IRIN Weekly Round-up 21-98 for 15-21 May 98.5.22

IRIN Weekly Round-up 21-98 for 15-21 May 98.5.22

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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[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 21-98 covering the period 15-21 May 1998

CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: Ugandan, Eritrean leaders in Kigali, snub Kabila

The presidents of Uganda and Eritrea met Rwandan leaders in Kigali on Saturday, missing a planned regional summit in Kinshasa amid mounting speculation regarding President Laurent-Desire Kabila's isolation. Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Isayas Afewerki of Eritrea held "routine consultations" with Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame, press reports said. Rwandan radio quoted spokesman Joseph Bideri as saying the talks had been planned for several weeks. Another spokesman, Patrick Mazimhaka, cited by AP, declined to comment on whether the talks included Eritrea's border dispute with Ethiopia, but Kagame has since been mediating in the conflict. Newly-appointed Ugandan State Communication Minister Rebecca Kadaga, cited by the 'Sunday Vision', said "wrong procedures were followed in organising the [Kinshasa] summit". She said there should have been "prior consultation", adding "we could not just drop our programmes to go to Kinshasa".

Cancellation of Kinshasa summit shows regional cracks

The 'EastAfrican' weekly on Monday recalled that the row between Eritrea and Ethiopia was the reason given for Kinshasa's cancellation of the summit on Friday. However, according to the newspaper, most of the invitees - some 16 regional countries - gave "lukewarm" responses. Differences reportedly emerged at an earlier regional meeting when the Democratic Republic of Congo invited Sudanese security officials. Sudan's presence is said to have upset delegates from Rwanda and Uganda, while Ethiopia and Eritrea boycotted the meeting. The 'EastAfrican' says that since Kabila came to power, his neighbours have complained about DRC's failure to flush out rebels who frequently attack Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The three countries were instrumental in the victory of Kabila's Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) against the late ruler Mobutu Sese Seko. Rwanda and Uganda were apparently also annoyed at the inclusion of Burundi President Pierre Buyoya. Officials in Kinshasa have denied poor regional relations prompted the cancellation. Foreign Minister Bizima Karaha told the newspaper that the meeting "will still take place at a date to be announced".

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Many achievements in first year, Kabila says

The Kinshasa regional summit was meant to coincide with celebrations on Sunday to mark the first anniversary of Kabila's accession to power. In an address to mark the occasion, broadcast live by DRC television, Kabila stressed the achievements of his first year in power. He said food supplies had been restored, the currency stabilised and security improved. Kabila reiterated that the ban on political parties would be lifted ahead of elections. "We shall no longer have the tribal parties which existed in the past," he said, adding that "many criteria" would be applicable when forming parties. Kabila also took issue with those who criticised DRC's human rights record. He said human rights violations occurred more frequently under the previous regime "and nobody said anything about them".

Lengthy prison terms for prominent detainees

Two prominent political detainees were sentenced to lengthy prison terms by a military court in the city of Lubumbashi. Former military commander Masasu Nindaga on Tuesday was handed down a 20 year prison term, while opposition party leader Joseph Olenghankoy received 15 years. A third defendant, Arthur Z'ahidi Ngoma, also an opposition activist, was given a 12 month suspended sentence. The three were accused of "endangering state security", with Nindaga was also accused of "treason" and "forming private militias". The three men briefly escaped from a high-security jail near Lubumbashi in April, where they had been held since the end of 1997. They were recaptured earlier this month. At their trial, the prosecution had requested the death penalty. Information Minister Raphael Ghenda described the sentences as lenient.

Local NGO to liaise between organisations and government

DRC Justice Minister Mwenze Kongolo has announced a local NGO, Solidarite Entre Nous (SEN), has been given a legal mandate to liaise between NGOs and the government. DRC television on Monday explained that the NGO's responsibilities included coordinating humanitarian assistance and development aid, coordinating local and international NGOs, assessing their programmes and monitoring their activities. In an interview with the television, Kongolo said the government would now rely on SEN for advice each time an NGO applied for registration.

Bleak situation in Sankuru region

A recent mission led by CRS and Memisa in Sankuru, in northern Kasai Oriental, reveals a bleak sanitary, health and infrastructure situation. A CRS spokesperson told IRIN it was a "desperate situation, especially considering that preventable diseases are spreading". A mission report indicates that Sankuru region suffers from several endemic diseases such as TB, trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), onchocerciasis (river blindness), leprosy and iodine deficiency, and experienced epidemics of monkey-pox this year and polio in 1996.

