IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 48 29 November-3 December 1999

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 48 29 November-3 December 1999

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 48 covering the period 29 November-3 December 1999


BURUNDI: Mandela nominated as new peace facilitator BURUNDI: Summit call for disbandment of regroupment camps DRC: 500 military observers to go on stand-by DRC: Multidisciplinary staff to support MONUC DRC: Rebels surrender Bokungu DRC: Fierce fighting, potential "blood bath" reported in Equateur DRC: Rebel RCD denies American mercenary support DRC: MLC sceptical about rebel reconciliation bid DRC: New haemorrhagic fever case suspected DRC: Nutritional "crisis" in Bas Congo RWANDA: Del Ponte formally appeal Barayagwiza ruling RWANDA: DRC food imports boost local supply RWANDA: More ex-FAR reintegrated into army UGANDA: Parliament passes rebel amnesty bill SOMALIA: IGAD summit endorses Guelleh plan SOMALIA-ETHIOPIA: Aideed shuts down Oromo Liberation Front in Mogadishu KENYA: Oromo Liberation Front accuses Kenya government SUDAN: WFP concerned over US food for rebels SUDAN: Minister warns food aid could be arms

BURUNDI: Mandela succeeds Nyerere as peace facilitator

Eastern and southern African leaders meeting at the eighth Great Lakes summit on Burundi on Wednesday nominated former South African President Nelson Mandela as facilitator of the Burundi peace process. The heads of state said in a statement that "they realised the importance of having a new facilitator to provide political leadership" for the Burundi process and had therefore designated Mandela, after due consultation with the OAU and UN.

South African President Thabo Mbeki thanked the summit leaders for their confidence in Mandela, while his spokesman Parks Mankahlana said Mandela had accepted the position, Hirondelle news agency reported. If he confirms his acceptance, Mandela will replace the late Julius Nyerere, former president of Tanzania, as talks facilitator. The summit also noted that the Burundi peace negotiation "have reached an advanced stage and substantial progress has been achieved" and decided to keep Arusha as the main venue for the process.

BURUNDI: Summit calls for disbandment of regroupment camps

The regional leaders in Arusha also "noted with regret" that the political and security situation had not improved significantly in the country, and that Hutu rebels had stepped up attacks against the government. The summit "expressed its disappointment" at the government's continued use of camps to contain the civilian population - in spite of commitments to dismantle those in existence - and reiterated its call for Bujumbura "to immediately disband all regroupment camps."

DRC: 500 UN military observers to go on stand-by

The UN Security Council on Tuesday asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan "with immediate effect, to take the administrative steps necessary to equip up to 500 UN military observers with a view to facilitating future rapid UN deployment [in the DRC] as authorised by the Council." It underlined, however, that "the phased deployment of the UN military observers, with the necessary support and protection elements ... will be subject to its further decision" after it receives a technical assessment of security conditions in the country. The Council asked that Annan "report to it as soon as possible on the situation in the DRC and submit his recommendation on further deployment of UN personnel in the country, and on their security."

DRC: Multidisciplinary staff to support MONUC

Meanwhile, the Security Council resolution also authorised a multidisciplinary staff in the fields of "human rights, humanitarian affairs, public information, medical support, child protection, political affairs and administrative support personnel" to assist the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC Kamel Morjane until 1 March 2000.

DRC: Rebels surrender Bokungu

The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) said on Friday it had surrendered the key town of Bokungu in northwestern Equateur Province amid heavy bombardment on Thursday. Rebel forces could no longer resist helicopter and river assaults at Bokungu, but withdrew to a new defensive line where they could prevent government and Zimbabwean forces from gaining access to allied forces besieged at Ikela, the Associated Press (AP) quoted RCD spokesman Kin-Kiey Mulumba as saying. There was "a massive attack" by the government alliance, involving three gunboats, four helicopters and Antonov bombers, Mulumba claimed. Serious clashes were reported in the northwestern province of Equateur throughout Monday and Tuesday.

DRC: Rebel RCD denies American mercenary support

Mulumba also rejected Zimbabwean accusations that US mercenaries were involved on the rebels' side in southern DRC. "I'm categorically denying that we have any mercenaries on our side - least of all Americans," Mulumba told AP. Zimbabwe's defence spokesman Colonel Chancellor Diye claimed on Monday that American mercenaries were active in central and eastern DRC, fighting alongside Congolese rebels.

"The presence of white mercenaries has been noticed, 15 at Lusambo and the same number at Kabalo. The mercenaries are American nationals manning communications equipment and artillery," Diye said. Lusambo and Kabalo are to the north and east respectively of the key Congolese diamond mining centre Mbuji Mayi.

