IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 36 covering the period 4 - 10 Sep 1999

from IRIN
Published on 10 Sep 1999
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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UN officers prepare for deployment

Twenty-one UN military liaison officers (MLOs) are in Nairobi to prepare for immediate deployment to the UN Observer Mission in the DRC (MONUC). According to a press release issued by the UN Regional Humanitarian Advisor's Office in Nairobi, they were to undergo a three-day induction course to acquaint them with the political, military, security, economic, cultural and humanitarian aspects of the MONUC mission. The officers, the first of 90 to be deployed in the region, will be based in Kinshasa, Bujumbura, Kampala, Windhoek, Kigali, Harare and Lusaka. "Although small in number, these MLOs will contribute to confidence-building among the parties and represent the vanguard of further UN involvement," the release said.

RCD factions join Lusaka truce committees

The Joint Military Committee (JMC) and an associated political group created under the Lusaka ceasefire accord met late last week in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, to discuss implementation of the peace plan, news agencies reported. The meetings, over two days, were attended by representatives of all parties involved in the conflict, including the two rival factions of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), they said. However, the RCD factions meeting in South Africa on Tuesday failed to agree on representation in the JMC. News organisations quoted South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad as saying "differences" remained between the two groups.

Support for Lusaka process crucial - US peace institute

The international community must provide robust support for implementation of the Lusaka agreement, which provides a "last exit on the region's highway to hell", a new report from the United States Institute of Peace said. The report said the ceasefire document addressed most of the fundamental issues fuelling the conflict, and lending full support to the accord provided the international community with "a major opportunity for a belated assumption of its responsibilities" to help counter the continuing threat of genocide and regional instability.

Kabila reshuffles military

President Laurent-Desire Kabila has appointed new leaders for the military and has named his son as chief of land forces, news agencies said. A presidential decree read on Congolese state television last Friday said that Lieutenant-General Sylvestre Lwesha was now the chief of defence staff and head of the armed forces, replacing Faustin Munene, who became chief of the country's small air force.

Rebels claim new armed forces chief dead

Meanwhile, the RCD-Goma faction has challenged Kabila to show the newly-appointed armed forces chief, who they claim is dead. RCD information chief Lambert Mende told the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) that Lwecha died nine days ago - before his appointment was announced - at Njonja in Itombwe, south of Bukavu. Earlier, the rebel faction had criticised Lwesha's appointment, saying he was a Mayi-Mayi militia leader who had to be disarmed, news agencies reported on Monday.

No democratisation progress - Garreton

The use of the death penalty has resumed in government areas of the DRC, while rebel forces have continued to commit civilian massacres in the east, UN Human Rights Rapporteur Roberto Garreton told IRIN on Thursday. "Impunity reigns everywhere," Garreton said following his trip to the country from 27 August and 6 September. The level of persecution of journalists and human rights activists remains serious on both sides of the country, he said. In Kinshasa, Garreton discussed democratisation efforts, among other issues, with Kabila. "I did not see any progress in the democratisation process. And when we don't advance in that area, that is a setback" for other areas like human rights, he said.

Warning over severe malnutrition in South Kivu

A group of UN agencies and NGOs in South Kivu have addressed an alert to the international community warning over severe malnutrition in the region. The document, sent to IRIN on Thursday, said an estimated 250,000 people were at immediate risk of life-threatening levels of malnutrition. "Famine is knocking at the door," the report warned. The situation was due to drought, poor soil, erosion, refugees and exacerbated by ongoing war in the region which had caused the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. If assistance is not received soon, "the misery affecting the province could spiral into a very serious humanitarian catastrophe", the report warned.

BURUNDI: Violence continues

Fifteen people were killed last Friday when rebels ambushed a vehicle in Rumonge, 25 km south of Bujumbura, Burundi radio reported. Meanwhile, Burundian security forces killed three rebels during a "heavy exchange" of gunfire in northern Bujumbura on Sunday evening, Burundi radio reported. The assailants were reportedly trying to infiltrate the areas of Mutanga Nord, Gihosha and Mugoboka when security officials launched a counter-offensive.

Defence Minister warns journalists

Defence Minister Colonel Alfred Nkurunziza has criticised some news organisations for "spreading rumours" and warned that journalists working in Bujumbura Rural should be considered as "enemies". In an address to army commanders in the province on Thursday, broadcast by state radio, Nkurunziza took issue with Radio France Internationale (RFI) which he said had broadcast a false report claiming the main Bujumbura-Bugarama road had been closed for security reasons. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Friday said it was "appalled" by Nkurunziza's comments.

