IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 32 covering the period 7-13 Aug 1999

Report
from IRIN
Published on 13 Aug 1999
UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kisangani reportedly partitioned after RCD factions clash

Ugandan and Rwandan troops backing opposing rebel factions in Kisangani have effectively partitioned the city following weekend clashes between Ugandan forces supporting the Kisangani faction of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) and members of the Rwandan-backed RCD-Goma faction, AFP reported on Tuesday. It quoted residents as saying that Rwandan forces had played no part in the clashes.

At least 14 people died in the fighting on Saturday last, news agencies on Monday cited humanitarian sources as saying. The clashes were reported as an attempt by RCD-Goma to prevent a Zambian peace delegation, led by Minister for Presidential Affairs Eric Silwamba, from visiting Kisangani to gauge the level of popular support for RCD-Kisangani leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba. The gun battle closed both of Kisangani's airports and prevented the Zambian delegation's arrival, Reuters news agency reported.

Wamba declares "war"

Wamba told AFP in Kisangani on Tuesday that he was now at war with RCD-Goma and the Rwandans. Meanwhile, in a statement received by IRIN on Monday, RCD-Goma military commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane said Uganda's actions in Kisangani proved "the will of the Ugandan Army to artificially create a political space for Wamba dia Wamba, former RCD "resident" and were "a serious provocation against RCD."

Rebels reiterate divergent positions

Wamba on Thursday said he was prepared to have "other factions" sign the ceasefire agreement "in the interest of peace", a press release received by IRIN stated. The RCD-Goma group has repeatedly rejected the idea of having more than one RCD signatory and Radio Bukavu on Thursday quoted a statement asking: "Why should the RCD sign jointly with an individual who, no longer having a mandate from the movement, represents only himself?"

Zuma completes Kisangani trip

South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Zuma, attempting to give new impetus to the Lusaka peace process, left Kisangani after holding "fruitful discussions" with the leaders of rival RCD factions, a foreign ministry spokesman told IRIN on Thursday. The spokesman said Zuma had gone to Kisangani "in a supporting role" to Zambian President Frederick Chiluba. That trip came after earlier talks in South Africa between President Thabo Mbeki and Presidents Benjamin Mkapa, Yoweri Museveni and Pasteur Bizimungu of Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, news organisations reported on Monday.

Deployment of UN military personnel to start

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has decided to start sending up to 90 UN military personnel to the capitals of the DRC, Angola, Namibia, Uganda, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, as well as to Lusaka, to assist in implementing the Lusaka ceasefire accord, a UN spokesman said on Wednesday. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also said he was prepared to recommend a further deployment of up to 500 military observers within DRC and, as required, to other combatant and neighbouring states.

Polio campaign

UN agencies in the DRC have appealed to the warring parties to respect their commitment to stop fighting during the first phase of a national polio immunisation campaign, which started on Friday. In a statement received by IRIN, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the DRC and the country representatives of UNICEF and WHO called on the parties to the conflict to observe "Days of Tranquillity", which was an "indispensable condition for the success of the National Immunisation Days". The campaign aims to vaccinate some 10 million Congolese children against polio.

The statement said numerous locations in the country were still affected by violence with some 20 health zones, notably around Kisangani, remaining inaccessible to vaccination teams. "Over the past several months, thousands of people throughout the country have been striving to ensure the success of this event, which transcends the mere medical dimension and testifies to the way a society takes care of its most vulnerable component: its children under five years old," the officials said in the statement. "It is the responsibility of all the parties to respect their solemn commitment...and to put the interest of the Congolese people above all other considerations," they added.

RCD-Goma declares humanitarian ceasefire

The head of the Goma faction of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), Emile Ilunga, has declared a temporary ceasefire to allow the polio campaign to take place, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported on Thursday. The truce, which started on Friday, was a "humanitarian gesture to facilitate the United Nations workers to carry out the polio eradication campaign," Ilunga was quoted as saying. Ilunga's message was broadcast on all radio and television stations under rebel control, RNA added.

