IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 34 [19990827]

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 34 [19990827]

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 34 covering the period 21-27 August 1999

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels reportedly ready to sign Lusaka accord

Rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) were reported to be ready to sign up to the Lusaka ceasefire agreement under a complicated arrangement aimed at overcoming the sticking point of whether the RCD-Goma or RCD-Kisangani factions, or both, would represent the movement. Political sources contacted by IRIN said that after renewed talks at the weekend between Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame, and a meeting between both men and South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Zuma, the indications from Kampala were that there would be 51 RCD signatories, comprising the general assemblies of both RCD factions. The signing was virtually confirmed and would take place soon - if not perhaps as early as Monday, as rumoured, IRIN sources added.

"We have accepted the proposal following the meeting of founding members on Monday night'', the Rwandan News Agency (RNA) on Tuesday quoted RCD-Goma official Bizima Karaha as saying. "We prefer to sign as a group instead of one person as initially proposed", he added. The next step, he said, was to suggest to the mediator, Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, a proposal on when and where the signing could take place. Karaha told RNA the faction had been convinced to sign by the visiting Zuma, and the Rwandan minister in the President's Office, Patrick Mazimhaka, who met the rebels in Goma, eastern DRC, on Sunday and Monday.

Kisangani faction says Wamba will sign

RCD-Kisangani leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba had travelled to Lusaka to sign the ceasefire accord, a press release from the faction stated. Wamba was also stated to be concerned that "Goma and Kigali might launch another violent offensive" in Kisangani before the accord could be signed, and urged regional leaders and the international community to see that last Tuesday's ceasefire was respected.

Tamba Wamba, political spokesman for the RCD-Goma faction, said on Saturday it was fully committed to the Lusaka agreement and that he believed the group would sign the accord "by the end of this month", Gabonese radio reported. RCD-Goma would sign when the obstacle concerning Wamba dia Wamba's signature had been removed, and the situation was "heading towards the removal of this obstacle", he added.

Twenty five countries pledge officers for UN liaison mission

The military liaison officers needed for the UN team to be deployed to support the Lusaka peace accord have been pledged by 25 countries, Assistant Secretary-General for Peace-Keeping Operations Hedi Annabi said on Friday. The UN deployment of up to 90 military and civilian observers, for up to 3 months initially, will be of four types: deployment to capital cities in the area, but initially Kinshasa, Kigali and Kampala; to the

Joint Military Commission; to the rear military headquarters of the belligerents as security permits; and to other locations within DRC as appropriate, according to IRIN sources.

A budget has been proposed for the preliminary deployment of 90 observers, including 11 humanitarian affairs officers, with special attention being paid to human rights, child soldiers and other humanitarian issues considered crucial to the viability of any peace established, according to IRIN sources. Humanitarian officers would be deployed to Kinshasa, Lusaka, Kigali, Kampala, Bujumbura and key locations within the DRC, they said, adding that the budget proposal included a humanitarian emergency fund of US$ 500,000.

WHO "amazed at turnout" for vaccination campaign

WHO and UNICEF reported that 8.2 million polio vaccinations were carried out by over 75,000 volunteer vaccinators during last week's mass vaccination against the polio virus, and the figure should be closer to 9 million once complete data were available, officials said. Some 10 million children under the age of five had been targeted. "We have been amazed at the turnout. Mothers in every village have brought their children ... often walking several kilometres with their infants on their backs to get this precious vaccine", a WHO press release stated. DRC, with the most intense virus transmission in the world, was the single biggest priority for the global effort to eradicate polio, it added.

ICG report warns tension could further destabilise region

A new report by the influential International Crisis Group think-tank has warned that the current high level of tension between Uganda and Rwanda is likely to affect the geopolitical order of the region. "It could lead to further fragmentation and a 'de facto' partition of the DRC, with each army occupying a sector and a very volatile military situation," the report, entitled The Agreement on a Ceasefire in the Democratic Republic of Congo, noted.

The report said that if Ugandan troops remain in the north, Rwanda may be tempted to concentrate its efforts on Mbuji-Mayi. It could also convince Uganda to give up and withdraw, leaving Rwanda alone facing accusations of aggression. "Last but not least, anti-Rwanda feelings are already growing in the Ugandan army, even though government officials in both countries have played down the impact of the Kisangani clash," the report said, adding: "The Ugandans have lost a lot of soldiers in the battle and some of their strongholds have been taken by the Rwandans, which is perceived as a humiliation by the UDPF."

The report maintains that the DRC conflicts has three dimensions - local, national and regional - and calls on the international community to take the current peace deal as an opportunity to reengage with the region, to demonstrate a commitment to African peace processes and to rebuild credibility with national partners in central, eastern and southern Africa.