Peace talks to resume on Monday

Peace talks aimed at finding a solution to the Burundi conflict will resume on Monday in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, an official of the Nyerere Foundation mediating body, Mark Bomani, told IRIN on Friday. He said the talks will resume as scheduled to continue with discussions "which are at an advanced level". He denied media claims that the ill-health of former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, who is the talks' facilitator, was the reason for postponing the talks from 6 September.

One million to benefit from FAO seeds

FAO in collaboration with partner NGOs has begun compiling beneficiary lists for the upcoming distribution of agricultural materials for the 2000-A season. About one million people will be assisted countrywide though the distribution of 4,000 mt of bean and vegetable seeds, the latest OCHA-Burundi situation report said. WFP will complement this effort by providing 15-day food rations to the beneficiaries, the report added.

RWANDA: Former health minister pleads not guilty

Former Rwandan health minister Casmir Bizimungu last Friday pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity when he made his initial appearance at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, an ICTR statement said. As health minister in the 1994 interim government, Bizimungu is alleged to have failed to "take any steps" to prevent massacres committed in a public hospital for which he was responsible.

Rwandan journalist arrested

A Rwandan journalist has been arrested for alleged incitement to genocide, RNA reported. It quoted the Kigali prosecutor's office as saying Helena Nyirabikali was arrested at her home in the Rwandan capital, accused of "inciting ethnic hatred in turning Hutus against Tutsis". She had been working for the state-owned local Kinyarwanda newspaper 'Imvaho' for over 15 years.

Refugees return to assess situation

Sixty-two Rwandan refugees living in Tanzania on Wednesday returned home to assess the situation in the country and decide whether they would repatriate voluntarily, Rwandan radio reported. The move is part of an ongoing programme aimed at encouraging visits to Rwanda by refugees in Tanzania. Some 549 refugees have returned under the programme, the radio said.

TANZANIA: Preliminary figures show reduction in refugee population

Preliminary figures from the annual refugee re-registration and verification exercise recently conducted in Kigoma show a reduction in the refugee population in the Lugufu, Kibondo and Kasulu camps, WFP said in its latest weekly emergency report. "An overall reduction of 14 percent was reported for the region," the report said.

Over 300,000 refugees by end 1998

Meanwhile, Tanzania hosted some 330,000 refugees by the end of 1998, according to a new report by the US Committee for Refugees. The 'World Refugee Survey' said of that number, 260,000 were from Burundi, about 60,000 from the DRC, 5,000 from Rwanda and 4,000 from Somalia.

UGANDA: Some 600 flee homes following rebel attack

Some 600 people have reportedly fled their homes from several western Ugandan villages following rebel attacks earlier this week, Uganda's Central Broadcasting Service (CBS) said. Nine people were killed in the attacks believed to have been carried out by the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

MPs demand investigation into army activities

A number of Ugandan MPs have signed a new motion demanding an investigation into the army's activities in the DRC, in light of last month's clashes with the Rwandan army in Kisangani, the independent 'Monitor' newspaper reported on Tuesday. They claimed that President Yoweri Museveni, in an address to parliament on 30 August, did not touch on "essential issues" and demanded accountability of the defence budget. According to the 'Monitor', Museveni had told parliament a total of 38 Ugandan soldiers were killed in the clashes, while the semi-official 'New Vision' said he reportedly accused Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame of "playing tricks". Meanwhile, an opinion poll carried out by the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper last week revealed that 81 percent of Kampala residents want the Ugandan army to pull out of the DRC.

Sudanese MPs "shocked" by child abductions

Two Sudanese MPs have concluded a five-day visit to Uganda in which they talked to victims of abductions by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The two were "physically shocked" at what they saw and heard, a UNICEF official told IRIN on Wednesday. "At the end of the visit, they were convinced that the humanitarian aspect of the insurgency should be separated from the political aspect," he said. The two announced they would return soon, probably accompanied by more MPs, to ascertain the situation.

KENYA: Report criticises corporal punishment in schools

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Kenyan teachers of "routine caning and corporal punishment" in schools. In a report issued on Thursday, it described the actions as "cruel, inhuman and degrading". HRW researcher Yodon Thonden told IRIN on Thursday: "Children are caned or given corporal punishment for very minor offences such as poor academic performance or speaking their mother tongue." "Most of these teachers are well-intentioned and many went through the same experience, but because the cruel habit has been carried on by one generation after another, we cannot sit back and watch it go on. These habits need to be dropped," she said.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Preparations "generally satisfactory" - UN

UN Special Representative Oluyemi Adeniji said on Thursday preparations for Sunday's presidential election had been "proceeding generally satisfactorily" although there had been delays in the preparation of some electoral materials. In an IRIN interview, Adeniji said those delays had been due mainly to the technical capability of some of the CAR enterprises involved in material preparation. The UN Mission in the CAR (MINURCA) was "doing all it can" to ensure the elections were transparent and to avert grounds for potential post-election conflict, Adeniji said, adding that over 200 international observers were being deployed throughout the country for Sunday's voting.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Militiamen killed in Pool fighting

Government troops killed several dozen Ninja militiamen, loyal to ousted prime minister Bernard Kolelas, in clashes near Brazzaville over the weekend, AFP reported. The fighting took place some 20 km from the capital in the Pool region, according to a military source, cited by the agency.

