Burundi + 3 more

IRIN Update 857 for the Great Lakes

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

DRC: Heavy displacements continue in South Kivu

Humanitarian sources report large numbers of people are still being displaced in South Kivu due to an upsurge in fighting between various rebel and anti-rebel groups. According to some sources, around 10,000 people have fled from Kalonge towards Bukavu in the last 10 days. They say that exodus has most likely been triggered by Interahamwe activity around the northeastern edge of the Kahuzi-Biega national park.

However, the sources also report that more people are now fleeing from the area around Shabunda where fighting is believed to be taking place deep in the forest. There, the movements are believed to have been triggered by the activities of a mixture of Mayi-Mayi and Interahamwe and reprisal actions from the forces of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) and their allies of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA). Overall, however, the sources stress the picture is not clear. Some estimates now put the total number of displaced people in the area as high as 195,000. "The humanitarian space is shrinking and NGOs can no longer operate. It is not at all clear what the total number of displaced is and where they are," one senior humanitarian source told IRIN.

Sources also report tension between Rwandan Tutsis and Congolese Banyamulenge Tutsis in the area, saying the latter are fearful they will pay the price of the local population's resentment against the outside force. At the same time, the Banyamulenge remain deeply suspicious of the government of President Laurent-Desire Kabila and have declined to take part in a peace conference called by religious groups in Kinshasa, saying their safety would not be assured.

The situation in and around Uvira is also believed to have deteriorated sharply since mid-December with unconfirmed reports saying some 50,000 displaced people are now in the bush between Makobola, Luberizi and Bwegera and in a poor condition.

DRC: RCD warns against incitement, tribal hatred

The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) has warned the public within its area of jurisdiction in eastern DRC that "incitement to tribal or ethnic hatred" and "news mongering likely to brainwash the public" are offences liable to punishment under the country's penal code. The warning follows strikes and arrests in Bukavu where tracts targetting "invaders" and "foreigners" have been appearing with increasing regularity.

"Unfortunately, the RCD has noticed with regret and concern that these plagues were taking a dangerous turn in territories which had been liberated in a particular way in Sud Kivu and Nord Kivu provinces," the rebel-controlled radio in Goma said on Wednesday. It said RCD's policy was to ensure "harmonious national development in a climate of sound mutual understanding between all tribes and ethnic groups". One such tract, circulating in the Bagira area last week, called on the local inhabitants to attend a meeting last Sunday of which the main theme would be: "How to chase away the Tutsis?".

DRC: SADC high command warns rebel forces

The high command of Southern African forces backing President Laurent-Desire Kabila have warned rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that they will face a counter-attack if they do not stop moving into government-held areas near Kisangani in the northwest of the country. Rwanda maintains its positions in the area were attacked by DRC government forces, trying to provoke them into violating the Lusaka ceasefire agreement.

The SADC warning was made on Tuesday by Southern African Development Community (SADC) Allied Forces Commander, Major-General Amoth Chingombe. He cited concern about rebel advances west of Kisangani near Opala and Bomandja along the strategic 400 km stretch of winding road linking Kisangani with Ikela, a town where SADC forces were besieged until recently for weeks on end.

The statement, issued in Harare, added: "We regard these advances a serious threat to our forces on the ground." Following the ceasefire violations by the rebels when they captured Basankusu, a major town some 800 km west of Kisangani, in November last year, the statement said they had continued to advance along the Ubangi, Lulonga and Congo rivers.

"Their most recent moves towards our supply routes and positions are very threatening indeed. We will therefore, very soon use all the force available to us," General Chingombe said. Unless the rebels "reconsider" their actions and pull back to their original positions, he warned, "SADC Allied Forces will be forced to counter attack since this is a serious violation of the Lusaka Peace Accord".

The Rwandan authorities said they were taking the statement from the Congolese and their allies seriously. " We take this particular threat seriously because it departs from the peaceful resolution of the conflict, but we are not easily intimidated because our reasons for being in Congo are still valid and can only be addressed if the Lusaka agreement is properly implemented not threats from anybody, " Major Emmanuel Ndahiro, an advisor to Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame, told IRIN on Wednesday.

DRC:Congolese businessman shot in Kisangani

A Congolese businessman, Stanny Kangudi, aged 36, is reported to have been shot dead by Ugandan troops near Kisangani, DRC's third largest city. Tension was reported to be high with local residents angry over the incident.

"The man who was killed was a diamond dealer and was on his way from Buta, north of Kisangani, with three of his associates. He was stopped by three Ugandan army soldiers 51 km from Kisangani town his two associates run away and he was shot dead," Willy Mushiki, a senior member of one anti-Kabila rebel group, told IRIN on Wednesday.

Ugandan army officials could not confirm the incident. Kisangani town is divided among the three Congolese rebel groups and armies from Rwanda and Uganda.

DRC: OCHA to hold humanitarian workshop in Bunia

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Wednesday it was organising a workshop in Bunia, northeastern Congo on Friday 11 February. The participants include non-governmental organisations, UN agencies, and local authorities. The main objective of the meeting is to disseminate humanitarian principles.

BURUNDI: UNICEF's Bellamy to visit on 20 February

UNICEF announced on Tuesday that Executive Director Carol Bellamy would this week start a four-nation 14-day tour of Africa which will see her visiting Burundi on 20-21 February. "I hope this trip will help bring attention to the enormous challenges facing the children and young people of Africa," she said shortly before departing New York. In Burundi, Bellamy will hold talks with national leaders and UNICEF local staff focusing on efforts to end conflict in the country. UNICEF said in a statement that conflict in Burundi had left tens of thousands of people homeless and last year claimed the life of UNICEF's top country official in the only assassination of a UNICEF Representative in the agency's 54 years.

Nairobi, 9 February 2000, 16:00 gmt


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