IRIN Update 594 for 23-25 Jan 1999

IRIN Update 594 for 23-25 Jan 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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IRIN Update No. 594 for Central and Eastern Africa (Saturday-Monday 25 January 1999)

BURUNDI: Regional leaders suspend sanctions

East and Central African leaders on Saturday suspended economic sanctions on Burundi imposed two-and-a-half years ago. A joint communique at the end of a regional summit in Arusha, Tanzania said the decision was taken after reviewing the progress so far achieved in the Burundi peace process. However, it said the suspension, which was taken "in the spirit of giving further impetus to the Burundi peace negotiations", would be subject to review.

The move on sanctions was welcomed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He said he hoped it would bring peace closer to Burundi. The summit decision was also applauded by Burundi President Pierre Buyoya. He assured that the government "will do everything possible in order to arrive at a peace accord before the end of the current year," PANA reported.

Meanwhile, Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa has called on business people to resume trade with Burundi as soon as possible, a Dar es Salaam-based newspaper reported today (Monday). Mkapa said that Tanzania's border with Burundi had been opened with immediate effect, and the business community should resume trade with land-locked Burundi "without delay", 'The Guardian' said.

Rights group calls for arms ban

Human Rights Watch on Friday called on regional leaders to impose an arms embargo on Burundi, covering both sides in the conflict, as a step towards an international weapons ban. In a statement the rights group said key members of the UN Security Council have indicated they would support an arms embargo if regional leaders showed support for the measure. "The trade sanctions haven't stopped the civil war," Joost Hiltermann of Human Rights Watch said in the statement. "But cutting off the arms supply could stem the pervasive human rights abuses that this war has inflicted on so many civilians."

Four killed in rebel ambush

At least four people were killed in a rebel ambush last week in southwestern Burundi, state radio reported over the weekend. The victims were returning to Busaga displaced camp from a local market when they were attacked, the radio said.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Shelling continues over the weekend

Shelling continued in Brazzaville on Sunday but the government said it had blocked an attempt by Ninja rebels to infiltrate the city. The shelling and machine gun fire was lighter at the weekend after serious fighting erupted on Thursday and Friday in the two southern districts of Bacongo and Makelekele, agencies reported. State television said armed forces chief General Yves Mutondo Mungonge had been replaced by General Jacques-Ivan Ndulu, but gave no explanation.

30,000 displaced in northern suburbs

Humanitarian sources told IRIN there are some 30,000 displaced people living in camps in the northern part of the city. They are totally dependent on humanitarian aid. Enough food and medical supplies have arrived to last them until the end of February. But aid workers said malnutrition is a problem. In the Pool region of southern Congo-Brazzaville, the humanitarian needs of the displaced are thought to be "very serious". However, the region is virtually inaccessible to aid workers and there is little hard evidence. Meanwhile, Pointe-Noire was without power on Saturday after a brief restoration of supplies.

France examining evacuation plan

France is "examining" the possible evacuation of its nationals "should the need arise", AFP reported on Friday. A French foreign ministry spokeswoman said the situation in Brazzaville was "particularly confused". A French soldier died on Thursday after being shot outside the ambassador's residence in the Bacongo district.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UN awaits rebel agreement to "unimpeachable" principles

The UN's principles of engagement for emergency humanitarian assistance in the DRC have been presented to the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) in meetings last Friday (document available from IRIN, or on Reliefweb: "Great Lakes section"). The UN mission to Goma follows a successful presentation of the same principles to authorities in Kinshasa. A senior UN official said at the weekend the "pretty straightforward" principles - including clauses relating to impartiality, human rights and freedom of access - were "unimpeachable."

The UN will await confirmation in writing of verbal RCD assurances to abide by the principles. UN agencies have agreed to open a common office in Goma once they resume the delivery of aid. Operations "will largely depend on the security situation and the rebel's continued efforts to ensure the return of confiscated equipment," OCHA stated today (Monday).

TANZANIA: DRC refugees flee fighting

UNHCR has reported that 225 refugees from the eastern DRC town of Fizi arrived in Tanzania on Friday. Staff based in Kigoma expected to collect another 700 new arrivals from other villages along the country's lakeshore. According to UNHCR, the refugees who feared new fighting between RCD rebels and Mayi-Mayi militia, were arriving in leaky boats with their belongings. UNHCR said these "alarming figures" come on the heels of 1,300 arrivals on Thursday, and 2,058 between Monday and Wednesday last week. The total number of DRC refugees who have fled the country since the outbreak of the conflict in August 1998 is over 26,000.

UNHCR denies Rwandan refugee influx

UNHCR has denied media reports of a recent influx of Rwandan refugees into Tanzania. UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler told IRIN that the current 5,500 Rwandan refugees in Tanzania were not new caseload but asylum seekers who had been in the country since at least last year.

SUDAN: Government/SPLA deny peace moves

Khartoum and southern Sudanese rebels have denied Libyan media reports that both sides held peace talks in Tripoli earlier this month. Pro-government faction head Riek Machar told the Khartoum daily 'Al-Ra'i al-Am' that Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) leader John Garang had left Tripoli before a government delegation arrived on 12 January, AFP reported. The official Libyan news agency had said Machar and Sudan Foreign Minister Mustafa Uthman Isma'il held talks with Garang "with a view to establishing a mechanism to settle the conflict." An SPLA spokesman in Cairo also denied a meeting took place.

Meanwhile, opposition radio monitored by the BBC said on Friday the SPLA repulsed an attack by government forces in the Nuba mountains. The report said 13 government soldiers were killed in two days of fighting near the town of Lagowa.

UGANDA: Kampala requests extradition of LRA fund-raiser

Uganda has asked the British government to arrest and extradite former Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) spokesman Powell Onen P'Ojwang, the semi-official 'New Vision' reported today. Minister of Internal Affairs Tom Butime said a formal request had been made for Balgara to be extradited to "stand trial for atrocities" committed by himself and LRA leader Joseph Kony. Butime said the government is to ask the Sudanese authorities to issue an arrest warrant for Kony and other LRA leaders based in the country.

ENVIRONMENT: UN conference open in Nairobi on dangerous chemicals

The second round of an international agreement to reduce and eliminate emissions and discharges of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) opened today at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi. Representatives from some 100 governments are expected to participate in the week-long meeting and draft a legally binding document to form the basis of an internationally binding treaty banning POPs. "The time is right for accelerated global action to protect human health and the environment from these extraordinarily dangerous chemicals," UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said. "I am optimistic that by the year 2000, these talks will produce a legally binding regime that will prevent the terrible mistakes and tragedies of the past from ever happening again, and help repair the damage already done," he added. These negotiations will build on the first round of talks held in Montreal last year, where governments reached broad consensus on the way forward. Twelve POPS are on the initial list for action under the treaty being drafted. Negotiators will be deciding on provisions to reduce emissions and to eliminate or phase out their use entirely.

Nairobi, 25 January 1999, 15:30 GMT


Date: Mon, 25 Jan 1999 19:03:53 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 594 for 23-25 Jan 1999.1.25

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,