IRIN Update No. 518 Central and Eastern Africa

Report
from IRIN
Published on 07 Oct 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

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Serious cholera epidemic in South Kivu

The cholera epidemic in South Kivu is worsening, with a serious lack of drugs and functioning treatment facilities reported, humanitarian sources said today (Wednesday). Particularly hard hit is the Shabunda area. Information collected from treatment centres in six of Shabunda's 26 sub-districts indicates that there are over 80 new cholera cases and 30 cholera-related deaths reported every day in those centres alone. After Shabunda was bombed, much of the civilian population fled into the forest, where there is a total lack of proper hygiene and drinking water, the sources said. Major cholera outbreaks and high mortality rates are also reported in Mwenga, Walungu and other areas of the province.

Banyamulenge organisation distances itself from rebellion

A Banyamulenge organisation, the Forces Republicaines et Federalistes (FRF), has distanced itself from the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), stressing that the RCD is not a Banyamulenge movement. The president of the FRF, Joseph Mutambo, told IRIN today that while it supported the bid to oust President Laurent-Desire Kabila, the FRF was concerned with the survival of the Banyamulenge people and it did not believe the current war would bring about durable peace. He expressed concern that the Banyamulenge were not only being massacred by Kabila's regime, but also by anti-Banyamulenge militias still operating in areas under RCD control in Katanga province and parts of south Kivu. He said the RCD was unable to stop the activities of these armed militias.

Mutambo issued an urgent plea for the international community to assist Banyamulenge fleeing from areas such as Fizi, Moba and Vyura. He expressed concern over the possible outbreak of epidemics with the onset of the rainy season, saying people were arriving daily in Kalemie awaiting boats to transport them to Uvira. As of today, 11,000-12,000 people were blocked in Kalemie, he said. About 1,350 Banyamulenge had arrived in Uvira. "Practically the entire Banyamulenge population of Katanga has fled," he added.

Victims of Goma attack detailed

Additional details have emerged about civilian casualties from the 14 September attack on Goma by Mayi-Mayi warriors and Rwandan Hutu Interahamwe militia. Humanitarian sources told IRIN that among the civilians killed in the attack were 13 women and children who were family members of ethnic Tutsi men killed in Kisangani in the days before it fell to the rebels on 23 August. The 13 women and children, who were staying together in a Goma centre, were deliberately targeted in last month's attack, the sources said. More than 100 family members of slain Tutsi men in Kisangani were evacuated to Goma by the rebels in early September.

Anti-RCD rebel "coalition" backing Kabila

Along with widening regional involvement in the DRC crisis, an assortment of anti-RCD rebel groups are active in the conflict, regional analysts say. They point to the "marriage of convenience" between rebel forces disadvantaged by the political realignments in the Great Lakes spearheaded by Rwanda and Uganda. They have apparently thrown their support behind Kabila, and in the process have won greater standing and support from Kinshasa. Pointing to the ex-FAR in particular, a commentator noted that the "nature of the beast has been transformed." He told IRIN that whereas the ex-FAR "used to hang out with groups like the ex-FAZ, they are now in the big league and welcomed by Kinshasa and Khartoum."

He said large numbers of former Rwandan government soldiers and Interahamwe militia, sheltering in Congo-Brazzaville and the Central African Republic, are rallying to Kinshasa's side. "Normally refugees flee conflicts," the analyst noted.

Other - at least ideologically - pro-Kabila rebel groups are believed to be Uganda's Allied Democratic Forces, the Lord's Resistance Army and the revived West Nile Bank Front. Burundi's rebel Forces pour la defense de la democratie, the anti-Banyamulenge Mayi-Mayi in DRC, and to some extent the ex-FAZ, are also opposed to the anti-Kabila alliance, the analyst said. He however pointed out it was difficult to assess how coordinated the rebel activity is.

Third day of fighting in Kindu

The rebels and the government today both claimed to have the upper hand in a third day of heavy fighting for control of Kindu in Maniema province, news organisations reported. Rebel-controlled radio in Bukavu, monitored by the BBC, said rebel soldiers already controlled some areas of Kindu and were advancing towards the airport. The DRC minister of defence, however, said rebel soldiers were retreating in the face of a government counter-offensive towards Kalima, 80 km to the east, AFP reported. Casualties were reported by both sides, and the civilian population was on the move, reports said.

