IRIN Weekly Round-up 33-97, 12/5/97

IRIN Weekly Round-up 33-97, 12/5/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for Central and Eastern Africa

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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 33-97 covering the period 28 Nov - 4 Dec 1997

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Army show of support for Kabila

Calm returned to Kinshasa after two days of sporadic firing rocked the city late last week. The government blamed the initial outbreak of shooting on Thursday night on a "misunderstanding" between two groups of unruly soldiers. It said the gunfire that erupted the following day outside the Tshati military camp and Presidential Palace was due to "bandits". The 'New York Times' reported that as many as 18 people may have been killed in the clashes and said the most likely cause of the tension was the 26 November arrest of one of the founding members of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL), Commander Masasu Nindaga.

The government said Nindaga, a popular figure among some army recruits from eastern DRC, had been detained on the grounds of "military discipline". In a show of support for President Laurent-Desire Kabila, military units marched through the streets of Bukavu on Wednesday, DRC radio reported. The march followed the appearance of leaflets in the town calling for a strike by a group of soldiers apparently backing Nindaga. "It (the strike) has not taken place because people did not heed the call", the radio said.

After an emergency cabinet meeting on Monday, Interim Army Chief James Kabare was confirmed in his position as military boss. Kabare was previously a senior figure in the Rwandan Patriotic Army. A government statement also said that all foreign troops would return home as soon as a new national army was trained.

Paris demands recall of DRC diplomat in tit-for-tat exchange

France on Monday requested the recall of DRC diplomat Yeye Lobota by the end of the week, retaliating after the number two at the French embassy in Kinshasa, Eric Lubin, was declared persona non grata, French officials announced. Yeye is first counsellor at the DRC embassy in Paris. France previously said it "deplored the decision" to expel Lubin who had been accused in the Kinshasa press of espionage.

UN team members arrive in Mbandaka A preparatory team of the UN mission investigating alleged human rights violations finally arrived in the northwest town of Mbandaka on Wednesday. The full mission is expected to fly in on Friday or Saturday and will comprise mainly human rights investigation officers and forensic experts.

Amnesty report slammed

The DRC information ministry has accused Amnesty International of trying to discredit the country after it published a report on an alleged massacre carried out by government forces in northwest Wendji on 13 May. In a preliminary report, the human rights group called for an "extensive enquiry". The DRC information ministry statement said the report was released to coincide with a DRC donor meeting in Brussels this week on the government's reconstruction plans. The two-day 'Friends of Congo' meeting in Brussels agreed in principle on a World Bank proposal to create a trust fund for the DRC, Reuters reported. Kinshasa has costed its reconstruction proposal at $1.29 billion, including $728 million hoped for from donors, according to Oxfam.

Foreign minister seeks normalisation of relations with Kenya

Foreign Minister Bizima Karaha ended a three-day visit to Nairobi last Friday aimed at normalising bilateral relations. In an interview with Reuters he said President Daniel arap Moi had promised to rein in exiled DRC political dissidents.Meanwhile, the Kinshasa authorities have told local journalists they must choose between working for the state media or for foreign radios. They are no longer authorised to hold the two jobs. However, a ban on FM foreign radio broadcasts imposed on Sunday has been lifted.

RWANDA: Hutu rebels free over 600 prisoners in jail attacks

Hutu rebels sprang more than 600 prisoners in two separate jail raids this week in central and northeast Rwanda. On Wednesday, at least 500 inmates were freed when some 300 Interahamwe militia attacked a prison in Bulinga, Gitarama prefecture, setting fire to the jail and then disappearing into the surrounding hills. Six people were reportedly killed in the attack. According to regional analysts, the strike was significant in that it occurred in the heart of the country, away from the rebels' usual area of operation in the northwest border region. On Tuesday, 103 prisoners were released in a dawn attack on a jail in Rwerere, Gisenyi prefecture, in which two people were killed and seven abducted. The same group of rebels is believed to have been responsible for killing 10 people the previous night, all members of the family of a local official, in the neighbouring village of Mutura.

Hutu group accuses army of massacres

The Rwandan pro-Hutu Centre for the Fight Against Impunity and Injustice has accused the Rwandan army of killing more than 8,000 Hutu civilians sheltering in a network of caves in the Kanama region of Gisenyi. The Brussels-based centre said the killings occurred last month during an army counter-insurgency operation. Rwandan presidential advisor Seth Kamanzi denied that civilians had been killed in the area and described the caves as a rebel base from where ambushes had been launched. The military commander for the northwestern region, Colonel Kayumba Nyamwase, told AFP there had been no fighting around the caves and instead the army was attempting to starve the rebels out.

Government reshuffles top posts in army and gendarmerie

In a major military reshuffle, Colonel Marcel Gatsinzi, previously the army deputy chief of staff was appointed the new gendarmerie chief of staff replacing Colonel Deogratias Nibwami who appears to have been demoted. Lieutenant-Colonel Jackson Rwahama is the new reservists' commander. His former post as head of the military police is taken over by Major Jean Zigira. Lieutenant-Colonel Karake Karenzi, who was head of military intelligence in Kigali, has been transferred to the 305th Brigade where he will be the army deputy commander for the Gitarama-Kibuye region. A Rwandan government spokesman described the military reshuffle as designed to "make things work better".

UN human rights commissioner in Kigali

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson arrived in Kigali on Thursday for a four-day official visit. She is expected to discuss the volatile situation in the northwest and human rights issues in the country. She recently said the human rights situation in Rwanda had "worsened considerably" since the beginning of the year.

