IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 31 covering the period 31 July-6

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 31 covering the period 31 July-6

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 30 covering the period 31 July-6 August

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Bemba waiting for Chiluba reply over bombings

Leader of the rebel Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) Jean-Pierre Bemba said he was awaiting a reply from Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, mediator of the DRC peace process, on "what step to take" after government troops allegedly bombed the towns of Bogbonga and Makanza, near Mbanda ka, on Wednesday. Bemba told IRIN on Thursday the attack "came as a surprise", causing many people to flee and others remaining "in a state of shock".

According to Bemba, two Sudanese Antonov planes dropped 18 bombs on the two "heavily-concentrated" towns, killing 384 civilians and 134 soldiers. "I immediately called Chiluba to inform him and seek his advice over Kabila's violation of the ceasefire," Bemba said. "I also asked him to send a helicopter which I would use to take journalists to the towns to verify the incidents." Bemba said that "24 hours later" he was still waiting for Chiluba's call. He added that he had put his soldiers on standby since the incident, and they were recovering the bodies for burial.

Bemba expressed disappointment over the "lack of attention" by humanitarian agencies and the international community to the suffering in DRC. "Over 500 people have been killed and thousands are in the bush, but nobody, no agency has even come to find out the needs, be it medicines, food or shelter," he said. Ugandan army sources in the DRC confirmed the incident and said the majority of soldiers who died in the attack were Ugandans and that there "must be retaliation".

The DRC government has said it is unaware of the bombings. Bemba told IRIN it was "shameful to deny the attacks". He has threatened to withdraw his signature on the Lusaka peace accord.

Uganda said ready to withdraw troops from DRC

Uganda's Minister for State for Foreign Affairs Amama Mbabazi on Wednesday told journalists in Kampala that Ugandan soldiers would withdraw from DRC "after all parties have signed the [Lusaka] agreement". He stressed that the ceasefire agreement must be implemented, Radio Uganda said.

Meanwhile, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni held "fruitful" talks with the Goma-based RCD rebels led by their Vice-President Moise Nyarugabo, the semi-official 'New Vision' reported. The Rwanda News Agency quoted Nyarugabo as saying his team explained to Museveni the process by which former RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba was ousted. "He seemed convinced by our explanations. We handed him documents relating to Wamba's removal and we hope that they will be examined seriously," he said. Uganda is seen as backing Wamba's RCD-Kisangani faction. South Africa denies troops are in DRC

The South African government has denied media reports that it has troops in the DRC. According to 'The Star' in Johannesburg, soldiers from South

Africa's special forces were in DRC to "prepare the groundwork" for participation in a peacekeeping force and for "protecting South Africa's interests". However, a defence ministry spokesman told IRIN: "The whole story is totally untrue. We have no troops in the DRC."

Peacekeepers will be sign of "re-engagement" in DRC

A senior UN official has said the deployment of UN observers in DRC is seen as a real contribution to establishing peace in the east of the country. The official told IRIN however that deployment without increased humanitarian assistance would not result in significant change. Local communities not only desire peace, they have to be able to afford it also. In this regard, humanitarian workers have recommended a form of "peace dividend" - supporting communities who respond to the message of peace. The official said that while no-one believes the observers will be able to control the movement of arms and troops, Congolese citizens believe their presence will have a "catalytic impact" on local communities who are yearning for peace. It will send a signal that the international community has "re-engaged" in DRC.

The official added that one of the early impacts of UN deployment and the Lusaka peace accord could be the significant return of displaced people and possibly thousands of refugees. Already in South Kivu, some 10,000 displaced people (out of a total of 200,000) have expressed the desire to return home from Bukavu.

Bemba signs Lusaka accord for MLC

On Sunday Jean-Pierre Bemba became the first of the Congolese rebel leaders to sign the Lusaka peace accord. Bemba told reporters he had signed the accord to give peace a chance in his country, but threatened to withdraw his support for the deal if the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) did not sign up within a week.

RCD-Goma cautiously welcomes Bemba signature

The main Goma faction of the rebel RCD on Monday welcomed Bemba's signing of the accord. Its leader, Emile Ilunga, claimed Bemba was "not to be trusted", but added: "We are gratified to learn that he has signed the accord as we had hoped he would. We have always wanted to sign the accord together with him", Radio France Internationale reported. The mainstream RCD said it was ready to sign also but was concerned that ousted leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba should not be allowed to do so. "As soon as Wamba renounces his bid to sign the ceasefire agreement, our president, Emile Ilunga, will sign immediately."

