IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 27

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 27

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 27 covering the period 3 - 9 July

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Warring sides adopt ceasefire agreement

The warring sides in the DRC conflict adopted a ceasefire agreement, due to be ratified by heads of state on Saturday in the Zambian capital, Lusaka. DRC Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia said on Wednesday he was "very happy" with the accord whose provisions include a joint military commission made up of African countries to monitor implementation of the ceasefire and disarmament of the Interahamwe militia. The UN will eventually send a peacekeeping mission, but says this will take several months to organise. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stressed the gap should be as short as possible, and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations is speeding up contingency planning for the deployment of military observers, a UN spokesman said.

Rebel factions react to accord

Vice-President of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) Moise Nyarugabo told IRIN his Goma-based movement was satisfied with the Lusaka agreement. "It is a start," he said, adding that RCD leader Emile Ilunga would sign the accord at Saturday's summit. Nyarugabo reiterated that the RCD did not recognise any signature by its ousted president, Ernest Wamba dia Wamba.

Wamba, who now leads an RCD faction in Kisangani, described the agreement as a "very good thing". "We hope all the parties will sign the agreement in good faith so that its implementation will not pose a problem," he told IRIN in a telephone interview on Thursday. It was important the three rebel groups each be signatories to the accord so that there would be "no confusion" when it came to implementation on the ground. The leader of the rebel Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), Jean-Pierre Bemba, told IRIN on Friday that the accord was a "good move". But he warned that if the ceasefire agreement was not implemented by President Laurent-Desire Kabila's government, "we will have no choice but to continue fighting".

Analysts note uphill struggle ahead

Regional analysts told IRIN there was a long way to go to assure implementation of the ceasefire and secure peace, with disarming the Interahamwe and ex-FAR among the thorniest issues. Meanwhile, in an interview with the 'EastAfrican' weekly newspaper, Rwanda Vice-President Paul Kagame said that unless the Interahamwe and ex-FAR were disarmed, Rwanda had no choice but to continue looking for them and fighting.

Mayi-Mayi reject any ceasefire accord

A Mayi-Mayi group has said it will not honour any ceasefire accord reached in Lusaka "as long as the autochthonous people are still under foreign occupation and aggression". In a statement received on Monday by IRIN, the "politico-military council" of the "Forces Mayi Mayi-Forces d'autodefense populaires (FAP)" condemned the rejection by "some participants" at the Lusaka talks of the "rational and principled Sirte accord" in favour of a "pro-West-Mandela-Tutsi-minority sponsored plan". The statement was signed by Mayi-Mayi commander Dunia Lwengama and "member of the politico-military council", Litambola Tambwe Vincent.

Rebels capture Gbadolite

Bemba confirmed that his troops had captured the Equateur town of Gbadolite, the birthplace of ex-president Mobutu Sese Seko, and had turned it into the MLC's new headquarters. He said however that the hospitals lacked medicines and the water was not treated. He said he feared that "the area's population of about 300,000 people may get infected and epidemics may start." "I am therefore appealing to UN agencies and other international organisations on behalf of my people to come to our aid and send us medicines to equip the hospitals and chemicals to treat water," Bemba told IRIN on Friday.

More Tutsi internees flown out

ICRC on Sunday evacuated another 109 civilian internees from Kinshasa to Kigali via Nairobi, an ICRC spokesman in Geneva told IRIN on Monday. Most of the evacuated internees - part of the estimated 1,000-2,000 ethnic Tutsis rounded up by the authorities in Kinshasa and Katanga province at the start of the conflict in August - were Congolese and the remainder were Rwandan nationals. ICRC evacuated 388 internees to Kigali and Bujumbura last week. There were "no other planned rotations for the coming days," the spokesman said.

Anger in Uvira over lack of international help

Local leaders and NGOs in Uvira, South Kivu, have expressed anger against the lack of response by the international community to the plight of thousands of displaced people in the area. The region is facing a prolonged drought and local aid workers are afraid there will not be enough food to last until the next harvest. The bulk of the humanitarian effort falls on CARITAS, but its director told IRIN he feared aid from the organisation's international network will be channelled towards Kosovo, with little left for his region.

Poor access affecting Maniema health situation

The health situation in the Kampene area of Maniema province is "worrying" due to insecurity and the population's lack of access to basic health care, Medical Emergency Relief International (MERLIN) said on Thursday. A MERLIN official said the area's health structures had not been resupplied with drugs since MERLIN was forced to evacuate in August 1998. A new attack on the town was reported within the past two weeks.