President hints elections to be postponed

Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu has not ruled out postponing elections and extending the five-year transition period for parliament and government beyond 1999. "On my behalf, I never thought the transition was primarily a question of duration, or simply a question of time alone," he told parliament.

BURUNDI: Efforts underway to organise regional summit

Efforts are underway to convene a new regional summit on Burundi to consider whether to maintain economic sanctions against the Tutsi-dominated government of Major Pierre Buyoya, diplomatic sources told IRIN. The sources said the plan was to try to hold a meeting of Burundian political groupings first followed later by a regional heads of state summit. On Monday, the 'EastAfrican' newspaper reported stalled peace negotiations under mediator Julius Nyerere would resume shortly and could lead to the end of the 16-month-old regional embargo against Burundi. The paper reported Buyoya would not be pressed to make a series of concessions as a pre-condition for normalisation. Meanwhile, a six-person Ugandan parliamentary delegation arrived in Burundi to study ways of relaunching the peace process. According to 'The East African', the team is expected to meet Buyoya, and former president Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, and their conclusions are to be passed on to Nyerere.

UN Special Rapporteur due to visit

The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burundi, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, is expected to visit the country for the first time this year from 6 to 21 December, a UNHCHR official told IRIN. His latest interim report (released last month and available from IRIN) documents a series of attempts to visit Burundi earlier this year that were unsuccessful. The report also expressed "surprise" at media reports that the Burundian authorities had asked for his mandate to be ended.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Police begin militia disarmament operation Congolese riot police deployed on the streets of Brazzaville on Tuesday to disarm private militias and locate and return looted vehicles to their owners. The deployment follows the expiry of an ultimatum issued three-weeks-ago by military leader Denis Sassou Nguesso which ordered his Cobra militia back to barracks and demanded that the defeated forces of former president Pascal Lissouba and former Brazzaville mayor Bernard Kolelas turn in their weapons. According to AFP, some of these militia fighters have retreated into the forests and villages of southern Congo-Brazzaville.

Repatriation from DRC set to begin The voluntary repatriation of over 30,000 Congolese refugees from Kinshasa is set to start next Monday under a tripartite agreement with UNHCR, DRC and Congo-Brazzaville authorities. However, according to WFP, security conditions in Brazzaville remain precarious, hampering humanitarian assistance. A "large part" of the population who returned to Brazzaville are still concentrated on the outskirts of the city due to the instability. The UN agency says it is distributing food to 20,000 vulnerable people in Brazzaville.

TANZANIA: Repatriation of Congolese begins

Six hundred DRC refugees repatriated from Tanzania by UNHCR arrived in Uvira last Friday. They are the first returnees out of the 48,402 DRC refugees in Tanzania who have registered to go home as part of the renewed UNHCR-assisted operation. Humanitarian sources reported a further 160 Congolese refugees who were in Zambia had arrived in Uvira following a "spontaneous repatriation" and hundreds more were expected in Lubumbashi.

Cholera kills 105 in central Tanzania since June

Tanzanian radio reported from Dodoma that a total of 105 people out of 1,525 who contracted cholera in the central region of the country had died since June this year.

ZAMBIA-ANGOLA: Zambian government denies any involvement with UNITA

The Zambian government has denied Angolan government accusations of supplying arms to former UNITA rebels in Angola and has said it is committed to the full implementation of the 1994 Lusaka Protocol. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Shimba said the Zambian government would not do anything to sabotage the peace agreement.

ANGOLA: UN accuses UNITA of relaying mines

The UN mission in Angola (UNOMA) on Tuesday accused the former rebel UNITA movement of replanting mines on main highways which had previously been cleared by the UN and humanitarian organisations. It warned that such actions could deter donor countries preparing to help fund demining operations and projects to rebuild Angola, AFP said. The commander of the UN peacekeeping forces, Zimbabwean General Philip Sibanda, said in a report the general situation had eased in some areas but worsened in the north and northeast. UNITA has accused the Angolan government of seizing several UNITA-controlled towns in the diamond fields of the northeast, while Luanda said UNITA troops had massacred at least 39 people in incidents last month in the diamond province of Lunda Norte.

UGANDA/KENYA: Thousands displaced by flooding

Up to 150,000 people are believed to have been displaced by heavy flooding in Uganda, according to a UN report. Serious floods have been reported in western parts of the country. In Bundibugyo for example, an estimated 1,000 people have been displaced and millions of shillings worth of damage caused to crops and properties. DHA-Geneva has appealed for US $3,983,500 to provide assistance to flood-hit areas of Kenya. The current short rains season has seen exceptionally-heavy rainfall, in many areas the most intense in 40 years. Worst-hit are Coast, Northeastern and Eastern provinces.

UGANDA: Sudanese refugees cross into Uganda to escape fighting

Some 1,700 Sudanese have crossed into northern Uganda's Kitgum District fleeing war and famine. The refugees are reportedly from around the southern Sudanese town of Torit.

GREAT LAKES: Ambassador Wolpe appointed US special envoy

Ambassador Howard Wolpe has been appointed US special envoy to the Great lakes and will accompany Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on a visit to Kinshasa next week. The former congressman served as the US president's special envoy to Burundi. His new appointment is linked to the upcoming retirement of ambassador Richard Bogosian, the State Department's Special Coordinator for Rwanda and Burundi.

Nairobi, 5 December 1997, 11:45 gmt


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Date: Fri, 5 Dec 1997 14:36:09 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 33-97 28 Nov - 4 Dec 1997 97.12.5 Message-ID: <>

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

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