IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 5 1999.2.5

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 5 1999.2.5

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 5-99 covering the period 30 Jan-4 Feb 1999

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: A "stain on our conscience"

At a press briefing in New York on Wednesday, UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths described the situation in Congo-Brazzaville as a "forgotten emergency" and a "stain on our conscience". Griffiths expressed concern for the 50,000 internally displaced in Brazzaville and another 120,000 persons who fled the southern parts of the city as fighting erupted - a group which still remains unaccounted for. He reported that two major districts of the capital were practically empty of civilians adding that these areas had been "extremely effectively looted". The capacity of humanitarian agencies to provide assistance is very limited due to security concerns. "We are down to a very low international presence", he said. He noted a prevailing view among donor governments that the cycle of violence is set to continue. While admitting this could be an accurate analysis of the situation, Griffiths expressed concern that it might negatively affect funding for humanitarian assistance.

Government shells city suburbs

Heavy fighting continued last weekend in Congo-Brazzaville, with reports that Ninja and Cocoye militia had infiltrated the city. In an attempt to create "security zones", government forces had been forcibly ejecting people from their homes, particularly near the airport where they have displaced up to 5,000 residents, humanitarian sources told IRIN. Government forces and their allies have been indicriminately bombing districts of the city. Government troops have been brutal with civilian populations, the sources added. Soldiers were seen entering IDP sites and arbitrarily arresting young men. Once taken away their fate is unknown.

The Ninja and Cocoye rebels are thought to be well organised and supplied and have a strong chain of command. In an effort to help contain their attacks, the number of Cubans in the country has been increased to approximately 1,000, regional analysts alleged. Cuba has denied sending any troops.

The Cocoye militia loyal to ex-president Pascal Lissouba attacked an army garrison in the southern town of Dolisie on Wednesday, new reports said. State radio on Thursday said the army had taken control of the situation.

Health hazards

Sanitation throughout the city was of mounting concern, particularly in the IDP sites. The provision of power throughout the town was sporadic at best and the delivery of water to IDP sites precluded by the intensified fighting. Cholera had been identified in the sites. According to one humanitarian worker, these sites are some of the worst he has ever seen. An operation for the delivery of essential supplies had been mounted from Kinshasa. UNHCR was providing plastic sheeting as UNICEF provided cholera kits and jerry cans. UNDP paid for transport while WFP's airlift of 1,000 mt from Pointe-Noire to Brazzaville (some going by barge to Kinshasa) went on.

Influx of displaced in Pointe-Noire

Pointe-Noire which was spared the destruction of the last round of urban warfare is now suffering the consequences. Power and water supply are a problem, while the influx of IDP's has compounded the already-bad

situation. Cholera has been identified in the city, and there is mounting concern to as to whether or not Pointe-Noire should continue to act as a rear-base for stockpiling of humanitarian supplies, aid workers warned.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Opposition slams party decree

The stringent conditions set by the government for the legislation of political parties have been condemned by the opposition. A UPDS statement said the party did not recognise the decree issued by President Laurent-Desire Kabila last weekend. The party said it was calling on its supporters "to be ready to keep on fighting so as to make the dictatorship loosen up," PANA reported on Tuesday.

New party forming

A new party is being formed from within the Resemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), the semi-official Ugandan 'Sunday Vision' reported. The paper alleged that Deogratias Bugera, a North Kivu Tutsi, and founder member of both the Alliance of Democratic Forces for Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) in 1996 and the RCD in 1998 is launching the "Mouvement des Reformateurs".

Mobutu generals, tensions, arrests in Kisangani

An international journalist recently in Kisangani confirmed to IRIN that "tensions" were apparent between the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) of Jean-Pierre Bemba and the Ernest Wamba dia Wamba-led RCD. The tension was spread to the backers of each rebel faction, Uganda and Rwanda, western diplomats said. Three Mobutuist generals were also reported to be in Kisangani: Baramoto, N'Zimbi and Mavua, according to the Belgian daily 'Le Soir'. The journalist noted allegations of related politically-motivated arrests by the RCD in Kisangani.

Rebel splits part of search for "political legitimacy"

A western diplomat told IRIN that the realignments among the rebels were moves to gain "political legitimacy". Also, the Mobutuists want to be in the movement but Rwanda can't accept that", an African diplomat told IRIN. Despite the expansion of the RCD assembly, and its transformation into a "politico-military movement", dissident factions remain. A split between Wamba dia Wamba and his number two, Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma, was reportedly patched up in Kampala last weekend, the 'Sunday Vision' said. 'La Libre Belgique' quoted Willy Mishiki, a North Kivu member of the RCD, saying of the Tutsi representation in the RCD: "We accept them as Congolese brothers, but should they hold so many posts?". 'Le soir' described the political mixture that is the "new" RCD as "explosive".

