IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 13-1999, 4/2/99

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 13-1999, 4/2/99

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 13 covering the period 27 Mar-2 Apr 1999

RWANDA: Voter turnout estimated 80-90 percent

Voter turnout in the recently-concluded local elections was estimated at 80-90 percent, according to UN observers. In a summary of observations, received by IRIN on Thursday, UNDP-Kigali described participation as "very active and quite impressive", with most voters in the 18-40 age bracket. Very few women candidates were either nominated or put themselves forward for election, the report noted. The elections - at the lowest "cellule" and secteur" levels - were held from Monday to Wednesday.

Elections open and transparent

UNDP Resident Representative Stephen Browne told IRIN on Wednesday the observers were free to go where they wanted, and that the elections were open and transparent. He said the observers covered six prefectures, namely Ruhengeri, Butare, Kibungo, Cyangugu, Kigali-ville and Kigali-rural, and noted that the "spontaneity" of the poll meant cases of intimidation could not really occur. Expressing enthusiasm over the process, he said that after initial scepticism, he believed the queuing system of voting, at this stage and this level, was the best way to mobilise a huge number of people. Not only did Rwandans participate directly, they were also "witnessing the democratic process", he told IRIN. The UN would now help the Rwandan authorities consolidate the process, Browne added.

Exiled opposition leader, Faustin Twagiramungu, described the poll as a "masquerade inspired by the mentors of the Kigali regime, notably the United States, to give the illusion of a democratic regime," according to news reports.

Belgium urged to drop extradition request

Rwanda has again called for the extradition of genocide suspect Major Bernard Ntuyahaga, following his rearrest by the Tanzanian authorities on Monday. Ntuyahaga, who is accused of murdering former Rwandan premier Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers, was earlier freed by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Both Belgium and Rwanda are now seeking his extradition.

Rwandan Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo told the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) his country had sent a high-level delegation to Tanzania to secure Ntuyahaga's extradition to Kigali, rather than to Brussels. Foreign Minister Amri Sued Ismail said Rwanda had approached the Belgian government to withdraw its extradition request "but nothing indicates the Belgians will stand down". If Ntuyahaga were tried in Rwanda, Belgium could be involved in the case, he added.

Meanwhile, ICTR Prosecutor Louise Arbour said she was confident the Tanzanian authorities would release Ntuyahaga for trial in a national court. According to a press release issued in The Hague, she said she considered "it was more appropriate for Mr Ntuyahaga to be prosecuted in Belgium rather that in the International Tribunal". The withdrawal of the indictment by the ICTR did not mean an acquittal, she stressed.

Start of week of mourning for genocide victims

Thursday marked the beginning of a week of mourning for victims of the 1994 genocide, Rwandan radio reported. Flags flew at half-mast in commemoration of the slaughter which was unleashed after the plane of then-president Juvenal Habyarimana was downed over Kigali on 6 April 1994. At least 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: War compounds existing problems

The current humanitarian situation in the DRC is characterised by chronic low-intensity problems related to the country's long-term socio-economic decline, compounded by acute localised humanitarian emergencies arising directly from the war, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Darioush Bayandor told IRIN on Wednesday.

The chronic problems, such as food insecurity and poor water and hygiene conditions, need to be addressed through the regular programmes of the UN agencies and their partners, he said. For war-related acute emergencies, such as population displacements, refugee movements, pockets of food shortages and epidemics, the UN country team is considering establishing an inter-agency structure to support rapid humanitarian interventions. There are now an estimated 467,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) reported in the DRC, the latest monthly update from the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator said.

Displaced bring added strain for host families

Local NGO sources report that some 31,000 people displaced from the Rutshuru area have moved towards Goma. The town is also hosting displaced people from Masisi, South Kivu and other areas. The displaced are staying with friends or relatives, which has compounded the difficult economic situation of the host families, humanitarian sources said. Over 1,400 malnourished children have been recorded in Goma, the sources added. Meanwhile, over 570 measles cases have been registered in six health zones of North Kivu since January, according to local health authority figures.

1998 "deplorable year" for human rights

The main Congolese human rights organisation, ASADHO, has described 1998 as a "deplorable year" for human rights in the DRC. According to ASADHO's annual report, violations of basic freedoms have increased. Speaking over Radio France Internationale, ASADHO's president Guillaume Ngefa said both the rebels and Kabila's regime were responsible for this situation.

Tshisekedi hails national debate plan

DRC's veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi has welcomed a proposal by President Laurent-Desire Kabila to hold a national debate on the future of the country, the Belgian daily 'La Libre Belgique' reported. He said he was ready to take part in the debate, but stressed that "any serious, credible political dialogue ... will have to rally the country's main political forces". This would include the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) and Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC). Such talks should be held under the auspices of the UN, OAU, EU and SADC, he added. On Thursday, however, a leading RCD member Kin-Kiey Mulumba described the proposed meeting as an attempt by Kabila to "play for time". He told AP the "climate of unpreparedness" gave them little faith in Kabila's sincerity.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Refugee-hosting families in distress

The situation of DRC refugees hosted by local families in the CAR capital, Bangui, is deteriorating as the resources of the local population will soon be exhausted, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said. In an update received by IRIN, IFRC said tensions are rising in Bangui and the situation will be aggravated by the presidential election campaign expected to start soon. Some 7,500 refugees crossed the river to CAR following the outbreak of fighting in Equateur province in December 1998/January 1999. Some were sheltered in a UNHCR-assisted transit camp in Bangui, while some 2,500 were accommodated with friends and relatives in the city.

