IRIN Update 471 for 31 July 1998.7.31

IRIN Update 471 for 31 July 1998.7.31

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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IRIN Update No. 471 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 31 July 1998)

SUDAN: Task force to tackle food diversions

A top UN relief official confirmed to IRIN today (Friday) that the diversion of food aid from hungry people in southern Sudan, allegedly by armed rebel groups, was to be tackled by a joint task force which travels to southern Sudan early next week. The issue was raised in a session of the UN Security Council yesterday. "We've got to see how we can stop this happening", OCHA's Martin Griffiths told IRIN today.

A joint task force comprised of Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) relief arm, the SRRA, is mandated to resolve the problem of diversion of food aid by armed factions. But a UN aid worker told IRIN today that food diversions are taking place not only by armed groups, but in a variety of contexts - "by the strong taking from the weak".

An OLS staffer told IRIN today that while the current situation is grim in Bahr al-Ghazal, fears are growing for the future. Given the ongiong conflict and poor harvests last year and this, "we might be in a worse state this time next year", he said, suggesting "you could see what you've got in Bahr al-Ghazal on a wider scale".

Agencies to provide cooked food for the very weak in Wau

WFP is to provide cooked food for displaced Sudanese arriving in Wau who are too weak to prepare food for themselves. According to a news release today, WFP's Deputy Director for Africa Tesema Negash said some of the people arriving in Wau were so malnourished they did not even have the energy to queue for food. CARE International opened the first kitchen in Wau this week and a further nine sites are planned, each of which will be able to cater for up to 500 people a day. WFP said an average of 700 people were arriving in Wau daily, many of them in "horrific physical condition". World Vision meanwhile today said that a lack of OLS airlift capacity was making it "impossible" for the agency to book sufficient cargo flights.

BURUNDI: UN to provide funds for next round of talks

The UN Special Representative for the Great Lakes, Berhanu Dinka, told IRIN today that the United Nations is planning to provide significant funds to support the next stage in the Burundi peace process. The last round of talks in Arusha went "better than expected", Dinka said. Despite the apparent slow progress and continuing violence inside Burundi, the "level of trust" and general atmosphere of the talks was cause for optimism, Dinka said. The Burundian government had dropped their objections to Arusha as a venue and to Julius Nyerere as facilitator, he added.

A spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office told IRIN today that Britain hopes there will be "significant progress in the negotiations to enable regional leaders to re-examine sanctions." The spokesperson said the UK's position was the same as that of the EU. The comments, while mild, add discreet new pressure to regional leaders to consider a decision about the embargo on Burundi. Dinka told IRIN it was "not inconceivable" that regional leaders might give some "positive incentives" to the Bujumbura authorities before 12 October, the date for the next round of talks.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Finance Minister arrested

Finance Minister Ferdinand Tala-Ngai has been arrested at his Kinshasa home on charges of treason, according to his family. News reports said police confirmed the arrest, but would not elaborate on the charges. Earlier this year, a DRC newspaper report claimed he was involved in stealing government funds.

Further instability possible after Rwandan withdrawal

News analyses note that the removal of Rwandan troops from DRC, while welcomed by a large part of Congolese society, risks plunging the country into further instability. Gabonese radio, reporting from Kinshasa, said the move was welcomed by the opposition Union pour la democratie et le progres social (UPDS) which considered Kabila's government "has now met one of the political preconditions required to harmonise viewpoints among DRC's various political groups". However, military analysts and diplomats, quoted by Reuters, voiced anxiety over the security situation. Reuters also said there were unconfirmed reports of "intense cross-border troop movements" in the east of the country, widely regarded as DRC's powderkeg. Diplomats have questioned Kabila's ability to hold together different factions of the national army and his handling of possible intimidation of the Banyamulenge who, along with the Rwandans, played a key role in toppling ex-president Mobutu Sese Seko.

RWANDA: Banditry on the increase among soldiers

AFP reports that some members of the RPA are turning to banditry and indiscipline within the army is growing. Radio Rwanda has reported that three army deserters were among 15 bandits arrested recently in Umutara prefecture, where they had conducted looting raids for several months. Earlier this month, a military court sentenced an army major to two years' imprisonment for stealing a WFP vehicle, AFP reported. It quoted Rwandan State Secretary for Defence Colonel Emmanuel Habyarimana as acknowledging "certain individuals can commit errors, but they are always arrested". "That's why we have had military police for the last two years," he added. According to AFP, cohesion in the army was further threatened by Rwanda's demobilisation programme and the integration of ex-FAR members into the armed forces.

Local elections to be held

Local elections are to be held in Rwanda by direct suffrage, the official 'Nouvelle Revue' publication reported today. The elections, to be held in zones of more than 10 houses, will be progressively widened and the forerunners of national elections. The publication gave no date for the polls, but local sources believe they will be held before the end of the year.

MDR party changes image

Prime Minister Pierre-Celestin Rwigema has been appointed chairman of the Mouvement democratique republicain (MDR) after his predecessor Bonaventure Ubarijoro was kicked out in a bid to reform the party, Rwandan radio reported. An MDR statement said it had been decided to make the party "more suitable to the current political situation" and to put an end to the "bad politics" with which it had been associated. This included sacking Ubarijoro, who analysts say was deeply steeped in Hutu politics. The "new reformists" had decided to distance themselves from any party member "opposed to national unity", the radio reported. Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana was named as head of a party technical council charged with "fostering national unity". The MDR forms part of Rwanda's coalition government.

MDR has been associated with Hutu extremism, through its now-defunct hardline Power faction. MDR-Power vice-president Froduald Karamira was executed in Kigali earlier this year after being sentenced as one of the ringleaders of the 1994 genocide.

KENYA: UN warns of "devastating" violence towards African women

A UN-sponsored campaign to combat violence against women and girls in Africa, launched today in Nairobi, warns the range of gender-based violence is devastating "occurring quite literally from womb to tomb". A statement issued by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) says African women face gender-based violence in their daily lives in ways that have no parallels for men. And persisting gender inequalities in society impede women's access to, and exercise of, their economic rights, it adds. The short-term results sought by the campaign include increased awareness of violence towards women. In the longer-term, it is hoped to increase support services to female victims of violence and promote changes in law.

Nairobi, 31 July 1998, 14:25 gmt


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Date: Fri, 31 Jul 1998 17:34:09 -0300 (GMT+3) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> ubject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 471 for 31 July 1998.7.31 Message-ID: <>

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

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