IRIN Update No. 532 Central and Eastern Africa

Report
from IRIN
Published on 27 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

RWANDA: More ICTR detainees on hunger strike

More detainees at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have gone on hunger strike to protest for their right to appoint a defence lawyer of their choice. In a letter to the Tribunal, the detainees - including the already convicted ex-mayor of Taba, Jean-Paul Akayesu, who has been on hunger strike for six days - complained of the court's "discrimination" against certain lawyers, the Ubutabera information service reported. The independent Hirondelle news agency today (Tuesday) said 22 detainees were on hunger strike. Four others, who announced they were taking part in the protest, today took breakfast.

A statement from the ICTR Registrar's Office, received today by IRIN, described the move as "unwarranted" but "not surprising". "The full gravity of their situation is dawning on these detainees", the statement said. They "may feel that they have nothing to lose by engaging in these agitations". The statement added that in the early days of the Tribunal's work a small group of mainly Belgian and Canadian lawyers tried to "monopolise" defence cases to "determine the course of events". This led to the court's decision to streamline the assignment of defence counsels.

Eminent persons' panel meets to probe genocide causes

An eminent persons' group met under the aegis of the OAU in Addis Ababa yesterday (Monday) to investigate the underlying causes of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, AFP reported. The meeting, chaired by former Botswanan president Sir Ketumile Masire, includes former Malian president General Amadou Toumani Toure, Liberian opposition leader Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Algerian judge Mohamed Bedjawi and the head of UNICEF's Swedish committee Lisbet Palme. The group was set up at the suggestion of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi during an address to an OAU ministerial meeting last year.

Nearly 3,000 cholera cases since May

The WHO reports Rwanda has been suffering from a cholera outbreak since May. A total of 2,900 cases and 55 deaths have been reported, all of them in Cyangugu prefecture. WHO expressed concern however that the disease could spread to other parts of the country.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Stalemate in Lusaka talks

The Lusaka meeting of African foreign and defence ministers entered its second day today with little hope of a DRC peace settlement, news organisations reported. The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) rejected ceasefire proposals after being shut out of the talks. Namibian radio however said RCD foreign affairs representative Bizima Karaha entered the conference room late yesterday to join the 12 ministers. Reuters quoted political analysts as predicting the war would escalate if the Lusaka talks fail.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed the "great importance" of the Lusaka meeting, his spokesman said. Annan urged the sides to show "the maturity, will and statesmanship needed to reach a compromise for an immediate ceasefire and early withdrawal of troops". He also called on the DRC authorities to "end incitements to ethnic violence and hate propaganda".

Garreton believes human rights probe may resume

The UN's special rapporteur for human rights in DRC, Roberto Garreton, has said he believes he will be able to resume his work. In a recent interview with the Belgian daily 'De Standaard', he said he had "serious indications" President Laurent-Desire Kabila was prepared to revise his "negative attitude" towards the aborted UN's human rights investigation in the country. Garreton said there was evidence mass killings of Hutu refugees occurred around Goma during the rebellion of 1996/7. "The regime in Kinshasa would gain if it admitted these facts," he said.

Ajello urges rebellion to "call off its push"

The EU special envoy to the Great Lakes, Aldo Ajello, has said there are two major hurdles to overcome in the search for peace in DRC. "President Kabila does not admit the existence of a rebellion, while Rwanda is denying that it has a force in Congo," he told the Belgian daily 'La Libre Belgique'. Ajello also suggested holding talks at two levels: firstly at national level to discuss the issue of Congolese Tutsi nationality, then at regional level to examine border security issues. He expressed concern that an intervention by Kabila's allies in eastern DRC "could trigger an escalation and a veritable African war". "However, we cannot ask Kabila's allies to hold back if the other side does not do likewise. The rebellion must therefore call off its push", he said.

BURUNDI: Insecurity forces NGOs to suspend work

OCHA-Burundi says several NGOs have temporarily evacuated staff from various provinces for security reasons. Its latest information bulletin said increased rebel activity in the southern provinces of Makamba and Rutana had led to the evacuation of some NGOs early this month. Other NGO staff were also temporarily relocated to Bujumbura from Kayanza, in the northeast of the country, after renewed unrest, while WFP had to postpone distributions in Gahombo commune. The report added that several attacks were reported in Bubanza province.

SUDAN: NGOs urge Security Council action

CARE, Oxfam, MSF and SCF yesterday called on the UN Security Council to take an "active role" in stopping the war in the Sudan. At an informal meeting with the council in New York, the four NGOs said the war in Sudan and the resulting humanitarian crisis had reached "unimaginable" levels. In a joint statement, received by IRIN today, the NGOs said the conflict had caused the deaths of about 1.5 million people between 1983 and 1993, and about 4 million Sudanese were now displaced or living as refugees. "Peace is the only hope for progress and to prevent further humanitarian catastrophe," the NGOs told the council.

OLS spokesperson Gillian Wilcox told IRIN today the joint NGO statement was "completely consistent" with what OLS and associated agencies have been pushing for. "Humanitarian relief operations are no substitute for political action," she said.

Nutritional crisis persists in Bahr al-Ghazal

While the mortality rate in Bahr al-Ghazal has decreased over the past few weeks, it is too soon to conclude that the nutritional situation has stabilised, MSF said. In a briefing document received by IRIN today, MSF said it was treating 12,500 children in supplementary and therapeutic feeding programmes in 11 rebel- and government-held locations of Bahr al-Ghazal. In Ajiep, one of the worst-affected areas, the crude mortality rate decreased from 26 deaths per 10,000 people per day on 1 August to 3.6 deaths per 10,000 people per day in late September, MSF said. The US-based Centers for Disease Control regards a crude mortality rate of just two per 10,000 per day as "an emergency out of control".

Humanitarian agencies have stressed that people in Bahr al-Ghazal will remain very vulnerable and in need of relief food until the next harvest in September/October 1999.

WHO investigates deaths

About 100 people have died of an unidentified disease, suspected to be pneumonia, in four remote villages in the Meyon area of southern Sudan since July, WHO said in a statement received by IRIN today. The death toll represents about five percent of the total population in the affected villages. A WHO team was sent to the area to assess the situation, and laboratory investigations are underway, WHO said.

"Political association" bill passed

Sudan's national assembly yesterday approved a bill on freedom of political association, official Sudanese radio, monitored by the BBC, said. Sudanese opposition lawyers in Khartoum, however, dismissed the new legislation as an attempt by the government to "obtain legitimacy for continuing with its totalitarian and dictatorial rule," AFP reported today.

NOTE: OCHA will hold its information exchange meeting tomorrow at 10:00 am at OCHA premises opposite Gigiri compound.

Nairobi, 27 October 1998, 14:30 gmt

[ENDS]

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