IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 9-99 1999.3.5

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 9-99 1999.3.5

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 9-99 covering the period 26 Feb-4 Mar 1999

GREAT LAKES: Manhunt for militiamen launched

Rwandan and Ugandan forces launched a manhunt in the northeast of the DRC for members of a 150-strong Rwandan Interahamwe militia group who hacked to death 12 persons - four Ugandans and eight foreign tourists from Britain, the United States and New Zealand - earlier in the week. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni vowed the killers would be captured or killed and disclosed that a battalion of Ugandan troops was in pursuit.

Speaking at a press conference in Kampala, Museveni apologised for what he termed the "laxity" of his government. He said the authorities "should have had the foresight to take precautions in Bwindi, which is quite close to the Congo border".

According to Uganda's state-owned 'New Vision' newspaper, 15 of the Interahamwe ('Those who fight together' in Kinyarwanda) were killed on Tuesday by Ugandan troops in Nyabwishenya, near the location in Bwindi National Forest in south-western Uganda where the atrocities were committed.

The DRC rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) told AFP they needed help to control the Virunga National Park just across the border from Bwindi. "We sent troops and intelligence agents to the Virunga Volcanic National Park where the Rwandan Hutu Interahamwe militiamen and soldiers from the ex-Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) are found," AFP quoted RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba as saying. "But unfortunately we do not have enough (men)." Wamba said an estimated 15,000 Interahamwe were in the area and were trying to go back to Rwanda.

The DRC government, which is reported to be supported by the Interahamwe, expressed regret at the atrocities. Deputy Foreign Minister David Mbwankiem said on state-owned radio in Kinshasa that the Congolese government was "deeply concerned about this new attempt to destabilise the Great Lakes region". He called for an international investigation to "identify those who perpetrated the odious act". However, the DRC government rejected any responsibility for the attack, saying that it occurred "about 20 km from the DRC border illegally occupied and currently under the control of the Ugandan-Rwandan armed forces".

Interahamwe - extremist group accused of spearheading Rwandan genocide

The murderers were reported to be members of the Interahamwe ('Those who fight together'), a Hutu militia that spearheaded the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, during which hundreds of thousands of minority Tutsis and moderates from the Hutu majority were murdered. The Interahamwe, along with the former armed forces of Rwanda (ex-FAR), were among some 1.7 million Hutus who fled Rwanda in July-August 1994 as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took control of the country. In eastern DRC and western Tanzania, tens of thousands of them trained, rearmed and plotted to retake control of Rwanda, according to information obtained by the UN

International Commission of Inquiry on arms flows to former Rwandan forces, which released its final report in November 1998.

When rebels moved to topple the late president Mobutu Sese Seko in then Zaire in 1996-1997, hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutus returned home, while others fled further west. According to information the Commission of Inquiry received from various sources, there were an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 FAR and Interahamwe active in Rwanda before the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) began its rebellion in the DRC in August 1998.

Smaller numbers were reported in other countries: as many as 2,000 were believed to be in the south of the Central African Republic, 2,000-3,000 were said to be in one camp in the Republic of Congo. An estimated 5,000 to 8,000 were reported to be in the Sudan, according to the report, and significant numbers were also reported in Angola, Zambia and Tanzania.

After the rebellion began in August, most converged on the DRC, where they have benefited from the shifting alliances of the past months. Based on "persistent reports received from numerous sources," the Commission concluded that "the ex-FAR/Interahamwe, once a defeated and dispersed remnant, have now become a significant component of the international alliance against the Congolese rebels and their presumed sponsors, Rwanda and Uganda".

News reports said the perpetrators of the Bwindi attack left notes on the corpses of the eight tourists saying the massacre was in revenge for US and British support for Uganda.

