IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-Up 7-99 covering the period 12-18 Feb 1999

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-Up 7-99 covering the period 12-18 Feb 1999

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 7-99 covering the period 12-18 Feb 1999

ERITREA-ETHIOPIA: Assab front opens, casualty figures released

A new front opened in the Ethiopia-Eritrea war at the weekend, with shelling breaking out near Bure, southwest of the Eritrean Red Sea port of Assab and bombing raids by the Ethiopian air force near the port. Ethiopian statements claimed that, in addition to military materiel, a water supply facility at Harsile about 20 km from the town was damaged. An international journalist in Assab told IRIN on Tuesday that economic activity at the port was at a very low level. Ethiopia claimed that 7,000 Eritrean soldiers had been killed or wounded since the border war resumed this month, while Eritrea announced on 11 February that its forces had so far killed 1,500 Ethiopian troops and wounded 3,000.

More diplomatic efforts

A three-person EU-troika team led by German Minister Ludger Volmer was due to arrive in Addis Ababa Thursday night and continue to Asmara on Saturday, well-placed diplomatic sources told IRIN. The other two members of the mission represented Austria and Finland. The EU team was to "try and get a ceasefire", an EU diplomat told IRIN. An OAU committee of ambassadors was also being sent to both countries to convey a message of "grave concern" and a call for an "immediate end to the fighting", PANA reported. Meanwhile, a peace mission to Eritrea and Ethiopia by Japanese diplomat Morisha Aoki last week "urged them to resolve this conflict in a peaceful manner," Ambassador Aoki told IRIN on Tuesday.

Civilian detainees and prisoners of war

Eritrea will not allow the ICRC to visit Ethiopian prisoners of war or civilian detainees. Eritrean spokesman Yemane Ghebre Meskel told IRIN on Thursday that the reasons were part of a "long story", and that despite the ban, "basic rights are upheld". About 1,200 Eritrean civilians are detained - "for security reasons" - in eastern Ethiopia, Ethiopian spokeswoman Selome Tadesse confirmed, while Yemane said Eritrea held 11 Ethiopian civilian detainees. The number of Eritrean prisoners of war in Ethiopia was not immediately available.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Bilateral relations with Sudan

Bilateral relations, the DRC war and peace efforts were the main focus of a two-day visit to Sudan by President Laurent-Desire Kabila, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Uthman Isma'il told a news conference on Tuesday. While in Sudan, Kabila met his Sudanese counterpart, President Omar al Bashir. The Sudan Embassy's spokesman in Nairobi, Al Mansour Bolad, said his government regarded the DRC as a friend. "We support DRC politically and recognise its legitimacy," he told IRIN on Wednesday. "Because of our internal wars we cannot afford to support DRC militarily," Bolad added.

Security Council renews ceasefire call

The UN Security Council on Wednesday called on all parties in the DRC, especially the rebel movements, to stop fighting and resolve their differences through democratic means. In a press statement, the council's president said its members were particularly concerned about the continuing flow of illegal arms to the country and the issue of military training.

Special Rapporteur on Human Rights visits

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Roberto Garreton arrived in Kinshasa on Tuesday, a UN press release said. The Special Rapporteur was also scheduled to visit Lubumbashi on Saturday and Goma on Sunday before travelling back to Geneva on 23 February.

13 percent malnutrition in Kisangani

Food security conditions remain of concern in Kisangani due to high prices of food items, humanitarian sources said. A recent nutrition survey carried out by MSF among some 1,000 children in Kisangani revealed a 13-percent malnutrition rate, including 9.3 percent severe malnutrition, according to a UN report received by IRIN.

Deaths reported among Angolan refugees

The mortality rate among Angolan refugees in Kisenge, Kasai Oriental province, is rising with two deaths now being reported every day, UNHCR said in its latest update on the Great Lakes region. The number of people hospitalised for malnutrition had increased drastically, the report said. There are some 40,000 Angolan refugees in Kisenge, most of whom arrived in mid-1998. At UNHCR's request, MSF has established therapeutic and supplementary feeding facilities at the site, it added.

Meanwhile, UNHCR on Wednesday approached authorities in the port of Matadi, southwest of Kinshasa, to plan for a site for another group of recently-arrived Angolan refugees, a UNHCR statement said. An estimated 12,000 Angolans fled M'banza Congo, in Angola's Zaire province, at the beginning of the month when Angolan UNITA rebels overran government forces. Unlike most of the nearly 150,000 Angolan refugees in the DRC, the 8,000 new arrivals in Songololo and 4,000 in Kimpese have not been able to find shelter with the local population.