Tension in Maniema

In the often-forgotten eastern DRC province of Maniema, Rwandan troops are reported to be controlling the airports of Kindu, Kasongo, Kalima and Punia. Local sources said there was tension between the English-speaking Rwandans and French-speaking Congolese soldiers. In addition, many of Kabila's soldiers had fled the rebel advance into the surrounding forests and were now re-emerging to mix with the local residents. Others are reported to have joined Mayi-Mayi fighters in the region where "intense insecurity" is reigning in rural areas.

Katanga seeks assistance for 10,000 displaced

Approximately 10,000 people have fled fighting in Manono and Mbudi to settle in Doubie, leading the governor of Katanga province to request urgent food assistance from WFP, according to an emergency report from the agency, received by IRIN on Tuesday.

Local authorities and humanitarian organisations expect the number of displaced persons to increase still further and WFP is preparing an assessment mission to the area with NGO partners, the report added. WFP also said it has not yet received any funding for its US $25 million appeal launched in mid-June for an emergency operation to assist 350,000 war-affected people and vulnerable groups in DRC for six months.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Refugee numbers rise as Zongo falls to DRC rebels

Scores of civilians and Congolese army soldiers arrived in the capital city, Bangui, on Friday after the town of Zongo, just across the Oubangui river in DRC, was captured by rebels of Jean-Pierre Bemba's MLC, humanitarian sources said. Fighting across the border resulted in buildings in Bangui being shaken by mortar fire. On arrival in Bangui, the Congolese soldiers were disarmed by CAR soldiers and the MINURCA mission to the country.

The number of Congolese arrivals in CAR stood at some 6,800 in Bangui, 14,000 in Mobaye and its environs, and about 2,000 in Mongounba and the south-west late last week, humanitarian sources stated. Included in those figures were disarmed Congolese soldiers - about 6,000 in Mobaye, 300 in Bangui and 100 in Mongounba - the status of whom was uncertain, with some wanting to remain in CAR but others wishing to return to DRC to resume fighting, they added. Sanitation conditions were reported to be deplorable, especially at the Bangui port area where thousands of refugees, particularly new arrivals, were temporarily based.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Brazzaville situation stabilising

The situation in Brazzaville is stabilising, according to humanitarian sources. The authorities are reportedly making enormous efforts to reassure the population and strengthen security. An element of confidence has returned to the city, the sources said. Some 13,000 Congolese have been voluntarily repatriated to Brazzaville, although people arriving from the Pool area are described as suffering from severe malnutrition. Life in the Brazzaville suburbs of Bacongo and Makelekele, much affected by the civil war, is slowly returning to normal. Water and electricity have been restored, and the markets are vibrant. AFP cited state radio as saying the blockade around the city's southern areas had been lifted to enable displaced people to return.

RWANDA: Three ex-ministers transferred to Arusha

Three ex-ministers of the former Rwandan government, arrested in Cameroon this April, have been transferred to the detention facilities of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. The three - former foreign minister Jerome Bicamumpaka, former commerce and industry minister Justin Mugenzi and former civil service minister Prosper Mugiraneza - were members of the 1994 interim government. They are charged with genocide,

conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity. Also charged with them is former health minister Casimir Bizimungu who was arrested in Kenya and has been held in Arusha since February.

WFP to preposition food stocks for returnees

A recent meeting between UNHCR, WFP and the Rwandan government discussed modalities for the repatriation and reception of returnees from the DRC at Nkamira transit centre. WFP's latest weekly report said the meeting also agreed that the agency should preposition limited food stocks to cater for about 1,500 returnees a week. The agency estimates the number of Rwandan refugees in north Kivu and surrounding areas to be 30,000. UNHCR has registered over 7,000 returnees in Gisenyi. More local information needed for effective health planning, survey finds

A report published by the World Health Organisation has said restrictions on the ability to introduce effective health planning in Rwanda are due in part to the poor quality of available local information. The report noted that Rwanda's infrastructure was almost completely destroyed during the genocide of 1994 and this led to an urgent requirement for assistance in the health field. According to the report, health planning should take into account society and environmental factors. "Effective monitoring and detailed observation are identified as being essential to the continuity of existing humanitarian assistance," the report said.

UGANDA: More troops deployed in western Uganda

More government troops have been deployed in western Uganda following a recent attack on a village by rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in which they shot dead a pregnant woman, the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper reported. The rebels reportedly slit open the woman's belly, removed the unborn baby and cut it into two pieces. According to the newspaper, there have been several attacks recently in Ihandiro sub-county of Bukonzo region, displacing thousands of people.

