IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 11-1999, 3/19/99

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 11-1999, 3/19/99

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 11 covering the period 13-19 Mar 1999

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kabila forms new government

President Laurent-Desire Kabila on Sunday announced a new government, which includes the father of rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, the official Agence Congolaise de Presse (ACP) said on Monday. Yerodia Abdoulaye Ndombasi, who was Kabila's chief of staff, has become the minister of foreign affairs. Kabila, who remains government chief and defence minister, also appointed nine vice-ministers.

The new cabinet was a "government of combat" set up to "win the war", DRC Information Minister Didier Mumengi told Belgian RTBF radio on Monday. "The Rwandans, the Burundians and the Ugandans do not want peace, do not want negotiations," he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, a regional analyst told IRIN on Tuesday that the cabinet reshuffle did not represent any significant change for the Kabila government. It was a "non-event" that did not "express any strong message." New Economy and Industry Minister Bemba Saolona, a business tycoon and father of the anti-Kabila rebel leader of the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), will be constrained by his lack of control over the finance portfolio, although he may be able to raise the level of confidence among the private business community to some extent, the analyst added.

Meanwhile, Kabila told state television on Tuesday that he expected his new foreign minister to expose the "hypocrisy" of western policy towards DRC. Kabila said western governments made aid to Kinshasa conditional on democracy, but did not hold neighbouring countries to the same standards, Reuters reported.

Kabila calls for national debate

Kabila has proposed a national debate with all political parties, including his rebel rivals. Kabila said in a press conference broadcast live on Tuesday that the debate would cover three themes: The legitimacy of power, constitutional proposals and the liberalisation of political parties. He suggested the meeting could take place in Italy, mediated by the Sant'Egidio Roman Catholic community.

Mobutu general named rebel military chief

The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) has appointed General Celestine Ilunga, a former head of military intelligence under the late president Mobutu Sese Seko, to take charge of its military operations, 'The EastAfrican' newspaper said on Monday. It said the appointment followed a visit to Goma by high-ranking Ugandan government officials the previous week. Meanwhile, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni arrived in Kigali on Monday to hold talks with his Rwandan allies on the course of the DRC conflict, news agencies said.

100 killed in rebel massacre, MISNA says

More than 100 people were killed by RCD rebels in the Kamituga area of South Kivu province on 5 March, the missionary news service MISNA said on Saturday. It said the massacre was in reprisal for an attack by Mayi-Mayi militia on a convoy heading to Kitutu from Kamituga. On Monday, Kinshasa called on the UN to investigate the Kamituga incidents, but the RCD on Tuesday denied the MISNA allegations.

WFP food arrives in Kisenge

WFP food distributions to Angolan refugees in Katanga province started on Friday, WFP said in its weekly emergency report. Some 170 mt of maize meal despatched by train from Lubumbashi arrived in the Kisenge area of Katanga after a five-day journey, the report said.

BURUNDI: Peace talks end in Arusha

Burundi peace mediator, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, has urged delegates to the Arusha peace talks to speed up their work, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. Speaking on Tuesday at the end of the latest round of Arusha peace talks, which were held in commissions, he said he would be "less than honest" if he said he was happy with the progress. Earlier, Nyerere Foundation spokesman Mark Bomani told IRIN the commission on democracy and good governance and the one on reconstruction had made very good progress, unlike those on the nature of the conflict and on peace and security which had made little progress.

Distributions completed in worst-hit areas

WFP, CARE and partner agencies have completed distributions of food and seeds in the worst-affected province of Kirundo and in Cibitoke, Kayanza, Gitega and Rutana as part of a large-scale FAO-coordinated assistance programme, launched in response to unfavourable rainfall conditions in late 1998. Record distribution levels were achieved between 15-28 February, providing a total of 3,725 mt of food to some 543,000 beneficiaries.