TANZANIA: DRC rebels accused of restricting refugee flow

Rebels in the east of the DRC are restricting the movement of Congolese civilians wishing to flee to western Tanzania, UNHCR said. In a report received by IRIN, UNHCR said Congolese refugees arriving in Kigoma from the Kalemie, Fizi and Uvira areas reported that due to rebel-imposed restrictions, they had had to hide in the bush and move from village to village to reach the lakeshore from where they could cross to Tanzania. As of 8 February, 33,986 Congolese had crossed to Kigoma since August 1998.

Food security concerns

Tanzania is the East African nation hardest hit by the failure of the short rains, according to a bulletin from the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS), which said the February/March harvest was expected to be 80-90 percent below average in all bimodal regions except Kagera. The failure of this season's crops will cause hardship for many households and the situation could worsen if the upcoming long-rains harvest is poor, FEWS said. Tanzania's government plans to import 50,000 mt of maize for the country's strategic grain reserve and has asked donors to support vulnerable populations with relief food and food-for-work amounting to 166,000 mt of cereals.

Meanwhile, an FAO/WFP crop and food supply assessment mission to Tanzania said in a special report received by IRIN on Monday that should the next harvest - due in May - fail, "the food situation is likely to deteriorate significantly". According to the mission, food assistance will be sought for about one million people.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: DRC refugees move further inland

Some 4,400 Congolese refugees are being relocated from a temporary camp in the port of Bangui in the Central African Republic (CAR) to a new location in Boubou, some 325 kms away. A UNHCR spokesperson told IRIN on Thursday that the operation started on 12 February and that about 100 refugees were being trucked every two or three days to the Boubou camp. There are an estimated 6,700 Congolese refugees in the CAR, the spokesperson said.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: More clashes near Brazzaville and Dolisie

Congolese government troops were engaged in "violent battles" with rebel Ninja militia at Loumou, about 20 km from the capital Brazzaville, AFP said on Wednesday, citing an army statement. Meanwhile, Cocoye militia allied to former president Pascal Lissouba shot dead the military commander of Dolisie in south-western Congo on Monday when they infiltrated the town's airport, Reuters said.

Rwandan refugee involvement confirmed

Rwandans in Congo-Brazzaville have become involved in the latest fighting in the country, UNHCR said in its latest Great Lakes update, issued on 12 February. It said there were virtually no adult males left in the Kintele refugee camp near Brazzaville, whose remaining occupants said several hundred men had been armed and deployed by the Congolese armed forces. UNHCR also said about 300-400 Rwandans had left sites at Njoundou and Loukolela in northern Congo to join the fighting. With the intensification of the war and the militarisation of the refugee sites, UNHCR has been moving to phase out its assistance to Rwandans in Congo, the report said.

RWANDA: Poor rainfall reduces crop production

Poor rains since November have slashed crop harvests for Rwanda's A season which runs from September 1998 through February 1999, according to an inter-agency assessment team. Its preliminary findings suggest that production will be about 15 percent lower than last year, with beans being the crop hardest hit while sweet potatoes were less affected. The shortfall in pulse production will probably result in a less balanced diet rather than a drastic reduction in calorie intake, the team said. "For the first semester of 1999, the food shortage is estimated at 158,000 tonnes cereals-equivalent," FAO emergency coordinator Jean-Francois Gascon told IRIN. Commercial imports will cover 59,000 mt, while food aid will cover 52,000 mt, leaving a deficit of 47,000 mt cereals-equivalent.

IDP resettlement in the northwest

There are an estimated 650,000 IDPs in north-western Rwanda, UN OCHA-Rwanda has reported in its latest update. About 176,363 were installed in 120 new resettlement sites in Ruhengeri, while 189,051 still required resettlement, according to figures supplied by Rwanda's government, collected and analysed by OCHA and cross-referenced with other reports and field visits, OCHA reported. In Gisenyi, some 118,730 were settled in 43 new sites and 31,340 required resettlement.

Two sentenced to death for genocide

Two genocide suspects were on Thursday sentenced to death by a criminal court in Rushashi, according to the Rwandan News Agency (RNA). The agency quoted state-run Radio Rwanda as reporting on Friday that the court sentenced five others to life imprisonment while 17 were given jail terms ranging from two to seven years. Meanwhile, Rwandan genocide suspect Eliezer Niyitegeka, a former information minister arrested on Wednesday by Kenyan police, was now waiting to appear before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, ICTR spokesman Kingsley Moghalu told IRIN on 12 February.

