IRIN Weekly Round-Up 38-98 1998.9.18

IRIN Weekly Round-Up 38-98 1998.9.18

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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[The weekly roundup is based on IRIN daily updates and other relevant information from UN agencies, NGOs, governments, donors and the media. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original sources.]

Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 38-98 covering the period 12-18 Sep 1998.9.18

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Conflict "threatens millions" says US official

Fighting continued in the Democratic Republic of Congo this week despite new attempts to secure peace and a senior US official warned that the conflict was potentially "among the most dangerous in the world". US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice told a Congressional committee on Tuesday that the crisis in the DRC had become an unprecented regionalised war that threatened the lives of millions of people. Rice described the military intervention of Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe in support of DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila as "destabilising" and added that Rwanda and Uganda had not revealed the full extent of their own involvement.

Rice said there were credible reports of communal massacres and attacks against non-combatants committed by both rebel and government forces and "hundreds, if not thousands" of Congolese ethnic Tutsis had been detained by DRC security forces. Earlier this week a South Kivu-based party, Les Forces republicaines et federalistes (FRF), warned that Congolese Tutsis are threatened with "extermination" in the DRC and accused the international community of abandoning them. Human rights organisations in the DRC also criticised the "absense of concrete measures" by the UN Security Council in response to the current crisis in the DRC and called on the Congolese people not to give in to xenophobic sentiments.

Little progress made in peace efforts

The annual summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) ended on Monday in Maritius without making any significant progress on ending the conflict, news agencies reported . The summit, attended by the heads of state or representatives of 14 African countries, "recognised the legitimacy" of the military intervention of Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia but did not condemn SADC non-members Rwanda and Uganda for any "aggression" against the DRC. Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, mandated by the summit to continue efforts to negotiate a ceasefire and political settlement, is scheduled to visit Kigali and Kampala on 19 September for talks with Rwandan and Ugandan leaders, Reuters reported. The OAU-sponsored peace talks in Addis Ababa ended last weekend without agreement on a cease-fire. Ugandan and Rwandan delegations reportedly walked out of the talks after failing to convince other delegates to allow Congolese rebels to participate.

Allies pledge continued support

Zimbabwe's Defence Minister, Moven Mahachi said on Wednesday that Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola would continue supporting Kabila until peace was restored, news agencies reported. Earlier this week, neighbouring Chad pledged "unconditional support" for Kabila and Gabonese President Omar Bongo condemned the "occupation" of DRC by foreign troops, Bongo told media that he planned to convene a summit of central African countries during which he would reveal peace mechanisms for the DRC.

Rebels claim Sudan troops in Kindu

DRC rebels claimed on Tuesday that the Government of Sudan, with Libyan financial backing, has sent 2,000 of its soldiers to Kindu in Maniema province - Kabila's forward military headquarters in the east. The 'East African' newspaper also reported rebel claims that 2,800 Rwandan and Ugandan Hutu rebels were being trained at three camps in southern Sudan. These claims have been denied by the DRC and Khartoum. The rebels also allege that Burundian Hutu rebels are supporting Kabila's forces, claiming that a number of fighters from the Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD) had been captured in South Kivu.

Meanwhile, Uganda's 'New Vision' reported on Wednesday that the Sudanese rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), had moved troops to the Sudan-DRC border to stop the Sudanese government from establishing a base within the DRC. An SPLA spokesman declined to comment on the claim.

Goma calm after attack

Goma was reported to be calm this week after rebel forces repulsed an attack on Monday by hundreds of fighters, comprising Mayi-Mayi warriors, Hutu Interahamwe militia and ex-FAR, news and humanitarian sources reported. Rebel military commander. Jean-Pierre Ondekane said that the fighters attacked Goma's radio station and airport but that their main target was Gisenyi across the border in Rwanda. News sources reported Rwandan Vice-President and Defence Minister, Paul Kagame as accusing the DRC government of training and equipping the fighters. Kagame said Rwanda would not "sit by and watch while Congo destablised us".

Kalemie remains in rebel hands, humanitarian concerns increase

In response to earlier government claims that Kalemie on Lake Tanganyika was about to be recaptured, rebels flew journalists to the town on Wednesday. There was no visible sign of fighting and media reported that the town was firmly in the rebel hands. However, humanitarian sources say that most of the civilian population had fled the town since the beginning of hostilities and that food has become scarce. UN sources said some 400 Congolese refugees arrived in Kigoma, Tanzania on Monday, most from the Kalemie area. The influx has brought the total of new Congolese arrivals in Kigoma to 5,333. Aid agencies in DRC also say that cholera is becoming a serious problem in South Kivu with a sharp rise in mortality rates. Efforts to combat the epidemic are hampered by a shortage of cholera drugs and restricted access to affected areas.