Rebels kill 30 at Goma checkpoint

Humanitarian sources told IRIN on Thursday some 30 people were killed at a checkpoint near Goma on Saturday night. Information is sketchy, but the attack was reportedly carried out by a group of rebels. A Belgian national is reportedly among the dead.

BURUNDI: All sides agree to Arusha talks, Nyerere says

Burundi peace mediator, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, on Wednesday announced that all sides in the conflict had agreed to meet in Arusha on 15 June. His announcement followed talks in Dar es Salaam with Burundian President Pierre Buyoya, coming in the wake of a series of meetings with various Burundi political leaders. He told a news conference there should be a cessation of hostilities in Burundi before the start of the talks, AFP reported. On his arrival back in Bujumbura, Buyoya said he had insisted that the Arusha meeting re-examine the issue of regional economic sanctions and relations between Burundi and Tanzania. Earlier, Buyoya sought to reassure Burundians that his meeting in Dar es Salaam was part of the ongoing peace process. An internal peace dialogue is running parallel to the regional initiative.

Government backs both peace processes

A Burundi government statement, received by IRIN, expressed support for both the internal and external peace processes aimed at resolving the country's problems. It stressed that a joint parliamentary-government delegation would soon visit neighbouring countries to explain the internal dialogue underway in Burundi.

WFP resumes food airlifts

WFP on Wednesday began airlifting 3,000 mt of food commodities to maintain its food security programmes in Burundi. OCHA-Burundi notes the airlift follows a first such endeavour undertaken in March when nearly 700 mt of urgently needed feeding materials were flown to Burundi. The airlifts became necessary when normal rail and road transport routes were damaged as a result of heavy rains in Tanzania.

Nutrition in Cibitoke described as "dreadful"

A CONCERN official told IRIN on Tuesday that the nutritional situation in Burundi's northwestern Cibitoke province was "dreadful". CONCERN's just-completed nutritional survey revealed a 19.9 percent overall malnutrition rate (under 80 percent on the weight for height method). More serious is a 10.7 percent rate of severe (under 70 percent weight for height) malnutrition, including many cases of oedema.

KENYA: Three arrested in connection with Sendashonga murder

Three people have been arrested in connection with the murder of Rwandan opposition politician and former interior minister Seth Sedashonga in Nairobi on Saturday. Kenyan police told a news conference they included two Rwandans and a Ugandan. The murder was reportedly a revenge killing for an alleged financial swindle, but Sendashonga's family maintain the Rwandan authorities are behind his death. The Rwandan government has denied any involvement.

UN inquiry team into illegal arms sales arrives in Nairobi

Members of the relaunched UN International Commission of Inquiry into illegal arms sales to Rwanda arrived in Nairobi this week, according to a UN spokesman. He said the four-member commission, led by Mahmoud Kassem of Egypt, would collect information and investigate reports related to the sale, supply and shipment of arms to the former Rwandan government and militias. They would also identify parties involved in illegal arms sales and make recommendations aimed at preventing the illegal flow of weapons in the Great Lakes region.

RWANDA: 14 children killed by presumed Interahamwe militiamen

Fourteen children were killed in a night attack on their boarding school in northwest Gisenyi prefecture, AFP reported, quoting hospital sources. The attack occurred overnight Sunday at Nyamyumba school in Kivumu. A hospital official said some of the victims received serious bullet wounds. The children were aged between 11 and 17. According to a BBC report, suspected Interahamwe militiamen were behind the attack.

More prisoners admit genocide

Over 200 more Rwandan prisoners confessed to genocide crimes on Wednesday in the hope of having their sentences reduced, Radio Rwanda reported. Their confessions follow those of 2,000 prisoners last week. Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana welcomed the confessions, saying the recent executions of 22 genocide convicts appeared to have had some effect. "This is a good thing and one of the positive repercussions of the government's decision to carry out the [death] sentence," he told a news conference.

HRFOR should revise its operation, Gasana says

Gasana also said the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda (HFROR) should "revise its methods of operation", Rwandan radio reported. He urged it to "assist efficiently in enforcing human rights in Rwanda by mobilising Rwandans in the field of human rights". Discussions on HRFOR's new mandate were still underway, he added.

Genocide suspect transferred to Arusha

A former governor of Butare prefect, Alphonse Nteziryayo, has been transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha to face genocide charges, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. Nteziryayo, who is also a former police chief, was arrested in Burkina Faso last month and extradited to the court.

