IRIN Weekly Round-Up 43-98 covering the period 16-22 Oct 1998

Report
from IRIN
Published on 23 Oct 1998
UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for Central and Eastern Africa
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Fax: +254 2 622129
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[The weekly roundup is based on IRIN daily updates and other relevant information from UN agencies, NGOs, governments, donors and the media. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original sources.]

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Pro-Kabila allies to launch eastern offensive

Southern African leaders supporting President Laurent-Desire Kabila - Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola and Sam Nujoma of Namibia - met in the Zimbabwean capital Harare on Wednesday to discuss a military strategy for DRC. Kabila's Presidential Affairs Minister Victor Pierre Mpoyo turned up to represent the DRC, saying the president was unwell. News organisations quoted Mugabe as saying after the talks that the allies would launch an offensive against the rebel-held eastern DRC.

Zimbabwean planes subsequently redeployed from Kinshasa to Kananga in west Kasai, AFP reported, quoting private aviation sources in the town. The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) on Thursday reported fighting around the diamond-rich city of Mbuji-Mayi in east Kasai, according to news organisations.

Zimbabwean soldiers captured in east

Earlier, Zimbabwe admitted the rebels had captured 16 of its soldiers in eastern DRC. A defence ministry statement, reported by Zimbabwean radio on Monday, said the soldiers were taken prisoner in Kabalo town as they tried to leave for a DRC government-controlled area. The radio said the Zimbabwean plane in which they were travelling "took off without incident" after the 16 were disarmed. Reuters cited a rebel spokesman who said the soldiers were captured on the ground and denied the presence of an aircraft. He claimed four Zimbabweans had been killed.

Uganda threatens retaliation if Zimbabwe attacks eastern DRC

Ugandan Foreign Minister Eriya Kategaya on Sunday threatened retaliation if Ugandan forces in DRC came under attack by Zimbabwean troops, AFP reported. Meanwhile, the RCD offered a ceasefire to find a peaceful end to the conflict, the Pan-African Movement told IRIN on Monday.

Renewed peace efforts

Defence and foreign ministers from 11 African countries are scheduled to meet in Lusaka, Zambia, on Sunday as part of renewed attempts to resolve the DRC conflict, news agencies reported. The countries slated to attend Sunday's talks are Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda, DRC, South Africa, Gabon, Tanzania and Mozambique, news agencies said. Meanwhile, South African President Nelson Mandela held talks with visiting Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Monday and was due to meet Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame as part of diplomatic efforts to try and resolve the conflict, news reports said.

Nairobi summit calls for peace-keeping force

Earlier, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Museveni called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the DRC and the setting up of a neutral international peace-keeping force under OAU and UN auspices, news agencies said. The three leaders met in Nairobi on Sunday under the framework of the East African Cooperation. Kabila had been expected to attend the meeting but did not arrive, news organisations reported.

Kabila visits Sudan

Kabila paid a one-day visit to Khartoum on Saturday for talks with President Omar al-Bashir. Sudanese radio said they discussed the "foreign invasion" and efforts to counter it. Bashir expressed Sudan's support for the DRC.

New US envoy backs DRC

The new US ambassador to DRC, William Swing, expressed optimism that the authorities "are on the right path". In comments broadcast by DRC television on 15 October, he said the US "condemned the external military interference from countries such as Rwanda and Uganda". "We support every sincere effort to help you find an end to this war," he added.

Commander defects to rebels, South Kivu governor sacked

According to DRC state television on Monday, the South Kivu governor Jean-Charles Magabe had "succeeded in fleeing" the area and was now in Europe. A decree read out earlier over rebel-held Bukavu radio said Magabe had been sacked for dereliction of duty. His deputy, Benjamin Serukiza, was appointed acting governor, it said. Meanwhile, Rwandan radio on Tuesday said Colonel Songolo Nura, a senior military adviser to Kabila, had joined the RCD from Katanga province.

Finance Minister sacked for alleged mismanagement

DRC Finance Minister Fernand Tala Ngai, whose dismissal was announced by the government on Tuesday, was reportedly arrested for mismanaging public funds, Radio France Internationale said. It said rumours were also circulating in Kinshasa about his purported links with the rebels.

ICRC visits detained Tutsis in Lubumbashi

The ICRC this week began visiting detained ethnic Tutsis in Lubumbashi, an ICRC spokesperson told IRIN. Meanwhile, visits to Tutsis detained at the Kokolo camp in Kinshasa were continuing, she added.

Supplies looted amid looming "disaster"

At least US $800,000 worth of UNICEF relief supplies and equipment has been looted by DRC rebels since August, UNICEF Representative Ibrahim Jabr told IRIN. In Bukavu, looting of the remaining UNICEF supplies is continuing under the direction of a rebel military commander, Jabr said, adding that much of the stolen items are being sold on Bukavu's markets.

The return of looted property is one of the conditions recently agreed upon with the rebel movement for the resumption of UN agency activities in eastern DRC, Jabr noted. Meanwhile, the deterioration of already-poor nutritional conditions, lack of water-treatment chemicals and shortages of drugs in the east constitute a "recipe for disaster" for children and other vulnerable groups, Jabr said.