UGANDA: Ugandan rebels kill five in displaced camp

Meanwhile, as if to illustrate the chaos reigning in the region, a rebel group opposed to Museveni's rule - the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) - and active further north on Monday raided a camp for displaced people and hacked five of them to death, the 'New Vision' reported. The attack took place near Ntororo, about 340 km west of Kampala. The rebels were reported to come from nearby Semiliki National Park, on the border with DRC and some 210 km north of Bwindi.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: South Africa pushes for peace

Meanwhile, South Africa said it would step up diplomatic efforts for a peaceful solution to the DRC conflict. In a speech to the South African parliament, Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo said Pretoria was seeking the implementation of a ceasefire, the standstill of all opposing forces, the withdrawal of all foreign troops and "all-inclusive" negotiations among the Congolese themselves. He said the attack in Ugandan had once again clearly illustrated the potential of that conflict to destablilise the region.

"The South African approach is to resolve the conflict through SADC (Southern African Development Community), in consultation with the OAU, in accordance with the principles decided upon at the SADC summit in Pretoria on the 23rd August 1998," said Nzo.

Allies renew support for Kinshasa

Earlier in the week, however, the Southern African allies of DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila reiterated their support for him in the war against the Rwandan- and Ugandan-backed RCD. Speaking after a four-nation summit in Kinshasa, Zimbabwe President Robert

Mugabe said the allies would spare no effort to help the DRC restore its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"There is no doubt on our part that they (the rebels) intend the war to continue, and their occupation therefore to continue, and allow them to exploit the resources of the Democratic Republic of Congo," Mugabe said, lashing out at Uganda and Rwanda.

Also attending the meeting were presidents Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola and Sam Nujoma of Namibia. The RCD, meanwhile, denied reports that government troops and their allies had launched an offensive on Kindu in Maniema, Rwandan radio, monitored by the BBC, said. However, it quoted a rebel spokesman as saying an "incident" had taken place between soldiers and civilians about 30 km from Kindu.

Sudan says no Sudanese military in Congo

Sudan, another country said to be involved, denied that Khartoum had troops in DRC following reports that a "Sudanese soldier" had been captured by Congolese rebels and taken to Uganda.

"The government of Sudan did not and will not deploy troops in DRC. Its support to this friendly neighbour is purely political," the Sudan Embassy spokesman in Nairobi, Al Mansour Bolad, told IRIN. "So many countries are involved in DRC and have openly declared their military support, we have declared our political support, why would we shy away if we were militarily involved," he added.

Prof Gaspard Mugaruka, the Congolese charge d'affaires in Nairobi, also dismissed the reports, carried this week by international media, that the Ugandan army in Kampala was holding a Sudanese government soldier captured last month during a battle with anti-government rebels in DRC. "There are no Sudanese military in our country," Mugaruka told IRIN. "We have Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Chad fighting with us and we have never hidden the fact that there are Angolan, Zimbabwean, Namibian and Chadian troops in the DRC, but there are no Sudanese troops."

Canadian mining company declares force majeure

Tenke Mining Corporation of Canada has declared "force majeure" at its multi-million-dollar copper and cobalt project in Katanga, southern DRC. Tenke explained in a press release dated 23 February that the war in the DRC had undermined a feasibility study on the project, in which it has a 55-percent stake while the DRC government has the remaining 45 percent.

The war, which has disrupted Katanga's power supply and transport links, forced Tenke to halt development work at its Tenke Fungurume project late last year, according to Reuters.

Force majeure is a type of legal protection invoked when unforeseen events such as war or natural disaster prevent a company from honouring its financial obligations.

Polio outbreaks in North Kivu, Equateur

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation remains grim. A polio outbreak has been reported in the Walikale area of North Kivu, aid workers reported. The area remained inaccessible due to insecurity, which was hampering efforts to respond to the epidemic, they said. Efforts were underway to contain another polio outbreak that was affecting two zones of Equateur province, with some 100 cases reported so far, the sources said.