RWANDA: ICTR frees genocide suspect

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Thursday freed genocide suspect Bernard Ntuyahaga for lack of evidence, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. The release followed an application by the prosecution to have the indictment against the accused withdrawn in favour of a trial in Belgium. The Belgian authorities seek to prosecute Ntuyahaga, a former major in charge of logistics at the Kigali military camp, for the death of 10 Belgian UN peacekeepers and the former Rwandan prime minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, in 1994. Rwandan Foreign Minister Amri Sued Ismail has reacted angrily to Ntuyahaga's release, saying Rwandan intelligence services had "irrefutable proof of his guilt," the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) said.

Prime minister denies genocide claims

Rwandan Prime Minister Pierre-Celestin Rwigema has denied allegations that he was involved in the 1994 genocide. He told AFP on Saturday that the accusations were politically motivated by members of his Mouvement republicain et democratique (MRD) expelled from the transitional parliament.

TANZANIA: WFP calls for urgent donor aid

WFP has called for urgent donor contributions to feed over one million Tanzanians suffering from severe food shortages. "If we don't receive additional funds to mount this aid operation soon, we'll see the onset of malnutrition and other hunger-related diseases which may ultimately cost human lives," WFP's Country Director for Tanzania, Irene Lacy, said in a statement on Sunday.

SUDAN: Joint appeal to contain meningitis epidemic

The Sudanese government and several UN/NGO agencies have appealed for US $5.6 million to help contain the country's meningitis epidemic that has so far affected about 2,300 people in 15 states. A Joint Appeal document received by IRIN on 12 March said the funds were required to vaccinate 7.6 million people and to treat an anticipated 28,000 cases in 18 states during the March-June period. Some 263 people have died from the disease since the outbreak started in December.

Rapid response to the appeal was "critical," WHO meningitis expert Maria Santamaria told IRIN. "This is a case where donors can make a difference," she said, adding that government health authorities had been "doing the best they can" to contain the outbreak.

Negotiations for release of all abducted by SPLA

ICRC is negotiating the release of a Red Crescent worker and three local authority officials abducted alongside two of its staff by SPLA rebels on 18 February in southern Sudan, the organisation told IRIN on Wednesday. The two ICRC staff were released by the SPLA on 12 March and were brought to Nairobi. Khartoum recently summoned ICRC's head of delegation to express its displeasure with the "partial release" of the hostages, a government statement received by IRIN said.

SPLM spokesman in Nairobi Samson Kwaje told IRIN the three government officials had been taken as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention. The team of seven were abducted by SPLA rebels as they were on a seed distribution mission to local residents in Kong in Pariang area in southern Sudan.

Donors want peace secretariat, ceasefire expansion

The multi-donor IGAD Partners Forum (IPF) last week urged the establishment of a full-time secretariat to support the Sudan peace process and encouraged Kenya to appoint a special envoy to bolster mediation efforts of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Participants at the fourth meeting of the IPF's Committee on Sudan, which was held in Oslo on 10 March, also voiced their concern that the current aid flow from the donor community to Sudan would be "difficult to maintain in the long run" without an "accelerated and strengthened political process toward peace." They said the costs of the peace secretariat, and of the negotiation process itself, should be shared among IPF members, the UN and others.

In a statement received by IRIN on Monday, participants at the meeting also urged all parties to ensure that the current humanitarian ceasefire in Bahr al-Ghazal, which expires on 15 April, is renewed and expanded to all other areas of urgent humanitarian need. Kenya is chairing the IGAD peace process on Sudan, and the next round of negotiations is due to take place in Nairobi from 20-25 April.

New famine warning issued

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned of new famine in Sudan this year unless a ceasefire, due to expire next month, is strictly observed. In a report released on Thursday, HRW said: "If the ceasefire is not extended, the disaster of last year will be repeated in southern Sudan." The report also expresses concern about the situation in the central Nuba mountains area, held by the SPLA. Some 20,000 people are at risk there, where the government's strategy "is to starve civilians into leaving the rebel areas". International organisations are prohibited access.

