Burundi: Aid to 7,500 to proceed today

News and Press Release
Originally published
NAIROBI, 28 January (IRIN) - Humanitarian aid to 7,500 people in Gitega will now proceed Tuesday after being temporarily cancelled earlier by the UN World Food Programme, amid continued insecurity in the troubled province.
The spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordiantion of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)in Burundi, Nicholas McGowan, told IRIN that ongoing insecurity had earlier forced the closure of the National Highway No.2 between Muramya and Gitega, preventing UN agencies from transporting their aid.

The WFP emergency food distribution will distribute six-day rations to 7,500 locals in Giheta commune.

The fighting, which began on 17 January lasted 11 days, with low level skirmishes still reported, despite the signing of a ceasefire between the National Transitional Government of Burundi and the rebel group the Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie-Force pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD), in December 2002, and the signature on Monday of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties.

Over the weekend and early this week rebels from the CNDD-FDD fled from the advancing Burundian army heading northward into Muramvya Province (Mbuye Commune), Kayanza Province (Rango Commune), and southward of Gitega (Burundi's second city) into Itaba Commune, crossing into Nyabitsinda Commune, Ruyigi Province.

"We remain seriously concerned for the welfare of these local populations," McGowan said. "Less that six months ago 173 civilians were massacred in Itaba Commune. Today, again we are receiving concerning signals both in Gitega and Ruyigi provinces."

On Sunday, rebels in Buraza Commune, Bubaji, assassinated the head of sector, while in Itaba Commune rebels killed one person in a site for internally displaced persons, leaving a trail of terror in their wake. The rebels burned nine homes and looted property.

In an attempt to better assess the situation on the ground the UN OCHA Office in Burundi sent an inter-agency team, led by the OCHA head of office, Antione Gerard, to Ruyigi. As in Gitega, Ruyigi Province has been subjected to frequent, at times extremely violent clashes, throughout January.

"For almost a month now some areas of Ruyigi Province have remained inaccessible to humanitarian organisations (UN and INGOs) and targeted food distributions," McGowan said.

Humanitarian agencies also advise that 5,000 people had been temporarily displaced within Gisuru Commune. McGowan told IRIN that the protection of civilian populations would form the basis of the mandate for the inter-agency mission presently in Ruyigi. The mission is due to conclude and report on Wednesday.


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