Crisis threatens polio-eradication goal

The postponement of DRC's national polio vaccination campaign on account of the outbreak of conflict in August was a "serious setback" to worldwide efforts to eradicate the disease by the year 2000, a WHO spokesperson told IRIN. UNICEF's Ibrahim Jabr, meanwhile, said that the DRC government has rescheduled the national polio campaign to start in December.

BURUNDI: Arusha talks end, next round slated for January

The third round of peace talks ended in Arusha, Tanzania, on Thursday and a fourth round will resume on 18 January 1999, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. The Nyerere Foundation, which is sponsoring the peace process, said the next round of talks would focus on reconstruction and development and on proposals put forward by three working commissions on the nature of the conflict, democracy and good governance, and peace and security.

Annan appoints senior UN adviser to peace process

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced he had appointed a senior UN adviser to the peace process mediator, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere. In a letter to the Security Council, Annan named the adviser as Ayite Jean-Claude Kpakpo of Benin. Annan stressed the "renewed importance" of the Burundi peace process and the UN's support for the talks.

13 killed in rebel attack

Thirteen people were killed and 17 injured during a rebel attack in the northwest province of Bubanza, AFP reported. It quoted provincial governor Gilbert Kayonde who blamed the Sunday night attack on PALIPEHUTU rebels. He said the attackers had infiltrated from neighbouring DRC.

RWANDA: Number of displaced people increasing in northwest

The OCHA office in Rwanda told IRIN on Friday the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the northwestern prefectures of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi is still increasing, reaching a total of 478,637 on 14 October. In its September report, OCHA said over the past few months, more people have emerged from hiding in the forests. Reports note that the IDPs are malnourished and require assistance.

Washington embassy warns of "second genocide"

The Rwandan embassy in Washington has warned of a "second genocide" unfolding in the Great Lakes region and urged the international community to act before it is too late. In a press release, received by IRIN, the embassy said: "While photojournalists find their way to the battlefront to photograph Kosovo Albanians, the visual account of what is happening right now in the eastern DRC remains unseen."

SUDAN: War-wounded patients on increase

The number of admissions to the ICRC hospital in Lokichokio, northern Kenya, has increased by 40 percent over the past six weeks due to renewed fighting in Eastern Equatoria, according to an ICRC statement received by IRIN. The statement said that 100 new patients were treated at the Lokichokio hospital in the first two weeks of October alone. More than half had gunshot wounds, it said.

Over 14,000 returnees registered in Yambio

WFP announced that 14,241 Sudanese returnees from DRC have been registered in Yambio, western Equatoria, by the local authorities. The returnees were reportedly in good health.

Wau situation improved but still critical

While the humanitarian situation in the Wau area of Bahr al-Ghazal has improved since September, any interruption in assistance would be fatal for thousands of people, UNICEF said. In a briefing note received by IRIN, it said that the influx of displaced people in government-held Wau had almost stopped and that the situation had stabilised. Meanwhile, families displaced from the Nuba Mountains continue to arrive in a camp in the Kadugli area of South Kordofan, UNICEF said.

Annan reports on Sudan crisis

In his latest report on emergency assistance to the Sudan, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged the parties to the conflict and donor governments to work together to avert the deaths of innocent victims in the country. Annan said that prospects for an early end to the crisis in southern Sudan remained limited and that substantial amounts of food aid were likely to be required until October 1999. The report was prepared for the General Assembly.

UGANDA: Three NGO workers killed

Three Sudanese employees of Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) were killed when their convoy was attacked and looted near the Sudanese border in northern Uganda on 15 October, an NPA spokesman told IRIN on Monday. The attack took place some 20 km from Koboko as the NPA convoy was returning from western Equatoria, NPA said.

New LRA faction created

The rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has split into two factions over the issue of the treatment of civilians, the 'New Vision' newspaper reported on Friday. The new faction, known as LRA-Democratic, is led by Ronald Otim Komakech, a long-time war planner for LRA leader Joseph Kony, the newspaper said. Komakech's faction was reported to have set up an office in Juba, southern Sudan, under the protection of another rebel group, the Uganda National Rescue Front Part Two (UNRF-2), it added.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Food airlifted to capital

The government this week started airlifting food from the southern port city of Pointe-Noire to the capital Brazzaville in response to food shortages caused by inaccessible roads and the suspension of rail traffic, Reuters said yesterday. Train traffic between the two cities was suspended in late September due to insecurity in the Pool region south of Brazzaville.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: UN mission's mandate extended

The UN Security Council on 15 October extended the mandate of the UN mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) until 28 February 1999 to support upcoming legislative elections in November/December. UN spokesman Fred Eckhard announced that the mandate of the UN mission will include transportation and security of electoral observers and material, as well as limited monitoring of the elections. Meanwhile, France has sent another contingent of 80 men to join MINURCA, news agencies reported.

Nairobi, 23 October 1998

[ENDS]

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