Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 8-98 13-19 Feb 98.2.20

Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 8-98 13-19 Feb 98.2.20

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[The weekly roundup is based on IRIN daily updates and other relevant information from UN agencies, NGOs, governments, donors and the media. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original sources.]

Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 8-98 covering the period 13-19 Feb 1998

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Tshisekedi arrested, flown home

The government arrested opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi and then said he was flown to his home village in the centre of Democratic Republic of the Congo last Friday to work on the land. Newspaper reports in Kinshasa said he had not arrived and his whereabouts were unknown. In an open letter to the press, Tshisekedi's wife said that according to information she had received her husband was in Kinshasa and "has been tortured".

DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila defended the move, saying Tshisekedi was "happy" there. "When political activities kick off just after the transitional period ... he can come back and resume his political activities if he so desires," he added. Kabila rejected pressure to hold elections until "peace prevails". In a broadcast, monitored by the BBC, Kabila said a census would be held by August of this year and a referendum on a draft constitution by October. Elections would then follow, but he set no date.

UDPS supporters demonstrate in Brussels

Meanwhile, supporters of Tshisekedi's party, the Union pour la democratie et le progres social (UDPS), began a sit-in outside the US embassy in Brussels to protest his arrest. The arrest took place after Tshisekedi met with Jackson, US President Bill Clinton's special envoy for democracy in Africa. Interior Minister Gaetan Kakudji said in a statement read on state television last Friday that Tshisekedi had persistently broken a ban on party politics, but gave no other details.

Garreton condemns Kinshasa's human rights record

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the DRC expressed "deep concern" over the "continuing deterioration of human rights" in the country. In a statement released in Geneva on Wednesday, Roberto Garreton said he had received "numerous allegations of grave violations" since the start of 1998, and urged Kabila to take all necessary measures to rectify the situation. Garreton said the "disturbing situation raised serious doubts about the process of democratisation".

Senior figure quits UN human rights team

A senior official investigating massacres in former Zaire has resigned, saying an independent and impartial UN inquiry into alleged human rights abuses has proven to be impossible. Quoting from his resignation letter, AFP reported Zimbabwean jurist Andrew Chigovera, deputy head of the probe, as saying: "I have great difficulties in believing that an environment conducive to the conduct of a proper, independent and impartial human rights investigation exists or that it will ever present itself." The on-off UN investigative mission has been embroiled in several disputes with the DRC government. Jose Diaz, the mission's spokesperson in Kinshasa, told IRIN the resignation was effective from the end of this month and said it was regrettable. He said the mission's work was continuing and they hoped shortly to start investigations in eastern DRC.

Uvira calm after clashes

Calm has returned to Uvira after clashes between government soldiers and unidentified armed assailants early on Tuesday morning. According to humanitarian sources, heavy firing was heard in the northern and southern quarters of the town. One source, quoting a military officer, said Burundi rebels attempting to cross Lake Tanganyika were ambushed by the army.

Later in the week, humanitarian sources reported the army launched cordon-and-search operations in Bukavu and Uvira hunting for weapons. NGO staff were restricted to their homes and some radios and mobile telephones were confiscated.

Mobutu's wife loses appeal

Meanwhile, the wife of the late Zairean dictator Mobutu Sese Seko has lost an appeal against a decision by the Swiss authorities to help the new DRC government track down the country's missing and looted assets, news organisations reported. Kinshasa also stepped up attempts to extradite senior figures of Mobutu's former government from South Africa where they are seeking asylum. Among other charges, they are accused of expropriation of the country's funds.

Belgian businessman released

Belgian businessman Patrick Claes, detained since August, was freed and allowed to leave the country. Claes, who was manager of Sizarail, the national railways in former Zaire, flew home with Minister of Zoning for the Brussels region Herve Hasquin. Claes was among some 30 members of the ousted regime of late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko to have been tried in Kinshasa for misappropriating public funds, but no trial date was ever set. Hasquin said Belgium paid no money to obtain the release of Claes.

BURUNDI-TANZANIA: Ogata announces tripartite commission

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata said her agency would help set up a tripartite commission aimed at facilitating voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees in Tanzania. "We will help set up a mechanism for consultation between Burundi, Tanzania and ourselves," Ogata told reporters at the end of a three-day visit to Burundi. "We will be the facilitator to the technical level, what exactly can be done to help bring people, who want to come, back to Burundi," she added. She said she expected the first "technical level" meeting to take place in mid-March.

There are an estimated 260,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania. Ogata, who is on the last section of a three-week African tour, told a Nairobi press conference on Tuesday the mechanism would allow for the development of a plan of action for voluntary repatriation. She said that though there was still some insecurity in parts of Burundi, many people still wished to go back home.

UNHCR to train Tanzanian police to patrol refugee camps

Ogata also insisted on the importance of maintaining the civilian character of the camps. With UNHCR support, she said Tanzanian police would continue to provide a 24-hour security and surveillance service for the camps and said UNHCR would train and equip a 500-strong contingent of Tanzanian police to patrol the camps. "There were a lot of allegations (and) criticism from the Burundi side that the camps in Tanzania were being used for military activities (and) political activities and we have been criticised for letting that happen," Ogata told the news conference. "We will be strengthening the Tanzanian police capacity in the camps, giving them training, bringing in some international trainers, giving them some equipment," she said, adding that the UNHCR would have international liaison officers with the police. Police have recently removed over 40 combatants from one civilian camp population.

CNDD pulls out of talks

The Hutu rebel Conseil national pour la defence de la democratie (CNDD) has pulled out of negotiations with the regime of Pierre Buyoya, AFP reported. In a statement on Tuesday from Brussels, CNDD spokesman Jerome Ndiho said the rebels "from today suspend their participation in the negotiating process until the genocidal leadership of Bujumbura publicly desists from the massacre of innocent civilians."