DRC: MLC sceptical about rebel reconciliation bid

The rebel Mouvement de Liberation du Congo (MLC) has expressed "profound perplexity" at renewed attempts to reconcile and unite Congolese rebel groups. In a report received by IRIN, the MLC said the chances of rebel reconciliation were slim if the reasons that led to the clashes between the two factions of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) - in Kisangani in August and more recently in Beni and Butembo - had not been resolved.

RCD-Goma last week said the three rebel groups would meet in the coming days in an effort to resolve their differences. While welcoming the initiative, the MLC would refuse to be associated with "any folkloric initiative...that would constitute a waste of time," the report said. It noted, however, that a common platform among the rebel movements would enable positions to be harmonised "with a view to the next elections."

DRC: New haemorrhagic fever cases suspected

Two new suspected cases of haemorrhagic fever were reported during the second week of November in Province Orientale, a WHO official told IRIN on Tuesday. Both victims, one in Durba and the other in Watsa, have died. "They had signs and symptoms of haemorrhagic fever but we are waiting for laboratory confirmation," the official said. The development is a source of concern because of the time period that has elapsed since the last suspected cases were reported, the official said.

"These cases don't seem to be related to the previous outbreak," he said. "We might be facing a new outbreak but we're not sure yet," he said. Some 60 people were estimated to have died of haemorrhagic fever, linked to the Marburg virus, in the Durba area between November 1998 and May of this year.

DRC: "Nutritional crisis" in Bas-Congo

High levels of both acute and chronic malnutrition have been observed in a "nutritional crisis" in Luozi and Mangembo districts of Bas-Congo, western DRC, with the influx of refugees and returnees from the neighbouring Republic of Congo likely to have exacerbated the situation, Medical Emergency Relief International (Merlin) reported on Tuesday. A sample of over 900 children under five years between mid-September and mid-October, the traditional lean period at the end of the dry season, showed malnutrition figures "high enough to cause concern", even in the absence of comparative data for other periods, the agency reported.

"Malnutrition is part and parcel of the hungry season but in this instance global acute malnutrition among children aged between six and 59 months was found to be 26 percent," it added. Traditionally, Bas-Congo has substantial trade with the Republic of Congo but the closure of the border has "had a massive impact on the local economy and a severe knock-on effect on people's ability to feed their families," Merlin added.

RWANDA: Del Ponte formally appeals Barayagwiza release ruling

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday formally filed her brief requesting a review of the decision of the Appeals Chamber of the Tribunal to release genocide suspect Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza on technical legal grounds, UN Spokesman for the Secretary-General Fred Eckhard told journalists on Thursday. Del Ponte said she had new facts that she hoped would prompt a reversal of the decision; alternatively, she hoped the appeals court would remove its provision that the release should be "with prejudice" to the Prosecutor, thus allowing the ICTR to re-arrest Barayagwiza, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. "There is no date set for the Chamber to make its decision," Eckhard stated on Thursday.

RWANDA: DRC food imports boost local supply

Market prices have remained relatively stable in areas affected by poor rainfall distribution, with the exception of Umutara where prices have risen sharply in the last two weeks, the latest monthly bulletin from USAID's Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) stated. It said recent assessments had found that imports of staple food from the DRC were helping to maintain market supplies in Rwanda. Overall,

dry conditions in October had harmed prospects for the 2000 season A bean and maize crop in one-half of Rwanda, the report said. "Total crop loss is expected in some locations, and yields will be very low throughout the affected region," it said. An inter-agency assessment team in early November recommended that WFP double its food distributions in drought-affected areas - from 3,000 mt per month to 7,000 mt.

RWANDA: More ex-FAR reintegrated into army

About 1,500 ex-FAR soldiers and other former "infiltrators" on Saturday completed a two-month camp-based "sensitisation" programme, marking their reintegration into the army or civilian life, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported. It quoted well-informed sources as saying some of the reintegrated ex-FAR soldiers had already joined the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) and were fighting against the Kabila government in the DRC. According to a recent government policy paper, about 10,000 ex-FAR were absorbed into the army last year.

UGANDA: Parliament passes rebel amnesty bill

The Ugandan parliament on Tuesday passed a bill offering rebels a six-month amnesty in an attempt to end long-running insurgencies by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the west of the country and Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the north. The rebels have six months from the date President Yoweri Museveni signs the bill into law to claim the amnesty by handing in their arms and giving themselves up, Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday.