Displaced hiding in South Kivu bush

The situation in the Uvira and Fizi areas of South Kivu remains of concern as people continue to flee insecurity and many are still hiding in the bush, humanitarian sources said. Congolese refugees arriving in western Tanzania reported that the displaced from Uvira and Fizi were facing hunger and disease, including cholera. "In the bush, they live in extreme conditions with no access to humanitarian assistance since it is cut off because of insecurity and lack of infrastructure," John Sparrow, Information Officer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) told IRIN: "The longer they stay there, the more serious their conditions become."

Reaching the lakeshore to cross to Kigoma in Tanzania can be hazardous for the fleeing Congolese, IFRC said. "There are countless stories of people being turned back or shot at", Sparrow said. IFRC supports the work of the Tanzanian Red Cross in the Lugufu refugee camp, located 90 km east of Kigoma, which currently has a population of 23,000 people.

Some 37,914 Congolese refugees have arrived in the Kigoma area since August 1998, including 675 who arrived between 26 February and 1 March, UNHCR said. Most of the new arrivals from the Fizi and Uvira areas reported that they had left their homes because of fierce fighting in the villages of Dino and Rubiro.

Swissair to resume Kinshasa service

Swissair will resume its weekly flights to Kinshasa on 28 March, Reuters reported. It quoted the airline's chief executive, Jeffrey Katz, as saying: "It's a volatile situation in Africa...but we are a careful company and our evaluation says we can run a reliable, safe operation." Swissair stopped its flights to Kinshasa in August 1998 at the start of the DRC conflict.

Commercial activity in Bunia

A sense of normalcy has begun to return to Bunia in Province Orientale with most shops now open and regular supplies of goods arriving by road from Uganda, according to sources in contact with the area. Food items, although expensive for the local population, were available in the markets, they said. The town of Isiro in the province was more isolated, and goods were being flown in from Kampala. Both Bunia and Isiro were reported to be firmly in the hands of Ugandan troops, considered by the local population to be better disciplined than other soldiers. The security situation outside the towns remained unclear.

Meanwhile, humanitarian sources said the cholera situation in the Ituri district of Province Orientale had stabilised, with only a few cases reported so far this year.

Tutsis not singled out for Canadian resettlement

Following an IRIN report of 22 February regarding resettlement of persons at risk in Kinshasa, the Canadian government said it wished to clarify that it has "no special program that singles out or accelerates the resettlement of Tutsis."

In a statement sent to IRIN, the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi said Canada has a regional processing centre in Accra, Ghana, from which various immigration programmes for the DRC and other countries are coordinated. This includes refugee and humanitarian programmes undertaken in cooperation with UNHCR and other UN agencies, the statement said.

Government sets up mining police

A special unit is being set up in DRC to police the mining industry, according to state-owned radio. Mining Minister Frederic Kibassa Maliba said the force was being created to "supplement the efforts being made to rebuild the DRC so that the country can draw very substantial benefits from the precious materials that are the jewels of our abundant mineral resources ..., gold, diamonds and oil."

"The measure was also taken so that these precious materials do not simply fill the pockets of swindlers," he added.

BURUNDI: Malnutrition down in Bubanza

A recent nutrition survey carried out in Bubanza province by the NGO Children's Aid Direct revealed that the global malnutrition rate had fallen to 9.7 percent, compared with 15.6 percent when the last survey was done six months ago, the latest OCHA-Burundi humanitarian situation report said. The severe malnutrition rate was now 3.7 percent, down from 7.1 percent six months ago, the report added. However, the mortality rate for children under five years of age was found to have increased slightly, from 4.4 to 4.5 per 10,000 per day, it said, adding that UNICEF was in the process of devising a system to improve analysis of such contradictory data.

Meanwhile, an OCHA-led inter-agency mission that recently visited the eastern Rugazi and Musigati communes of Bubanza reported that newly-displaced people continued to arrive into the area's displaced sites from the Kibira forest and neighbouring Muramvya province. The new arrivals were in need of food and non-food assistance, the report said.

SUDAN: OLS responds to MSF allegations

The Executive Directors of UNICEF and WFP together with the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator said on Wednesday they were disappointed over MSF-France's "inaccurate and unbalanced criticisms" of Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) and its efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Sudan.

