UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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IRIN Emergency Update No.189 on the Great Lakes (6 June 1997)
* A dusk to dawn curfew has been imposed on the Congolese capital, Brazzaville, following a day of fighting in the city yesterday. The announcement, read over the radio, said the curfew would last from 7pm (1800gmt) to 6am (0500gmt) until further notice. Violence broke out after an army contingent reportedly attacked the house of former president Denis Sassou Nguesso, whose militia forces returned fire. Reports said the Congolese authorities wanted to arrest two Nguesso aides, held responsible for clashes in the north of the country earlier this year. The aides had taken refuge in the former president's home. Hospital sources, cited by Radio France Internationale, said two soldiers were killed and several civilians wounded.
Eyewitnesses told IRIN that fighting continued overnight and heavy gunfire was still heard in the city today. Roadblocks have been set up around the town and soldiers have been described as tired and nervous. Nguesso is reportedly at the residence of the French ambassador. Yesterday, Nguesso announced his candidacy for presidential elections due to be held on July 27.
As a result of the fighting, aid agencies were unable to gain access to the Bilolo refugee transit camp, some 20 kms north of Brazzaville, which meant some 5,000 refugees went without food rations yesterday. The UN Secretary-General's spokesman Fred Eckhard told a press briefing yesterday that unidentified armed people had blocked the entry to the camp. UNHCR is due to start repatriating Rwandans from Bilolo tomorrow.
* Earlier this week, Congolese President Pascal Lissouba and his Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) counterpart, Laurent-Desire Kabila, announced a rapprochement in relations. The two men held talks during the OAU summit in Harare and according to Congolese (Brazzaville) radio, they pledged to strengthen cooperation and good neighbourliness, as well as economic ties.
* A Tanzanian newspaper claimed Tanzanian troops played a key role in the victory of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL) in former Zaire. The privately-owned weekly Express said Tanzania provided military training, logistics and communications support to Kabila's forces. Tanzanian bomb disposal experts searched Kinshasa after it fell to the Alliance in May, the paper reported. According to AFP, the Tanzanian authorities have not commented on the report.
* There are continuing reports of fighting in Equateur province in DRC. An article in 'Le Palmares' of June 4 said ex-FAZ troops were sowing terror, looting, raping and burning houses during confrontations with the Alliance. The areas most affected were said to be Buzi, Yakoma, Libenge, and Basankusu. Gabonese radio yesterday reported clashes around the Ikela-Boende road between former Zairean troops backed by Hutu militias and some FAZ members who were trying to join the ADFL. The radio said the Alliance had lost control of these areas and last weekend it sent several hundred troop reinforcements in a bid to regain control.
* France yesterday expressed the hope that Kabila's stated willingness to cooperate with the UN on refugee issues would be translated into deeds. Foreign Ministry spokesman Jacques Rummelhardt added that the humanitarian crisis in eastern DRC was causing concern in Europe. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, after meeting Kabila in Harare, said the DRC leader had agreed to an enquiry into reports of alleged massacres. The US envoy to the UN Bill Richardson is due in Kinshasa today for talks with Kabila.
* At a security meeting in Goma last night between UN and aid agencies, UNHCR decided a curfew would be put in place for its own personnel and recommended that other agencies follow suit. There have been increasing incidents of violence against relief workers in Goma, the latest being an attack against World Vision's compound on Wednesday which led the organisation to evacuate its international staff.
* On June 2, ICRC launched an operation to repatriate by boat 6,000 displaced people from Kalemie to Uvira. The massive operation could take months to complete, ICRC said. The move forms part of a large-scale operation by ICRC, which began in April, to repatriate displaced people in eastern DRC using all forms of transport. ICRC is also implementing a rehabilitation programme for IDPs and local people in areas affected by refugees and general insecurity.
* In Burundi, security forces searched the house of UPRONA party leader Charles Mukasi yesterday. Mukasi told AFP they were looking for "subversive documents". The leader of the Tutsi-dominated party had criticised recent searches of homes of fellow UPRONA members. In Tanzania, the exiled leader of the Hutu-dominated FRODEBU party Jean Minani warned that the party would resort to violence if the government did not restore peace and constitutional rule. The warning was contained in a letter sent to OAU leaders meeting in Harare earlier this week. However, FRODEBU members still in Burundi have expressed guarded support for President Pierre Buyoya's peace moves.