BURUNDI: Spokesman reassures foreigners on security

Government spokesman Luc Rukingama has sought to reassure foreigners in Burundi that the country is basically secure. Responding to a US directive to its citizens to curb travel in the Great Lakes region, Rukingama said: "We do not want to see incidents occurring in other territories being associated with Burundian internal politics". According to Burundi radio, he said that while there were still sporadic rebel attacks, particularly in Bujumbura-Rural province, "there is no objective factor undermining the free movement of people". "We also wish that in the subregion, the international community could focus more on and denounce the terrorists bent on genocide," he added.

UGANDA: Government ready to initiate talks with rebels

The government of Uganda is ready to hold talks with rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) if the latter can realise the "futility of their atrocious programme" in northern Uganda, the minister in charge of the presidency, Ruhakana Rugunda, said on Monday. He told IRIN the government had already made contact with the rebels. "In the interest of peace, the government has decided to go an extra mile in calling for talks," he said.

Health situation of Bundibugyo displaced "critical"

The health situation of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Uganda's southwestern town of Bundibugyo is critical, according to a survey by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). The survey, conducted between 12-18 March, revealed that the constant influx of newcomers and the onset of the rainy season "can only worsen the current living conditions of the IDPs". "This presents an emergency situation which must be addressed both on the medical and logistical sides," the team observed.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Displaced people trickling home

Preparations are under way for the return of displaced civilians to the southern Congo town of Dolisie, Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported on Monday. Some of the nearly 100,000 people who fled Dolisie due to fighting between government forces and militia groups two months ago have already started returning to see what has become of their homes, it said.

Meanwhile, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Tuesday that electricity and water supplies had been partially restored in the Bacongo and Makelekele districts of southern Brazzaville, deserted of their estimated 200,000 inhabitants since fighting there in December 1998. Markets and other basic services in Bacongo and Makelekele remained closed, however. Some 25,000 displaced people from southern Brazzaville were staying at 18 northern Brazzaville centres as of mid-March. They have not yet been officially authorised to move back permanently to Bacongo and Makelekele, although a few have resettled into their homes over the past four days or so, the sources said.

News agencies said clashes were continuing in the Pool region, to where an estimated 120,000 Brazzaville residents fled in December.

SUDAN: Over 200 die from diarrhoea outbreak, cases decreasing

Humanitarian agencies working in the Malakal area of Sudan's Upper Nile region have reported a decrease in the number of patients suffering from an outbreak of watery diarrhoea and vomiting that has killed some 213 people over the past month. Since March, 2,746 cases had been recorded, aid workers told IRIN on Thursday. "Daily admissions have come down to between 30-80 from 150-200 patients last week," UNICEF's emergency information officer in Khartoum Shima Islam told IRIN. "The mortality rate has also gone down to an estimated 0-6 per day in comparison to over 15 a day last week." The outbreak had spread to four of the eight provinces in Upper Nile, namely Tonga, Paliet, Mallout and Fashoda.

Rebels, government claim victory in Blue Nile fighting

The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) says it inflicted massive human and material loss on Khartoum forces during a three-day battle in southern Blue Nile state, a claim rejected by the Sudanese government. Intensive fighting was reported between the two sides from Thursday to Saturday last week around the town of Ulu. The SPLA said it killed over 400 government soldiers, and wounded 700. For its part, Khartoum said the rebels were "desperate" to launch attacks in this area to halt exploration and production operations inside oil fields. "Heavy casualties were inflicted on the infiltrating elements who ended fleeing in disarray," a statement from the Sudanese embassy in Nairobi, received by IRIN, said on Thursday.

ICRC appalled by death of four Sudanese by SPLA

The ICRC on Thursday said it was "appalled" by the deaths of a Sudanese Red Crescent worker and three government officials who had accompanied an ICRC team in southern Sudan. In a press release, the organisation said the four were killed by the SPLA who had detained them since 18 February when they inadvertently strayed into SPLA/M territory near Bentiu. The ICRC has demanded a full enquiry into the deaths, saying it holds the SPLA/M accountable.

ERITREA: Government expects more deportees as displaced numbers grow

The Eritrean government is planning for the arrival of 50,000 Eritreans from Ethiopia during 1999, a spokesman for the Eritrean Relief and Refugee Commission (ERREC) told IRIN on Wednesday. They would join over 55,000 who have already arrived since the outbreak of the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea last May, officials said. In the latest expulsions, the Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday announced that 1,501 Eritreans were sent back from Ethiopia over the weekend. The deportations take place despite ongoing clashes on the ground along the common border. Eritrean officials say there are about 75,000 Eritreans still in Ethiopia.

ETHIOPIA: Eritrea accused of dumping Ethiopians on border

Ethiopia last week accused Eritrea of dumping 2,500 of its nationals at the border town of Humera, which it described as "a precarious area during this time of war". It said the victims had no access to basic needs such as food and shelter.

Nairobi, 2 April 1999, 10:10 gmt


Date: Fri, 2 Apr 1999 13:22:11 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 13-1999 [19990402]

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

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