Karamoja drought alert

The Action by Churches Together network (ACT) on Friday issued a drought emergency alert for Uganda's northeastern Karamoja district. Some 250,000 people are affected by the drought, ACT said in a statement. "It is estimated that only 10 percent of the last year's harvest will be obtained this year," ACT said. An analysis of marketing data collected by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), a member of ACT, revealed a rise in cereal prices by almost 100 percent in the last six weeks. In some trading centres, field staff report that cereals are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain as traders resort to hoarding "with the view of making inflated profits as prices rise". "With the expected crop failure or poor harvest, cereal prices are expected to rise until this time next year or until such a time that food relief is distributed," ACT said.

Reports from the districts also indicate an increased movement of households from the drought-stricken areas to Moroto town in search of casual labour.

BURUNDI: Ndadaye murder trial to be revised Burundi's general prosecutor has announced a revision of the trial for the assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye who was killed in 1993.

According to the private Azania news agency, he said certain elements of the penal code were violated during the trial. "Taking these violations into account, there are means of recourse," he was quoted as saying.

TANZANIA: Contribution helps secure food pipeline to refugee camps

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) on Wednesday welcomed a US $12.5 million donation from the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) which it said would enable it to continue feeding some 400,000 refugees in western Tanzania. "Thanks to this donation as well as to earlier contributions from the US, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland, we have a full pipeline of non-cereals through October and of cereals through February next year," said Irene Lacy, WFP representative in Tanzania. The agency recently alerted donors to a severe funding shortfall and, over two months, had reduced rations of cereals and pulses by 25 percent among refugees in Kigoma and Kagera in order to avoid a complete halt in food distributions. "WFP's preparedness to respond to increased food needs is critical, especially in the overcrowded camps, where tensions rise with every new influx," a WFP statement said, adding that it is planned to resume full rations later this month.

Border checks strengthened

Security checks at western border points have been strengthened, Defence Minister Edgar Maokola-Majogo told parliament last week. According to the Tanzanian 'Guardian' daily, he said army troops were being reinforced in the Kagera, Kigoma and Rukwa areas. The newspaper said he was responding to MPs' fears that wars in neighbouring countries would spill over into Tanzania.

New refugee camp to ease Lugufu burden

A new Red Cross refugee camp is to be built in the Kigoma region to ease the burden on the Lugufu camp which has been stretched beyond capacity by refugees fleeing the DRC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies announced on Monday. In a press release, it said the new camp would operate as an extension of Lugufu and would have its own healthcare structure, water supply, sanitation and security. "No-one can foresee precisely what will happen but we have to act now," said Georg Nothelle, head of the IFRC in Tanzania. "The refugees tell us they have no faith in the DRC peace process and we believe that people will continue to cross the lake [Tanganyika]." The IFRC stressed that while fresh funding was required for the buffer camp, it faces a serious shortfall for the existing operation which also includes some 83,000 Burundian refugees in the Kasulu area.

SUDAN: Sudan government declares two-month ceasefire

The Sudan government on Thursday declared a two-month "comprehensive" ceasefire to expire on 15 October, Sudanese radio said. Quoting from a communique issued by the country's Ministry of External Relations, the radio said the ceasefire would cover "all operation zones" in the country in order to "facilitate the flow of relief operations." It also expressed the government's hope that the rebel movement would "reciprocate" this "attitude" so as to get rid of the suffering of citizens and to take steps

for a "comprehensive solution." The announcement comes two weeks after the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) extended its "partial" humanitarian ceasefire for three months at the beginning of the last round of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD)-brokered peace talks in Nairobi on 19 July. SPLM/A's ceasefire covers south western Bahr al Ghazal, Bentiu, Panaru and Pariang in western Upper Nile.

OLS maintains its providing medical assistance in bombed towns

Operation Lifeline Sudan's (OLS) Coordinator for the southern sector Sharad Sapra maintained that the OLS team which went to the two bombed towns of Lainya and Kaaya are only involved in medical assistance contrary to press reports that the UN team was investigating whether the Sudan government used chemical or biological weapons to bomb the towns. Sapra told IRIN on Friday the WFP workers who suffered burning eyes and nose and violent vomitting after visiting the areas were no longer in that area.

Meanwhile, Khartoum's Foreign Minister Mustafa Uthman Ismail on Thursday denied that Sudan "possessed chemical weapons on any part of its soil" and described such claims as "mere lies," Egyptian news agency MENA said.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: OAU expects delegates to "finalise" details

Ethiopian and Eritrean delegates were expected to meet in Algeria this week in a bid to finalise technical details of the OAU proposal to end the war between them, the Organisation of African Unity said on Monday. Experts from the OAU, the UN and US have been meeting in Algiers to work out practical details for implementing the Framework Agreement which would then be discussed by the delegations from Ethiopia and Eritrea, news agencies quoted OAU spokesman Ibrahim Dagash as saying. "We are hoping for a speedy finalisation," Dagash added, though the exact date for the delegates' meeting is unknown. The apparent progress comes after intensive shuttle diplomacy by OAU envoy, Ahmed Ouyahia, and US special envoy, Anthony Lake, in the last week.

