IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 6-99 1999.2.12

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 6-99 1999.2.12

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 6-99 covering the period 5-11 Feb 1999

ERITREA-ETHIOPIA: Clashes break out

Diplomatic efforts to avert full-scale war between Eritrea and Ethiopia were overtaken by events at the weekend. Heavy fighting which began on Saturday morning on the western Badme front had by Monday spread to Ali Tena and Zal Anbessa, among other disputed border areas further to the east. In a series of statements received by IRIN, both sides claimed successes, while Eritrea claimed Ethiopia had broken a moratorium on air strikes by using helicopter gunships and fighter planes in fighting on Sunday. Five people were killed in an Ethiopian bombing raid at a displaced people's camp at Lailai Deder in Eritrea, eye witnesses told IRIN on Tuesday. Local people told journalists the displaced persons, living in tents with some support from humanitarian agencies, had been deported last June from northern Ethiopia. Lailai Deda is about 40 km from the front line.

Eritrea claims a lull in ground war

"Serious fighting ended on Monday," a spokeswoman for the Eritrean embassy in the US told IRIN on Wednesday. Another Eritrean spokesman told journalists in Asmara the Ethiopian offensive had "run out of steam". However, an Ethiopian spokeswoman told AFP that fighting continued. Two diplomatic sources told IRIN that dual threats of terrorism and possible conflict-related insecurity were behind a US announcement on Thursday on the withdrawal of non-emergency diplomatic staff and dependents from Ethiopia.

New Security Council resolution, Sahnoun

A UN Security Council resolution (1227) approved on Wednesday "urged" states not to supply weapons and munitions to Ethiopia or Eritrea, but stopped short of an arms embargo. The resolution was approved unanimously at a session in which UN special envoy Mohamed Sahnoun briefed the council on his ill-fated peace mission to the region. Sahnoun said later the world could soon see Africa's first "high-tech" war, as both sides had sophisticated arsenals and aircraft. Sceptics doubted that the resolution would have any immediate effect. "They already both have a tonne of weapons", a regional analyst told IRIN on Thursday. The Security Council condemned the use of force and demanded an immediate halt to hostilities.

Sahnoun expressed disbelief at the resumption of fighting, saying: "Given the kind of leadership the countries have I would have believed they would have been able to solve this." He also said that he had had some "strong contacts" with both parties and had left the region with "some optimism when things suddenly blew up". Sahnoun stressed that other states should bilaterally put pressure on both sides and not just adopt a resolution and "then forget about it".

HORN: Fears of regional destabilisation

Both sides in the war have made contacts with the rebels and dissident groups of their enemy. The support and encouragements given to these groups range from "off-the-record" contacts to hosting radio stations and military assistance, regional analysts told IRIN. The UN Security Council warned of the "devastating effect" an armed conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea could have "for the region as a whole," in its resolution on 29 January.

In short, analysts say, Eritrea is intent on "activating the Oromo opposition" in Ethiopia, and backing warlord Hussein Aideed in Somalia in an attempt to block moves by Ethiopia in support of the southern Rahanwein militia and other Somali groups. Aideed's spokesman has denied allegations carried by AFP that his faction received arms from Eritrea by air. In the propaganda war, Eritrean transmitters are thought now to relay programming in the Oromo language. A recent joint statement by the rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Ethiopia's southeastern Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) endorses reports that Aideed supports both the OLF and the ethnic Somali Ethiopian opposition movement. Unconfirmed reports say Eritrea may too have been in touch with Ahmed Dini, who heads a faction of the Djiboutian rebel group FRUD. Djibouti remains Ethiopia's lifeline and no longer has diplomatic relations with Eritrea.

Ethiopia, the analysts say, has been in touch with the fragmented Eritrean opposition, and BBC monitoring reported on 1 February that an opposition station called the 'Voice of Peace and Democracy in Eritrea' was broadcasting from transmitters in northern Ethiopia. As well as contacts with three factions of the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), Ethiopia is thought to have been in touch with eastern Afar rebels, until recently opposed to both regimes in Asmara and Addis Ababa. An Ethiopian spokeswoman would concede only that a group of Eritrean opposition movements met in Addis Ababa in January.