Kindu displaced in "reasonable" condition

Meanwhile, MERLIN has been able to assist in reestablishing basic health services in Maniema's provincial capital, Kindu, and in nearby Kalima town. The MERLIN official said most of Kindu's 120,000 residents - displaced by conflict last year - have since returned to the city, but about 10 percent have decided to remain in the surrounding forests.

Economic hardship forcing children onto streets

USAID has approved a grant of US $1.1 million to SCF-UK to support a street children's project in Kinshasa, a USAID official told IRIN on Tuesday. An SCF-UK official said an increase in the number of street children in Kinshasa was expected if the economic situation continued to deteriorate. "Families don't have food at home" because of high unemployment, inflation and the reduced availability of goods, leading children to fend for themselves on the city's streets, the SCF official said.

RWANDA: Foreign Minister sacked

President Pasteur Bizimungu has sacked his Foreign Minister Amri Sued Ismael, the Rwanda News Agency reported. A presidential statement gave no reason for the dismissal, but RNA quoted political sources as saying Sued Ismael "did not defend the country's interests in a suitable manner, notably in his press statements". The minister was also guilty of financial misdemeanours, the radio said. The new foreign minister is former information minister, Augustin Iyamuremye.

Nine sentenced to death for genocide

A criminal court in western Rwanda last week sentenced nine people to death and 16 others to life imprisonment for participation in the 1994 massacre of Tutsis in Kibuye Prefecture. Meanwhile, a court of appeal in Cyangugu overturned the death sentence against a former government official, Theodore Munyengabe, charged with genocide, Rwandan radio reported on Wednesday.

Genocide anniversary marked

Rwandans on Sunday celebrated the fifth anniversary of the ousting of the regime blamed for the 1994 genocide, Reuters reported. Bizimungu said his government had restored security, rehabilitated the economy and stabilised a society torn apart by the genocide.

BURUNDI: Arusha peace process "tense"

The Arusha peace process resumed on Wednesday after a 24-hour suspension in memory of victims of recent violence in Burundi. The Internews agency reported that the talks, which began on Monday between 18 delegations, were increasingly tense, and observers said the process was at a "low point" amid stalemate over whether to include the main rebel group Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD).

Human rights group condemns surge in violence

The Burundian human rights organisation ITEKA on Wednesday condemned a recent escalation of violence in the country, accusing the government of "keeping worryingly silent" over the attacks. In a statement received by IRIN, ITEKA also noted the rebels had stepped up their attacks to coincide with the current round of talks in Arusha which "appear to be moving towards a peace accord".

WFP suspends up-country travel

WFP has temporarily suspended all travel out of Bujumbura following an ambush on one of its vehicles last week. In a press release received by IRIN on Monday, the UN food agency said a staff member was shot and injured in the incident, which occurred on 30 June along Route Nationale 1, some 15 km outside Bujumbura in Bujumbura Rural province.

TANZANIA: Government dismisses human rights report

The Tanzanian government on Thursday dismissed a recent report by Human Rights Watch which accused it of "mistreating" refugees. An official from the interior ministry's refugee department told IRIN the report was "all rubbish and untrue". The rights body charged that Tanzania "rounded up" and "confined" refugees unfairly in camps.

Refugee situation "potentially explosive"

Meanwhile, Lugufu camp has been grossly overstretched for weeks by the flow of refugees from eastern DRC and, with mortality rising and health suffering, camp managers are in danger of being overwhelmed, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said. "We face a potentially explosive situation but we cannot turn people away if there is no other option", an IFRC statement received by IRIN said.

Cereal harvest hit by inadequate rains

The government has announced a cereal production deficit of 589,000 mt as a result of short and unevenly distributed rains, a WFP emergency report received by IRIN on Monday stated.

UGANDA: Deployment of Libyan troops "up to OAU and Security Council"

Sixty two Libyan troops, sent to Uganda after Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Kabila signed a peace agreement in Libya on 18 April, have been living for more than a month now in two Kampala hotels. "Uganda cannot decide on the deployment of the Libyan troops. It is now upon the OAU and UN Security Council to decide which countries contribute troops to Congo," a top source in the foreign ministry, quoted by 'The New Vision' newspaper on Sunday, commented.

"Offensive" against Sudan denied

The Ugandan government and rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) on Thursday denied accusations by Khartoum that they were planning an offensive, along with "allies", against Sudan. "These are the usual lies about Uganda," Uganda's Presidential Press Secretary Hope Kivengere told IRIN. The SPLM termed the accusations a "big propaganda network" and "pure lies". But Sudanese embassy official in Nairobi, Al Mansour Bolad, told IRIN: "Now that Uganda is not fighting in the DRC, they have some soldiers to spare."