ERITREA: Renewed appeal for urgent humanitarian aid

The emergency situation in Eritrea, which on 14 July spurred ACT (Action by Churches Together) to launch an appeal, has since grown worse, the organisation reported in an update received by IRIN on Wednesday. There are now 500,000 war-affected people in need, in addition to 61,500 Eritreans expelled from Ethiopia, according to figures from the Eritrean Relief and Rehabilitation Committee (ERREC).

Donor pledges to Eritrea have been slow in arriving, ACT said, and it would be a good thing if "humanitarian agencies could follow up positive political development with an appropriate response to humanitarian needs". ACT aims to deliver 10,000 tents, 20,000 blankets, 20,000 sleeping mats and 10,000 sets of grasses for thatching, while ERREC has reported the need for 36,286 tents, 32,720 blankets and 101,230 sleeping mats in all.

Red Cross president arrives for "working visit"

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Cornelio Somaruga, arrived in Asmara on Tuesday for talks with Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki and government officials, during which issues

arising out of the Ethiopian-Eritrean war were expected to be addressed. "It is a working visit, they will discuss the conflict. The president will be making normal requests, asking for compliance with the Geneva Conventions," ICRC spokeswoman Barbara Amstad, quoted by AFP news agency, said. Somaruga was scheduled to travel to Ethiopia on Thursday.

ETHIOPIA: Addis Ababa denies reports of planned meeting with Aideed

The Ethiopian government on Tuesday denied claims by Somali faction leader Hussein Aideed in Mogadishu that officials were due to hold talks with him in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on Thursday. An official in the government spokesperson's office, quoted by AFP, dismissed the reports, saying: These are disseminations of unfounded rumours and we have no intention to meet this puppet of the Eritreans ... These declarations are made in order to confuse the international community and the Somali people." Aideed was reported to have told a meeting of Somali intellectuals at the Libyan embassy in Mogadishu on Sunday that the meeting had been scheduled to explore means of easing tensions along the Ethiopian-Somali border.

SOMALIA: Kenya orders closure of "illegal" refugee camp

The district commissioner of Mombasa, Wilfred Legei, on Tuesday ordered the closure of Saint Ann's refugee camp in the Kenyan coastal city, giving 2,500 Somali refugees at the camp up to Friday, 6 August, to vacate or be arrested. Legei, who visited the camp with the district security team, said the government and UNHCR did not recognise the camp and that whoever was sponsoring it was committing a crime. The only recognised refugee camps in Kenya were Dadaab in the northeast and Kakuma in the northwest, and all Mombasa camps had been ordered closed last year, with refugees relocating to the two approved camps, Kenyan radio reported Legei as saying. He added that those unwilling to move would be repatriated to Somalia.

SOMALIA: Elders broker ceasefire deal in Mogadishu

Armed factions involved in the latest round of violence in Mogadishu, in which the death total has been put at 17 by local media, have agreed to a ceasefire brokered by Somali elders. The fighting between militias loyal to rival Mogadishu warlords Musa Sudi Yalahow and Hussein Haji Bod was triggered by an attempt to "tax" a lorry carrying goods from Ma'an to Mogadishu, news agencies reported on Tuesday. The clashes, which involved mortar shelling and heavy machine-gun fire, ceased late on Monday night, they added. The security situation in Mogadishu was reported by humanitarian sources to have relatively improved recently - in spite of the killing of Hussein Aideed's security head, who was also responsible for the security of international agencies - as the Islamic courts continued to clear militia roadblocks.

UNICEF resumes full operations in Baidoa

The capture and consolidation of Baidoa by the Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA), reportedly backed by Ethiopian army forces, has allowed international humanitarian staff to return to the town for the first time since 1995, and the UNICEF Baidoa office is now fully operational, an agency report stated. Landmines remain a major threat to programme

implementation in the area, it added.

The UN's Common Air Services (UNCAS) flights into the self-declared state of Puntland in northeast Somalia have resumed. They were suspended on 12 June following an incident in which a plane was held at Garowe by airport security guards, a UN report received by IRIN on Wednesday stated. Also in Puntland, the editors of `Sahan' (Pioneer) and `Riyaaq' (Happiness) newspapers, published in Bosasso, were on Tuesday reported to have been arrested for writing unflattering reports about officials. The editors would soon appear in court to answer the charges, the 'Qaran' newspaper in Mogadishu reported. It added that the arrests highlighted the problems facing journalists in dealing with Somali faction leaders.

Nairobi, 6 August 1999


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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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