ETHIOPIA: Oromo Liberation Front kills soldiers, lays landmines

The OLF has announced that it is laying landmines in southern Ethiopia. In a statement dated 4 February, the OLF claimed at least five army vehicles had been blown up by the mines. It also claimed that six government soldiers were killed on 2 February in an ambush 45 km from Mega town on the road to the Ethiopia-Kenya border town of Moyale. The statement protested Ethiopia's deployment of "assassins and terrorist squads" to Kenya and Somalia. Press reports in Mogadishu and Oromo political sources say three Oromo activists, possible members of the little-known Oromo People's Liberation Organisation, were abducted by Ethiopian agents and taken across the border to Ethiopia around 1 February 1999.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Tens of thousands are still unaccounted for

The whereabouts and condition of some 120,000 residents who fled fighting in the southern suburbs of Brazzaville towards the Pool region remains unknown, and is a source of growing concern, humanitarian sources said this week. Aid agencies have not had access to the region since fighting erupted there in October 1998. Meanwhile, Pointe-Noire's civilian population is living in fear of a possible attack by Cocoye militia allied to ex-president Pascal Lissouba. Thousands of displaced people from Brazzaville, Dolisie, Nkayi and other areas had recently arrived in Pointe-Noire, local newspapers said.

There are now over 31,000 people staying in 17 displaced persons' sites in northern Brazzaville, according to figures provided by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Most of the sites are located in and around church compounds, where people from the Bacongo and Makelekele areas of southern Brazzaville fled as a result of heavy fighting between government forces and Ninja militia in December.

Government launches offensive

Government troops launched a new offensive against Ninja militia forces of ex-premier Bernard Kolelas to the west of Brazzaville, AFP quoted sources close to the government as saying on Tuesday. Forces backing President Denis Sassou-Nguesso attacked positions held by the Ninja rebels in the Ngoma Tse-Tse region, some 15 km west of the capital. Meanwhile, "sporadic" fighting continued in Dolisie, the country's third largest town, 300 km west of Brazzaville. Cocoye militia attacked the city last week.

Sassou-Nguesso rejects talks

Sassou-Nguesso has reiterated his refusal to talk to the rebel opposition. "They would now like to force negotiation on us by violent means," he told the French daily 'Liberation'. "We will not negotiate with people who have destroyed the country and have knives in their teeth." In the interview published last week, Sassou-Nguesso denied Cuban troops were fighting alongside his forces. He also said Angolan detachments have "practically left". On reports of indiscipline and human rights abuses among his soldiers, he said a "mind set we are attempting to alter has set in in this country".

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Fragile food security in Kinshasa

Worsening economic conditions and people's diminishing purchasing power are taking an increasingly heavy toll on food security in Kinshasa, humanitarian sources said this week. Imports of fuel, food and other basic commodities have decreased since the government introduced new currency regulations, and food availability in the capital has been reduced by the transport of some food supplies from Kinshasa to Brazzaville, the sources added. The closing or scaling-down of some factories and businesses in Kinshasa has led to rising unemployment, while increases in public transportation costs have further reduced the amount of money people have for food. Families on the outskirts of Kinshasa devote 90 percent of their daily expenses for the purchase of food and consume meat only once every 15 days, according to a recent survey cited in a food security report prepared by FAO in Kinshasa.

UN human rights office planned in Goma

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) is planning to open a sub-office in Goma (DRC) to monitor the human rights situation in the area and advise authorities and NGOs on international human rights standards, a UNHCHR spokesman in Geneva told IRIN on Thursday. "We are in the preliminary planning stages of establishing the sub-office", the spokesman said. Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the DRC, Roberto Garreton, is scheduled to arrive in Kinshasa on 16 February for a one-week mission. Following his visit, Garreton is expected to submit additional information on the country's situation to the UN Human Rights Commission, which is scheduled to start its next session on 22 March, the spokesman said.

Human rights minister under threat

DRC Human Rights Minister Leonard She Okitundu has been accused by a section of the pro-government press of allegedly being too "pro-Tutsi". The Kinshasa-based 'La Libre Afrique' issued a warning to the minister on 1 February. "Our advice to She Okitundu is: Before looking after Rwandans, look after Congolese ... It's the Congolese people who will judge you and not the Tutsis as you believe." The periodical continued: "Do you know the role which the CPP (Comites de Pouvoir Populaire or People's Power Committees) will have to play? It is judging the bad and the good." The CPPs are being "zealously" set up by state officials in response to a January call by President Laurent-Desire Kabila, a humanitarian source told IRIN.

