Burundi + 2 more

IRIN Update 817 for the Great Lakes

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News and Press Release
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U N I T E D N A T I O N S
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

(Tuesday 7 December 1999)

BURUNDI: UN bids for "safe quarter" for relief work

An initiative is underway to bring together the leaders of the major armed rebel groups in one place, sometime in the next two to three months, t o discuss humanitarian activities, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Burundi, Kathleen Cravero-Kristofferson said. The purpose was "to talk about a safe quarter for humanitarian work and to ensure that all parties to the Burundian conflict understood the non-partisan nature of humanitarian assistance," she told a press conference in New York at the weekend. However, "an active effort was underway to allow the resumption of suspended activities" and there were plans to send an inter-agency mission to Burundi, probably in January. The mission would look at security arrangements and ascertain whether the UN could increase its operations. On the Rutana attack of 12 October, in which two UN workers died, there were many theories regarding "who was waiting for whom", but a UN security investigation had concluded that the definitive answer would probably never be known, Cravero-Kristofferson said.

BURUNDI: "Hope in short supply"

While increased security measures since the Rutana killings had "greatly hampered" UN operations in the country, there remained an urgent need for the international community to respond fully to the increasing humanitarian needs of Burundians," Cravero-Kristofferson reported. "Hope is in short supply in Burundi these days", she said, noting forced regroupments, deteriorating security, increasing food needs and a worrying health situation. In addition, one of the worst droughts in Burundi's recent history had led the FAO to predict that as many as three million people might need assistance, she added.

BURUNDI: Number of regrouped people rising

Humanitarian sources say the number of people in regroupment sites in Bujumbura Rural is on the rise. An estimated 330,000 people are now in the camps, and the number is expected to increase, the sources told IRIN. NGOs, which have expressed concern over the health situation in some sites, are to begin nutritional surveys in 21 camps.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kinshasa flooding "major threat" but manageable

A joint humanitarian meeting to evaluate the flooding that has displaced 15,000 to 20,000 people in Kinshasa concluded that while it was "a major threat" and would require continuous vigilance until at least mid-January, its "current dimension" was considered manageable with the existing human and financial resources. International relief agencies decided that the WFP should coordinate food responses; the Red Cross movement, medical and sanitation interventions; WHO, anti-epidemic prevention; and the UNDP and OCHA, contingency planning for worst-case scenarios, a UN press release stated on Monday. The Red Cross was already strengthening its health centres, providing clean water to the cholera section of the general hospital, carrying out emergency sanitation work and tracking disease. However there were continued dangers in relation to drinking water supplies, the possible contamination of groundwater, and the potential for epidemics and food shortages. [situation report at http://www.reliefweb.int]

DRC: Greater access reveals countless numbers in need of relief

Aid agencies are beginning to get more access to people displaced by the war in both government- and rebel-held areas of DRC, but there are "countless others" in remote areas without access to humanitarian relief, the WFP reported on Monday. The agency visited Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Pweto, Goma, Bukavu and Bunia over the past three weeks to gather more information on the plight of internally-displaced people (IDPs), it said. "What we're finding is that, in some cases, whole villages have shifted to distant areas... and have brought with them virtually nothing to survive on. What worries us even more is that we're just seeing a fraction of the displaced people out there," said WFP Country Director Kees Tuinenburg in a press statement. "Our biggest problem at the moment is that we don't have enough food to fully support even the limited numbers of displaced we can get access to at the moment. Even worse, if we don't receive substantial new pledges in the coming weeks, we'll completely run out of food by April," said Tuinenburg.

DRC: Army accused of summary executions

The DRC human rights group ASADHO has expressed concern over summary executions and harassment by the Congolese army in villages near the town of Basankusu in Equateur province. In the report, issued before the rebel Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) captured Basankusu from the army, ASADHO said the atrocities were committed in July and September in villages such as Pimu, Djombo and Kodoro after Congolese troops were repulsed by the MLC. On their retreat towards the Maringa river, the soldiers "killed in cold blood" people who tried to escape the onslaught, apparently seeking out the Ngombe people whom they accused of collaborating with the rebels. ASADHO also accused some MLC rebels of cannibalism. It cited witnesses who said a man and two children in Djombo had their throats slit by members of the MLC, who then ate them.

Meanwhile, MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba has moved his operational headquarters from Gbadolite to Basankusu after his troops captured the town last week, AFP reported. Gbadolite would remain the administrative centre of the MLC, Bemba said.

DRC: Report on ethnic conflict in Ituri

In a separate report, ASADHO said the inter-ethnic conflict in the northeast Ituri district between the Lendu and Hema people is due in part to a lack of protection and confidence in the state. In a report issued this month on the conflict that has been raging in the district for several months, ASADHO also said the situation was aggravated by the "partisan attitude" of Ugandan troops in the area towards the Hema people. Noting that the two ethnic groups have traditionally been opposed for years over land issues, ASADHO said the current conflict had left 1,200 people dead by the beginning of September, but believed the number to be far greater. By mid-November, tens of thousands of people were displaced. ASADHO urged Ugandan troops and rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML), who control the area, to guarantee security impartially for all inhabitants of the region.

DRC: No UN observers without new mediator, says Holbrooke

The US envoy to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, said in South Africa on Monday that the UN would focus particularly on the DRC conflict when the US assumes the rotating presidency of the Security Council in January. However, Washington would not support the deployment of 500 UN military observers to the DRC until all sides agreed to a special mediator to revitalise the Lusaka agreement. The international community could not be expected to intervene in the DRC unless all sides stopped the renewed fighting and adhered to the ceasefire, the BBC quoted him as saying. "The renewed fighting threatens to leave the Lusaka agreement in tatters ... If the parties in the Congo really want the international community's involvement and support, such violations of these commitments are simply unacceptable," Holbrooke added.

DRC: Kinshasa claims "double standards" over ceasefire violations

President Laurent-Desire Kabila's aide de camp Colonel Eddy Kapend at the weekend denounced what he called the "double standards of the international community, in particular the USA". "The fronts are not stable because they are attacked by the aggressors on a regular basis," Kapend said over state radio. He added that the rebels had captured localities in Kasai and Equateur Provinces, including Basankusu, last week, since the ceasefire agreement. "The international community scandalously did not say a single word" on these, yet complains of ceasefire violations when the government "repulses the enemy forces from an unjustly-occupied locality", Kapend claimed.

UGANDA: Minister says ADF surrender would bring Congo withdrawal

Minister of State for Security Muruli Mukasa said on Monday the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) would withdraw from the DRC if the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), who are active in western Uganda from bases in eastern DRC, were to surrender. The government welcomed negotiations between Kasese District politicians and the ADF, Radio Uganda quoted Mukusa as saying. Speaking in the context of a rebel amnesty bill being debated in parliament, Mukusa said the authorities were "willing to forgive and accept the ADF if they surrender".

Nairobi, 7 December 1999, 13:20 gmt

[ENDS]

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Item: irin-english-2107

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