(for full report see

Environmental health factors pose new risk in Kisangani

An inter-agency mission to assess the impact of the recent hostilities between Ugandan and Rwandan troops in the eastern rebel-held town of

Kisangani has noted that the "physical damage" was quite limited, but that the human costs were high and the battles had increased the risk of disease by seriously undermining environmental health.

A mission report, received by IRIN on Thursday, noted that a considerable number of corpses had remained unburied for three to four days as fighting raged, posing a serious threat of contamination of soil and water sources. "Intermittent water supply and inadequately treated water supplied to the city's population are additional factors that augment the epidemiological risk within the context of a cholera-endemic city," the report stated. It recommended that efforts be made to improve environmental health in Kisangani, which would include widespread disinfection, inhumation of remaining corpses in appropriate places and chlorination of wells.

Also recommended in the report was that Kisangani's four hospitals be rapidly supplied with essential medicines and surgery equipment. Sanitation and war surgery supplies were already being dispatched to the hospitals and health centres of Kisangani by UNICEF, ICRC and NGO partners in Goma, who had an adequate supply, the mission team said. Its report noted that key facilities such as hospitals, food reserves, water supply and treatment facilities remained intact but that the hostilities had interrupted air traffic which resulted in "temporary shortages" of foodstuffs in the local market. The team also recommended that, subject to security and availability of resources, a UN humanitarian office, similar to those in Goma and Bukavu, should be opened in Kisangani.

ICRC helps Kisangani recover after clashes

As soon as the Ugandan-Rwandan ceasefire came into effect on 18 August, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) began working with volunteers from the DRC's Red Cross Society and staff from the Netherlands branch of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to take more than 50 wounded - both military and civilian - to the town's hospitals or healthcare centres, a statement from the organisation, received by IRIN on Thursday, reported. In all, the ICRC counted 131 military and civilian war-wounded patients, and - with the help of 80 local Red Cross volunteers - removed the bodies of 34 soldiers killed during clashes between Ugandan and Rwandan troops, its statement said.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: $7 million ECHO pledge eases food gap

Humanitarian sources have informed IRIN that the UN's country representative no longer sees any "food gap" in the country after WFP received a pledge from the European Community Humanitarian Officer (ECHO) for US $7 million worth of food. This represented half of the overall requirement of US $14 million outlined in the consolidated appeal. The food will assist some 200,000 people and should be sufficient until the end of the year. Meanwhile, in the southwest areas of Nkaye and Dolisie, the humanitarian community working with the government are preparing to set up humanitarian operations to assist returnees. An OCHA mission to the areas three weeks ago confirmed that local administrations still needed to be established in both towns. Some 10,000 of a total population of 80,000 people in Dolisie have returned so far. In Nkaye, roughly 30,000 of a population of 60,000 people have reportedly returned.

Thousands "waiting out the fighting" by Gabonese border

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has sent additional staff to Tchibanga in southwestern Gabon and will open a second office in Franceville, to the east, in response to the recent arrival of thousands of refugees from Congo-Brazzaville, the agency's spokesman Kris Janowski said on Tuesday. Janowski said the number of refugees had not grown significantly since the first groups crossed into Gabon in early July, but missions to entry points had been told of "tens of thousands" of Congolese who are "waiting out the fighting" in Congo (Brazzaville) in the dense forest on both sides of the border with Gabon.

The Congolese towns of Mbinda, Mayoko and Mossendjo were reported to be crowded with displaced people escaping battles which began around Brazzaville, while many families are said to have been split up during the flight, he said. UNHCR quoted refugees entering Gabon as saying they had witnessed atrocities against civilians by the militias fighting the national army. Around 10,000 refugees are now grouped on temporary sites or have made their way to Libreville, it said. UNHCR is planning to borrow from its West African stocks to send two freight containers of emergency relief supplies by the end of the month, Janowski said, adding that in addition to UNHCR staff, the NGO Handicap International had sent a humanitarian team to Gabon. CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Security forces execute six alleged bandits

Six suspected bandits were summarily executed by security forces in Bangui between Friday and Monday under a "deplorable" crime-fighting measure, human rights sources told IRIN on Tuesday. Under the practice, officials from Bangui's Office centrafricain de repression du banditisme (OCRB) track down suspected bandits on their third suspected offence and kill them extrajudicially, "sometimes right in front of their parents", one source said. The OCRB reportedly killed four people on Friday, one on Sunday and another on Monday.

A recent rise in the number of OCRB executions was at least partly due to the increased availability of weapons resulting from the influx of Congolese government soldiers into the city last month, sources said. Local human rights activists say their attempts to speak out against the summary executions have often been met with hostility on the part of residents, who view the OCRB practice as a means of reducing the level of insecurity in their neighbourhoods.

