IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 28 1999 [19990717]

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 28 1999 [19990717]

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 28 covering the period 10-16 July

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels fail to sign ceasefire

The Lusaka ceasefire accord was thrown into disarray over the weekend, after the three rebel factions refused to sign it. Leaders of the six countries involved in the DRC conflict put their names to the accord, but the mainstream rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) refused to acknowledge the signature of its ousted president Ernest Wamba dia Wamba. RCD Vice-President Moise Nyarugabo said Wamba could sign in his own right, but not on behalf of the RCD, the Rwanda News Agency reported. Jean-Pierre Bemba who heads the third rebel group, the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), said he would not sign unless Wamba did.

Fighting continues

Bemba told IRIN on Wednesday that fighting had been taking place since the signing of the agreement. "Kabila sent his allies from Sudan who bombed our headquarters, Gbadolite," Bemba said. "Luckily there were no casualties." Other areas that had witnessed clashes, "provoked by Kabila's forces", were Kabinda in Kasai Oriental province and Ikela in Equateur province, Bemba added. He told Reuters on Thursday that his forces had captured the town of Gemena, about 1,000 km northeast of Kinshasa, on Wednesday night.

Security Council "dismayed"

In a press statement on Monday, the UN Security Council expressed "dismay" over the refusal by the three rebel groups to sign the agreement. The members urged the rebels to resolve their differences and sign the agreement "as soon as possible". "Earnest efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict...should not be held hostage to the internal division among the rebels," the statement said.

Annan to send team to Lusaka

The UN has put on hold the mission of an advance team to assess conditions for peacekeeping troops in the DRC. However, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was due to send a three-person team to Lusaka on Thursday to "liaise" with Zambian President Frederick Chiluba who is trying to convince the rebels to sign the ceasefire accord, a UN statement said. "The Secretary-General is still prepared to send a full-fledged technical survey team to the DRC upon the full signing of the agreement," the statement added.

Nigerian, Ghanaian peacekeepers

Troop contributions for a peacekeeping force have already been pledged by, among others, Nigeria and Ghana, Zimbabwe's presidential spokesman George Charamba told IRIN on Wednesday. A UN funding commitment would enable the mobilisation of an interposing force and its deployment within the four months stipulated in the ceasefire agreement, he added. Meanwhile, Zimbabwean Defence Minister Moven Mahachi has said his country will begin withdrawing troops from DRC in three to four months' time, Zimbabwean radio reported on Monday.

Kabila offers amnesty to rebels

DRC Justice Minister Mwenze Kongolo announced on Tuesday that Kabila had decided to grant a "general amnesty to all members of the rebellion, including soldiers, civilians, politicians", according to Radio France Internationale (RFI). The amnesty measure was the result of "deliberations" at which Kabila had found the rebels' attitude to be "positive", Kongolo said. The RCD, however, turned down the offer, arguing that they are not "criminals to seek amnesty". "I think Kabila is the one who deserves to be offered an amnesty," RCD-Goma's Nyarugabo said.

Fear of potential "massive" influx in Lubumbashi

Local authorities in Lubumbashi are "apprehensive" about massive population movements taking place in Katanga province as a result of military activities, the latest weekly WFP emergency report said. The authorities fear the displaced may seek refuge in Lubumbashi, where no assistance is available, the report said. There are currently 6,250 displaced persons in the town, the report added.

Increase in Kinshasa feeding centre admissions

The number of new admissions in Kinshasa's feeding centres increased slightly in May, confirming a worsening nutritional problem in the city, an FAO food security report said. The report, received by IRIN on Thursday, said a total of 3,157 new cases were reported in Kinshasa's 119 therapeutic and supplementary feeding centres in May, up from 2,924 the previous month and compared to 1,623 new cases reported in May 1998.

RWANDA: Top judicial officials replaced

Rwanda's erstwhile general prosecutor Simeon Rwagasore has been appointed the new president of the country's supreme court, the Hirondelle news agency reported. Five vice-presidents were also approved and appointed by parliament on Monday. The agency recalled that all the court's former officials had been asked to resign. The stagnation of the court had had severe consequences for the judicial system, and many genocide cases were pending as a result, it added.

Category One list amended

Before his new appointment, Rwagasore - in his capacity as general prosecutor - announced he had put his signature to a new list of "first category" genocide suspects. At least 800 names were withdrawn from the old list and replaced by 900 new suspects. Hirondelle noted that the first list, comprising some 1,946 names, had come under criticism for "imprecisions and repetition of names". Some of the people on the list had died before 1994.

