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IRIN Update No. 484 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 20 August 1998)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Aid workers confirm abuses against Tutsis in Kinshasa
Catholic aid workers recently evacuated from Kinshasa provided confirmation of human rights abuses against ethnic Tutsis by government forces, according to a CAFOD press release received by IRIN today (Thursday). The aid workers said troops had carried out house to house searches and arrested hundreds of Tutsis, some of them children as young as two. One of the aid workers, who was himself arrested on suspicion of being a Tutsi, described the experience as "very tense and frightful". "There is a real potential for an explosion of violence," he added.
Humanitarian sources told IRIN hundreds of people, believed to be Congolese Tutsis, had fled to Goma to escape fighting in the nearby Masisi area. They were reportedly being cared for in the town centre.
International community calls for protecting civilians
The international community has again issued appeals to protect civilians affected by the war. The ICRC yesterday (Wednesday) warned of "extremely serious effects" on public health if power and water shortages continued in Kinshasa. In a press release, it called on the warring sides to "differentiate between combatants and civilians, emphasisng that the latter must be spared in all circumstances and without distinction". The ICRC further demanded "unrestricted access to all arrested persons".
The EU issued a statement yesterday reiterating its concern over reports of human rights abuses in DRC. It called on all sides in the conflict to allow the ICRC access to detention sites and to provide adequate security for the detainees.
Mandela calls for SADC summit
South African President Nelson Mandela today called for a ceasefire in the fighting in the DRC and said he planned to hold a summit of Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders to discuss a peaceful end to the conflict, Reuters reported. "We have been asked to call a summit of SADC leaders ... I want President Robert Mugabe (of Zimbabwe) to be involved," Mandela said in Cape Town. He also announced that he and Deputy President Thabo Mbeki had spoken to Kabila on the telephone today. "I am convinced we are making headway in bringing about a peaceful solution," Mandela added.
Nujoma meets Mandela
Namibian President Sam Nujoma arrived in Cape Town today for talks with Mandela over their conflicting positions on the DRC crisis. Also present at the meeting were Mbeki and Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo, fresh from a two-day diplomatic mission to Rwanda and Uganda, the SAPA news agency reported. A Ugandan special envoy Amana Mbabazi also arrived in Cape Town today for discussions with senior South African officials. SAPA said Nujoma had requested the meeting to brief Mandela about the Zimbabwean-led military initiative to resolve the conflict in the DRC.
Mugabe accuses Rwanda of intervention
Mugabe today accused Rwanda of being directly involved in the fighting. He cited a report by a team of four southern African foreign ministers that toured the region to verify Kinshasa's allegations of Rwandan and Ugandan intervention, AFP said. Mugabe is due to meet top officials of his ruling party to brief them on Zimbabwe's plans to prop up Kabila. Meanwhile DPA reported today that Zimbabwe has suspended trade agreements with the DRC fearing financial losses and has halted flights to the country. The Zimbabwe dollar fell for the second day running following Harare's decision to intervene militarily in the DRC.
Kenya backs Zimbabwe initiative
Kenya's Foreign Minister Bonaya Godana yesterday expressed support for the initiative by some SADC countries to end the fighting. He said SADC had "not gone on a warpath". According to Reuters he added: "The worse thing that could happen of course is that the conflict would get to a stage where African armies, non-Congolese fighting forces, would end up on opposite sides. That is the last thing Africa wants to see." Godana also alleged that Rwandan troops were supporting the rebels but could not confirm Ugandan involvement.
Rwanda hits back at Mugabe
A senior Rwandan government official told the Rwanda News Agency that Zimbabwe's allegations of Kigali's involvement in the DRC fighting were "highly irresponsible and dangerously inflammatory." The news agency said political analysts in Kigali claimed Mugabe's support for Kabila is motivated by personal interest. "President Mugabe's nephews have made a fortune out of business with President Kabila's son, Joseph Kabila, presently deputy chief of staff of the Congolese army," RNA quoted an unnamed western diplomat as saying.