Uvira reported to be "very tense"

Humanitarian and local sources report Uvira is "very tense" due to a continuing "stand-off" between Rwandans and Banyamulenge factions in the rebel Ressemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD). Some sources told IRIN the Rwandans had given the Banyamulenge a deadline of this Friday to comply with demands to reduce their presence in the area. At least one Congolese rebel was killed and four others wounded in clashes between the two factions on 24 January.

The trouble apparently started after a Rwandan army commander, Colonel Dan Gapfizi, and several of the men under his command arrested four army

officials from the Banyamulenge Tutsi group within the RCD. The Rwandans have reportedly demanded the return of the four men and other prisoners "liberated" from Uvira prison during the incident by the Banyamulenge. The sources reported an increased military presence in the town and said up to six tanks had been sighted. The governor of South Kivu is reported to have left the area without having been able to achieve a satisfactory resolution.

Peace committees meet in Lusaka

Military and security officials began talks in Lusaka on Wednesday on securing a DRC ceasefire, Reuters reported. But the RCD dismissed the meetings as meaningless without their participation. Two committees have been established to hash out a ceasefire and an agreement on border security issues. The first committee comprises Zambia, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, DRC, OAU and officials of SADC and the UN. The second team includes officials from Zambia, Kenya, Mauritius, Botswana, OAU,SADC and UN. "The idea is for the two teams to work in parallel lines and deal with the two issues separately," Reuters quoted a Zambian official as having said.

DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila has expressed willingness to hold talks with all Congolese, including rebels of RCD "inside or outside the country", AFP reported. In a joint statement with his Chadian counterpart Idriss Deby on Wednesday, in N'djamena, Kabila said he was ready to "sign an immediate ceasefire and continue the process of democratisation ahead of general elections which would be both democratic and open". According to the statement, both heads of state urged the international community to support this peace initiative by sending peacekeeping force under the auspices of the OAU and UN. Deby, who has sent some 800 troops to fight is helping DRC to find peace. "We will only leave the DRC when our mission has been achieved," he told a news conference at the end of Kabila's visit.

Commission to investigate human rights abuses

A national commission to investigate human rights abuses during the rebel campaign to overthrow the Mobutu regime has been set up, state radio reported on Wednesday. The commission was created at the suggestion of the UN special rapporteur for the DRC, the radio said. The commission is to act as an "independent body". Its terms of refence include the investigation of alleged massacres and atrocities committed in eastern DRC and Equateur province from October 1996 to May 1997.

Relief to rebel-held areas

The UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said that there are just under 200,000 refugees in the DRC "and possibly as many as 500,000 displaced persons." About 190,000 of the displaced are in North and South Kivu. Griffiths, recently in the country, said that as a result of discussions with officials in Goma and Kinshasa, "we believe that we are in a position to move assistance into rebel areas". But he admitted that "security will be a difficulty". He added that international NGOs that have remained in the Kivus reminded the mission that the UN agencies "need to be very opportunistic" when it comes to where they can go. He also announced

that UNICEF will take the lead in the Kivu operations and plans for UNHCR antenna in Goma. Kabila is reportedly ready to sign "immediate ceasefire".

ICRC to open Kalemie office

The ICRC is to open an office in Kalemie to meet the needs of an isolated local population. With supply routes both by land and water regularly cut by fighting, food prices are steadily rising in the town and insecurity has reduced agricultural production, ICRC said in a statement. The agency also noted that there is a shortage of basic medicines and surgical instruments. The opening of the ICRC office in the town will help citizens to contact their relatives in other parts of the country.

TANZANIA/DRC: Refugee numbers crossing to Tanzania drops

The number of DRC refugees arriving in Tanzania has suddenly dropped, indicating a clamp down by RCD rebels rebels on the exodus. UNHCR spokesman Paul Stromberg told IRIN on Thursday that on 29 January, only 61 refugees crossed Lake Tanganyika while 25 arrived on 31 January. "The average number is 100-160 per day. There is a significant decrease," he said. The RCD have made gains in the South Kivu area, and control of departure points. They hold most of Ubwari peninsula including the aestern portion from Mwanzululu, near Fizi, were intercepted while crossing Lake Tanganyika and turned back on 26 January, Stromberg said. UNHCR reported that in the last few days, people have been leaving in small boats at night. Fighting between the Mayi-Mayi and RCD has worsened recently with houses torched, civilians detained, and large numbers of people displaced.

