Angola + 4 more

IRIN Update 1132 for the Great Lakes

UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for Central and Eastern Africa
Tel: +254 2 622147
Fax: +254 2 622129
e-mail: irin@ocha.unon.org

RWANDA: Uganda slammed for dubbing Rwanda "hostile nation"

The Rwandan government has criticised Uganda for including it on a list of "hostile nations" sent by the Ugandan minister in charge of security to the speaker of parliament last week. In a statement on Sunday, Rwanda said it wanted to make it "categorically clear" it was "in no way hostile to Uganda". "As to why the Ugandan authorities should have chosen this particular time to label Rwanda as hostile is a question that can only be answered by the Kampala authorities," the statement said.

It went on to state it was a pity that Uganda "hiding behind the Kisangani events [last year in northeastern DRC] to classify Rwanda as an enemy". "The Ugandan government is now claiming that the events in Kisangani have never been 'fully explained' and that it is on this basis they are categorising Rwanda as a hostile nation."

"If the authorities in Kampala now claim not to know who is responsible for the fighting in Kisangani, Uganda is either doing this deliberately or it wants to hoodwink the international community," the statement said. It added that those who followed events in the Great Lakes region were aware that the three rounds of fighting in Kisangani were "planned and provoked" by the Ugandan army. "It is indeed ironic that Uganda should classify Rwanda as a hostile nation, particularly in view of Ugandan actions of not only harbouring elements hostile to Rwanda but also mobilising and actively training them to destabilise Rwanda," the statement said. "The government of Uganda is clearly aware of its responsibility and guilt in events in Kisangani. To turn around and use these events to categorise Rwanda as an enemy is cynicism at its worst." It added however that "no amount of hostile statements and provocation will draw it [Rwanda] into unnecessary conflict with Uganda".

Ugandan Interior Minister Muruli Mukasa blamed the decision to declare Rwanda a hostile country on repeated military clashes between the two in the northeastern DRC city of Kisangani last year, the BBC reported. Mukasa said Uganda did not have a problem with the people of Rwanda, but with their leaders.

BURUNDI: Curfew to remain "as precaution against attacks"

The Burundi army has claimed to have regained control of the capital, Bujumbura, after two weeks of heavy fighting between it and the rebel Forces nationales pour la liberation (FNL) but said would retain a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am (local time) "as precaution against further rebel attacks", Radio Rwanda reported on Monday. The curfew imposed this stricter curfew on Bujumbura Mairie on 4 March (having previously had it from midnight to 6 am), which had helped quell the fighting in the capital, according to humanitarian sources. Journalists who visited Kinama, where the FNL had entrenched itself during its intense assault, said the homes of people displaced from the northern suburb had not been damaged, according to Burundi radio. Kinama church and market place, and one of the district health centres, had been destroyed - as a result of the FNL having established their rear base in this area, it quoted security sources as saying.

The fighting between the army and FNL forces has forced 56,000 persons from the Kinama and Kamenge suburbs to flee their homes, according to a UN press briefing on Friday. The displaced people were in urgent need of food aid but security conditions were preventing World Food Programme workers from helping them, it said. The situation in Burundi was already critical because of a grave food crisis which had affected tens of thousands of people who were already weak from the drought and malaria, the report added.

BURUNDI: WFP moving to optimise in-country stocks

The WFP has introduced a new delivery strategy to upgrade its system of optimising its stocks of food commodities for Burundi, with most stocks to be stored at a trans-shipment centre at Isaka, Tanzania, close to the Burundi border. From Isaka, lorries can then commute to Ngozi - capital of the province of the same name, which is the agency's distribution point for the drought and malnutrition crisis affecting northern Burundi - in a one-day return trip, OCHA reported in its latest weekly information bulletin. The strategy will involve the transportation of food aid to Isaka by road and rail from the Kenyan port of Mombasa and the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam; a smaller amount would be channelled into Burundi from Dar es Salaam by road to Kigoma in western Tanzania, and onward by barge to Bujumbura Mairie, the report said. The agency currently has a capacity to store 100,000 mt in-country for distribution in northern provinces affected by drought and displaced people in the Bujumbura, and is in the process of constructing storage units for an extra 4,350 mt, according to the OCHA report.

DRC: Masire set to meet Kabila this weekend

Former Botswana President Ketumile Masire, the OAU-designated facilitator of the inter-Congolese dialogue, proposed under the Lusaka agreement to find a new political future for the DRC, said on Saturday he intends to visit the DRC between 16 and 19 March for talks with President Joseph Kabila. "President Kabila is keen that I visit Kinshasa for further talks as soon as possible," the South African Press Agency (SAPA) quoted a press release of Masire's as saying. The Kinshasa talks would focus on ways to advance the dialogue and to strengthen the facilitator's presence in the DRC capital, Masire said.

DRC Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu confirmed at the UN in New York on 22 February that his government had invited Masire to retake his mantle as the dialogue facilitator. Joseph Kabila's late father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, had rejected Masire's facilitation. In June last year, his government closed down Masire's Kinshasa office, saying that the divorce between the government of DRC and the facilitator was complete. The dialogue process is a cornerstone of the 1999 Lusaka peace agreement and diplomats interpreted the DRC's decision to invite Masire back for talks as a big step towards reviving implementation of the accord, the BBC reported at the weekend.

