IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-Up 8-99 covering the period 19-25 Feb 1999

from IRIN
Published on 26 Feb 1999
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Western countries should take action to help Tutsis detained in Kinshasa and elsewhere in the DRC, including by giving them at least temporary asylum, Roberto Garreton, UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the DRC, told IRIN on Thursday after a week-long mission that took him to Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Goma. The DRC government, for its part, should facilitate their departure by issuing them with identity documents, he said.

An estimated 1,000 to 2,000 Tutsis have been detained. The government says they are being held for their own protection, but rebels charge that they are being detained or held hostage by the authorities, Garreton said. Some 150 of the detainees were moved this month from the Kokolo military camp in Kinshasa to another site with "more adequate" conditions, an ICRC spokesman told IRIN.

Garreton also said people in the country were living in fear, especially in the east.There were eight armies and at least 12 other armed groups active in the DRC, mostly in the east, he said.

Rebels sentenced to death for Makobola massacre

Seven people involved in last month's massacre at Makobola in eastern DRC have been sentenced to death by court martial, rebel-controlled 'RTNC Radio' reported from Uvira. Four other people also received death sentences, it said.

Peace efforts

Efforts to achieve peace in the DRC continued this week with the holding on Thursday of a one-day UN-sponsored summit in Yaounde, and visits by African and other dignitaries to various East and Central African capitals.

Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, South African Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo and Tony Lloyd, British Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, travelled to Luanda on separate missions to enlist Angola's help in obtaining a ceasefire in the DRC.

Other capitals visited by Lloyd during his 22-26 February trip included Lusaka and Kinshasa, while Chissano's itinerary included Kampala and Kinshasa. US President Bill Clinton on Wednesday promised support for peacekeeping in Africa in general and for efforts to resolve the conflict in DRC in particular.

On 20 February, EU Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Aldo Ajello, met Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala to discuss ways to achieve peace in the DRC, according to Ugandan radio.

A peace plan proposed by President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia provides for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of foreign troops from the DRC, the deployment there of a UN-backed peacekeeping force, and security guarantees for Rwanda and Uganda, according to Reuters. The EU has expressed support for the plan.

"Shocking" mortality rates in Kivu

A survey conducted last week by the NGO International Rescue Committee (IRC) in the Katana zone near Bukavu indicated that the mortality rate among the zone's inhabitants was 3.8 per 1,000 people per month. Children under five years of age have been dying at the rate of 10.1 to 1,000 a month, mainly from malaria, measles and diarrhoea, according to the survey. Meanwhile, preliminary results of a nutrition survey conducted in Goma by international NGOs indicate that three percent of children there are malnourished, close to one percent severely, humanitarian sources told IRIN

Reactions to Z'ahidi Ngoma's resignation

There were mixed reactions to the resignation last week of Arthur Z'ahidi Ngoma as deputy chairman of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD). Kabila said on 19 February that he was "pleased if Z'ahidi Ngoma has come to his senses" and that the former rebel leader was now free to go to Kinshasa. However, his defection was criticised by rebel leaders, including Jean-Pierre Ondekane, commander of the RCD's armed wing, who dubbed him a "coward".

Z'ahidi Ngoma said he left the RCD mainly because it had refused to become a rally for Congolese and to work towards achieving democracy. He said an RCD victory would merely lead to a third war since the movement's leaders "are only petty puppets" and "will do nothing different from what the AFDL has done".

SUDAN: Rebel town bombed by government planes

Sudanese government aircraft bombed rebel-held Yei on Tuesday, killing one civilian and injuring six others, according the NGO Norwegian People's Aid (NPA). A group of Canadian churches later called on the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone in Sudan to protect people in the south and centre of the country from what they termed indiscriminate bombings. The group includes the Canadian Catholic Bishops' Conference and Anglican and protestant churches.

West Darfur calm but still volatile

The situation in west Darfur was reported to be calm but still volatile this week following large-scale fighting recently between nomadic pastoralists and local farming communities. Medical supplies have been sent to the area to help care for the war wounded. A recent UN/NGO/government mission to West Darfur found that the conflict over scarce land and water resources had displaced thousands of families, destroyed more than 60 villages and killed scores if not hundreds of people.

UNICEF to probe slavery

The NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said it had bought the freedom of another 300 women and children enslaved in Sudan, part of a larger group seized in raids by government troops and allied Popular Defence Forces militia. BBC quoted a spokesman as saying CSW had paid about US $50 per person. Meanwhile, a UNICEF spokesman in Geneva told IRIN that UNICEF would carry out a study on slavery in Sudan, whose government had asked the UN agency to look into the issue.