RWANDA: Human rights seminar marks anniversary of Geneva Conventions

A sub-regional seminar on humanitarian law and human rights in situations of armed conflict, which opened in Butare on Wednesday, was set to finish on Thursday to mark the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions. In celebrating the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC on Thursday called on all those involved in armed conflicts, or in a position to influence the course of such conflicts, that they respect the principles and rules of international humanitarian law.

Security Council formally appoints new ICTR prosecutor

The UN Security Council on Wednesday formally accepted the resignation of Louise Arbour, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, and unanimously approved the appointment of Carla Del Ponte, currently Attorney-General of Switzerland as her replacement. Both Arbour's resignation and Del Ponte's appointment will be effective on 15 September, a UN press release stated.

Mother and son plead not guilty to additional charges

Former Rwandan Minister for Family Welfare Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and her son on Thursday pleaded not guilty before the ICTR to new genocide and rape charges. On Tuesday, the court granted a prosecutor's request to amend their joint indictment, bringing the number of charges from seven to eleven, Hirondelle reported on Thursday. The new counts include conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and rape - the latter charge against Nyiramasuhuko, under ICTR rules which allow the prosecution of people for rape carried out by their subordinates.

Efforts to establish multiple trials continue

The ICTR has also pushed ahead with procedures to join two other groups of accused, known as the 'military group' and the 'Cyangugu group', for multiple trials, Internews agency reported on Wednesday. The so-called military group comprises four accused - including the former top adviser to the Rwandan Defence Ministry, Theoneste Bagosora -, while the 'Cyangugu group' includes former Minister of Transport and Communications Andre Ntagerura, former prefect of Cyangugu Emmanuel Bagambiki and former military commander Samuel Imanishimwe.

Over 1,200 returnees in July

The number of returnees from eastern DRC appears to be on the decline, possibly because of the limited number of government vehicles dedicated to transporting returnees across the border, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Tuesday. However, returnee numbers tended to fluctuate and the arrival of 30,000 more people was still possible. Over 1,200 people are estimated to have returned to Rwanda from the DRC in July.

UGANDA: Raid on Bokora clan leaves 140 dead

A recent raid on the Bokora clan of the Karamong tribe in northeastern Uganda by members of the Matheniko clan left at least 140 people dead, the semi-official newspaper 'The New Vision' reported on Wednesday. Survivors of the attack estimated the number of dead children at 70. They were reportedly thrown into fire after the invaders gutted their houses, the newspaper said.

Government alerted to drought-related problems

Prolonged drought in the west of the country has destroyed large stretches of crops, seriously limited pasture and exposed residents to problems of food security, according to politicians from the region. Several members of parliament for the western region have called on the government to take measures to ensure food security and the safety of drinking water for people in the region, Ugandan radio reported on Wednesday.

Army claims ADF has sued for peace

The Ugandan army commander for the western region, Benon Biraro, has replied to a request by the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) for peace talks to end the four-year rebellion, demanding that they name their proposed mediators, but has vowed to continue the army's operation in the Ruwenzoris "until the date for negotiations is fixed", the 'New Vision' newspaper reported on Saturday.

KENYA: Border with Somalia reopened

Kenya has reopened its border with Somalia, news agencies reported. Local press quoted Kenya's northeastern Provincial Commissioner Maurice Makhanu as saying calm had been restored in the area. The border was closed last month after a group of Somali militia overran a military camp on the Kenyan side and stole guns and other equipment, which they later returned.

CENTRAL AFRICA: Heads of state call for humanitarian crisis unit

The heads of state of seven central African states have called for the urgent creation of a humanitarian crisis unit to address the needs and implications of war-displaced people in the region. "The problem is particularly the movement of refugees from the DRC to the Central African Republic and from the Congo Republic towards Gabon. Neither my country nor the Central African Republic, hosts to a large number of refugees, are set up to welcome these brothers and sisters,'' Reuters news agency quoted host President, Omar Bongo of Gabon, as saying.

AFRICA: FAO report says nearly 10 million people need emergency food aid

Nearly 10 million people in sub-Saharan Africa need emergency food assistance, according to a report released on Monday by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Conflict, population, drought and disease have brought about "exceptional food emergencies" in 16 African countries, the FAO stated in its annual report on food supply and crop prospects in sub-Saharan Africa. In Somalia, "the international community needs to devise ways of reaching and assisting the increasingly desperate populations, despite the serious obstacles hampering food relief distributions, failing which starvation on a large scale cannot be ruled out", the FAO warned.

