IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-Up 53-98 covering the period 24-31 Dec 1998

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-Up 53-98 covering the period 24-31 Dec 1998

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 53-98 covering the period 24-31 Dec 1998

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Aid arrives in Brazzaville as bodies collected

Humanitarian assistance is starting to arrive in strife-torn Brazzaville, aid workers told IRIN this week. A plane carrying rice, beans, sugar, cooking oil and other commodities arrived in the Congolese capital from the port city of PointeNoire last Friday and medical supplies are also arriving. Thousands of displaced people from the southern Bacongo and Makelekele suburbs of the city are grouped in 14 sites. In addition, some 150,000 people are said to have taken refuge at the Ganga Lingolo site and 30,000 at the Kinsoudi site, which remains insecure. A total of up to 250,000 are estimated to have been displaced by the fighting in southern Brazzaville since 18 December. Meanwhile, the removal of bodies from Brazzaville's streets began late last week, supervised by the interior ministry, the sources said.

Agencies seek early return of displaced

Some neighbourhoods of southern Brazzaville were completely looted and many houses were destroyed during the recent unrest in the capital, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Dominique AitOuyahia McAdams told IRIN on 23 December. Some of the northern Brazzaville sites sheltering the displaced were overcrowded, she said. Humanitarian agencies are hoping the government will take the necessary measures to enable people to return to their homes as soon as possible, McAdams added.

The security situation in the city remained tenuous and military operations were continuing beyond the Djoue bridge, humanitarian sources said. Meanwhile, UN sources told IRIN 21 Congolese UN workers in the city were still missing as of Monday.

Combatants abusing unarmed civilians

Amnesty International said on 23 December that government forces and militia fighters in and around Brazzaville were committing atrocities, including rape and arbitrary killing, against unarmed civilian populations. In a statement received by IRIN, Amnesty also condemned the "indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets" perpetrated by government forces and armed opposition groups. The displaced, who had no protection from further attacks by combatants, were also at risk of starvation and disease, it said.

Fighting reported in southwest

The Congolese government reported clashes in the southwest of the country. According to media reports, a government statement, broadcast over state radio last Friday, said "a climate of tension" reigned in the Niari region, while government troops and opposition Cocoye militia had clashed at Nkayi in nearby Bouenza region. The two areas are strongholds of ousted president Pascal Lissouba.

Sassou-Nguesso rules out talks with "criminals"

President Denis Sassou-Nguesso has ruled out reconciliation with politicians behind the recent clashes in the capital, state radio reported on Sunday. Government spokesman Francois Ibovi told the radio that dialogue would not take place with Lissouba and former prime minister Bernard Kolelas.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Lusaka summit postponed

The planned Lusaka summit to resolve the DRC conflict has been postponed until January. A Zambian foreign affairs spokesman gave no explanation for the decision, Reuters reported on 24 December. The meeting was scheduled to have taken place on 27-28 December.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana denied his country was responsible for the postponement of the Lusaka summit, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported last Friday. Media reports had claimed Rwanda was unhappy about some of the clauses of a prospective peace deal between DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila and the rebels. Some reports say the Lusaka meeting was postponed because it was too close to Christmas and the New Year.

Kabila, rebels, Museveni meet separately with Gaddafi

Libya was the focus of negotiations on DRC over the Christmas period, with separate visits by Kabila, rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Kabila and Wamba dia Wamba on Saturday held separate talks with Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi but did not meet face-to-face.

Rebels raise power-sharing idea

The RCD would insist on occupying the posts of vice-president as well as ministers of defense and foreign affairs in any government of national unity formed to resolve the DRC crisis, the Kinshasa-based 'La Reference Plus' newspaper said on Monday. 'La Reference Plus' said the proposed power-sharing arrangement was one of the issues raised by Wamba dia Wamba during his discussions with Gaddafi on Saturday.

Rebels say no peacekeepers behind their lines

RCD foreign minister Bizima Karaha told Radio France Internationale on Monday that the movement would not allow the deployment of a proposed peacekeeping force behind its lines. Karaha said what was required first were negotiations on a truce, and then talks on a political settlement. "Only at that time will one know where this peacekeeping force will be deployed," he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, RCD rebels said on Tuesday they had captured the northwestern town of Gemena in Equateur province at the weekend, news agencies reported. There was no independent confirmation of the claim.

Kampala, Kigali to keep troops in DRC

Uganda and Rwanda are to keep their troops in the DRC until a political settlement is reached that satisfies their security concerns, news reports said on Tuesday. The agreement was made at a one-day meeting between Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart Pasteur Bizimungu in the Ugandan border town of Kabale.

Meanwhile, Rwanda and Uganda both denied media reports that said at least 38 soldiers were killed when Ugandan and Rwandan troops in DRC turned on each other. The independent Ugandan 'Monitor' newspaper, citing a senior Ugandan military officer, reported on Sunday that fighting broke out between the two sides after they disagreed on which rebel group to support. According to the officer, the Ugandans appear to be backing the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) of Jean-Pierre Bemba which is active in Equateur province, while the Rwandans support the mainstream RCD.

DRC and Congo-Brazzaville sign non-aggression pact

Kabila and his Congo-Brazzaville counterpart Sassou-Nguesso signed a non-aggression pact in Brazzaville on Tuesday to prevent their territories being used as launch pads for destabilisation. According to media reports, a joint statement at the end of the meeting said the two neighbours agreed to dismantle any "irregular force bases" and to prevent the build up of armed gangs.

Reduced harvest expected in Uvira

Late rains, renewed displacement, recent insecurity and looting of seeds and tools will result in a reduced harvest in the Uvira area of South Kivu, an NGO assessment has found. As a result of the situation, the number of people requiring support in the area has increased, with some "highly vulnerable" groups requiring urgent assistance, Food for the Hungry International (FHI) said in a report received by IRIN. The NGO's agricultural programme targeting some 6,000 vulnerable families in Uvira was suspended in August due to the conflict.

