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Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 35-98 covering the period 21-27 Aug 1998
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Fighting rages around Kinshasa, Kisangani falls
Fighting raged around the DRC capital Kinshasa throughout the week as government forces, backed by Angola and Zimbabwe, sought to push back rebel gains. The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) suffered setbacks on its western front, but reportedly made gains on the eastern front. The rebels admitted they lost the western military base of Kitona following the influx of Angolan and Zimbabwean troops to support President Laurent-Desire Kabila, but on Sunday they captured the country's third city, Kisangani, after government troops fled their advance. DRC government spokesman Didier Mumengi told AFP the towns of Muanda, Banana and Boma were back in government hands. Rebel forces also said they had taken the town of Kalemie on Lake Tanganyika in Katanga province. That claim has not been independently confirmed.
RCD chairman Ernest Wamba die Wamba accused Kabila of internationalising the conflict which he said could only be solved "politically and peacefully". He later sent a message to the Angolan government. seeking to reassure them that his movement was not in cahoots with UNITA. On Friday, the Rwandan government said it "reserved the right to get involved" in the conflict. In a statement, it described Kabila's accusation of a Rwandan invasion as a "malicious and gratuitous lie". The statement urged an immediate ceasefire. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Saturday Uganda "if unilateral intervention intensifies, may be forced... to take its own independent action in the protection of its own security interests." Rwanda on Wednesday accused Kabila of having a "genocide agenda" against the Banyamulenge and Banyarwanda people. Minister in the president's office Patrick Mazimhaka said over 100 bodies of ethnic Tutsis had been found in Kinshasa. "Rwanda could be driven into the Congo war if necessary, if Kabila pursues his agenda of exterminating people on the pretext that they are ethnic Tutsis," he warned, according to the Rwanda News Agency.
Kisangani not bombed, say residents
Residents in Kisangani told IRIN there had been no direct aerial bombardment of the town by Zimbabwean and Angolan fighter planes, as claimed by the rebel leadership. The sources said the town was calm and said the rebel troops were mostly made up of Rwandan, Banyamulenge and Katangese. The governor of Province Orientale, Doctor Yagi Sitolo, fled the rebel advance in a cargo plane. Other sources told IRIN fighting was also taking place in the southern town of Mbuji-Mayi after Rwandan troops were discovered there by government forces.
Meanwhile, an overnight curfew was imposed in Kinshasa
where fighting raged for much of the week. DRC Information
Minister Didier Mumengi went on state radio on Wednesday
to urge the population to stay calm. He said an operation
was underway to flush out rebel fighters hiding out
in the city's outskirts. News reports told of heavy
fighting around the airport, but said it was not clear
"who had the upper hand". Mumengi said there
had been a "turnaround in favour of our soldiers"
while one of the main rebel leaders, Bizima Karaha,
told news agencies rebel forces had attacked "Kinshasa
airport and control certain parts of the city".
Ugandan, Rwandan troops captured
Ugandan and Rwandan troops were captured when Angolan forces, entering DRC from the Cabinda enclave, seized Kitona air base, Zimbabwean military sources were quoted as saying. According to a military briefing, the rebels on the western front number some 6,000 but an advance guard was halted by Zimbabwean troops 100 km west of Kinshasa near Madimba. Harare says the next target for the multinational force was the Inga dam, the hydro-electric power station on the Congo river.
Vatican claims over 200 killed in east
The Vatican claimed 207 people were massacred in eastern DRC after an attack on a Roman Catholic mission in Kazika near Uvira. Italian missionaries and the Vatican have blamed the attack on Banyamulenge. They say more bodies may be lying scattered in the bush. Earlier press reports spoke of 37 Congolese, including a priest and three nuns, being murdered in the attack. Meanwhile, Rwandan radio reported the alleged discovery of mass graves of Banyamulenge and Rwandans near Kisangani.
Zimbabwe rejects withdrawal call
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe rejected a call by US envoy Howard Wolpe for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the DRC, state radio reported. Mugabe instead called for the pullout of "invading" forces. Wolpe was in Harare as part of a regional tour to negotiate a ceasefire. According to the radio, Mugabe accused some governments of talking peace by day and assisting the rebels by night. He reportedly said "such hypocrisy" would be exposed.
In reaction to the apparent jibe, South African President Nelson Mandela's spokesman said the question of who was the aggressor in the DRC had to be dealt with collectively by southern African leaders, SAPA reported. "President Mandela believes that whatever tactical differences may exist between other SADC states and Zimbabwe, everyone wants to make peace on the continent, including President Mugabe," spokesman Parks Mankahlana said. Angola and Zimbabwe failed to attend a SADC summit hosted by Mandela over the weekend which called for an immediate ceasefire. Meanwhile, a regional peace mission headed by South African Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo was postponed on Thursday because of the fighting. The delegation of foreign ministers of Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia issued a fresh appeal for a ceasefire after talks in Addis Ababa with OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim before returning home, SAPA reported.
Zimbabwe sends reinforcements
Zimbabwe's official 'Herald' newspaper announced on Thursday that reinforcements were being sent to Kinshasa. It said Zimbabwean troops were in a day-long series of actions southeast of Kinshasa and hundreds of rebels were killed and taken prisoner. It added that Zimbabwean losses were two dead and 15 injured. A defence analyst told IRIN that "fire force" tactics were used, involving combined helicopter and ground operations.