In Rwanda, food prices, which declined in the first half of the year, have started to increase following reduced yields from the recently-harvested 1999 B agricultural season, FAO said. In the northwest and parts of Kibuye and Gitarama, food production remained seriously constrained by large-scale population displacement, it added. In Burundi, overall food production was estimated to be 6 percent below the 1998 B harvest and increased prices of imported goods have worsened access of a large section of the population to basic food and non-food items, FAO said. (for more details and breakdown by country, see http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/cea/countrystories/other/19990809.htm)

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: New election body set up

A new cross-party body charged with supervising the forthcoming presidential elections has been established in Bangui, news agencies reported. The 45-member body, drawn from government and opposition parties, was established at the request of the donor community to supervise the activities of the Independent Joint Electoral Commission in advance of the first round of the presidential contest, scheduled for 29 August.

SOMALIA: Kenya relocates 690 refugees to Kakuma camp

UNHCR on Sunday and Monday relocated to Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya 690 Somali refugees registered last week in Mombasa when the Kenyan government closed St Ann's, an unofficial Somali refugee camp in the coastal city, a spokeswoman told IRIN.

New political party aims to break clan politics

A new political party, the United Somali Republic Party (USRP), was established in Mogadishu on Friday and pledged itself, at an inauguration attended by 500 delegates, to overcome the current political stalemate and establish a transitional government. Led by Abdi Nur Darman, a Somali engineering graduate who is now a US citizen, the USRP said its membership would be based not on clan affiliation but on "a commitment to the party's charter and political agenda", AFP news agency reported on Monday.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Proposals for ending conflict

A technical document detailing implementation of the OAU Algiers summit proposals for resolving the conflict was on 6 August presented to both Ethiopia and Eritrea. The proposals contained a call on Eritrea to redeploy its forces outside the areas it occupied after 6 May 1998, and for Ethiopia to redeploy thereafter from positions taken after 6 February this year and which were not under its administration before 6 May 1998, media sources reported. Both sides have also been asked to agree to the deployment of OAU military observers and the delimitation and demarcation of the entire 1,000 km border with the help of UN experts.

Asmara accepts "technical arrangements", Ethiopia requests clarification

Eritrea on Sunday officially accepted the OAU proposal on technical arrangements. President Isayas Afewerki sent written acknowledgement of his country's acceptance to Algerian President and current OAU chairman, Abdelaziz Boutelflika, an official press release received by IRIN stated. Ethiopia stated that it had "requested clarification on the technical arrangements" and would make its position known once these had been received.

SUDAN: Red Cross sounds flood alarm

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said that severe flooding in Sudan caused by unusually heavy rains has destroyed more than 10,000 homes and left 50,000 people in "urgent need of assistance." In a statement received by IRIN on Wednesday, the Federation said levels of major rivers were exceedingly high for this time of the year and, with the rainy season having barely begun, "the scale of disaster is alarming." The Sudanese Red Crescent has begun a relief operation with "limited in-country resources," the Federation said, adding that its assessments indicated that medical intervention was required to help up to 100,000 people at this stage.

Flight bans lifted in three locations

Flight bans imposed by the Sudanese government have been lifted in Leer, Daur and Bor, an update from the UN Humanitarian Coordination Unit (UNHCU) said. However, it said air access to Nyal and Ganyiel in western Upper Nile remained prohibited. Khartoum had cited "security concerns" as the reason for the ban. The report said the government had indicated that fighting in the region was now scaling down and that the flight restrictions for the two locations would be "lifted very shortly."

Coordination group expresses concern at Khartoum relocations

The Khartoum Regional Coordination Group (RCG) comprising UN agencies and international NGOs - recently formed as part of the new Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) coordination structure for the northern sector - has "noted with concern" the government's recent announcement of its plans to relocate some 230,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from four Khartoum camps to locations which have "limited social amenities," the UNHCU report said. The RCG stressed the need to provide adequate basic amenities before relocations were carried out in order to avoid a humanitarian crisis. It also said relocations should not take place during the rainy season.

Nairobi, 13 August 1999

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