Dinka-Nuer peace agreement

An immediate ceasefire was agreed last week by Dinka and Nuer community leaders at a reconciliation conference in Bahr al-Ghazal aimed at ending more than seven years of conflict. The 8 March accord, known as the Wunlit Dinka-Nuer Covenant, was settled after over a week of community-based discussion facilitated by the New Sudan Council of Churches. The covenant was signed by more than 300 chiefs, community and church leaders, according to a press release received by IRIN. It promises an end to conflict on the west bank of the Nile, amnesty for offences prior to the beginning of 1999, freedom of movement, the sharing of grazing and fishing rights, and the identification of missing persons and abductees.

UGANDA: Government challenged to confront human rights violations

Amnesty International on Thursday challenged the government of Uganda to confront its own "largely hidden" pattern of human rights violations to break the vicious circle of violence in the country's northern war zone. In a news release, the organisation said that over the last three years it had documented scores of killings of unarmed civilians including children, dozens of rapes and hundreds of beatings by government forces. "The extreme violence of the [rebel] Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has so far been allowed to obscure the government's failure to prevent its own soldiers from committing serious human rights violations," director of Amnesty International's Africa programme Maina Kiai told the press in Kampala.

ADF rebels ambushed

The semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper reported on Monday that at least 16 Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels were killed in an army ambush on 12 March in western Uganda. The rebels were caught in the Rwenzori national park as they entered the country from the DRC.

SOMALIA: UNICEF needs more funds to address severe crisis

UNICEF is seeking additional funding to provide emergency food, water and health assistance for about 300,000 "very vulnerable" Somalis until the next harvest in July. In a report received by IRIN on Friday, UNICEF said its requirements for the southern and central Somalia emergency programme for the period November 1998 to July 1999 had increased to $7.4 million, up from the US $4.9 million requested in November. UNICEF's requirements were revised upwards because poor rainfall during the last season compounded the critical water shortage in affected areas and led to a very disappointing secondary Deyr harvest in January.

ETHIOPIA/ERITREA: Fighting continues along the frontier

Intense fighting was reported this week along the Zalambessa-Egela area and Tsorona flank of the Alitiena frontiers, Ethiopian and Eritrean sources confirmed. Both sides blamed the other for the fresh outbreak of fighting.

UN programme for war-affected civilians

The UN country team in Ethiopia has prepared a humanitarian assistance programme to provide additional help to war-affected civilians in Tigray and Afar, a UN report said. The US $1.3-million programme will cover health and nutrition, education, water and environmental sanitation, reproductive health and the special protection needs of women and children and will pool the resources and expertise of several UN agencies, including UNICEF, WHO, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNDP and WFP, according to the report.

AFRICA: Clinton urges massive debt reduction

US President Bill Clinton has proposed a six-point programme aimed at freeing African countries from debt valued at US $70 billion, news organisations reported. Addressing the opening session of a 46-nation US-Africa ministerial meeting at the State Department on Tuesday, he urged the international community to adopt the proposal, which provides for waiving bilateral debts for some of the poorest countries and further reduction for other debts. In a report received by IRIN on Thursday, Oxfam welcomed the move, but expressed concern that the "lion's share" of benefits was reserved for countries considered to be "exceptional economic performers". "Very few, if any, countries are likely to meet these as yet undefined criteria," Oxfam pointed out.

The conference ended in Washington on Thursday with the adoption of a "blueprint" for the next century, focusing on more development assistance, trade and investment, news agencies said.

Follow-up to UN social summit stresses depth of problem

Some 350 participants from 24 countries in eastern and southern Africa began a three-day conference in Nairobi on Monday to assess the status of implementation of the goals and targets agreed in Copenhagen four years ago at the World Summit on Social Development. In his welcome remarks, Professor George Saitoti, Kenya's Minister of Planning and National Development, said the aim of the Nairobi conference was to monitor, rather than to fully evaluate, compliance to the actions agreed in Copenhagen, and would provide a forum for countries to share experiences on how they had addressed the problem of poverty.

The conference - the first of three African subregional follow-ups to Copenhagen taking place in 1999 - was co-organised by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and UNDP, in collaboration with the Kenyan government, an ECA press statement said.

Nairobi, 19 March 1999, 14:00 GMT


Date: Fri, 19 Mar 1999 17:37:55 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 11-1999

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

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