SUDAN: UN postpones Nuba mountains assessment

An Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) official told IRIN on Monday the UN's assessment mission to rebel and government-held areas of the Nuba mountains has had to be postponed. The visit, due to start Wednesday, has been held up while details are worked out to enable the mission to work on both sides of the conflict. The official told IRIN plans were still on track for a mission "hopefully in early June."

Journalists returning from a weekend visit to the Nuba mountains area of southern Sudan, report a stable humanitarian situation, but widespread displacement due to a government policy of grouping the population in "peace villages". A spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in the area told AFP the region was suffering from a "blockade". An aid worker with CONCERN stressed to the BBC it was important for new aid operations to be sensitive to the self-reliance of the Nuba people, after their years of isolation. A recent NGO assessment report on the Nuba mountains, quoted by Nairobi-based Sudan Catholic Information Office (SCIO) last week, indicated that 20,000 people may need food assistance in two locations after suffering 70-80 percent harvest failures.

New offensive in Blue Nile

The BBC on Monday reported a new SPLA offensive in eastern Blue Nile state. According to a correspondent reporting from Wadega, five government-held positions have been captured from Khartoum forces in the last 10 days. Government military spokesman General Abdel Rahman Siral Khetim however only acknowledged that "engagements occur from time to time" in the Blue Nile region and denied SPLA claims that 200 government troops had been killed. The rebel Sudan Alliance Forces (SAF), broadcasting from a new radio station, monitored by the BBC, claimed at the weekend that it had attacked Minkou garrison about 20 km from the Roseires Dam, killing six soldiers and taking others hostage. A government military spokesman reported government advances against the SPLA in Kordofan and Darfur.

WFP denies insecurity in Bahr al-Ghazal causing major problems

SPLA spokesman John Luk, quoted by Reuters, on Wednesday said government forces have launched a "major offensive" in Bahr al-Ghazal state. He said the troops were coming from two directions, with the attacks centred on Aweil, Gogrial and Abyei areas. He claimed food had been looted and thousands of cattle stolen. However, a WFP spokesperson told IRIN reports of major problems for relief operations were exaggerated. Insecurity in three or four locations had led to the temporary relocation of OLS staff from those areas over the last two weeks. "This has created delays but has not caused a severe blow," she said.

UGANDA: 42 Sudanese POWs freed

The Ugandan authorities have freed 42 Sudanese POWs in a "goodwill gesture", the state-owned 'New Vision' daily reported. The Sudanese soldiers are part of a group of 114 who were captured over a year ago in the northern Kitgum area. A senior army officer, quoted by the newspaper, said Uganda was now awaiting the return of two Ugandan soldiers held in Sudan and abducted Ugandan schoolgirls. However, a statement issued by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army on Thursday, reported by 'New Vision', said plans to free the girls had been put on hold. The LRA claimed the army was planning to attack the rebels during the handover, saying 5,000 troops had been sent to the handover area.

In another report, the daily said fresh incursions by Lord's Resistance Army rebels into the northern Lira district had displaced 10,000 people since last Friday. Over 50 people have reportedly been kidnapped and property looted.

ANGOLA: Beye's peace plan wins support of UNITA and government

The Angolan government and UNITA opposition on Tuesday accepted proposals by the UN Secretary General's special representative Alioune Blondin Beye aimed at salvaging the country's troubled peace process. According to Beye's spokesman Gueye Moctar, the plan presented to a meeting of the joint commission seeks to "take back the initiative". It is backed by the threat of Beye's resignation if it is not implemented, Moctar told IRIN. "It is not an ultimatum or blackmail," he added. "Basically this is nothing new ...This is a document to reestablish confidence in the peace process, it is a test of political will."

The proposals call on the government to "stop all unverified allegations" against UNITA. "Also to put an end to national police abuses in some areas which we are very concerned about," Moctar said. UNITA is expected to resume "without delay" the handover to state administration of areas it still controls, including the strongholds of Bailundo and Andulo. If neither party abides by the agreement, then the international community is called upon to apply sanctions. If the Security Council does not provide Beye with the necessary support, then he will "simply tell the Security Council to find somebody else", Moctar stressed. According to a Reuters report, Beye on Tuesday said he would step down unless the Angolan sides implemented the 1994 Lusaka peace accord within 12 days.

Nairobi, 22 May 1998


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Date: Fri, 22 May 1998 11:54:50 -0300 (GMT+3) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> ubject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 21-98 for 15-21 May 98.5.22

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

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