Kagame does not want Kivu buffer zone
Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame has rejected the idea of creating a buffer zone in the Kivu region, neither does he want to annex the territory. In an interview with the Belgian newspaper 'Le Soir' published yesterday, Kagame said he wanted the authorities in Kinshasa to be "strong enough, representative enough and capable of monitoring security in border regions" He denied Rwanda's involvement in the current DRC rebellion, but admitted he was disappointed by Kabila's government which had been unable to prevent rebel incursions from the east into Rwanda and unable to resolve the Congolese Tutsi nationality issue.
Namibia denies arms shipment to Kabila
The Namibian government has meanwhile denied news reports that it has sent arms to Kabila. The 'Namibian' newspaper reported today that two Boeing cargo planes from the DRC landed at Grootfontein air base in northern Namibia at the weekend and loaded 21 mt of arms. Namibia is yet to make public its stance on support for Kabila. A Namibian foreign affairs spokesman said he was still waiting for the details of the agreement reached in Harare yesterday between defence ministers of four southern African countries where Namibia reportedly backed military intervention in the DRC, AFP reported.
France calls for Great Lakes summit
France has called for a conference of all Great Lakes countries on the Congo conflict. "It's not just a crisis within the Democratic Republic of Congo; it's a regional crisis and therefore one should take into account the strategy of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Angolans and others," Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said over French radio today.
OAU in touch with regional heads
Burkina Faso President and chairman of the OAU Blaise Campaore told Gabonese Africa No 1 radio today that the OAU was in touch with regional heads of state over the crisis. He said the DRC problem is due "on the one hand, to a problem of grievances at the national level, which could not be dealt with as desired by a number of political forces and, on the other, to a security concern for such neighbouring countries as Rwanda and Uganda which was not taken into account."
Human rights group condemns intervention
A Zambian human rights group, the Zambia Independence Monitoring Team, has condemned the decision by Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe to intervene in support of Kabila. In a statement today the group described Kabila as a "tyrant" and that intervention risked creating a full-fledged war engulfing all of southern Africa.
Rebels offer to negotiate
Rebel leaders yesterday offered to negotiate with President Laurent-Desire Kabila, amid reports they had captured the town of Mbanza Ngungu, some 130 km southwest of Kinshasa and the last major town on the way to the capital. Kabila's erstwhile foreign minister Bizima Karaha told a news conference in Goma that the president was "part of the problem and can therefore be part of the solution". Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, chairman of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RDC) said Congo's problems were political "and we do not intend to settle them militarily".
Regional analysts told IRIN they believed the offer of talks was a "delaying tactic" by the rebels, coming in the wake of proposed military intervention on Kabila's side by some members of the Southern African Development Community.
DRC Information Minister Didier Mumengi today denied Mbanza Ngungu had fallen to the rebels, saying they were "in retreat and disarray". Government reinforcements had reportedly beens sent to the southwest. He added that the government had not yet decided how to respond to the talks offer. Power was restored to Kinshasa today after many parts of the city spent two days without power and water, according to media reports.
Kabila adviser denies president has fled
Kabila's communication adviser Dominique Sakumbi denied growing rumours that the president had fled. According to Radio France Internationale, he said Kabila's whereabouts could not be revealed because he was the armed forces' commander-in-chief and thus in charge of operations. "The president is in the country," Sakumbi said. "He is organising the fighting - the counter-offensive."
The deputy governor of the Central Bank, interviewed by DRC state television last night, denied as "absolutely false" reports that Kabila had stolen the bank's reserves. Asked to explain the "overheating" of the dollar on the financial markets, the deputy governor replied it was due to expatriates leaving the city and "unloading their francs onto the market to buy dollars at any rate".
Congolese television said shooting, which lasted for several hours in Kinshasa on Tuesday night, was due to an attempted jailbreak from Makala prison. The situation was brought under control by the security forces, the television reported.
Nairobi, 20 August 1998, 15:10 gmt
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Date: Thu, 20 Aug 1998 18:08:40 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 484 for 20 Aug 1998.8.20
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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