DRC minister says Rwandan troops killed thousands

A DRC state minister claimed in an interview with the French newspaper 'Liberation' Rwandan troops backing the ADFL killed thousands of Hutu refugees in eastern DRC and Mbandaka between October 1996 and June 1997. State Minister Victor Mpoyo said that Rwandan troops did not allow ADFL soldiers to enter the zones where the massacres were taking place, so they were at first "unaware" of the killings. He added that UN human rights investigation teams were not allowed to carry out their work properly because the then DRC Rwandan army chief of staff refused to allow them access to the massacre sites.

Kabila says elections will go ahead

Kabila announced on Wednesday that general elections in the DRC would be held as planned in April 1999 if Ugandan and Rwandan troops leave the country. At a rally in Kinshasa, Kabila announced that an additional 25,000 "young people" would be enrolled in the DRC army and that weapons would be distributed to popular defence forces to be established in Kinshasa.

UGANDA: Government denies involvement in rebellion

President Yoweri Museveni reconfirmed the presence of Ugandan troops in DRC this week but said they were not involved in the rebellion. "We are just watching" to preserve Ugandan security, he is reported to have told parliamentarians. Museveni, quoted by AP, criticised foreign involvement in the DRC, calling it "ideologically repugnant".

SUDAN: Fierce battles in Equatoria

The Sudanese army said on Wednesday that 50 rebels and Ugandan army troops had been killed in fierce battles in Equatoria. Up to 150 shells are reported to have fallen in the Torit area - one of the handful of government-held towns in eastern Equatoria - on Monday. Uganda has denied their involvement in the battles. Rebel radio also claimed this week that a battalion of pro-government troops mutinied and joined the SPLA in the Blue Nile area. The Norwegian People's Aid, meanwhile, said that a hospital it supported in Yei, southern Sudan was bombed on Sunday.

Humanitarian concerns increase

WFP is concerned at the humanitarian situation of people in Western Upper Nile. Fighting between different pro-Khartoum southern factions in the Bentiu area has virtually cut off the area from humanitarian access. A security and needs assessment was called off last week due to insecurity and flooding and only a third of a planned 1,200 mt of food deliveries for August was completed.

A report published by a Catholic News service based in Nairobi this week also said that the limited humanitarian efforts in the Nuba mountains of central Sudan were an exercise in futility. The report said that aid efforts were hampered by cost, lack of transport and access.

Floods devastate Northern State

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Tuesday that a 1,000 kilometre stretch along the Nile in Northern State is flooded. The Federation is concerned about the spread of malaria and is delivering insecticide and sprayers to the affected area. Early estimates say that altogether 100,000 people are affected by flooding in northern Sudan.

RWANDA: Displaced camps a "disaster"

Aid officials told IRIN that the official figures for displaced people in Ruhengeri have risen to 185,000. Other increases are reported elsewhere. The director of CONCERN in Rwanda said that the displaced people were generally sheltering in commune buildings, guarded by the army. The situation of the displaced people is "a disaster waiting to happen" she said. Three sites, Kinigi, Gatonde and Cyeru each hold more than 25,000 people, while 14-15 smaller sites account for the rest. Many of the sites lack social services, shelter and clean water. As the rainy season approaches, the outlook is "fairly bleak" and needs for plastic sheeting and other supplies are becoming urgent. UN food aid deliveries to Ruhengeri have been suspended after a convoy hit a landmine killing one passenger.

Three soldiers face death sentence

A Rwandan army officer and his two bodyguards have been sentenced to death for the murder of two women. The two sisters were killed on August 23 when they tried to reclaim a house occupied by the soldiers which belonged to their brother.

BURUNDI: Thousands arrive from DRC

Over 5,500 people have arrived in Burundi's northwestern Cibitoke region, fleeing fighting in the DRC, OCHA Burundi reports. UNHCR figures indicate that 5,586 people had arrived by 11 September, of whom 1,729 were Burundians returning home. Most of the new arrivals were staying in temporary sites, while UNHCR provides return packages to the Burundians, OCHA reports.

KENYA: NGOs told to stop activities

Sixteen Muslim NGOs have been asked by the Kenyan government to stop activities and some expatriate officials have been told to leave the country within seven days. Muslim MPs have asked the government to reconsider the deregistration and the Kenyan Supreme Council of Muslims has called a meeting of imams and other Muslim leaders to plan further action. The NGOs came under suspicion after the bomb blasts at the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam which killed over 250 people and wounded several thousand others.


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Date: Fri, 18 Sep 1998 15:20:24 -0300 (GMT+3) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-Up 38-98 1998.9.18 Message-ID: < >

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

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