFS/Belgium, UNICEF has distributed water tanks in various communes and drugs and vaccinations have been made available.

Nairobi, 15 January 1999 13:00 GMT


Date: Fri, 15 Jan 1999 17:54:29 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 2-99 1999.1.15

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

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