IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 30 covering the period 24-30 July

from IRIN
Published on 30 Jul 1999
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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Hundreds reported dead in tribal fighting

Hundreds of people are reported dead north of Bunia in Province Orientale as tribal warfare continues in the Djugu area. Sources in touch with the area told IRIN on Thursday fierce clashes between the Balendu and Wageregere groups had also resulted in the torching of thousands of homes and the displacement of thousands of people. Warning of a "humanitarian disaster in the making", the sources added that neighbouring ethnic groups such as the Alur and Nyali were overstretched due to the burden of providing food and shelter to people fleeing into their areas. Radio Candip in Bunia on Friday said a reconciliation meeting between the two warring groups began on Thursday and was continuing in a bid to resolve their differences.

South Kivu displaced returning home

Humanitarian sources say hundreds of displaced people are returning to their homes in parts of South Kivu. About 95 percent of the population of Shabunda area has reportedly returned home. There are also reports of people returning to their homes between Uvira and Baraka, after fighting forced them to flee to the surrounding mountains. However, the presence of Interahamwe militia around Katana and Walungu is still causing people to leave their home villages in those areas.

Rebel talks end in stalemate, groups to meet again next week

The likelihood of rebel groups signing the Lusaka cease-fire was set back again on Tuesday when talks addressing the rift in the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) and the issue of whether ousted RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, who leads a breakaway faction based in Kisangani, should be allowed sign the cease-fire agreement ended in stalemate on Tuesday. Rebel-controlled Uvira radio said mainstream RCD leader, Emile Ilunga, rejected a proposal that the two men sign jointly, stressing he was the "sole guardian" of the RCD movement. The rebel groups are expected to meet again in Tanzania next week in a bid to break the impasse.

JMC chairman takes up position in Lusaka

The Algerian general whom the OAU appointed to head the Joint Military Commission (JMC) established to supervise the DRC cease-fire has taken up his post in Lusaka. General Lalli Rachid said on arrival that he hoped to move quickly to have the cease-fire implemented, the BBC reported. The UN Security Council said on Monday it was prepared to vote shortly on deploying up to 90 military personnel who would liaise with the JMC and "begin planning for a UN role in the implementation of the cease-fire agreement, once it is signed by all parties." UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Tuesday the size of a peacekeeping force would depend on the mandate it was given, but that it would be "credible, competent" and "the right structure to be able to defend itself and its mandate."

Minister's visit signals fresh South African approach

South Africa is launching a fresh attempt to bring about a cease-fire in DRC, news organisations reported. Foreign Minister Nkosazana Zuma travelled to Uganda and Rwanda on Tuesday, for talks with leaders of those countries aimed at persuading Congolese rebels to sign the Lusaka cease-fire accord. She met Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, before moving onto Rwanda where she had consultations on Wednesday with RCD rebels.

Bas-Congo situation "critical"

Humanitarian sources have described the situation in Bas-Congo province as "critical", compounded by the influx of Angolan and Republic of Congo (ROC) refugees and intensified fighting along the Angola-DRC border. The sources told IRIN the worst fears of aid agencies were now being realised, with ever greater numbers of refugees from ROC's Pool region surging into the country. The condition of refugees, arriving in their hundreds every day, was described as "appalling", with high mortality due to malnutrition.

Kinshasa peace march planned for anniversary of war

Prominent civil society groups in Kinshasa have called for a huge peace march on 2 August in the DRC capital. According to a statement sent to IRIN on Wednesday, the Campagne nationale pour la paix has organised the march to coincide with the first anniversary of the current civil war as a way for people to express their opposition to the war and their support for a cease-fire and national reconciliation.

RWANDA: UNHCR says Rwandan refugees "most pressing problem"

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata said on Monday the most pressing refugee problem for the Great Lakes region was "to tackle the problem of Rwandans who had not yet returned after fleeing the country in the aftermath of genocide". She said UNHCR would resume support for the repatriation of Rwandans still in eastern DRC and that Rwandans in the Republic of Congo would be offered either repatriation or the opportunity to settle in the north of the host country. Up to 30,000 Rwandan returnees from the DRC are anticipated in the next few months, to join more than 21,000 who crossed between January and June, a UN report from Kigali said.

Appeal for north-west

The government, in conjunction with the UN, on Tuesday launched an extension of its December 1998 donor alert for northwestern Rwanda, appealing for US $19.6 million - including US $6.9 million in food aid - to cover funding gaps from the previous appeal. The alert also covers additional nutrition and agriculture needs to the end of this year.

Oxfam says debt service requirements violate human rights

The NGO, Oxfam International, has called for Rwanda's multilateral and bilateral creditors "to take bold steps to alleviate Rwanda's debt burden" because "not only is the prioritisation of creditors' claims over children's lives a human rights violation, it is also inconsistent with donor programmes aimed at promoting peace and development". Rwanda last year paid out US $35 million, one quarter of its entire budget, in debt-service payments, the agency said.

BURUNDI: WFP resumes operations outside Bujumbura

The UN's World Food Programme has resumed operations outside the capital Bujumbura, suspended earlier this month after one of its vehicles was attacked and a staff member injured. In a statement, received by IRIN on Wednesday, WFP said it began on Monday by distributing 288 mt of food to over 17,000 people in the areas of Gihanga and Gihungwe.

