IRIN Update No. 590 for Central and Eastern Africa

Report
from IRIN
Published on 19 Jan 1999
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

NOTICE: No OCHA meeting this week, briefing on Saturday

There will be no OCHA weekly meeting in Nairobi tomorrow (Wednesday 20 January), due to the public holiday. OCHA's Martin Griffiths will hold a briefing for the humanitarian and diplomatic community at the OCHA offices at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Ceasefire proposal agreed

Five countries involved in the DRC conflict have agreed to sign a ceasefire, along with the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), Namibian President Sam Nujoma announced yesterday (Monday). The announcement follows talks in the Namibian capital Windhoek between the presidents of Rwanda, Uganda, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Angola's defence minister. According to news reports, Nujoma said the rebels would sign a separate document.

A statement issued by participants after the meeting claimed "significant progress" had been made towards achieving greater mutual understanding. 'The Namibian' daily cited a high-ranking Namibian official as saying the agreement was a sign the parties had had enough of the war. According to media reports, the rebels welcomed the initiative but now had to examine the text in detail. The RCD was not invited to the Windhoek meeting.

Further talks in Windhoek

Further briefings were being held in the Namibian capital today (Tuesday) and it was now a question of "wait and see", media sources in Windhoek told IRIN. They pointed out similar agreements had been reached before and had led to nothing. The signing ceremony, if it goes ahead, is expected to take place in Lusaka.

Kabila says not officially informed of ceasefire agreement

DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila, who met separately in the Angolan capital Luanda yesterday with his Angolan and Congo-Brazzaville counterparts, said he had not been officially informed of the ceasefire agreement. Reporting Kabila's return to Kinshasa, DRC state television commented that the military option "is necessary on the ground because the Congolese people ... want their territory to be cleared of invaders".

A statement issued after the Luanda summit noted that the three countries exchanged information about the various conflicts on their territories. They agreed to hold regular meetings "because they realise that armed conflicts in their countries are intertwined". The statement further said that such conflicts were "instigated and backed from abroad".

Foreign minister denies snubbing summit

DRC Foreign Minister Jean-Charles Okoto Lolakome meanwhile told state television his country's absence from the Windhoek meeting was not a deliberate snub. He said partial solutions had already been found to some of the issues at stake, and his delegation was obliged to return to Kinshasa. "This does not mean we were blatantly absent," he stressed.

Friction in Lusaka

Meanwhile, Zambian officials said the gathering of regional defence and foreign ministers in Lusaka at the weekend was compromised by differences between the Rwandan and Ugandan delegates on one hand, and DRC Foreign Minister Lolakome. Lolakome's team in Lusaka, according to media reports, declined to meet representatives of the rebel delegations. Sources close to the talks said the atmosphere at the meeting was also worsened by the refusal of some delegates to stand and observe a minute of silence for the victims of the DRC war.

Five opposition leaders arrested

Five DRC opposition leaders arrested at the weekend have been adopted as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. The men, held by the Agence nationales des renseignements (ANR), were detained after they were "invited" to ANR headquarters and have not been charged, Amnesty said in a release yesterday. The men include Union pour la democratie et la progres social (UPDS) Secretary-General Adrien Kunda Phongo, and an aide to UPDS party leader Etienne Tshisekedi, Jean-Joseph Me Mukendi Mulumba. UPDS said in a statement received by IRIN that they condemned the "systematic violations" of human rights in DRC and called for the immediate release of its two leaders.

UN official presents humanitarian plan of action

The UN's deputy emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths is today in Kinshasa presenting needs and priorities for reinforcing UN humanitarian operations in affected areas of the DRC including the rebel-held east. Humanitarian needs are "thought to be growing rapidly, further fuelled by the dramatic economic decline of the country and the displacement (both temporary and prolonged) of large groups of the population", the report states. The nutritional situation in Kinshasa "continues to deteriorate", according to the latest WFP weekly emergency report (see http://www.wfp.org). The food, medical and clean water needs of displaced people are among the humanitarian priorities. The plan of action is to be executed within the principles and "rules of engagement" devised at a November meeting in Nairobi which stress "impartiality and transparency" in the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The UN expects both sides to "accept and adhere to" the principles and rules, a UN official told IRIN. A "major impediment" to the resumption of full-scale operations, ne continued, is the need for the return of looted humanitarian assets. Another UN official said he remained "very, very much concerned" about the failure of the rebel authorities to return dozens of UN cars and trucks looted at the outset of the rebellion.

Rebel envoy in Uganda says will issue visas

The RCD representative in Kampala said yesterday he was opening an office this week that would issue visas to rebel-controlled areas, Uganda's semi-official 'New Vision' reported today. "It is my duty to issue visas to all those entering the territory in RCD control. In fact, I am interested in the Congolese embassy premises here," Gaston Mubawa Kangare said. However, the newspaper quoted an official from the ministry of foreign affairs as warning that Kangare was operating in the country illegally. "We know only one Congolese embassy and one Congolese envoy in Kampala," the official said. The official Congolese charge d'affaires, Isabella Iboula, is yet to return to the country since she left last November, the 'New Vision' added.

BURUNDI: Burundi talks open in Arusha

The fourth round of Burundi peace talks opened in Arusha last night with an appeal to participants by mediator Julius Nyerere not to "unnecessarily prolong" the process. He added: "We can't end this century without giving hope to the people of Burundi," the independent Agence Hirondelle reported. Among the issues being discussed at the talks are the lifting of regional sanctions on the Burundi government, the inclusion of CNDD-FDD in the peace process, and the freeing of political prisoners. Nyerere proposed a South African general as deputy to Father Matteo Zuppi of the Italian San'Egidio community in the peace and security commission. The Arusha peace process has cost US $1.1 million between June and December 1998 and is projected to rise to US $6 million by June 1999. Nyerere stressed donors would be unwilling to fund endless talks.

A spokesman for the CNDD-FDD faction in Belgium told IRIN that a team from the party was en route to Arusha but that they were still not officially invited. "We are accustomed to being in the corridors", the spokesman said. In any case, he added, "the cards are being played in Burundi".

ETHIOPIA: OLF claims it killed 62 Ethiopian soldiers

The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) said it killed 62 Ethiopian soldiers, wounded 20 and captured 18 in an attack on two government garrisons at Tuqa and Hidi-lola in the Borana region on Friday night. An OLF statement, received by IRIN, said its forces also captured weapons and mmunition.

The statement added: "Two stores full of relief supplies intended to be distributed to the people in the surrounding areas, but was diverted to be used by the Tigrean army was captured and duly distributed to the civilian people."

Meanwhile, the Kenyan authorities maintain that all is calm on the Kenyan side of the border, contrary to reports in the local press that Kenyan security forces engaged Ethiopian troops in fierce fighting. "There is no problem on the Kenyan side. No Ethiopian troops crossed over to Kenya and we are hiding nothing from anybody," a senior police officer told IRIN. "The truth is, there was fighting in Ethiopia at Hidilola, Tuqa and Magado between 15 to 18 km away from the Kenyan border on Friday," Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police David Munuhe said. After the clashes six OLF militiamen sought refuge inside Kenya at the village of Damballa Fanchana. The six failed to identify themselves, provoking a brief shoot-out with the Kenya police reserve in the area. Two of the policemen and two civilians were slightly injured, he added.

Ethiopian embassy spokesman Wondimu Asamnew told IRIN he could not confirm the incident or issue a statement because communication links with Addis Ababa were down. "I am sure the ministries concerned are working on the problem and soon we will have an official statement," he said.

[ENDS]

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