Refugee radio coverage extended

Radio Kwizera's new transmitter is now operational covering refugee camps in the Kigoma region, according to a report by the Jesuit Refugee Service. Reception tests carried out last week showed that the signal is being received in the camps of Mtendeli, Kanembwa and Mukungwa. The low-lying Nduta camp may require a booster station.Government authorities and the UN have welcomed the venture since Kigoma is one of the most isolated and underdeveloped regions in Tanzania. "The venture helps communication between the refugees and local people. The huge presence of refugees in this region has caused tensions. The need for dialogue is urgent given the presence of the dual economies of refugees/NGOs and that of the local populations, environmental damage and pressure on water," JRS reported.

JRS has agreed to provide pre-schools for all six-year-olds in Lukole A and B camps, following community requests. Pre-schools built to date are considered highly successful so an extra four will be built this year, two in each camp. The contractors use local materials and parents often provide labour.

Gold bonanza forecast

Analysts tipped Tanzania as the new star of African mineral producers, according to the 'Financial Times'. Last year Tanzania attracted more capital expenditure than any other African country. Its first gold mine, Golden Pride, is to open this weekend. It should produce some 180,000 ounces a year initially. But will soon be dwarfed by Bulyanhulu, which is forecast to yield more than 300,000 ounces annually by the year 2000. When

all new projects are on stream, Tanzania is expected to produce 1 million ounces of gold a year.

TANZANIA/UGANDA: Joint border patrols agreed

A joint Tanzanian-Ugandan security force is to be formed to check mounting insecurity and cattle rustling along the common border, 'The Monitor' reported on Tuesday. The decision followed a security meeting last month in Mbarara, it added.

KENYA: Envoys express concern over violence

Fourteen diplomatic missions in Nairobi expressed concern over police "excesses" and destruction of private property by demonstrators in the violence that rocked Nairobi early in the week, a statement received by IRIN said. The missions all members of the Democratic Development Group (DDG), noted: "The abuse of public assets is a matter of continuing concern to members of DDG. The members, therefore, call upon all parties involved to strive for legal and democratic solutions to the present problems in order to assure transparency and respect for the law in the allocation of public lands in Kenya, including the Karura forest." Students from public universities in Nairobi took to the streets last Saturday to protest "irregular" allocation of parts of Karura forest situated near UNEP headquarters. The protests resulted in massive destruction of property, injuries and traffic hitches in the city that led to the closure of the University of Nairobi.

AIDS: Breakthrough on mother-child HIV transmission

A new simpler and cheaper strategy for cutting HIV infection from mothers to their babies has been discovered, according to preliminary findings. Trials conducted by UNAIDS in South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania demonstrated that mother-child infection rates could be reduced by 37 percent with a short course of AZT and 3TC at the time of delivery. Prior to this "breakthrough", the shortest regime began during the mother's 36th week of pregancy, a UNAIDS statement said. Follow-up data is still being analysed, but early reports from other studies among breastfeeding mothers suggests the preventive effects last for at least six months. Manufacturer Glaxo Wellcome has pledged to reduce the price of both AZT and STC.

SUDAN: Launches US $200 million inter-agency appeal

The UN has launched a US $200 million inter-agency appeal for the Sudan for 1999. It covers the emergency and rehabilitation needs of more than four million war and drought-affected people in the south, "transitional zone" and the displaced camps and settlements in the greater Khartoum area. The appeal includes 24 projects aimed at meeting the survival needs and strengthening the resiliency of communities through a combination of short and medium-term interventions.

First party registered in pluralist system

A breakaway faction of Sudan's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has become the first registered group since a multi-party system was reinstated at the beginning of the year, Reuters quoted a leading newspaper as saying on Tuesday. The private 'Al-Usbua' daily published a notice by the registrar saying: "The Democratic Unionist Party is registered as a political organisation which gives it the right to practise political

activities and to compete in elections." The party was registered on Monday. About 30 groups have started registration procedures since the political associations law came into force on 1 January.

BURUNDI: Rebel attacks spark displacement

A series of rebel attacks on southern Makamba on 13-14 January led to a "massive displacement" of the local population, humanitarian sources reported. Two communes particularly hard hit are Mabanda and Kibago. According to official figures, 30,000 people were displaced. Humanitarian sources said the numebrs "seem to be exaggerated", but thousands were forced out of their homes. Most of them are living in schools and administrative buildings that have access to sanitation and safe water. Although people are returning to their communes, the "situation remains extremely tense". Unrest continued in Bujumbura Rurale with some 6,800 people according to government figures, living in "very basic" conditions at Karinzi IDP site. Many sheltered in dwellings made of wood and leaves with access to their fields dependent on military escorts.

NAIROBI, 5 February 1999


Date: Fri, 5 Feb 1999 17:45:58 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 5 1999.2.5

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,