"End of crisis" nearing, minister says

Meanwhile, the security situation in the Pool region has improved over the past 2-3 months but "vigilance" was still required, Interior Minister Pierre Oba said last week. Congolese radio quoted Oba as saying that while the problems in Pool were not over, "what we are now managing is a sort of end of a crisis, which is usually a delicate period."

SUDAN: Kenyan envoy leaves Khartoum for Norway

Kenyan presidential envoy to the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Daniel Mboya, has left Khartoum for Norway to discuss issues relating to the next round of IGAD-mediated peace talks, scheduled for 24 September in Nairobi. An official at the Kenyan foreign ministry told IRIN on Wednesday Mboya received an invitation from the IGAD Partners' Forum in Norway requesting him to pass through Khartoum before proceeding to Norway. The envoy left for Khartoum over the weekend to meet government officials to "reactivate" the IGAD efforts, a Sudanese newspaper 'Al-Ra'y al-Amm' reported.

IDPs in Kassala

Over 3,600 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are living at the Debalawet IDP camp, located in a semi-arid area some 20 km from Kassala town, OLS reported. It said the IDPs live in scattered settlements and rely on the "seasonal Gash river for water". According to the report, the IDPs were displaced by insecurity in 1998 from Shalolob village near the border with Eritrea. WFP monitoring staff reported high incidents of malaria and diarrhoea in the area and lack of health and sanitation services.

Khartoum camps "marginally affected"

The Khartoum IDP camps seem to be marginally affected so far by the recent floods in the area, OLS northern sector reported. It said NGOs with projects in the five camps of Wad el Bashir, Jabel Awalia, Karton Kassala, As Salaam and Mayo have already engaged in flood mitigation measures by digging trenches, stocking hospitals with drugs, chlorinating water and pre-positioning plastic sheeting.

ETHIOPIA/ERITREA: Ethiopia rejects some aspects of peace plan

Ethiopia on Monday expressed dissatisfaction with elements of the OAU-led peace plan to end the war with Eritrea. A foreign ministry statement said the "technical arrangements" to resolve the war did not make it clear whether Eritrea would withdraw from all disputed territory. A framework agreement accepted in principle by both sides in February provided for Eritrea's withdrawal from "Badme and its environs" to territory it held before the war. Ethiopia is now questioning whether Eritrea will "withdraw" from two other fronts at Zalambessa and Bure, news organisations reported. Eritrea responded to Ethiopia's latest statement by describing it as "tantamount to a declaration of war".

ETHIOPIA: Extreme vulnerability persists in parts of East Haraghe

A recent multi-agency mission to the East Haraghe zone of Oromiya state found that localised areas of extreme vulnerability still persist. A report issued by the UNDP Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (UNDP-EUE) said that while the situation was difficult to generalise about, the present nutritional condition of people living in the highlands appeared to be relatively better than those at lower altitudes. There were pockets of extreme food insecurity, particularly in the lowlands and midlands. UNDP-EUE also expressed concern about the food situation in the Wolayita area of North Omo zone, stressing that due to the delayed belg rains and prolonged dry period, the 1999 harvest season could be very minimal.

SOMALIA: Cholera outbreak in Bosasso claims 15 lives

WHO says 6,964 cases of cholera have been reported in the country as of 31 August. In a statement, it said the disease is appearing in new areas such as Bosasso, where 15 people have died. A total of 190 cases have been admitted to Bosasso hospital. Over 90 percent of cases are from the same residential area where residents have been drinking from wells adjacent to pit latrines.

UNICEF nutritional survey in Baidoa

A recent nutritional survey carried out by UNICEF in Baidoa found that 21.6 percent of 903 assessed children were moderately or severely malnourished with oedema. The survey was carried out after community leaders and the Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA) administration reported high malnutrition rates in the town. The survey concluded that diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections were the main causes of malnutrition, and its recommendations included the continuation and expansion of general food distribution in the town and surrounding villages to reduce the potential impact of a large influx of people to Baidoa.

Nairobi, 10 September 1999


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