IRIN Update No. 605 for Central and Eastern Africa

Report
from IRIN
Published on 09 Feb 1999
U N I T E D N A T I O N S
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

ERITREA-ETHIOPIA: Displaced persons camp hit in bombing raid

Five people were killed in an Ethiopian bombing raid at a displaced people's camp at Lailai Deder in Eritrea, eye witnesses told IRIN today (Tuesday). An international journalist who was at the scene earlier today told IRIN that the raids started at 4.50 a.m., and were followed by another attack by Ethiopian aircraft at about 9 a.m.. Local people told journalists the displaced persons, living in tents with some support from humanitarian agencies, had been deported last June from northern Ethiopia. Lailai Deda is about 40 km from the front line.

Both sides in the ongoing Ethiopia-Eritrea border war have hundreds of thousands of people already displaced or recently repatriated thanks to the conflict. Humanitarian agencies acknowledge that further displacement will happen if the conflict spreads to a wider area. A notional 40 km strip either side of the border is home to about one million people.

OAU meeting "rowdy", Eritrean ambassador expelled

A meeting of the OAU central organ for conflict management held today at the OAU headquarters in Addis became "rowdy", a diplomatic source told IRIN. The meeting was held to discuss the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict, and was briefed by OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim. Another diplomatic source said the Eritrean ambassador to Ethiopia informed the meeting he had been made 'persona non grata' and given 24 hours to leave Ethiopia. An OAU ministerial meeting set for 22 February has been postponed until mid-March "in view of the current situation". Salim called the OAU proposals for a peace agreement still "viable and sound" in a statement released today.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Government launches offensive

Government troops have launched a new offensive against militia forces of ex-premier Bernard Kolelas to the west of Brazzaville, AFP quoted sources close to the government as saying today. Forces backing President Denis Sassou-Nguesso attacked positions held by the Ninja rebels in the Ngoma Tse-Tse region, some 15 km west of the capital. Meanwhile, "sporadic" fighting continued in Dolisie, the country's third largest town, 300 km west of Brazzaville. Cocoye militia backing former president Pascal Lissouba attacked the city last week.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: South Africa reaffirms backing for talks

South African Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo yesterday (Monday) reaffirmed his country's backing for Zambia's efforts at seeking a negotiated solution to the crisis in the DRC. In a press statement, Nzo said: "We remain committed to the need for all-inclusive negotiations as the only recipe for sustainable peace in that country. Our involvement here must not be seen as a series of high-profile events, but rather as part of a drawn-out process." His remarks followed five days of talks in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, which ended at the weekend. Officials told IRIN the talks involving representatives of the foreign and defence ministries of Angola, Zambia, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Namibia, DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, as well as the UN, the OAU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), had ended inconclusively. But the talks, aimed at establishing the modalities of a ceasefire" would resume "within weeks" and would be followed, as planned, by a summit of regional leaders, the officials said.

Chad claims it controls north

Chadian forces claim they control most of the northern half of Equateur province. A Chadian military official told AFP at the weekend that the towns of Lisala and Bumba were in their hands, and the northern part of the province as far as the Congo river. The official claimed that 121 Ugandan and Rwandans had been taken prisoner and would be "soon" handed over to ICRC. Independent analysts estimate Chad has some 2,000 troops in northern DRC. Meanwhile, Uganda's Minister of Defence Stephen Kavuma has denied Chad is holding Ugandan POWs. He said the Ugandan army was not operating in the northern sector, state radio reported yesterday

RWANDA: Government reshuffle

Rwanda's minister of foreign affairs Anastase Gasana has been replaced in a government reshuffle, state radio reported yesterday. Ambassador to Egypt Amri Sued takes over at the ministry. Gasana becomes the minister in the president's office in charge of institutional relations. A genocide survivor, Jean de Dieu Mucyo, takes over the justice ministry following the abrupt departure for the United States of the former minister, Faustin Nteziryayo. Three Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) ministers out of seven have been axed, and five new RPF figures brought in. The government comprises a 21-member cabinet and five secretaries of state. According to the private Rwanda News Agency, public criticism over government mismanagement and corruption has grown. The reshuffle is the third since 1994.

World Bank makes US $75-million loan

The World Bank has approved a US $75-million loan for Rwanda to boost spending on social services, news agencies report. "We are doing this on the understanding that [the DRC] war is coming to an end," senior World Bank economist Chukwuma Obidegwu said yesterday. The loan, dubbed an "economy recovery credit", is to be deposited directly into the central bank. Obidegwu said the World Bank had the government's word the credit would not be spent on the DRC conflict. According to Reuters, donor funds account for around 45 percent of Rwanda's 1999 budget.

Government donates to genocide survivors' fund

The Rwandan government is to provide 4.3 billion Rwandan francs - equivalent to 5 percent of the national budget - to support a fund set up to help genocide survivors. The donation complements funding from local business and civic organisations, the private Rwanda News Agency reported. The Fund spent close to 4 billion Rwandan francs last year targetting health, education and shelter needs of genocide survivors.

Genocide suspects released

Thirty-five genocide suspects were released for lack of evidence on Friday by a court in Byumba, northeast Rwanda. Among them was Immaculee Nyirabizeyimana, speaker of parliament during the interim government. Her release was condemned by the genocide survivors group, Ibuka. The organisation said it would provide "evidence" to the court prosecutor that Nyirabizeyimana was allegedly a senior "genocidaire", the Rwanda News Agency reported.

Meanwhile, the trial of Interahamwe vice-president George Rutaganda resumed in Arusha yesterday. He pleaded not guilty last year in his first appearance before the UN tribunal to eight counts of genocide and genocide-related charges.

KENYA: Vulnerability to food shortages

Several parts of Kenya have remained dry, making the upcoming March-July long rains crucial for human and livestock survival. Farm households have overstretched their traditional coping strategies following successive crop failures. "Farm households residing along the lakeshore will be under considerable food stress in the event of poor long rains since the previous harvest was 20 percent below normal," the February Update of the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) warns. Based on a January survey conducted by FEWS, WFP and the Kenyan government, the Update forecasts domestic food supply for July 1998 - June 1999 to be about 3.1 million mt versus an estimated consumption of 2.9 million mt.

"The situation is bad. About 30-60 percent of the populations in Eastern, North Eastern, Nyanza, Coast and parts of Central province need relief food. We are doing all we can in distribution but we need other agencies to chip in," Kenya's permanent secretary in charge of relief and rehabilitation, Joshua Matui, told IRIN today. According to a current FAO assessment, import needs are estimated at 147,000 mt, and 95,000 mt in food aid is required for 1998/1999.

Regional situation brighter

In Tanzania, the situation could improve if the long rains - which started poorly in December but are now picking up - continue through April, Nick Monda of FEWS said. Although the situation in Sudan has "dramatically" improved because of last year's good harvests and relief assistance, "Sudan remains vulnerable", he warned.

Mombasa court releases bomb suspect

A Kenyan court has refused the extradition to the United States of a Kenyan accused of involvement in last year's embassy bombing. According to news reports, Ali Salim, a mechanic, was released from police custody in Mombasa on Friday. He claimed he had been tortured and unlawfully detained. The high court ordered the immigration department not to allow FBI agents to take Salim out of the country.

Nairobi, 9 February 1999, 15:15 GMT

[ENDS]

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