Foreign Minister says ties with Nyerere "not cut"

Burundian Foreign Minister Severin Ntahomvukiye has said that despite accusations against the government by peace process mediator Julius Nyerere, "ties have not been cut". He said Nyerere - who said the government was "blocking" the peace process - had sent his envoy, former Tanzanian premier Joseph Warioba, to Bujumbura for discussions and it was time to "close the chapter and move forward". The government was still in favour of the Arusha process but wanted a change in the "methodology", Ntahomvukiye said. "It's necessary to improve the procedure and the rhythm", he added.

Warioba outlines agenda for next round of Arusha talks

Warioba, an envoy of talks facilitator Julius Nyerere, said the next round of talks - due to begin on 6 September - would last six to eight weeks, longer than previously envisaged, the private Azania news agency reported. Issues under discussion would include the transition, the electoral process and whether to integrate rebel forces in the Burundian army, Warioba added.

Nyangoma's CNDD calls for direct talks with army

Azania also reported a call on Thursday by the rebel Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD) faction of Leonard Nyangoma for direct talks with the Burundian army. A spokesman for the group, Sylvestre Maruha, said the Arusha talks would only be successful if the facilitators "defined the objective of the talks" and identified the "real belligerents". Maruha added that the donors were financing the Arusha talks without properly evaluating them.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Recent fighting forces 30,000 to flee to Gabon

The number of refugees who fled to Gabon in the past couple of weeks to avoid fighting in ROC now stands at around 30,000, with the border provinces of Nyanga and Haut Ogooue having taken most of the influx. Some 2,000 are estimated to have made their way to the capital, Libreville.

UN report notes continued suffering of civilians

The UN has noted the "immense impact" of renewed military activities on a population that was just starting to recover from the effect of a devastating civil war in 1997. A UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal (CAP) said "insecurity still reigns in the countryside where government forces are encountering a guerrilla activity of uncontrollable, ethnically-drawn militia." A Common Humanitarian Action Plan has been formulated to tackle the issues of displacement and demilitarisation.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Continuing concern over DRC refugees

Humanitarian sources continue to express concern over the condition of tens of thousands of Congolese refugees, warning that the "precarious" condition of the refugees could lead to epidemics at any time. UNHCR, meanwhile, said the refugees fall into two distinct groups, with a concentration of 6,000-7,000 in the Bangui area and a further 13,000 - comprising some 6,000 DRC soldiers - in the Mobaye area. The agency has started a process of moving refugee groups from Bangui to Bou Bou, 350 km away, and plans to move 5,000 Congolese over the next week or so.

UGANDA: Civilians attack rebels

Civilians in the northern Ugandan town of Apac "hacked" four members of the new rebel organisation, the Citizens' Army for Multiparty Politics (CAMP) until they revealed where they had hidden their guns, the 'New Vision' reported. CAMP was said to have been headed by ex-president Milton Obote's former chief-of-staff Smith Opon Acak, who was killed by the Ugandan army last week.

SUDAN: OLS warns thousands of children at risk

Operation Lifeline Sudan has warned that the failure of the Sudanese government and rebel SPLA to agree during peace talks in Nairobi on an extension of the humanitarian cease-fire in southern Bahr al Ghazal state or other parts of the country "threatened to imperil the lives of hundreds of thousands of children". OLS also expressed fear that renewed fighting could trigger "massive displacement" in a region already weakened by the 1998 famine.

Humanitarian crisis could worsen with flight ban

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) on Tuesday expressed fears of a "worsening humanitarian crisis" in southern Sudan resulting from a flight ban in the western Upper Nile which has entered its second week. The ban was announced by the Sudanese government on 14 July in the five main population and relief centres of Leer, Duar, Boaw, Nyal and Ganyiel. A WFP statement said the ban made most of the region inaccessible to relief agencies trying to deliver urgent humanitarian assistance to some 150,000 people.

TANZANIA: "Incredible pressure" on refugee operations

Humanitarian agencies this week expressed great concern at the situation of refugees who have fled the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the Kigoma region of western Tanzania, as hundreds of Congolese flee the fighting to already overcrowded camps. Lugufu camp, one of two catering for the Congolese arrivals, was already "seriously overcrowded" with 62,000 registered refugees in a facility designed for 40,000, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The UN refugee agency UNHCR confirmed to IRIN the problems of overcrowding and refugee care at Lugufu and at Nyarugusu, the other camp in western Kigoma that caters for Congolese refugees, saying that while double registrations had inflated refugee numbers somewhat, both camps were overcrowded and "there is a serious problem."

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Both sides reportedly ready to implement peace accord

The OAU says both Ethiopia and Eritrea are ready to implement the peace agreement aimed at ending their border conflict. In a statement, received by IRIN, the OAU said Algeria - which currently holds the OAU chairmanship - sent an envoy to the two countries at the head of a delegation which noted the "clear disposition" of both sides to implement the deal. Diplomats were quoted as saying there was more optimism than at any time since the war broke out in May 1998.

SOMALIA: "Worst-case scenario" unfolding, UN says

A UN report points out that the "worst-case scenario" is unfolding in Somalia, particularly in central and southern areas where two-thirds of the population lives. A mid-term review of the Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal (CAP) says the prospect of a serious humanitarian disaster still looms, due to an expected poor July harvest in the "bread basket" areas of Bay and Bakool, and continuing civil unrest. The report underlines the "two faces" of Somalia: chronic crisis in central/southern areas, and relative stability and early development in northern areas which give a "ray of hope" for the future.

Nairobi, 30 July 1999, 15:30 gmt


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