* Observers point out that Buyoya's legitimacy as head of state appears to have received a boost internationally after the start of peace talks in Rome between the government and rebel National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD). Over the last week, he has hosted a state visit by the president of Burkina Faso, attended the OAU summit in Harare and the inauguration of President Kabila in DRC, and paid a state visit to Rwanda. He acknowledged opposition at home to the peace talks, saying this was to be expected in a country undergoing civil war and whose history was characterised by massacres.
* UNDP has launched a US$1.8 million project to reinforce the capacity of the Burundian ministry for resettlement and reintegration. The project is aimed at helping the ministry coordinate programmes to support war-affected populations and the return of displaced, regrouped and repatriated people to their home communes.
* In Update 187, IRIN included a paragraph about human rights in Rwanda based on wire service reports. These reports which referred to killings in March and April in Rwanda implying these were "ethnically motivated" were incorrect . The relevant paragraph from the HRFOR report is as follows: "In March and April, the Human Rights Field Office in Rwanda (HRFOR) received reports of the killings of 344 persons in 48 separate incidents. The highest number of killings occurred in Ruhengeri prefecture, northern Rwanda. Out of the 344 reported killings, 162 were reported to be the responsibility of the state, including members of the RPA. Of the 162 killings, 152 persons were reportedly killed during RPA military operations in Ruhengeri prefecture. Of 344 reported killings, 51 were attributed to Interahamwe militia members, or the ex-FAR or other insurgents. HRFOR has no information on the presumed identity of the perpetrators in 131 of the 344 reported killings in March and April."
* The Rwandan Hutu-dominated organisation in exile, Rally for the Return of Refugees and Democracy to Rwanda (RDR), announced yesterday its transformation into a political party. In a statement, it said it would fight for a "credible democratic alternative to the dictatorial regime" in Kigali.
* A Belgian national has gone on trial in Kigali, charged with indecently assaulting minors, AFP reported. The trial of Jean-Marc Segers, who at one time worked for the UNDP in Rwanda, is being held in closed session. He is accused of molesting young boys at an orphanage in Runda, Gitarama prefecture, where he was working. If found guilty, he faces a maximum of 20 years' imprisonment.
* Kenya yesterday strongly rejected charges of human rights abuses by Amnesty International, ranging from police brutality to unfair trials, Kenyan press reports said today. Vice-President George Saitoti told visiting AI secretary-general Pierre Sane that while Kenya was ready to discuss issues openly and rectify shortcomings, it would not succumb to pressure.
* WFP is to airlift a month's supply of emergency rations for about 3,000 people displaced by fighting in northeastern Angola. On Sunday, a UN mission investigated reports of a huge influx of people into the town of N'Zaji in Lunda Norte province, fleeing hostilities near the Angolan-DRC border. The mission discovered that they began arriving in the town on May 19 and by June 1, the numbers had reached about 2,100. Some 200 people continued to arrive each day. They are mostly in good condition, although some children are showing signs of malnutrition. They are being sheltered in a makeshift camp, although the town's poorly maintained airstrip and mines in the surrounding area are expected to complicate relief operations. Reports on the fighting vary. Some say government troops are battling former rebel UNITA forces, while others claim the fighting is between the government and armed men crossing from the former Zaire.
* Sudan is to release political detainees as a result of the "political detente" in the country characterised by the signing of a peace accord with rebel factions, the Sudanese news agency reported. The move was aimed at giving political opponents the chance to "reconsider their positions", SUNA said.
* A Sudanese official has accused Eritrea of targeting the eastern Hamashkourib area, an area famous for its Koranic schools, AFP reported. The commissioner of Hamashkourib province, quoted by the independent 'Alwan' daily, claimed two students were killed by landmines planted by the Eritreans near the schools and over 70 more were wounded in recent military operations. The commissioner added that a militia force had been stationed along the province's eastern border with Eritrea.
Nairobi, 6 June 1997, 14:00 gmt
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Date: Fri, 6 Jun 1997 17:17:17 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update for 6 June 1997 97.6.6 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970606171151.15769Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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