IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-Up 51-98 covering the period 11-17 Dec 1998

Report
from IRIN
Published on 18 Dec 1998
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

BURUNDI: UN report urges immediate action to bring about peace

A new UN report on the situation in Burundi says regional economic sanctions are having a disastrous effect on the poor, and compound the already serious consequences of the country's prolonged conflict. The report, prepared by OCHA-Burundi, notes that sanctions have complicated delivery of badly-needed humanitarian assistance with cumbersome procedures and long delays, wasting both time and money. It stresses that peace efforts within the country, while not without weaknesses, "must be recognised as unique" in a sub-region wracked by violent conflict.

The report warns that Burundi is again at a crossroads. "In the past, such critical junctures have been unrecognised, ignored or in some cases deliberately squandered," it points out. It urges the international community to take action in three areas: developing a programme of recovery, peace-building, human rights and economic growth; expanding humanitarian assistance; and supporting a process of "constructive engagement" to consolidate the progress achieved so far. "Action taken now will make a critical difference to the chances for peace in Burundi," the report concludes.

30 killed in attack on displaced camp

Thirty people were killed and 20 others wounded on Monday when a camp for displaced people came under attack in southwest Burundi. According to Burundi radio, the Muyange camp in Burambi commune had been sheltering some 100 people who recently "abandoned the rebellion".

Meanwhile, Burundi peace mediator Julius Nyerere on Monday condemned ceasefire violations by the various sides in the conflict, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. Nyerere, who was speaking as three commissions began their work in Arusha as part of the peace process, described the current stage as important for promoting peace in Burundi. However, he regretted that hostilities were still continuing alongside attempts to find peace.

Soldiers deployed to "trouble spots"

The Burundian army has deployed soldiers in response to "pockets of trouble" in Bubanza, Bujumbura-rurale, Makamba and Bururi provinces, the Agence burundaise de presse ABP said on Friday. ABP quoted Minister of Defence Alfred Nkurunziza as saying assailants in those four provinces had crossed from Tanzania and the DRC.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: OAU summit opens

DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila was among more than a score of African leaders who arrived in Ouagadougou for a two-day OAU summit beginning on Thursday, news organisations reported. A rebel delegation also arrived in the Burkina Faso capital for talks on the fringes of the summit of the OAU's central mechanism for conflict prevention, management and settlement. According to a draft agenda of the meeting, conflicts in the DRC, Burundi, Guinea Bissau, the Comoros and the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea, are to be discussed.

Lusaka summit postponed

Meanwhile, the Lusaka summit scheduled to open Monday to seek a truce in the DRC conflict was postponed. According to media reports at the weekend, the meeting ran aground over the issue of rebel participation. South Africa insisted last week that the talks, at which ceasefire details were to have been agreed, only made sense if representatives of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) attended. Kabila refused to meet the rebels.

Zimbabwe confirms two senior officers killed

Zimbabwe's official 'Herald' newspaper on Wednesday confirmed that two senior Zimbabwean officers were killed at the weekend when their Allouette helicopter was shot down by rebels over the eastern town of Kabalo. The 'Herald' named the men as Colonel Alphonso Kufa and squadron leader Herbert Vundla. The paper also said that Flight Sergeant Edson Sande, a helicopter gunner, was missing believed captured. An official Zimbabwean sources also confirmed to IRIN there had been "several casualties" and one helicopter downed.

Zimbabwean air raids kill 20 in Kalemie

Some 20 people have been killed and 90 wounded in Zimbabwean air raids on the eastern town of Kalemie since September, AFP quoted a local hospital official as saying. The official in the rebel-held town said the hospital had performed amputations on six people and was running short of prostheses. In a separate dispatch from Kalemie, AP quoted residents as saying they were disillusioned with the government because of the air raids. Kalemie's population is mostly Baluba, President Laurent-Desire Kabila's ethnic group.

Calls mount for troop withdrawal

Calls are mounting for the pullout of foreign troops from DRC. The UN Security Council on Friday urged an "orderly withdrawal" and EU leaders meeting in Vienna on Saturday called for an "urgent political solution" to the conflict.

The Clinton administration meanwhile has concluded there is little the US can do to stop the DRC war and that the country will remain a source of instability long after the fighting ends, the 'Washington Post' wrote on Saturday. It cited officials as saying the government was therefore looking beyond a ceasefire to a possible new regional cooperation agreement involving peacekeeping and border security, support for democratic political forces within DRC and economic aid to reconstruct the country. The DRC was "ungoverned and ungovernable," the newspaper quoted a senior US official as saying. "It has become a free-trade zone for the region's garbage."

RWANDA: Continued aid needed for 500,000 displaced in northwest

Continuing assistance is required for 500,000 displaced people in northwest Rwanda. They are living without proper shelter, access to clean water, adequate medical services and opportunities to farm their land, a statement from OCHA-Rwanda received by IRIN said. It warned that children, women heads of households, elderly and handicapped, figure prominently among the displaced. Their special needs must be met, in addition to those of the general displaced population, the statement said. It added that large movements of people into and out of temporary camps in the region is continuing. UN agencies have provided advice to the government on the dispersion and improved management of the temporary camps.

Donor dilemma over displaced camps

Meanwhile, a Western diplomat recently in Rwanda told IRIN on Thursday the situation of displaced people in northwestern Rwanda was "a dilemma for everybody". He described doubts amongst aid donors and NGOs about the voluntary nature of the camps and future Rwandan government plans for the northwestern populations. The source said some donors were concerned that they were being approached to "subsidise a Rwandan programme of villagisation."