21,000 return from DRC

Over 21,000 Rwandans fleeing conflict have returned from the DRC since the start of the year, the latest OCHA monthly report said, citing UNHCR figures. It said another 30,000 returnees may arrive from the DRC in the next few months. The report, received by IRIN, said there was concern that among the returnee population, there could be "active members of the Interahamwe who may cause disruptions again within the country". However, the report noted that the security environment in June and previous months had been "relatively stable and incident-free".

Northwest displaced rely on food aid

Pockets of "severe hardship" remain in parts of the northwest, in spite of significant improvements in the situation of internally displaced populations (IDPs), an OCHA report said. The report, 'Northwest Rwanda...Towards Recovery,' said much of the resettled population still had limited possibilities to engage in agricultural activities and lacked purchasing power, while "far more" needed to be done to address pressing water and sanitation needs in the area. It said "significant numbers in the northwest will remain reliant on food aid at least until the harvests of January 2000".

Rwanda leaves Central Africa region

Rwanda has decided to leave the Central Africa region to join that of East Africa, the PANA news agency said on 9 July. It said Rwanda had informed OAU member states of its decision in a note verbale dated 1 July.

BURUNDI: Arusha process floundering

The peace process continued to proceed slowly in Arusha, Tanzania, amid declarations and counter-declarations from the participants. According to the Hirondelle news agency, the "G3" group of government, parliament and internal FRODEBU demanded that the "G8" group of smaller Tutsi parties withdraw a statement accusing the government of "colluding" with Hutu rebels. Independent analysts have expressed scepticism over the Arusha peace process, which is at risk of disintegrating.

Refugees participate in Arusha process

Refugee representatives have, for the first time, been invited to the Arusha process, the Hirondelle news agency reported. It said a six-member delegation put forward refugee concerns including reintegration into the Burundi state service for former civil servants, guarantees for private business people and recuperation of goods and property left in Burundi. They also asked not to be forcefully repatriated to Burundi.

Buyoya's residence not targeted, government says

Burundian Information Minister Luc Rukingama on Saturday denied that shooting last week in the hills above Bujumbura was aimed at President Pierre Buyoya's residence. He said it was just random firing. In a statement received by IRIN on Monday, one of the rebel groups, PALIPEHUTU, repeated its warning to foreigners to leave Burundi saying it would not be responsible "for any incident" that happened to them.

Meanwhile, the UN and most NGOs have suspended travel out of Bujumbura, due to frequent ambushes along upcountry roads, and organisations fear the prolonged suspension of operations may seriously impact on the humanitarian situation.

Sharp increase in malaria cases

Over 616,000 malaria cases were reported by health centres in Burundi between January and May, WHO said. A report in WHO's 'Weekly Epidemiological Record' said on 9 July that there were 34 deaths recorded in Karusi from 15 May-15 June 1999 alone. Local authorities have taken the necessary measures to mobilise resources for drug procurement, reinforced epidemiological surveillance and vector control, the report added.

TANZANIA: Refugee increase in wake of truce accord

The number of people fleeing into Tanzania from eastern DRC has risen since the signing of the ceasefire agreement last week, a UNHCR spokesman told IRIN on Thursday. The refugee influx "has been steadily increasing, from about 100 people on 9 July to almost 500 on the 12th", the spokesman said. The new arrivals said the area was tense, with fighting between rebels and groups opposed to them reported around several South Kivu villages, including Talama and Sele. "There was also apparently some kind of clash at Makobola" on 7 July, the spokesman added. Some 90,000 DRC refugees have crossed to western Tanzania since August 1998.

Drought preventing school attendance

Meanwhile, WFP has recently approved a school-feeding programme to support primary education in drought-prone and pastoralist areas of Tanzania, the emergency report said. The two-year US $7 million programme will assist some 79,150 beneficiaries, it said.

UGANDA: 10 soldiers killed by cattle rustlers

At least 10 Ugandan soldiers have been killed during an army operation to recover cattle, said to have been raided by Karamojong cattle rustlers, the semi-official 'New Vision' reported on Tuesday. The four-hour battle occurred on Saturday in the northeastern Kotido district.

Drought forces thousands to move to Tanzania

Thousands of farmers from southwestern Uganda are reportedly moving into northern Tanzania following a severe drought facing the region. The Tanzanian 'Guardian' daily said farmers were moving with their cattle as there was not enough pasture and water for animal and human consumption. A joint government and WFP mission has gone to the area to assess the situation, a WFP official in Kampala told IRIN on Monday.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Army reportedly captures Sibiti

Government forces have captured the town of Sibiti from the Cocoye militia allied to former president Pascal Lissouba, Reuters reported on Saturday. It quoted a military source as saying the militia had been pushed out of Sibiti, in the Lekoumou region, over the previous few days.