Museveni signs referendum bill amid public "outrage"

Museveni on 2 July signed into law the Referendum Bill, paving the way for next year's referendum that will give Ugandans a choice of either returning to party politics or retaining the present "movement" system. The independent 'Monitor' newspaper said "outrage" and "protests" followed the signing of the bill because of a "lack of quorum" when it was passed in parliament the previous day.

ADF kill 10 in Bundibugyo

Ten people including three policemen were killed by rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) on the outskirts of the western town of Bundibugyo, local media reported at the weekend.

WFP to step up operations in Bundibugyo

WFP is to increase its food deliveries to Bundibugyo district due to a surge in internally displaced people. A WFP spokesperson told IRIN on Friday food deliveries had been hampered by insecurity, but convoys would now have military escorts and it was expected food would double from 400 mt per month in June to at least 800 mt, starting next week.

US releases $38.6 million in annual development aid

The US has signed an agreement with Uganda to provide US $38.6 million in development assistance funds for diverse programmes in agricultural development, environmental conservation, primary education, health, democracy and governance. The grant represents almost half of approximately US $80 million in annual assistance that USAID provides to Uganda.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Over 1,000 refugees arrive in Gabon

About 1,500 Congolese refugees arrived in Gabon on Tuesday after fleeing ongoing fighting and unrest in the Republic of Congo. A statement from UNHCR described the refugees as "malnourished" and in "poor health". They reportedly crossed over the weekend into three provinces. Gabon is the second country to receive refugees from Brazzaville since rival forces restarted fighting late last year. Almost 32,000 have fled to the DRC from the Pool region.

Villagers abducted by Ninja

Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas abducted 53 people from the village of Oka in the Plateaux region southwest of Brazzaville last week, news agencies reported. Reuters said the abducted villagers were taken to Ninja rear bases in the Pool region.

SOMALIA: Warning of looming "tragedy"

In response to a "resurgent drought and food emergency" in southern Somalia, the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB) on Tuesday launched a donor alert for over US $17 million. "As indicators point towards yet another poor harvest, humanitarian agencies are gearing up once again to act in a timely manner to avert a major tragedy," the SACB, comprising donors, UN agencies and NGOs, said in a statement received by IRIN.

One million at risk

The SACB statement said the situation "looks increasingly precarious" because of erratic rainfall, continuing conflict, the disruption of trade routes and the cumulative effect of consecutive poor harvests. An estimated one million people are at risk, including 730,000 in Bay, Bakool and Gedo. Other affected areas include Lower Shabelle, Lower Juba and Hiran.

Kenya closes border with Somalia

The Kenyan government on Monday announced the closure of its border with neighbouring Somalia "with immediate effect". All entry points stretching over 300 km between Wajir and Lamu are affected. Local media said the measure was aimed at curbing the influx of refugees and to prevent defeated Somali militiamen from fleeing into Kenya following last week's infiltration of the Amuma military camp by Somali militia.

ETHIOPIA: Rising relief needs

Additional food aid pledges are urgently required if a major humanitarian crisis is to be avoided in drought-affected areas of Ethiopia, a UN report said. The report by the UNDP Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia, received by IRIN, said UN and government assessment missions in June to severely-affected areas had found that an "alarming situation" was developing, with increasing malnutrition rates and population migrations observed. Areas visited included North and South Wello, Wag Hamra, South Tigray, East Harerge, Welayita and Konso Special Wereda.

The Ethiopian government's recent contribution of 20,000 mt of relief grain, combined with new donor pledges announced by Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, will provide sufficient food to cover July's requirements, "but the overall pledge situation remains alarmingly low," the report said.

SUDAN: Fighting in Unity State intensifies

Heavy clashes between two pro-government southern factions, the South Sudan Defence Force (SSDF) led by Riek Machar and the forces of Paulino Matib, started on Saturday in oil-rich unity State, BBC reported on Tuesday.

OIC calls for end to sanctions

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has "reiterated its call to the United States to lift the unilateral economic sanctions imposed on the Sudan in view of their harmful effects and the losses incurred by the Sudanese people economically and socially". The call was made in the final recommendations of the OIC's 26th ministerial session, held in Burkina Faso from 28 June to 1 July. The OIC also backed Sudan's request for an "international investigating commission under the supervision of the Security Council to investigate US allegations that the Al Shefa pharmaceutical factory produces toxic chemical gases".

Nairobi, 9 July 1999, 15:00 gmt


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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

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

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