Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 34-97

from IRIN
Published on 11 Dec 1997
Department 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 34-97 covering the period 5-11 Dec 1997

RWANDA: Over 300 freed inmates return voluntarily to jail

Some 307 genocide suspects freed from a jail in central Rwanda last week during a raid by Hutu rebels have turned themselves in to the Rwandan authorities, news organisations reported on Tuesday. Some of the prisoners, who were more than 550 freed in the 3 December attack on the prison in Bulinga, Gitarama prefecture, were quoted by the Rwandan news
agency (RNA) as saying they had been forced to follow their liberators into the bush. "Those who liberated us failed to evaluate the distance from here to Democratic Republic of Congo," RNA quoted one prisoner, Boniface Rugwizangoga, as saying. "We had been in prison for two years and were short of strength to follow these men to an unknown destination."

Mayor killed near Gisenyi

Hutu rebels killed a mayor and 11 other people he was sheltering from fighting in Ramba near Gisenyi on Tuesday night, military sources said, according to AFP. The victims were reportedly witnesses to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The sources said the mayor, Pascal Owimana, and those he was sheltering had no chance against the rebels who were "numerous".

Kigali hits back at Robinson

Kigali has accused UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson of a "gross misrepresentation of facts on the situation in the country" following her criticism of the government's human rights performance. A statement, issued late on Monday by Presidential Spokesman Joseph Bideri, claimed Robinson had made "deliberate omissions and blatant distortions" in her account of meetings with government officials, news agencies reported. Robinson described the human rights situation in the country as "bleak" on Sunday at the end of a fact-finding mission.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Heavy fighting in Bukavu

Humanitarian sources reported heavy fighting and intense street battles in Bukavu on Thursday morning after the town came under attack by Mai-Mai fighters. A source close to the local administration told IRIN it was a "very serious attack" by a variety of opponents of the DRC government, grouped together under the Mai-Mai banner. These are believed to include
ex-FAZ, ex-FAR, Burundian Hutu rebels, and Interahamwe militia members. For a while, the Mai-Mai were said to be in control of at least half the town, and operating a clandestine radio calling for local support to expel "foreign forces". The governor of South Kivu confirmed on public radio there had been an attack by ex-FAR and Interahamwe forces on the town, but said army soldiers had repulsed them and the situation was under control.

UN rights team meets local authorities

The UN human rights investigative team in Mbandaka met the local authorities on Tuesday to inform them of the sites they wanted to visit. Mission Spokesman Jose Diaz said the team was expected to begin its work on Thursday.

UNHCR says 1,413 Rwandans expelled from Goma

UNHCR reported that a further 1,413 Rwandans were expelled from the Goma area of DRC in recent days, the largest expulsion so far. The group was composed mostly of women and children who had fled to DRC to escape fighting in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri prefectures, spokesperson Pam O'Toole told a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday. Earlier in the week, Kinshasa television reported seven NGOs had been requested to suspend their activities in Goma. Aid workers said on Wednesday the NGOs concerned had now received formal notification from the government and been informed by the local authorities.

Friends of Congo meeting urges human rights guarantees

Foreign Minister Bizima Karaha told the 'Friends of Congo' donor meeting in Brussels last Thursday there would not be lasting peace in his country without economic recovery. Voice of America radio said the meeting, attended by 18 countries and 10 international organisations, agreed in principle on a trust fund for DRC, without determining the amount. VOA
pointed out the European Commission is the largest potential donor with US $168 million of aid currently frozen. The EC warned there must be guarantees on human rights before most of the money could be released. However, US $50 million will be unblocked for the health sector and there will be further aid for an infrastructure programme, VOA said.

BURUNDI: Human Rights Watch accuses arms suppliers of fuelling civil war

Human Rights Watch accused a list of countries, including the world's
major arms suppliers, of fuelling Burundi's civil war by providing weapons
to the government and/or rebels. In a report released on Monday in
Brussels, the rights group said "China, France, North Korea, the Russian
Federation, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, the United States and Zaire (now the
Democratic Republic of Congo) have directly provided military support to
abusive Burundi forces."

Eritrea agrees cooperation deal

Burundi and Eritrea signed a cooperation agreement on Tuesday at the end of a two-day visit by Eritrean Foreign Minister Haile Woldentensae. Burundian radio said the accord would cover the areas of transport of goods and people, trade, and university education. During the minister's visit, Eritrea formally withdrew its support for sanctions against Bujumbura, saying they were counter-productive to the peace process.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Government calls for investigation into "genocide"

Congo-Brazzaville called for an investigation by four international human rights organisations into the country's civil conflicts of 1993 and 1997. Government spokesman Francois Ibovi said the International Court of Justice, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the African Commission on Human and People's Rights should send missions to Brazzaville "to take stock of the extent of the material and human damage". Military ruler Denis Sassou Nguesso has described as "genocide" the 1993 clashes between rival militia over the contested election victory of Pascal Lissouba, and the events surrounding Lissouba's ousting in bloody fighting this year.

ANGOLA: Angola signs cooperation pact with Congo-Brazzaville

Angola and Congo-Brazzaville on Wednesday signed a cooperation agreement on security along the border, Angolan radio reported. Angolan Interior Minister Santana Andre Pitra Petroff and his Congolese counterpart Pierre Oba signed the agreement which also includes training of the Congo-Brazzaville police. The accord will come into force immediately.
Meanwhile, AFP reported government officials in Luanda as saying Angolan army and police units were gearing up for an offensive against separatists still holding out in the oil enclave of Cabinda. On Tuesday, one person was killed in the enclave bordering Congo-Brazzaville. The attack was blamed on the Cabinda Enclave Liberation Front (FLEC-Renewed).

French oil company reports major find

French oil group Elf Aquitaine has found a huge oil field containing more than 100 mt or about 730 million barrels of oil off the coast of Angola, news organisations reported. Elf confirmed it had struck oil about 200 km from Luanda.

UGANDA: Albright meets Sudanese rebels

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Wednesday met Sudanese opposition and rebel leaders in Kampala, where she commented that Washington was seeking to isolate Khartoum's leaders. Albright, in Uganda during an African tour, held talks with the head of the rebel SPLA, John Garang, and three other leaders in the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which linked up with Garang in 1995. The meeting was the first between a US government representative and the SPLA and also the first at such a senior level between Washington and the exiled opposition. Albright is on a tour of seven African countries. Khartoum lashed out at her trip as part of a "US-Israeli ploy to destabilise Sudan." Albright, meanwhile, announced US $four million in aid for northern Uganda where the government is battling a rebel insurgency which it says is supported by Khartoum.

UGANDA/KENYA: Governments promise flood relief

President Yoweri Museveni this week assured flood victims in western Mbale district of government relief. State-owned 'New Vision' said Museveni, who toured a camp for the displaced in the area, cautioned against the
indiscriminate felling of trees in the hilly region which had exacerbated
the problem of landslides following torrential rains. Meanwhile, Kenyan
President Daniel arap Moi on Monday ordered the immediate supply of food
and medicine to the flood-hit northeastern districts of Mandera, Wajir,
Garissa, Marsabit and Moyale.

Nairobi, 12 December 1997,


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