Repatriation of Congolese soldiers continues

Meanwhile, CAR authorities have started to transport Congolese government soldiers from Mobaye to Bangui by road so that they can be airlifted to Kinshasa, sources told IRIN. Some 200 soldiers were flown to Kinshasa on Tuesday, reportedly aboard an Antonov aircraft provided by Libya and more were expected to leave on Wednesday, sources said. Some 5,600 DRC soldiers fled last month to Mobaye, where they have reportedly been terrorising local residents. Their presence has been described as a source of increasing concern inside the country, humanitarian sources told IRIN. "There is reason to worry, from both a security and humanitarian standpoint", one source said.

The soldiers, along with some 4,000 civilians, fled into the area last month when Congolese rebels made advances in Equateur province. Local authorities have reported that the soldiers, many still armed, were raping local women, looting property and devastating crops. The population influx was having a negative impact on health and sanitation conditions for the area's 5,000 local residents, and food was also becoming a problem, the sources said.

UGANDA: WFP targets 27,000 displaced in Kasese for assistance

An assessment mission by the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) has established that between 2,000 and 3,000 children are in need of supplementary feeding and an estimated 24,000 more in need of food assistance among internally displaced people (IDPs) in Kasese district, southwestern Uganda. WFP food has already started arriving and distribution plans are in place, an emergency report by the agency, received by IRIN Tuesday, stated. The International Committee of the Red Cross is expected to provide non-food items to the displaced people.

The official caseload of Sudanese refugees in six refugee camps in northern Uganda stood at 163,750 in early August, with WFP having removed food assistance to 10,486 more who were deemed self-sufficient in line with the recommendations of a WFP/UNHCR joint food needs assessment mission, the WFP report said. All refugees being assisted were in various phases of food ration reduction depending on the nature and degree of their vulnerability, it added. Meanwhile, insecurity in Bundibugyo has meant that WFP had not managed to get access to two of the IDP camps there, but it has verified 95,553 displaced in other camps in the district.

TANZANIA: Number of separated children in camps drops drastically

Humanitarian sources have recorded a "drastic drop" in the number of separated children in all camps in Kigoma region, western Tanzania. Statistics from UNHCR show that in March 1999 the number of Unaccompanied Minors (UAMs) registered was 2,248 and the number of Accompanied Minors (AMs) was 9,185, giving a total of 11,433. As of 13 August, the number of UAMs registered in all the camps was 1,938 and the number of AMs 6,932, giving a total of 8,870. The agency cited successful reunification between and within camps, repatriation countries of origin following successful tracing, voluntary repatriation - mainly with foster families - and children growing past minor status as reasons for the change. In a report received by IRIN, it said some 134 children had been reunified with their parents between March and August.

RWANDA: $6.7 million pledge for education and civil service programmes

The Dutch government has given $6.7 million to the UNDP Trust Fund for Rwanda to strengthen educational institutions and the civil service in the country. A UNDP statement said the contribution comprised $2.5 million each to the Kigali institute of Science, Technology and Management and the National University of Butare, $1 million to strengthening the Kigali Institute of Education and $657,000 for a UNDP/Ministry of Public Service civil service reform and capacity building project.

"Following the genocide, there is a very urgent need to rebuild human resources and I believe that these projects are absolutely key to that process," said the UNDP Resident Representative in Kigali, Stephen Browne. The agreement with Netherlands increases to $22 million the total UNDP contribution to Rwanda's institutes of higher learning since 1994. UNDP has helped rehabilitate the education sector and was also working with the government to establish a fair and equitable justice system, the agency's statement said.

Isaka inland port to provide improved route to Dar es Salaam

The inland dry port to be established by Rwanda and Tanzania at Isaka in northwestern Tanzania, in order to ease the transportation of goods in and out of Rwanda, is to open by the end of September, according to Transport and Telecommunications Minister Vincent Baruta. "The dry port is set to provide an efficient sea link at competitive tariff, rapid transit time, safety and security of cargo, easy documentation and proactive customer services," Rwandan News Agency (RNA) quoted Baruta as saying. The conversion of Isaka container terminal into a dry port is intended to make it a viable gateway for Rwanda's sea-borne trade, using a road connection to Dar es Salaam 502km shorter than the existing route. The Rwandan commercial sector has hailed the initiative, anticipating that it will help reduce consumer prices by cutting 40% off transportation costs, RNA reported.

New law establishes national police force

Parliament on Friday adopted a law allowing the merger of the gendarmerie, communal police and judicial police into a single police force, such as Rwanda has never had, in order to improve the general organisation and competency of civil security operations. The move was intended to assure clear policy-making, management of human and capital resources, a proper mechanism for fighting crime and respect for the rights of Rwandans, a parliamentary statement released to Rwandan radio stated. Parliament calls Rwigema to account

Rwandan parliamentarians have started a process by which they hope to summon Prime Minister Pierre Celestin Rwigema and other cabinet members to clarify the failure to resolve the situation of old case-load refugees and the programme of the government during the additional four-year transitional period. The Minister of Education, Emmanuel Mudidi, has also been summoned to explain the mismanagement of a World Bank project to reconstruct and rehabilitate schools, RNA reported.