Tensions ease in Uvira

High-level negotiations in Uvira have helped defuse tension between Banyamulenge troops in the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) and Rwandan forces, NGO sources told IRIN. The Rwandans had issued an ultimatum for the return of four Banyamulenge commanders of the Uvira brigade, sprung from prison on 17 January by RCD units. According to the sources, three of the commanders have been replaced by officers from Goma after the intervention of the South Kivu governor and senior RCD officials. But the "most-wanted" RCD officer - commander Masunzu - is reportedly still in Uvira and has refused to go to Goma. Meanwhile, RCD rebels allegedly killed 14 farmers in Walungu district last week, local sources claim. The RCD has also been accused of looting villages and forced recruitment.

Mayi-Mayi and Interahamwe clash

Clashes have been reported between Mayi-Mayi and Interahamwe militia in the Kivus. NGO sources told IRIN six Interahamwe were recently killed and others put to flight at Ngweshe, in Walungu district. The group had been accused by the Mayi-Mayi of committing rape and extortion. The sources added that the situation was now calm.

UPDS official arrested

DRC security agents arrested a UPDS spokesman, but freed five journalists detained last week. New agencies reported last Friday that it was unclear why Joseph Kapika was picked up. But the UPDS had protested the terms of the government's repeal of a ban on party politics.

BURUNDI: Negotiations resume in March

The Arusha peace process is to resume on 8 March, Nyerere Foundation spokesman Mark Bomani told IRIN on Monday. If in the scheduled two weeks of talks no conclusions are reached, a further session would be held in May. "The intention is to come up with recommendations for adoption at the plenary in June," Bomani said. "We realise that these are very complex issues being dealt with and may take time to come to a conclusion."

Red Cross supplies arrive in Makamba

Red Cross relief supplies have begun to reach thousands of people displaced by armed clashes in southern Burundi's Makamba province. Up to 30,000 people may have fled their homes in January after a series of attacks on communes in which 180 people reportedly died and many homes were torched, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a statement. Last week most were returning to their hills along the Tanzanian border. While internal displacements continue, some 5,000 Burundi refugees have fled into Tanzania since August, UNHCR told IRIN. On 7 January, 18 new arrivals in Kigoma were taken to hospital with bullet wounds and land mine injuries.

Split in UPRONA deepens

Police and gendarmes broke up a meeting at the weekend of the UPRONA faction led by Charles Mukasi, according to the private Burundian news service 'Net Press'. The police were acting on the urging of the rival faction, headed by current interim president Luc Rukingama, the dispatch alleged. The rift in UPRONA ('Union pour le Progres national') developed over the decision by Rukingama's group to join the Arusha peace process, media sources in Bujumbura told IRIN. A recent UN report notes that "disconcerting divisions continue within nearly all the main parties to the Arusha talks".

RWANDA: Government reshuffle

Rwanda's minister of foreign affairs Anastase Gasana has been replaced in a government reshuffle, state radio reported on Monday. Ambassador to Egypt Amri Sued takes over at the ministry. Gasana becomes the minister in the president's office in charge of institutional relations. A genocide survivor, Jean de Dieu Mucyo, takes over the justice ministry following the abrupt departure for the United States of the former minister, Faustin Nteziryayo. Three Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) ministers out of seven have been axed, and five new RPF figures brought in. The government comprises a 21-member cabinet and five secretaries of state. According to the private Rwanda News Agency, public criticism over government mismanagement and corruption has grown. The reshuffle is the third since 1994.

World Bank makes US $75-million loan

The World Bank has approved a US $75-million loan for Rwanda to boost spending on social services, news agencies reported. "We are doing this on the understanding that [the DRC] war is coming to an end," senior World Bank economist Chukwuma Obidegwu said on Monday. The loan is to be deposited directly into the central bank. Obidegwu said the World Bank had the government's word the credit would not be spent on the DRC conflict. According to Reuters, donor funds account for around 45 percent of Rwanda's 1999 budget.

Genocide suspects released

Thirty-five genocide suspects were released for lack of evidence on Friday by a court in Byumba, northeast Rwanda. Among them was Immaculee Nyirabizeyimana, speaker of parliament during the interim government. Her release was condemned by the genocide survivors group, Ibuka. The organisation said it would provide "evidence" to the court prosecutor that Nyirabizeyimana was allegedly a senior "genocidaire", the Rwanda News Agency reported.

Meanwhile, the trial of Interahamwe vice-president George Rutaganda resumed in Arusha on Monday. He pleaded not guilty last year in his first appearance before the UN tribunal to eight counts of genocide and genocide-related charges. A Tutsi woman testified on Tuesday that she spent two days in Rutaganda's house in April 1994, along with other Tutsis, and Rutaganda "treated them well". The prosecution had earlier charged that the attitude of the accused changed at times and he managed to save people. But his "genocidal intentions" were unmistakable.