Agathe Habyarimana ready to appear before ICTR

The wife of slain Rwandan leader Juvenal Habyarimana has expressed her willingness to appear before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha to reply to allegations she organised death squads during the 1994 genocide. In her first interview for five years, Agathe Habyarimana told the French daily 'Liberation' the accusations were "outrageous". She said those who killed her husband when his plane was shot down on 6 April 1994 "want to tarnish me or drive me mad". It was only after her family was evacuated to Paris that she learnt what was happening in Rwanda. She denied that her family had effectively controlled Rwanda during the Habyarimana era and said her conscience was clear. She was therefore ready to answer any questions at the ICTR.

ICTR finds former militia leader guilty of genocide

A former leader of the Interahamwe militia, Omar Serushago, on Monday was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a spokesman for the court in Arusha, Tanzania, told IRIN. Serushago, who headed the Interahamwe in Gisenyi prefecture in 1994, had earlier in the day pleaded guilty to charges of genocide, murder, extermination and torture and not guilty to charges of rape. The rape charge was subsequently withdrawn at the request of the prosecution, the spokesman said. Serushago's pre-sentencing hearing is scheduled for 29 January.

French report blames UN, US

A French parliamentary commission report on Wednesday blamed the United Nations and the United States for failing to avert the 1994 Rwandan genocide, news organisations reported. The report, issued after a nine-month inquiry into the genocide, described the genocide as a "serious failure by the international community". It singled out the US for resisting demands to boost the UN mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) which had led to the UN's "passiveness". The UN was "unable to head off mounting violence and put an end to the massacres". The US debacle in Somalia was to blame for Washington's reluctance to intervene, the report said. It came to the conclusion that France, although it had committed errors, was "not at all implicated in the unleashing of the violence".

UGANDA: Over 80 children rescued from LRA captivity

Over 80 children freed from the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) by government forces were handed over to rehabilitation agencies in Gulu on Friday. World Vision country director in Kampala Kofi Hagan told IRIN on Tuesday that his organisation's counselling centre had received 54 of the children. They are to receive psychological and nutritional help before being returned to their communities. "Often the children are in very poor shape. They are very malnourished, have rashes all over them, are poorly dressed and some have bullet wounds," Hagan said. Many of the girl captives suffer from sexually transmitted diseases. Among the 80 children rescued by the army last week, 17 were taken to hospital for treatment. The abducted children were among an estimated group of 300 LRA rebels that recently crossed into Uganda from Sudan.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Concern over humanitarian situation in Pool

Concern is growing over the humanitarian situation in the Pool region due to the impact of insecurity, looting and population displacement since October, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Dominique AitOuyahia McAdams said. Civilian populations who fled their towns have been living in forests, where access to food and basic health services is very limited, McAdams told IRIN. "As it has been raining, it is feared that children and the elderly in particular must be in very poor condition," she said. Continuing insecurity, however, has prevented UN agencies from reaching the area to assess the situation or provide relief assistance to affected populations, she said. The situation has also seriously affected the current agricultural season in Pool, McAdams added.

SUDAN: Malnutrition down, but crisis continues

While the nutritional situation has improved significantly in Bahr al-Ghazal, child malnutrition rates in several locations remain "unacceptably high," UNICEF said on Thursday. In a press release received by IRIN, UNICEF said a survey conducted in 10 areas of Bahr al-Ghazal in September/October found an average global malnutrition rate of 28.6 percent, down from 52.7 percent in May/June. "The improvements are due to prompt nutrition intervention programmes established by UNICEF, WFP and the NGOs after the July ceasefire," OLS official Ted Chaiban said in the statement. However, the statement added that a renewed outbreak of fighting or lack of access to arable land, livestock, food or medical assistance could reverse the progress made during the last several months.

24 killed in Nuba fighting

Several days of fighting in the Nuba mountains last week claimed the lives of 20 soldiers and four civilians, the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and allied northern opposition said in a statement released in Cairo. Fourteen government soldiers and six SPLA fighters died in the clashes, AFP reported. The four civilians were executed for looting by government forces.

African countries urged to tackle refugee issues

A three-day OAU conference on refugees, returnees and displaced persons ended in Khartoum on Monday with a call on African countries to tackle the root causes of the problem, PANA news agency reported. An 18-point 'Khartoum Declaration', adopted by 42 participating countries, expressed grave concern over the continent's refugee problems and called for measures to strengthen refugee protection. The declaration also expressed concern over the presence of "armed elements" among civilian refugees and stressed they should be separated in the camps.

GREAT LAKES: UN seeks US $314 million for emergency aid

UN agencies on Friday issued consolidated appeals for US $314 million to provide humanitarian aid in Burundi, the DRC, Uganda and Tanzania during 1999. A UN statement released in Geneva and received by IRIN on Monday said more than 1.4 million people from the four countries were internally displaced or living as refugees within the region. "The number of people and communities affected by ongoing conflicts in the Great Lakes region has actually increased since last year," the statement said. The appeals request funds for the delivery, coordination and monitoring of emergency aid and will address water, food, nutrition, health, education and other needs of affected populations.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Three said killed in Ethiopian shelling

Three people were reportedly killed and 24 wounded when Ethiopian shells hit the Eritrean border town of Tsorona, about 85 km south of Asmara, AP said quoting witness accounts. The shelling, which was said to have occurred on Monday, threatens to increase tension between the two countries whose border dispute is due to be discussed at the OAU summit in Burkina Faso, AP noted. There has been no official confirmation of the incident.

Nairobi, 18 December 1998, 08:30 gmt

[ENDS]

[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: irin@ocha.unon.org for more information or subscriptions. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the WWW at: http://www.reliefweb.int/ or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to archive@ocha.unon.org. Mailing list: irin-cea-weekly]