Meanwhile, humanitarian sources said the security situation in Uvira had improved and night-time shootings had stopped. It was possible to travel by road between Baraka and Kamanyola, and the border to Burundi was now open, the sources said.

UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator to visit DRC and Congo-Brazzaville

The UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths is to travel to the DRC and Congo-Brazzaville from 18-23 January to review humanitarian conditions, according to OCHA headquarters in New York.

BURUNDI: Eleven killed by rebels

Seven people were killed by rebels in southern Burundi last week, the Agence burundaise de presse reported. It said four people were hacked to death with machetes in Rumonge commune, Bururi province on Wednesday, and three more people lost their lives on Tuesday night in the same commune. The rebels reportedly left behind pamphlets "to intimidate the people", ABP said. Meanwhile, the authorities in Bujumbura-rurale province called for vigilance as more people were killed by rebels on Sunday night. Four people were killed in Buhonga commune, and a further three injured, Burundi radio reported on Monday.

New public prosecutor appointed

Burundi has appointed a new public prosecutor from the mainly-Hutu FRODEBU party, Burundian media sources told IRIN on 24 December. He was named as Gerard Ngendabanka, a former justice minister. Burundian delegates attending the Nairobi conference organised by the Compagnie des apotres de la paix (CAP) told IRIN Ngendabanka was a "consensus" appointment between FRODEBU and President Pierre Buyoya within the framework of the new political partnership.

RWANDA: Government not backing UNITA

Rwanda has denied allegations it has been backing the Angolan rebel movement UNITA, Rwandan radio reported. In a statement issued on 23 December, the foreign ministry said Rwanda was not involved with either side in the Angolan conflict. The statement added that UNITA's sole objective was "to make the Angolan people suffer indefinitely". "Rwanda is seriously concerned about the fratricidal conflict in Angola, and strongly condemns the violation of the Lusaka peace accord by (Jonas) Savimbi and his UNITA," the statement said.

TANZANIA: Drought reports "exaggerated"

Humanitarian sources in Tanzania have described local press reports of a famine emergency as "exaggerated". "There could be a problem around the corner in February/March and that's what we need to ascertain, but there's no cause for panic at the moment," the sources told IRIN on Wednesday. "There is a genuine need in some of the regions and we are responding to it." WFP is distributing food to drought-affected people in the two worst hit regions of Singida and Dodoma and is conducting a food security assessment across the country. Local media have claimed that up to 300,000 people are at risk in 15 of Tanzania's 20 regions. To date there have been 15 reported deaths from starvation. But the alleged fatalities are "very anecdotal and certainly not due just to starvation," the sources said.

Retired soldiers recruited for DRC, paper says

Retired Tanzanian army officers are allegedly being recruited by Uganda to fight alongside anti-Kinshasa rebels in the DRC, the independent Dar es Salaam newspaper 'The Guardian' reported on Tuesday.

UGANDA: Museveni orders arrest of corrupt officers

President Museveni has ordered the arrest of Ugandan officers involved in illegal business activities in the DRC, according to the 'New Vision'. The newspaper, citing a military source, reported on Tuesday that Museveni had directed that the officers be returned to Uganda and their merchandise seized. Opposition politicians have alleged that some army officers are involved in gold and timber trading in the DRC. Four Ugandan army officers were arrested and sent home from the DRC for alleged misconduct, the semi-official 'New Vision' reported on Wednesday.

Protected villages policy "not working"

Uganda's policy of protected villages in the north to defend local people against rebel attacks is not working, according to the 'New African' monthly. Following a visit to northern Uganda, the magazine noted that Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels "still attack at will" and kidnap villagers "who would rather chance their luck and return home".

Kony holed up on Sudan border - paper

LRA leader Joseph Kony is holed up on the Sudan border after losing two of his top commanders in recent clashes with the Ugandan army, the 'New Vision', quoting a captured rebel, reported on Tuesday.

SUDAN: Opposition barred from delivering peace petition

Leaders of Sudan's banned opposition parties were on Tuesday prevented from handing over a protest letter to President Omar al-Bashir calling for an end to the war in the south, AP reported. The 17-man delegation including former vice president Aber Alier and several former generals were stopped by security guards. The opposition leaders called for a "just and permanent peace agreement" and for a "democratic foundation" in the country.

SPLA claims capture of key Nuba mountain town

Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels said they recaptured the key town of Koya and an airstrip in the Nuba mountains on 24 December after two days of fierce fighting. Reuters quoted Wallid Hamid, a representative of the rebel governor of Southern Kordofan, as saying in Nairobi that "a lot of armaments" were seized when the town fell.

ETHIOPIA: FAO/WFP predicts near-record harvest but continued shortages

A joint FAO/WFP report predicts near-record crop yields in Ethiopia this year, but warns that some 2 million people will still require 180,000 mt of food aid in 1999. Cereal and pulse yields were forecast to reach 11.69 million mt, up 36 percent on last year's poor harvest. Of the 180,000 mt required, 35 percent is needed for the Amhara region, 33 percent for Oromo and 20 percent for Tigray. The estimate does not include relief aid requirements for pastoral areas nor Ethiopians displaced by the border conflict with Eritrea.

Addis denies receiving arms from Djibouti, Sudan

Ethiopia has denied Eritrean allegations that it is receiving arms through neighbouring Djibouti and Sudan, a Reuters dispatch said on 24 December. Addis Ababa dismissed the claims as "baseless".

Nairobi, 31 December 1998


Date: Thu, 31 Dec 1998 14:26:53 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-Up 53-98 covering the period 24-31 Dec 1998

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

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