On Friday, ex-Gisenyi Interahamwe militia leader Omar Serushago was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by the Arusha tribunal. Serushago was found responsible for 37 murders including four he committed himself. Serushago had pleaded guilty, and asked forgiveness for his crimes.

SUDAN: Refugees flee into Chad

According to UNHCR, 4,000 Sudanese have fled western Darfur into Chad. They have settled in the Adre region and are in a "very precarious situation", a UNHCR spokesman told IRIN on Wednesday. Arab and African communities clashed last month near the Darfur border town of al-Geneina in a dispute over grazing land, AFP reported. The fighting has so far left 108 people dead and 40 wounded. More than 50 villages were destroyed and at least 1,600 families left homeless.

Khartoum vows to prosecute slavers

Sudan has pledged to prosecute slavers and has urged the population to report cases of slavery, AFP reported Khartoum newspapers as saying on Thursday. The government's Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights said in a communique that public prosecutors' offices across the country were open to all those who had information on slavery cases so that prosecutions could be started. The communique said slavery was forbidden by international conventions to which Sudan subscribes and by the country's constitution. The UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Sudan, Leonardo Franco, is due in the country on Saturday on a 10-day tour. He is expected to probe cases of slavery.

Dinka-Nuer local peace effort launched

A local initiative to reconcile Dinka and Nuer communities has been launched by the New Sudan Council of Churches. A delegation of Nuer chiefs from Western Upper Nile and Dinka chiefs from Rumbeck were due to meet on Thursday in Thiet, Bahr al-Ghazal, with the support of the local authorities. "After more than seven years of fighting and untold levels of suffering, a people's peace movement is underway," the New Sudan Council of Churches said in a statement sent to IRIN. The meeting of the chiefs is to prepare the ground - and provide the security guarantees - for a much more ambitious peace conference in which "hundreds of Nuer" are to be invited, unarmed, to the land of their traditional "enemies". A similar follow-on meeting is planned later in the year in Nuerland.

UGANDA: Agencies sound cholera alert

Aid agencies working in Uganda have sounded an alert over a cholera outbreak, with WHO reporting 208 cases and 10 deaths from four areas. The areas are Kampala (73 cases), Kasese (88), Bundibugyo (19) and Arua (28). Rainfall early in the year and poor sanitation particularly in the slums around Kampala are possible causes for the situation, Uganda's WHO Country Representative, Hatib Njie told IRIN. "Kasese, Bundibugyo and areas bordering DRC have been hit because of civil strife, aggravated by the inability of medical facilities to perform normal operations," he added.

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), is supporting the Uganda Red Cross which seeks local funding of 50 million Ugandan shillings to back its anti-cholera efforts in the run-up to the rains later this year.

Referendum boycott planned

Multiparty advocates are planning a national forum to boycott next year's referendum on political pluralism, the semi-official 'New Vision' reported. At a meeting last week in Kampala, they said freedom of association was a basic human right which superceded the verdict of a referendum. Meanwhile, Uganda's ambassador to Germany quit the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) and returned to his former party, the Uganda Patriotic Movement. "This corruption among the top leadership of the NRM really bothers me," he told the private 'Monitor' newspaper.

TANZANIA: EU refuses funding for Zanzibar port

The EU has decided not to finance rehabilitation work in the port of Zanzibar. An EU statement sent to IRIN said the decision is in line with donor policy to suspend development assistance to Zanzibar because of serious concerns over the failure to reach a political settlement and human right breaches. A western diplomat told IRIN the 15-month imprisonment of 18 opposition politicians without charge, and the stalemate over the Commonwealth's peace initiative was: "Old water that has never been cleared."

IMF approves ESAF loan for Tanzania

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a loan of about US $82 million to Tanzania to be channelled through the fund's Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF). The loan will be used to support Tanzania's economic reform and stabilisation programme in 1998/1999. Meanwhile, the EU announced on Wednesday that it was lending US $39 million to Tanzania, the first tranche of a 55-billion-shilling loan under its Structural Adjustment Facility, according to Reuters. The money is to help Tanzania pay its domestic debt and "is the biggest allocation Tanzania has ever received from the European Development Fund," Reuters quoted EU delegation head Peter Beck Christiansen as saying. In exchange for the aid, the government has pledged to increase spending on primary education.

Nairobi, 12 February 1999, 10:45 GMT


Date: Fri, 12 Feb 1999 14:09:56 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 6-99 1999.2.12

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,