The amnesty bill - which calls for the reintegration of the rebels into society and can be extended by the government without going back to parliament - represents a new, more diplomatic approach to rebellions which have displaced over 400,000 Ugandans after Museveni insisted for years that the rebels were common criminals and could only be subdued militarily, Reuters added.

SOMALIA: IGAD summit endorses Guelleh plan

At a summit held recently, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan endorsed a proposal by President Ismael Omar Guelleh for a new approach to the conflict in Somalia. Three member states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) failed to attend the summit: Eritrea, Uganda and Somalia. Eritrea refused to attend, claiming Djibouti backs Ethiopia in their conflict, while the semi-official 'New Vision' reported that Uganda's unpaid dues to the sub-regional grouping would have disqualified it from speaking. Somalia's seat at IGAD has been vacant since the collapse of 1991. According to AFP, Guelleh said neither Eritrea nor Uganda had offered a "convincing reason" for not taking part.

The summit called for a "bottom-up approach in which the role of warlords is contained and that of Civil Society is enhanced." The summit's declaration welcomed moves by "Somaliland", "Puntland" and "the region of Bay and Bakool" to promote peace in their regions. Diplomatic sources told IRIN the IGAD Standing Committee on Somalia, chaired by Ethiopia will meet in Nairobi on December 15 to decide an implementation plan.

Full IGAD statements:

SOMALIA-ETHIOPIA: Aideed shuts down Oromo Liberation Front in Mogadishu

Somali faction leader Hussein Aideed has disarmed a group of Ethiopian Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) members living in Mogadishu. The move came as a result of meetings in Addis Ababa in October between Aideed and Ethiopian authorities, a spokesman for Aideed told IRIN.

The OLF is an Ethiopian rebel group, formed in 1974, which had been allied to Aideed and has used Somali territory as a rear base. Representatives of Libya and Egypt monitored the disarmament and handover of about 100 weapons, Aideed spokesman Abdulatif Afdub said. Ethiopian government spokesperson Hailekiros Gessesse told IRIN that nothing was promised in return from the Ethiopian side. "He [Aideed] should clean his house... he should think of his own people", Hailekiros said, repeating denials that Ethiopia had troops based in Somalia.

KENYA: Oromo Liberation Front accuses Kenya government

OLF radio also complained of a change of heart on the part of the Kenyan government, with whom there had been "some understanding" - falling short of direct support - in the past. The OLF broadcast, monitored by the BBC last week, accused Kenya of "declaring war" on the OLF and of detentions, killings and torture of Oromos in Kenya. A statement from the OLF website announced last week that Dawud Ibsa Ayana had taken over the leadership of the organisation, after the resignation of former chairman Galasa Dilbo due to ill health.

SUDAN: WFP concern over US food for rebels law

WFP has expressed concern about a new American law which provides authority for the use of food aid for rebel fighters in southern Sudan. Meanwhile, Khartoum has condemned the possible move to provide food aid to the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) as a declaration of war. "The declaration of (US President) Bill Clinton to give food aid to the rebel movement represents an irresponsible American behaviour," news agencies quoted government spokesman Ghazi Salahuddin as saying on Wednesday. WFP, which is one of the main organisations involved in the distribution of food to the Sudanese people, previously said it was worried that the safety of all food providers might be jeopardised if some were seen to be partisan.

The controversial provision is contained in a US foreign operations bill, part of the US budget, which Clinton signed into law on Monday. WFP is concerned about the impact any one-sided food distribution might have on the credibility of Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), an inter-agency effort which is currently feeding two million people every month. UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said WFP was worried the US move, if implemented, could "potentially jeopardise their logistics operations in the air and on the ground. They fear they could become military targets if their planes were confused with any new aircraft delivering US food."

SUDAN: Minister warns food aid could be arms

These fears appeared to be justified on Wednesday when a junior Sudanese foreign minister, Gebriel Rorec, was quoted as saying he feared the US food aid could turn out to be Parliament Deputy Speaker said the decision was a reaction to a recent reconciliation accord in Djibouti between Khartoum and the opposition Umma party.

SUDAN: Rubin condemns deal with Umma

US State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters that the agreement signed on Friday in Djibouti between Khartoum and the opposition Umma party was merely indicative of Khartoum's intransigence, as it did not "address the main concern that we've all had (concerning) Sudan's crackdown on human rights, its deliberate policies of deprivation, and its refusal to approach peace seriously." The agreement was described by its signatories as "a declaration of principles" and contemplated a four-year transition period, to be followed by a referendum in southern Sudan on whether to confirm unity with the north or to secede.

Nairobi, 3 December 1999, 15:00 gmt


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

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