IRIN Update 666 for 5/7/99

IRIN Update 666 for 5/7/99

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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IRIN Update No. 666 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 7 May 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Marburg virus identified

The World Health Organisation on Friday confirmed that the epidemic of haemorrhagic fever in northeastern DRC is not due to the Ebola virus, but could be caused by the related Marburg virus. One of five samples analysed in South Africa tested positive for Marburg virus, the other four were negative. Revised figures from the WHO say there are an estimated 76 cases of haemorrhagic fever in the Watsa area, with 52 deaths, and investigations will be initiated to establish whether the Marburg virus is responsible. More medical experts were expected in the area within the next few days, WHO said. It pointed out that the virus was transmitted to humans following contact with infected animals and animal tissues, and from person-to-person contact via infected patients and body fluids.

Kabila working on "action programme"

DRC Information Minister Didier Mumengi has said the two-year transition period envisaged by President Laurent-Desire Kabila after he came to power in May 1997 was not a deadline as such. "The two years of transition that the president of the republic imposed on himself rather constitutes a programme of action," he said over state television on Thursday. This programme included a series of rehabilitation projects "with the restoration of the republic as a priority". He said the proposed national debate marked a major phase in the "democratic running of our nation".

List of national debate participants remains unchanged

Meanwhile, the vice-president of the national debate organising committee, Delphin Banza Hangakolwa, has said the official list of participants will not be revised. According to the Agence congolaise de presse (ACP), he said the list was representative of Congolese society.

Kenyan foreign minister delivers message from Moi

Kenyan Foreign Minister Bonaya Godana visited Kinshasa on Thursday to deliver a "special message" from President Daniel arap Moi to President Kabila. A foreign ministry spokesman in Nairobi told IRIN on Friday the message was confidential but related to efforts aimed at achieving peace in DRC.

Godana told reporters in Kinshasa that Kenya was seeking a broad range of participants for the national debate, due to take place in Nairobi. "We are holding the necessary consultations and contacts with all the groups that are needed at the debate. We want a very wide participation, the participation of all the legitimate stakeholders," Godana said, according to DRC television. He added that a date for the Nairobi meeting would be announced soon. DRC Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia said this week it could be around 14 May, Reuters reported.

RWANDA: Kagame meets South African deputy president

In a separate round of diplomacy, South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki met Rwandan Vice President Paul Kagame in Pretoria on Thursday. A spokesman for Mbeki told IRIN the talks were "in the context of ongoing behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in the DRC". He said South Africa supported the initiatives of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the OAU. The Johannesburg 'Business Day' paper on Thursday commented that Mbeki was taking "centre stage" in a new diplomatic effort for the DRC. It cited diplomatic sources as saying South Africa was under increasing international pressure to take a more active role in seeking an end to the war.

Uganda denies rift with Rwanda

The Ugandan government meanwhile denied reports of a rift with Rwanda over military operations in DRC, the Ugandan semi-official 'New Vision' daily reported on Friday. A foreign ministry statement stressed the recent meeting in Tanzania between the presidents of the two countries came within the framework of the Lusaka peace process and was a "follow-up" to the meeting in Sirte, Libya. The statement took issue with "misleading" reports in Ugandan newspapers which "reduced the purpose of the mini-summit to an attempt by [Tanzanian] President Benjamin Mkapa to resolve a rift between Uganda and Rwanda". Libyan television said Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu had held talks in Kigali with a Libyan envoy who brought him a message from Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

BURUNDI: Human rights group concerned over growing insecurity

The Burundian human rights organisation, Iteka, has expressed concern over growing insecurity in southern and eastern parts of Burundi. It said very often civilians were caught up in the clashes between rebels and the army, particularly in Bujumbura rural, in the southern province of Makamba and the eastern province of Ruyigi. Fighting since January this year had left 2,045 households displaced in parts of Makamba, while in Ruyigi, 6,000 displaced people had gathered in the areas of Giharo and Nyabitsinda. Iteka said the rebellion, which had moved from bases in DRC to Tanzania, was "intensively recruiting" young men into its ranks. It quoted local officials as saying the Kigoma authorities in Tanzania had refused to hold talks with their counterparts in Makamba. Iteka reiterated its call for a ceasefire in the Burundi fighting and urged participants in the Arusha peace process to "show proof" of their desire for a peaceful solution to the country's problems.

UGANDA: Task force to monitor haemorrhagic fever

The Ugandan health ministry has set up a national task force to monitor the possible spread of the haemorrhagic fever from northeastern DRC, the semi-official 'New Vision' reported on Thursday. "The ministry of health has reviewed the situation and an alert has been sent to all districts neighbouring the DRC and southern Sudan," said Francis Omaswa, the director-general of health services.

Kampala blasts leave one dead, eight injured

Bomb blasts at separate market places left one person dead and eight others injured, press reports said. The first bomb went off at Kampala's Owino market on Thursday night only to be followed by another in Nateete market in the suburbs of the capital early on Friday. No-one has claimed responsibility for the blasts. A defence ministry source told IRIN: "These are cowardly acts". He said a recent string of bomb explosions in the country had caused "temporary fear" among citizens, but "eventually they gain courage and continue with their lives". The government was working to train citizens to cope with such terrorist attacks, he added.

On Wednesday, a little-known group, the Uganda Salvage [sic] Front/Army, left leaflets at the site of another explosion in Busia, in eastern Uganda, the 'New Vision' said. Analysts say even if the perpetrators of such terrorist attacks were arrested in Uganda today, "it would be very difficult to pin them down". "The law of the country is not explicit on terrorism," one analyst told IRIN.

Acholi MPs back amnesty bill

Meanwhile, the Acholi parliamentary group has backed a government-initiated amnesty bill and peace process for northern Uganda, the 'New Vision' reported. "The legislators have been persistently and consistently yearning for peace. They are genuinely anxious to see the war come to an end," a media source told IRIN on Friday. The group secretary, Reagan Okumu, was quoted by the newspaper as saying the legislators had drawn up a programme to educate the Acholi on the bill, the peace processes so far undertaken and the motions on peace discussed in parliament. He said the group backs the government on seeking a peaceful end to the 13-year-old conflict in the north. "Despite our differences, we will continue working for peace in Acholi," he said.

IMF team expected in Uganda to review withheld funds

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission is due in Uganda next week to review the government's progress in balancing its budget to determine whether it gets more aid from the institution. "The mission will review the progress made and look at the budget for next year," an IMF source in Kampala told IRIN on Friday. He said the institution withheld US $18 million tranche of the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF)- worth a total US $140 million - in March until the government addressed certain issues. "Delays in privatisation, rising expenditure on defence are among issues it has to address," he said, adding he was "confident" the outcome of the meeting would be positive. Meanwhile, the World Bank has approved two credits totalling US $48.38 million to Uganda.

Nairobi, 7 May 1999, 14:40 gmt


Date: Fri, 7 May 1999 17:55:50 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 666 for 7 May [19990507]

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

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