In a joint statement, they said that in 1998, OLS members had worked to turn around famine and reduce malnutrition rates from a high of 45-50 percent to 10-15 percent in the most affected areas. "While many lives were lost because of war and resulting famine, it is important to recognise that hundreds of thousands of lives were saved," they added.

In a report released last week, MSF had accused OLS of responding slowly to last year's famine and of failing to prevent the diversion of food. The joint UN statement said it would be "unrealistic" for OLS to cease functioning until a perfect system for access and distribution in Sudan was guaranteed. "The result may be better consciences for some, but for the people of southern Sudan, the inevitable result would be further loss of life," the statement said.

"The overriding imperative is to continue with the difficult but necessary humanitarian task, to negotiate with those who cause war on behalf of those who suffer from it - and, finally, to do our best to save innocent lives," the statement said.

500,000 households to receive OLS seeds

Fifteen OLS agencies have started distributing about 4,000 mt of seeds in southern Sudan with a view to fostering self-reliance and reducing dependence on food aid, UNICEF said. In a statement dated 28 February, UNICEF said the programme was targeting 500,000 households in Bahr al Ghazal, Upper Nile and Equatoria. UNICEF is providing 1,150 mt of seeds for the programme, it said. The seed planting season will begin in April.

WFP faces shortfalls of non-cereal commodities

WFP is facing critical shortages of non-cereal food for Sudan for the March-December 1999 period, especially pulses, oil, salt and blended foods, the UN agency reported in its latest Sudan update. "If these commodities are not made available in the near future, the gained improvements in the nutritional situation will be reversed," the report warned.

Ongoing WFP assessments in locations such as Bahr al-Ghazal, Equatoria, Unity/Upper Nile/Jonglei indicate that the food deficit is now about 10-30 percent among the poorest sectors of the population, but may reach as high as 50-60 percent before the 1999 harvest season in September-October. "The most vulnerable are the internally displaced," it said.

The food deficit is expected to increase gradually towards May-July. The overall food deficit in many places depends greatly on the availablity of wild foods and other local food sources, WFP said.

KENYA/SUDAN: Government tightens control of Lokichogio airstrip

The Kenyan government announced this week that it would tighten its control of operations at Lokichogio, the humanitarian aid base in northern Kenya. The announcement followed a weekend call by President Daniel arap Moi for a probe into flights to the area.

A minister in the Office of the President, Marsden Madoka, said in a statement that "measures are being taken to ensure that the flow of humanitarian assistance to areas affected by conflict is closely monitored to ensure that such activities do not pose danger to the security of this country."

The Kenya Airports Authority will take over the management of the airstrip, the Directorate of Civil Aviation will provide air traffic control services, and Customs and Immigration Officers will now be stationed at the airstrip, the statement said.

"Only NGOs and UN agencies who have been duly approved to operate specifically at Lokichogio will be allowed at the airstrip," he said.

ETHIOPIA/ERITREA: OAU peace team expected in Eritrea

An OAU team prepared to discuss with the Eritrean government the modalities for implementing the OAU plan for resolving the Ethiopia/Eritrea border dispute. The team was in Addis Ababa on Monday for similar discussions with the Ethiopian government. Eritrea formally accepted the OAU peace plan on Saturday, while Ethiopia had accepted it earlier.

Asmara, however, maintains that the Ethiopian government has a "hidden agenda" since it has not yet indicated its "formal acceptance" of a ceasefire. "The fact that there is a ceasefire does not mean war cannot erupt. Ethiopia has a shifty agenda. They talk about Assab, the border dispute, and now they say they cannot live in peace unless the Eritrean government is overthrown," Eritrean government spokesman Yemane Ghebre Meskel told IRIN on Thursday.

The OAU agreement calls for a ceasefire, the demilitarisation of the border, the deployment of international peacekeepers and the neutral delineation of the disputed border.

Nairobi, 5 March 1999


Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1999 15:49:39 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 9-99 1999.3.5 (fwd)

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

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