Meanwhile, Rwandan radio reported today that troops fighting on the side of the government in Kindu include soldiers from Sudan, but none from Zimbabwe, Angola or Namibia.

SPLA soldiers reported in Dungu

Informed sources in contact with the Dungu area of Province Orientale told IRIN that tension between the Sudanese and local communities has increased following the reported arrival of Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) troops at the end of September. Since their arrival, the SPLA soldiers were reported to have looted dispensaries, vehicles and food supplies in the area. There are some 30,000 Sudanese refugees in Dungu, located about 100 km from the DRC-Congo border, and thousands of other Sudanese nationals living within the town itself. Meanwhile, a WFP officer is travelling today to Yambio in southern Sudan to verify reports of an influx of Sudanese returnees from the Dungu area.

Museveni, Kagame discuss DRC situation

Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame held talks with President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda on Monday to discuss the DRC situation, Rwandan radio reported today. A joint communique issued after the meeting at Museveni's home village of Rwakitura stressed both countries' support for a negotiated solution to the conflict which took into account the interests of neighbouring countries. Both leaders reiterated their concern over armed insurgents using DRC as a springboard for attacks on Rwanda and Uganda. They also condemned the "involvement of Sudan" in the conflict and "questioned the wisdom of any continued support for the Kabila-Sudan alliance," the radio reported.

Kabila meanwhile arrived in Nigeria yesterday (Tuesday) for talks with head of state General Abdulsalam Abubakar on the DRC crisis, news organisations reported.

BURUNDI: Rebels, government involved in DRC war

An international researcher says both Burundian government and rebel forces are involved in the DRC war. In mid-August, rebel forces were observed in Kigoma, western Tanzania, preparing to travel to Kalemie to hook up with pro-Kabila forces. Rebels interviewed by the researcher said they had been promised weapons and assistance from the Kabila troops. International aid workers were quoted as saying there had been some movement out of the Kigoma refugee camps. On the Burundi government side, the attitude and extent of involvement changed following Kabila's anti-Tutsi declarations, the analyst told IRIN. After the withdrawal of Burundi embassy staff from Kinshasa, the authorities in Bujumbura reportedly deployed reinforcements across the border in South Kivu and near Kalemie in order, they said, to protect national security interests.

Violence reported in Kayanza, Gitega

Rebel attacks were reported in various communes of Kayanza province over the past week, WFP's latest weekly emergency report said. Some population displacement was reported as a result of the violence and National Route 1 was temporarily closed. The WFP report said the insecurity would delay the planned distribution of seed-protection rations in the area. Meanwhile, humanitarian sources reported that a clinic was attacked by rebels in Gitega province over the weekend.

UGANDA/SUDAN: Khartoum claims it repulsed Ugandan advance

Ugandan troops suffered "huge losses" in men and equipment in clashes with the Sudanese army this week in Eastern Equatoria, Khartoum's army spokesman has claimed. Lieutenant General Abdel Rahman Sir al-Khati told the private 'Al-Rai Al-Aam' daily that a Ugandan attack on Mongalla, 50 km northeast of Juba, was repulsed after fierce fighting.

Ugandan Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Amama Mbabazi has described Khartoum's allegations of Kampala's involvement in fighting in southern Sudan as "propaganda". He told AFP it was designed to cover their embarrassment over SPLA successes.

Uganda dismisses Khartoum's threat

Mbabazi also dismissed a warning by Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir on Monday that Khartoum may attack Uganda in retaliation for Kampala's alleged support for the SPLA's offensive. "In my view that is an empty threat, and he has no capacity to do it."

Heavy fighting continues

Meanwhile, heavy clashes were reported around Torit and Bor towns in southern Sudan between the SPLA and government forces, 'al-Rai al-Aam' reported. DPA quoted another Khartoum daily, 'Alwan', as claiming today that the army killed 50 SPLA soldiers when it beat off an offensive in the Mundi district of the Nuba mountains.

Nairobi, 7 October 1998, 15:25 gmt

[ENDS]

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