EAST AFRICA: Summit set to review sanctions policy

Diplomatic sources confirmed a summit of regional heads of state would take place in the Ugandan capital Kampala on 21 February to review the crisis in Burundi and sanctions imposed on that country by its neighbours. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is due to present a report to fellow regional leaders on a number of issues related to the sanctions policy. Meanwhile, Kenya Airways on Tuesday resumed weekly relief and diplomatic carrier flights to Burundi's capital Bujumbura in spite of the embargo.

RWANDA: Kagame becomes ruling party boss

Rwandan military leader and Vice-President Paul Kagame was elected head of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). A weekend meeting of the party made Kagame chairman late on Sunday "after a close vote" and two days of intensive talks, which also saw the renewal of the party's leading body.

Trial of Interahamwe leader adjourned

The hearing of a senior member of Rwanda's Interahamwe militia, held responsible for most of the atrocities during the 1994 genocide, was adjourned on Wednesday due to the defendant's health, news agencies reported. Georges Rutaganda, a deputy leader of the militia, was too ill to attend the hearing, his lawyer told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Priests accused of genocide appear in court

Two Rwandan Roman Catholic priests accused of genocide and other crimes against humanity appeared in court on Monday in the western prefecture of Kibuye. The two clergymen are alleged to have committed crimes of genocide in 1994 in Gisenyi in the northwest and Kibuye, state radio monitored by the BBC said. The trial was adjourned to 24 February.

Former mayor of Bicumbi pleads not guilty at Arusha

Laurent Semanza, former mayor of the central Rwandan city of Bicumbi, has pleaded not guilty before the ICTR in Arusha to charges of genocide, the court said in a statement. Semanza faces seven charges including genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. During the 1994 genocide, Semanza was on the central committee of the presidential party, the Mouvement republicain national pour la democratie et le developpement (MRND), and was an MP in the transitional national assembly. Meanwhile, AFP reported that the defense lawyer for Rwandan genocide suspect Jean-Paul Akayesu last Friday had asked the UN tribunal to summon former prime minister Jean Kambanda. The lawyer said Kambanda's testimony would clarify what transpired at a meeting on 18 April 1994, in the central Rwandan city of Gitarama, after which Akayesu, then mayor of nearby Taba, allegedly incited the slaughter of Tutsis in his locality.

In another trial, a former general who commanded elite Hutu units during the 1994 Rwandan civil war, Gratien Kabiligi, also pleaded not guilty to charges of committing and encouraging the genocide of Tutsis. "Mr. Chairman, there was no genocide. There was war. I plead not guilty," Kabiligi said at his first appearance before the tribunal. Kabiligi, now 46, was in charge of military operations for the chief of staff of the then Hutu-dominated Rwandan army.

Belgium's justice minister to visit court

Belgium Justice Minister Stefan de Clerck will visit the ICTR on 23 February, the court announced in a press release. During the visit, de Clerck will meet with the Tribunal President Judge Laity Kama and Registrar Agwu Ukiwe Okali. The minister will also observe the testimony of Canadian General Romeo Dallaire in the trial of Jean-Paul Akayesu. Dallaire begins his testimony as a witness for the defence on 23 February.

SUDAN: UN launches US $109 million appeal for emergency assistance

The UN launched a US $109.4 million appeal on Thursday for emergency assistance to more than four million victims of war and drought in Sudan. In a press release, the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said a combination of intensified fighting and widespread drought was threatening to displace hundreds of thousands of Sudanese from their homes and put entire communities at risk of severe hunger and life-threatening diseases.

The money would also be used for projects aimed at protecting livelihoods and, in the medium term, reestablishing communities and social networks, the statement added. The bulk of emergency assistance to Sudan is chanelled through Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), a consortium of UN agencies and non-governmental organisations launched in 1988.

Malnutrition stalks displaced in Bahr el Ghazal

Increasing signs of disease and malnutrition are emerging among the 100,000 displaced in southern Sudan's Bahr el Ghazal state, a humanitarian agency report has warned. The local population in the area is also facing food and water shortages, the report said. It stressed that seeds and tools are urgently required to prepare for cultivation in March. Unless these items are received within the coming weeks, the food deficit situation will persist.

Polio immunisation campaign launched

Meanwhile, OLS announced in Nairobi on Wednesday that the first round of a polio immunisation programme for southern Sudan is underway. The campaign will target some 750,000 children in government and rebel held areas. The second round, essential for completing the vaccination course, is to start on 16 March. However, Bahr el Ghazal, home to some 40 percent of targeted children in southern Sudan, may not be covered due to current flight suspensions, the agency warned. Sudan remains one of only three countries in the world where WHO-recommended eradication strategies have yet to be introduced.

Human Rights Watch condemns summary executions

Human Rights Watch has condemned the alleged use by Khartoum of summary public trials to punish political dissidents. In a statement on Thursday, the Washington-based rights group said the use of "very summary courts to punish government opponents who seek to exercise their free expression and free association rights ... makes a travesty of justice."

KENYA: Air force to airlift medical supplies

Kenya announced plans on Wednesday to use its air force to airlift mobile medical teams and drugs to the areas hardest hit by a malaria epidemic. A spokesman at the National Disaster Operational Centre in Nairobi said the mobile teams would be sent to Northeastern, Eastern, Nyanza and the Coast districts of Wajir, Garissa, Mandera, Marsabit, Samburu, Lamu and Tana River. The PANA news agency quoted medical officials in Kericho District, western Kenya, as confirming 118 malaria-related deaths in the area since January.

Nairobi 20 February 1998


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Date: Fri, 20 Feb 1998 13:56:32 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 8-98 13-19 Feb 98.2.20 Message-ID: <>

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

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