DRC: Lebanese call for clarification on executions

The summary execution by Congolese soldiers of 11 Lebanese nationals alleged to have had some association with the 16 January assassination of the late DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila was ordered by Colonel Eddie Kapend, the late president's aide-de-camp, Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported on Friday. Angry soldiers killed "some" of the Lebanese nationals detained after Kabila's murder, AP news agency last week quoted Justice Minister Mwenze Kongolo as saying. "They had heard that some Lebanese were involved in Kabila's assassination and, because of the anger they had, they executed them without the knowledge of the government," Kongolo said. Kapend was last week under house arrest at a Kinshasa military camp at the behest of a commission of inquiry into Kabila's assassination, according to media reports.

During an interview with RFI, the leader of the Lebanese community in the DRC, Ade Sata Ashu, complained that Kongolo's statement on the executions of the Lebanese nationals remained vague on the circumstances. "The clarification of this issue is incumbent upon the government and falls within its jurisdiction," he said. The 11 Lebanese - with three minors reportedly among them - had been arrested by government security forces at about 8 pm (local time) on 16 January, and the Lebanese community had not been told the whereabouts of their corpses, Ashu said.

DRC: 2,000 new Angolan refugees around Kimvula

The UNHCR on Friday announced that a joint assessment mission with the WFP close to the DRC-Angolan border last week found nearly 2,000 new Angolan refugees scattered in several villages around the Congolese town of Kimvula. "Some of those fleeing suffered gunshot wounds as fighting between UNITA rebels and the Angolan army engulfed their villages [in Angola's Uige Province]," UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski told journalists in Geneva, Switzerland. The refugees, who are living among the local population in Bas-Congo province, southern DRC, are sharing the scarce resources available in Kimvula, which is hard to access because of bad roads, he added.

The mission found six refugees with bullet wounds in a local hospital and heard refugees say they would not return to Angola without assurances of safety from the Angolan Government, Janowski said. UNHCR is considering moving the refugees away from the border area. Because of difficult road conditions, the team was unable to verify reports of another 1,800 refugees further west in the town of Popokabaka. Several thousand more were reported in the town of Kasongo-Lunda in Bandundu Province.

DRC: RCD says "nothing to hide" on massacre allegations

The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) on Friday said it had nothing to hide regarding alleged massacres by its troops four years ago, saying that recent reports on the matter had emanated from DRC President Joseph Kabila who was trying "to turn the attention of the public from the tragic confusion which is currently reigning in Kinshasa." RCD spokesman Kin-Kiey Mulumba said the movement had always said it was prepared to cooperate with any international inquiry into alleged massacres, rebel-held RTNC radio Goma reported on Saturday. There was nothing more convenient for the government than reviving old allegations at a time when it was choking from crimes committed much more recently, including the summary execution of Lebanese prisoners and the massacre of people originating from the Kivus [in eastern DRC], Mulumba said.

The RCD spokesman said Kabila wanted to annihilate the hope for peace that his ascent to power had kindled because he neither wanted the inter-Congolese dialogue on the political future of the DRC nor to admit the presence in his army of members of the [Rwandan] Interahamwe militia, who had been witnessed fleeing with his forces after their loss of Pweto [in the southeastern province of Katanga] in early December. Kabila's appointment of [Mayi-Mayi veteran] Lt-General Sylvestre Luetcha to head the Forces armees congolaises (FAC) was another strong indication that he was "a great supporter of negative forces who are killing people in DRC," Mulumba said.

DRC: Increased volcano dangers reported

Volcano experts in northeastern DRC have warned that the 3,050-metre Nyamuragira volcano which erupted on 5 February has increased its output of molten lava, threatening large areas of farmland in the path of the lava flow, Reuters news agency reported on Sunday. The main damage from the Nyamuragira eruption (close to the eastern Congolese city of Goma), has been to cultivated land burnt out by volcanic ash, polluted water sources and animals suffering respiratory problems, according to UN sources. Large areas of farmland in the path of the lava flow have been evacuated. Lava was flowing from five cones near the summit of Nyamuragira and was threatening to cut the main road between Rutshuru and Goma, Reuters quoted local residents as saying. Dieudonne Wafula, a volcanologist based in the area, said the level of lava in nearby Nyiragongo volcano had also risen dangerously, and that it could also erupt at any time, it added

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has outlined that, in a situation of lava flow rather than explosion of rock and magma, the main causes of death or ill health are respiratory distress, skin and lung burns, asphyxiation [lack of oxygen], conjunctivitis or abrasion of the cornea [chronic eye problems], and eye or skin irritation caused by acid rain. More indirect effects include stomach problems due to ingestion of contaminated food or water, and damage to health, water and transport infrastructure, it said. Pending more specific assessment in a given situation, the foreseeable needs included: medical assistance; managing short-term population displacements; reducing the exposure to ashes of vulnerable population sub-groups; raising awareness of the dangers of volcanic ash; and maintaining food security in the longer term, in a context where lava, ashes and acid rain may all have caused damage to crops and livestock, WHO added.

DRC: Journalists group welcomes detention change

The Congo-based NGO Journaliste en danger (JED) for the promotion of press freedom on Friday welcomed the stated intention of DRC President Joseph Kabila to close the GLM [Group Litho Moboti] detention centre in the capital, Kinshasa, and "all detention centres that are not answerable to the Republic's public prosecutor's offices." Kabila's order was to come into effect from Thursday last, 8 March, Congolese television reported on Friday. JED said, in a statement, that several journalists had been illegally detained and mistreated in various such centres, and expressed hope that Kabila's decision would translate into action. The NGO also renewed its calls for the DRC authorities' release of Guy Kasongo Kilembwe, editor of the satirical weekly 'Pot Pourri', who it said had been detained since 6 March at the Agence nationale de renseignments (ANR), or national information agency, which was not answerable to the public prosecutor's office.

[ENDS]

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