Aid to Angolan refugees suspended
UNHCR reported that the fighting in DRC had forced the suspension of assistance to approximately 25,000 Angolan refugees who had arrived since mid-June, mainly in the Kisenge area of Katanga province. UNHCR had provided the Angolans with a one-month ration and was preparing to ship another three-month ration from Lubumbashi.
RWANDA: More food distributions in northwest
Some 277,000 beneficiaries in the northwest prefectures of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi have received 2,327 mt of food since May, WFP reported in its latest emergency report. Food distributions which began on 15 July in Ruhengeri prefecture have now entered a second phase, under which people with access to land receive half rations. Those living in areas where malnutrition rates remains high, without work opportunities and low agricultural production, continue to be provided with full rations, WFP added.
Kambanda sentencing date set
Former Rwandan prime minister Jean Kambanda is to appear before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha on 3 September for a pre-sentencing session, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. It recalled that in May, Kambanda pleaded guilty to six charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. An agreement has already been reached between Kambanda and the prosecution which will be revealed after sentencing, but it could mean the ex-premier testifying against other genocide suspects in the future, the news agency said.
Tentative date for judgement on Akayesu
Meanwhile, the ICTR is expected to pass its first judgement on 2 September, Hirondelle said. Almost four years after it was set up, the tribunal will hand down its judgement against the former mayor of Taba, Jean-Paul Akayesu whose trial ended in March. No date has been set for sentencing, Hirondelle added.
SUDAN: Khartoum condemns US raid
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir condemned as "an act of aggression" the 20 August US cruise missile strike on Khartoum. Bashir denied Washington's allegations that the attack site, the al-Shifaa pharmaceutical plant, was a chemical weapons factory. In a televised address, Bashir said it was well-known the facility produced medicines and had been repeatedly visited by foreign dignitaries.
Seven people were reportedly wounded in the attack by cruise missiles fired from US warships off the Red Sea coast. In protest, demonstrators broke into the US embassy and chanted anti-American slogans. A statement by the students' union broadcast on state TV promised retaliation, and said the "bombing of US facilities is forthcoming."
Museveni supports US action
Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni however expressed his "strong support" for the US action "against terrorists". A press release from the presidency, received by IRIN, said the factories attacked made explosives, and linked them to the recent bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Later in the week, suspected Moslem rebels in Uganda killed as many as 28 people after throwing grenades on to buses near Mbarara. Museveni reacted angrily to the attack and vowed to root out rebel groups operating in his country.
HRW calls for international arms embargo
Human Rights Watch has called for an international arms embargo on both the government of Sudan and Sudanese rebels, accusing both sides of gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The report, made available to IRIN, also details allegations of chemical weapons production and storage by the Khartoum government.
The report, entitled "Global Trade, Local Impact: Arms Transfers to All Sides in the Civil War in Sudan" (http://www.hrw.org), documents a steadily intensifying series of conflicts and conflicts-within-conflicts generally ignored by the international public, but not by global arms traders.
Over 55,000 displaced in Kassala since January
A recent joint UN, Sudanese government, NGO mission to the Kassala region estimated that a total of 55,876 people have been displaced since fighting began in January, WFP reported. It said that recent skirmishes along the Sudan-Eritrea border have resulted in the displacement of 19,432 persons. WFP is organising an immediate food intervention targeting 20,000 beneficiaries pending verification of the total caseload numbers, while the government has agreed to settle the newly displaced in five locations. Meanwhile some 1,700 people in Kassala town have been rendered homeless as a result of flooding from the Gash river. The flood-affected families are currently seeking shelter in schools.
Poor sanitation still a threat to displaced people in Wau
Lack of sanitation and safe drinking water in Wau town, Bahr el-Ghazal region, continues to threaten the precarious health status of displaced persons, WFP also reported. Many new arrivals lack adequate shelter and urgent supplies of non-food items are required in order to improve the situation. WFP said that the Emergency Response Team was considering relocating some of the displaced population to an existing camp that had been vacated when fighting erupted in Wau in January. According to WFP, a total of 72,102 people have received relief food in the town of Wau, while wet feeding programmes currently provide cooked meals to 5,016 beneficiaries.
BURUNDI: Refugees from DRC still arriving in Cibitoke
Refugees continue to arrive in Cibitoke province, fleeing the fighting in DRC, OCHA-Burundi reported. It said the total number of arrivals since the conflict broke out early this month, up to 16 August, had risen to 2,961 with 400 arriving in one day. UNHCR, in conjunction with the Ministry of Reinstallation, has begun registering the new arrivals who are being accommodated at three sites in Rugombo and five sites in Buganda.
60 rebels killed in army sweep
Sixty rebels were killed on Wednesday during an army sweep in Mutambu commune, some 20 km south the capital Bujumbura, AFP reported, quoting a military source. Army spokesman Isaie Nbizi said the operation was targeting a rebel group which attacked a displaced camp in the northern province of Bubanza. The group was heading south towards Tanzania to "get supplies", he said, adding that weapons and documents were seized during
Nairobi, 28 August 1998 11:00 gmt
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Date: Fri, 28 Aug 1998 14:02:58 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <email@example.com> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 35-98 21-27 Aug 1998.8.28
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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