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IRIN Update 820 for the Great Lakes

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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

UGANDA: ADF abducts 365 inmates in attack on prison

An estimated 200 rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) attacked Katojo prison near Fort Portal in western Uganda early on Thursday, killing two and abducting 365 of the 902 inmates, Ugandan newspapers reported on Friday. Minister of State for Defence, Steven Kavuma, told a press conference in Kampala that a Ugandan soldier and the wife of a prison warder had been killed, the independent 'Monitor' newspaper reported. The attack was aimed at gaining publicity for the ADF, reinforcing its depleted ranks through abductions and diverting the Ugandan army from its ongoing offensive against the rebels in the Ruwenzori mountains, Kavuma said. The prison had some ADF and treason suspects, the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper quoted Kavuma as saying.

ADF spokesman Rogers Kabanda, quoted by the 'Monitor', said the rebels' target was Ugandan Chief of Staff Brigadier James Kazini, who was reportedly in Fort Portal at that time. "We missed him narrowly but we are still looking for him," Kabanda said.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Zimbabwe denies existence of Ikela agreement

Zimbabwe has denied that it reached an agreement with Rwanda and the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) earlier this week on getting supplies to its soldiers besieged at Ikela airport in return for withdrawing from the town of Bokungu. Harare denied the existence of such an agreement and said it would continue to use force to resupply its troops in Ikela, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported on Thursday. A Zimbabwean defence spokesman said the rebels had leaked the story of such an agreement "to make it seem that Zimbabwe had reached a unilateral agreement, to cause a split in the alliance backing Congolese President Laurent-Desire Kabila," the report added.

DRC: Harare welcomes US push on Lusaka process

The Lusaka peace process is "on track" having been boosted by recent high-level contact between the main foreign protagonists as well greater diplomatic interest from the US, Zimbabwe said on Thursday. Rwandan and Ugandan contacts with Harare in the past week, together with two separate US delegations this week - led by US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke, and Democratic Party leader Richard Gephardt - reflected "real political will to follow through with this", Zimbabwe's presidential spokesman George Charamba told IRIN on Thursday. "The general impression is that the US is throwing its moral and material weight behind the Lusaka peace agreement, a factor which had been missing all along," Charamba added.

This week's amnesty offer by Uganda to its own rebel movements and its rapprochement with Sudan could also help stabilise the region, Charamba said. "President Mugabe has been trying to communicate to Rwanda and Uganda that the hostile forces that spill over into the DRC are the direct consequences of their exclusionary politics at home," Charamba added. [see IRIN-SA item headlined "ZIMBABWE-DRC: Peace process on track" [19991209]

DRC: Food crisis threatens Ituri displaced

Sporadic bouts of inter-tribal fighting over land rights between the Hema and Lendu tribes in Ituri province has caused an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 people to flee their homes, the ICRC reported on Thursday. There were some 85,000 registered internally-displaced people (IDPs) in the area between Bunia and Djugu as a result of the fighting, a figure that could be revised upwards as greater accessibility allows additional assessment missions, it said. "Concerned by the threat of a major food security crisis" and as the only humanitarian organisation active in and around Bunia, the ICRC is planning a large-scale assistance programme to 50,000 people until the end of the year in centres including Bunia, Katoto, Pimbo and Djugu, the report stated. The agency also reported "substantial medical needs" among large numbers of IDPs in Kamina and Kabongo, in northeastern Katanga province.

Security constraints in the field were still one of the main obstacles to the conduct of humanitarian operations, and there was difficulty securing access to affected populations in parts of Kasai Oriental province, Haut-Katanga and Tanganyika districts of Katanga province, as well as in the Masisi and Ruthsuru regions of North Kivu and throughout the whole of South Kivu, the ICRC reported.

BURUNDI: 51 refugees return from DRC

Some 51 returnees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) arrived in Burundi's southwestern Rumonge commune, the Agence burundaise de presse (ABP) reported on Thursday. It quoted administrative sources as saying the returnees, a majority of whom were women and children, were from Minago zone and left the country in 1972. The refugees had been living in Mboko, Kangeta and Kaboge II areas close to DRC's border with Burundi, but returned when they had all their belongings looted by Mayi-Mayi fighters, ABP reported.

BURUNDI: Political settlement needed to solve refugee problem

The International Crisis Group (ICG), a Brussels-based think-tank, has said prospects for a solution to the plight of Burundian refugees in Tanzania are closely linked to a political settlement in Burundi and a resolution of the war in DRC. In its latest report, ICG said there were about 470,000 refugees in Tanzania, representing over seven percent of Burundi's population. The refugee camps were stigmatised for being highly militarised and for harbouring Burundian rebels. ICG said the accusations were partly a result of a well-waged propaganda campaign by the government of President Pierre Buyoya, partly as a result of Tanzania's own duplicitous policies and partly a result of the humanitarian community's "chequered past" in the region, particularly its experience in the Rwandan refugee camps in former Zaire.

ICG said the civilian nature of the camps must be maintained, with the Tanzanian authorities and humanitarian workers continuing to have a watchdog role and enforcing prohibitions on military activity. "It is important that the international and donor community recognise that humanitarian action is not a cure-all and will not fill the political and security vacuum," ICG said. "As long as war-afflicted refugees spill into Tanzania with grievances against the Burundian government and military, there will be cause for the mobilisation of a rebellion from the western region." [Full report available at http://www.intl-crisis-group.org/]

RWANDA: Holbrooke arrives in Kigali, Kampala

US ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke arrived in Kigali on Thursday for a one-day official visit, before moving on to Uganda, Rwandan radio reported. He met senior officials including Vice-President Paul Kagame and Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo. News organisations quoted him as saying the 1994 Rwandan genocide had been an "avoidable tragedy" and he stressed the importance of finding a "genuine solution" in DRC. He also urged the warring factions in the DRC to respect the Lusaka peace deal they signed in August.

In Kampala on Friday, Holbrooke held with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on the DRC conflict, news organisations said. He was later due to meet leaders of the three DRC rebel groups.

RWANDA: Three sentenced to death on genocide charges

A Rwandan court on Thursday sentenced three people to death, 30 to life imprisonment and acquitted nine others on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, Radio Rwanda reported. The 42 people were convicted after a mass trial for crimes committed in Rutongo commune in Kigali Rural prefecture. All those found guilty were also expected to pay a fine.

CENTRAL AFRICA: Security cooperation treaty signed

The governments of DRC, the Republic of Congo and Angola this week signed a technical cooperation agreement on security after discussions in the Angolan capital Luanda. Under the accord, valid for an initial five years, the three will establish a joint commission to oversee cooperation on border security, the training of police and security force personnel, the free movement of goods and people, and assistance to refugees and war-displaced people, the Angolan news agency Angop reported.

Nairobi, 10 December 1999, 13:30 gmt

[ENDS]

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Item: irin-english-2132

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