BURUNDI: Parliamentarians want all warring factions in on Arusha process

A delegation of Burundian parliamentarians have called on Ugandan legislators to help them get all warring factions involved in peace negotiations in Arusha. PANA on Tuesday quoted delegation head Augustin Nzojibwami, Burundi's second deputy speaker, as urging Ugandan lawmakers in Kampala to help Burundians overcome obstacles in the peace process by inviting all protagonists, including the FDD rebels, to the negotiating table. The FDD is not among the 18 Burundian groups taking part in the Arusha negotiations, whose fifth round is due to start on 8 March.

GREAT LAKES REGION: Burundi and Tanzania agree to upgrade relations

The Burundian and Tanzanian governments agreed this week to upgrade Burundi's diplomatic representation in Dar es Salaam to ambassador level, according to a joint communique issued on Tuesday in the Tanzanian capital and quoted by 'The Guardian' newspaper.

Nearly four million displaced or otherwise vulnerable

In addition to nearly three million refugees and displaced persons, the Great Lakes Region has some 770,450 persons in vulnerable situations, nearly half of them - 344,000 - in Tanzania, according to the latest report on 'Affected Populations in the Great Lakes Region', issued on Tuesday by OCHA. Another 309,814 are in Rwanda, says the report, which defines detainees and people facing food shortages among the vulnerable. Other countries with vulnerable populations are Uganda (80,453) and the DRC (36,183). The vulnerable bring the total number of affected persons in the Great Lakes Region to 3,739,541.

SOMALIA: Cholera kills 26 in the south

UNICEF staff confirmed on Tuesday that 26 people have died of cholera in southern Somalia. They also reported that 320 cases have been confirmed at UNICEF's cholera treatment centre, set up - in conjunction with a local health committee - in a hospital in Bardere, southern Somalia. Bardere's population has risen by some 20,000 because of IDPs fleeing drought, hunger and insecurity.

Seeds needed before the rains

The Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU) working with WFP in Somalia estimates that 1,600 tonnes of seeds are required there in the upcoming 4-6 weeks before the next rains. They are needed to prevent the livelihood of farmers who do rainfed agriculture from being further jeopardised by lack of inputs for the upcoming Gu season.

SUDAN: Pastoralists vs farmers in west Darfur

Scores, if not hundreds, of people have been killed and injured in a large-scale conflict between indigenous farming communities and nomadic pastoralists in west Darfur since late last year, an assessment team has found. Over 60 villages have been burnt down, some 2,000 families have been displaced into the state capital Al Geneina and an estimated 10,000 people have crossed the border into Chad, according to a report, received by IRIN, on last week's UN/NGO/government assessment mission. Military efforts to stop the violence, related to control of scarce land and water resources, have failed so far. If violence continues, the result would be a "humanitarian disaster of considerable proportions", the report said.

MSF evacuated from parts of Bahr al-Ghazal

MSF reported on 12 February that it has evacuated expatriate staff from five out of 10 locations in Bahr al-Ghazal, and one in Jonglei due to insecurity, which forced its workers to leave their bases at least 12 times since a mid-January ceasefire.

Opposition calls for constitution founded on diversity

Sudanese opposition groups called on 12 February for the formulation of a constitution founded on cultural and religious diversity and the devolution of power from the central government. In a communique issued at the end of a meeting in Kampala, they also advocated freedom of expression, independence of the judiciary, women's rights, gender sensitivity, and the right to self-determination. "It is a programme for the transitional government after the overthrow of the present regime," SPLA spokesperson John Luc told IRIN on Monday.

UGANDA: Four killed in Kampala bomb blasts

Two bombs exploded in a nightclub and a restaurant in Kampala on Sunday, killing four people and injuring more than 20 others. No group had yet claimed responsibility for the attack, AFP cited a police spokesman as saying on Monday. A senior security source said the bombs were the work of an urban terrorist wing of the rebel Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

KENYA: Cholera outbreak kills 14

Fourteen people have died of cholera in the coastal district of Kwale. More than 160 people have been admitted in four health centres that serve a population of about 90,000, the local 'Daily Nation' newspaper reported. A WHO official told IRIN the situation was stable.

Nairobi, 19 February 1999


Date: Fri, 19 Feb 1999 16:33:30 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-Up 7-99 covering the period 12-18 Feb 1999

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,