Genocide trial against bishop adjourned

The Nyamirambo court of first instance in Kigali on Wednesday announced the adjournment to 14 September of the genocide trial of Bishop Augustin Misago in order to allow him study the prosecution case against him. In doing so, it rejected the defence counsel's argument that the charges against Misago, bishop of Gikongoro diocese in southwestern Rwanda, should be dropped because the state had not followed correct legal procedures by detaining the bishop without forwarding details of the charges against him. It also rejected, on the grounds that the charges against him were serious, a defence request that Misago be released until his trial date,

Radio Rwanda reported on Thursday. Misago is the most senior cleric to be held on genocide charges in Rwanda and his arrest and detention have drawn strong protests from the Vatican.

BURUNDI: Government denies that troops fought in Kisangani

The government on Wednesday vigorously denied claims in the Ugandan press and RCD-Kisangani that its troops fought alongside Rwandans in last week's fighting in Kisangani. A statement, issued by the Burundi embassy in South Africa, said that the charges had been made in an effort to damage relations between Bujumbura and Kampala. "It is with surprise and astonishment that the government of Burundi has learned of the unscrupulous attempt by certain media circles to mislead public opinion by implicating Burundi in the latest clashes which have taken place in Kisangani.

Burundi has never abandoned its principle of good neighbourly relations which do not permit it to meddle in the relations of other states," the statement said, adding that the government of Burundi was determined to resolve the problems in its own country and wanted to reassure its neighbours that no action likely to threaten good relations would emanate from Bujumbura.

FRODEBU official arrested

The secretary-general of FRODEBU, Domitien Ndayizeye, was arrested on Wednesday at Bujumbura airport as he tried to leave the country to take part in talks with the movement's head, Jean Minani, within the framework of Arusha peace process, the Great Lakes Press has reported. Quoting an authoritative source, the news agency said Ndayizeye was set to take part in high-level consultations between the mediator Julius Nyerere and the leaders of the main political groups.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church says it wants to be involved in the Arusha peace talks. Two weeks before the visit made every five years by Catholic bishops to the tombs of St Peter and St Paul in Rome, the president of the

Burundi episcopal conference, Monsignor Simon Ntamwana, told journalists in Gitega that the Church wished to be represented at Arusha. He also recommended the participation of the armed gangs which had recently separated themselves from the CNDD and Palipehutu during the inter-Burundian negotiations.

SOMALIA: Aid agencies confident of securing flights to and from Kenya

Relief agencies on Thursday handed a collaborative petition to the Kenyan government to allow special access for humanitarian flights in light of President Daniel arap Moi's announcement on Wednesday that Kenya's closure of its borders with Somalia extended to a ban on all flights in and out of the country. Kenyan television reported on Thursday that the Office of the President had said the ban would take effect from 1 September, but that some flights - understood to be humanitarian - would be allowed to continue to avoid a complete disruption of particular activities.

The humanitarian community had two main concerns over the flight ban, according to a senior official who spoke to IRIN: that the interim period before a regularised system for scheduling and clearing flights is put in place should not be too long, and that there would be flexibility to allow the necessary responsiveness to emergency needs, such as medivacs and security-related personnel withdrawals. Informed sources were on Friday confident that the temporary ban on humanitarian flights was "a procedural glitch" arising out of the government's intention to clamp down on irresponsible operators flying in and out of Somalia, and that the situation would be quickly resolved.

[for more details, see IRIN report of 27 August headlined: "Aid agencies make case for special access after Kenyan flight ban"]

SACB recommends return to Lower Shabelle

The SACB had just last week recommended, given indications of improved security, the resumed deployment of expatriate humanitarian staff in Lower Shabelle Region. That decision arose after a review of a letter from the Merka Council of Educated and Cadres. However, it also recommended that such presence be carefully reintroduced and that "caution be exercised until the partners assess the situation on the ground" and deem it acceptable. The SACB would keep the situation in Lower Shabelle under constant review, the statement said, urging meanwhile that all responsible community representatives and local authorities ensured full security for international organisations working in the region.

$1.5 million project supports Berbera port rehabilitation

UN Habitat agency (UNHCS) has committed $1.5 million to support the rehabilitation of Berbera Port in Somaliland, northwest Somalia, in what the agency depicts as "a successful response" to the call by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the international community to review its role in Somalia. Acting Executive Director of Habitat Klaus Toepfer said he hoped the project, funded by the European Commission with money from the Italian government, would be the beginning of a fruitful collaboration to reconstruct and rehabilitate a devastated society.

Nairobi, 27 August 1999 12:00 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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