Discrete peace initiatives reported

President Denis Sassou-Nguesso has been "secretly trying to make a deal" with Lissouba and former prime minister Bernard Kolelas to end the violence in the country, 'Africa Confidential' reported on 9 July. It said Sassou's emissaries included Interior Minister Pierre Oba and a French former mercenary, Patrick Olivier. Meanwhile, Lissouba has also attempted to start negotiations through contacts with several African personalities, it said.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Thousands flee DRC conflict

Thousands of people, including many child soldiers fleeing conflict in DRC's Equateur province, have arrived in the Mobaye and Bangassou areas of the CAR since last week, UNHCR said on Thursday. "We have counted at least 5,000 armed persons," a UNHCR regional spokesman told IRIN. "Some appear to be [DRC] government soldiers, but a significant number are children who were taken from schools and armed," he said. UNHCR had not yet been able to verify press reports that some 6,000 civilians had also arrived in Mobaye and Bangassou from the DRC, the spokesman said. He added that another 100 people had arrived in Bangui from the Zongo area of Equateur.

Bangui denies bombing role

The CAR government on Tuesday "categorically" denied Congolese rebel claims that a Sudanese aircraft had flown from Bangui to bomb Gbadolite airport in DRC's Equateur province on Sunday, Gabon's Africa Number 1 radio reported. It quoted a government spokesman as saying Sudan "cannot violate CAR air space to bomb DRC territory".

Looted weapons destroyed

Some 158 light weapons were destroyed in Bangui on Friday as part of a disarmament operation undertaken by the UN Mission in CAR (MINURCA). In a statement received by IRIN on Monday, MINURCA said the destroyed weapons, thrown into fire during a symbolic ceremony, were either defective or of unknown origin and had been recuperated by MINURCA or the former African MISAB forces since 1997. "This destruction of weapons constitutes....a systematic rejection of the instruments of war," UN Special Representative Oluyemi Adeniji was quoted as saying in the statement.

SUDAN: Thousands trapped by renewed fighting in western Upper Nile

WFP on Saturday expressed fear over a "worsening humanitarian crisis", saying it was unable to deliver urgent relief assistance to some 150,000 people trapped by fighting in western Upper Nile. A WFP statement said war between two rebel factions in the area had prevented the agency from delivering food aid to people in rebel-held towns for several months. WFP's Deputy Country Director David Fletcher said: "If we don't get access to them soon we could be faced with a very serious situation in a matter of weeks."

Several other areas remain closed to OLS agencies

Meanwhile, several locations in Bahr el Ghazal have remained closed to Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) agencies due to continued insecurity. An OLS statement said Thiek and Thou were still "no go" areas while Ajak, Tieraliet, Wuncum, Mayom Akol and Wargong had been evacuated due to "tension and insecurity that often accompanies the government of Sudan supply train [between Khartoum and Bahr el Ghazal]".

ETHIOPIA: UN launches relief action plan and appeal

The UN Country Team (UNCT) in Ethiopia on Monday launched a special Relief Action Plan and Appeal for the most severely drought-affected areas of the country. In a press release, it listed a number of priority interventions, valued at approximately US$ 7.5 million, in the health, water, sanitation, nutrition and agriculture fields to be undertaken over the next three months. The worst affected areas are south Tigray, Wag Harma, north and south Wello, east Harerge, Welayita and Konso Special Wereda, the UNCT statement said.

Development gains at risk from drought impact

"Without additional food aid pledges and special interventions, the worst drought-affected areas risk a major humanitarian disaster characterised by large-scale population migrations and displacement, a major increase in child and maternal mortality levels due to malnutrition and disease, and the possible need to open hundreds of feeding centres," the UNCT statement said. "The effects of such deterioration may well take years of special rehabilitation efforts, effectively erasing modest developmental gains made this decade."

SOMALIA: Food outlook "grim," FAO says

FAO has said Somalia's food outlook for 1999 and beyond is "extremely grim" due to several factors, including the failure of the Gu season, cumulative adverse weather conditions, invasion by army worms and inter-factional fighting. In a special alert, it said current estimates indicated that some 70,000 people had been displaced by food shortages and insecurity. "It is estimated that more than one million people face serious food shortages with over 40,000 at risk of starvation," FAO said.

Nairobi, 16 July 1999, 14:00 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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