Khartoum broaches secession issue

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said in a television interview on 20 February that he was prepared to accept a separate state in southern Sudan if that would end the country's 15-year-old civil war. However, SPLA spokesman John Luc said there was nothing new to al Bashir's offer. "This statement will be tested mid-next month at the Sudan peace talks in Nairobi," he added. "If Bashir is serious then let his delegation come with the proposal at the talks. In the meantime, we are waiting to see."

SOMALIA: New arms supplies alleged

An unidentified vessel has unloaded military equipment thought to be for faction leader Hussein Aideed at the port of Merca, south of Mogadishu, independent diplomatic and political sources told IRIN. The materiel is said to include arms, ammunition and armoured personnel carriers. Meanwhile, a Mogadishu newspaper, 'Xog-Ogaal' reported on Sunday that 200 of Aideed's militiamen would soon be trained in Eritrea.

UN Security Council worried about humanitarian situation

The UN Security Council on Tuesday urged the international community to pay close attention to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Somalia. In a statement to the press, the Council's president, Robert Fowler of Canada, said it had been briefed on the "clearly appalling" situation in Somalia by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast. Fowler said Council members urged the international community to provide the assistance desperately needed by the civilian population. They also reiterated a call contained in a 1992 Security Council resolution for all states to honour the arms embargo on Somalia.

ETHIOPIA/ERITREA: US riles Addis, fighting continues

[Reuters quoted Eritrea as acknowledging on Friday 26 February that Ethiopian troops had broken through its lines on the Badme front "through sheer weight of numbers".] Eritrea had said on Tuesday that its forces had repelled an Ethiopian assault on the western front, destroying or capturing several tanks and had reported heavy fighting on Wednesday.

Ethiopia maintained this week that fighting would continue "until our sovereign territory has been restored". It said if outside observers wanted the fighting to cease, they should apply all possible pressure on Eritrea to accept and implement an OAU framework agreement for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

On Tuesday Ethiopia described as "out of sync ...with reality" a Monday call by the U.S State Department's deputy spokesman, James Foley, for a moratorium on air raids. Foley had said Washington deeply regretted the use of air power by Ethiopia, in particular against economic targets and near civilian population centers.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Ngoma Tse-Tse recaptured, army says

The Congolese army recaptured the town of Ngoma Tse-Tse, 20 km west of Brazzaville, AFP reported Tuesday. A military source said 30 rebels were killed in the weekend battle for the town, while one government soldier was wounded. Ngoma Tse-Tse is on the Brazzaville/Pointe-Noire railway line. Fighting between government forces and Ninja militia allied to former Prime Minister Bernard Kolelas intensified in the area late last year.

Some 20,000 displaced in Pointe-Noire

Thousands of displaced persons have been fleeing into Congo's economic capital of Pointe-Noire, WFP said in its latest weekly emergency report. It said about 20,000 displaced Congolese had so far arrived in the port city. Among the new arrivals were some 200 malnourished children who were provided with one-week WFP food rations, the report said.

RWANDA: ICTR clears the air on assignment of counsel

A temporary moratorium recently imposed by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on the appointment of defence lawyers from Canada and France is meant "to achieve a better geographic balance and better representation of the principal legal systems of the world", according to the Arusha-based ICTR.

In a position paper released this week, the ICTR noted that nearly half of the counsels it had appointed thus far to defend indigent accused came from Canada and France. The explanation came in response to "a misinformation campaign against the ICTR" which "has created many misconceptions about the Tribunal's policy and the state of the law," the ICTR statement said.

Meanwhile, three new ICTR judges, Lloyd Williams from Jamaica, Dionysios Kondylis of Greece and Pavel Dolenc from Slovenia, were sworn in on Monday, bringing the total to nine.

More suspects netted

Genocide suspect Ignace Bagilishema, former mayor of a Rwandan town, arrived on 20 February in Arusha, after being intercepted in South Africa. Another genocide suspect, former Rwandan health minister Casimir Bizimungu, was this week handed over to the ICTR after being arrested on 11 February in Nairobi.

UNITED NATIONS: Sec-Gen wants bigger Security Council role in peacekeeping

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday expressed regret at the UN Security Council's increasing tendency to leave peacekeeping to regional bodies. He said the number of UN peacekeepers had shrunk from nearly 80,000 in 1994 to just 14,000 in 1998. At the same time, local powers and regional organisations in Africa, for example, are "turning more and more to the United Nations for help", he noted.

Citing the DRC as an example of the need for international assistance for regional bodies, he said experience had shown that "peacekeeping is best done by people outside the region, who are more easily accepted as truly detached and impartial", he added. However, he said, no UN force can be deployed "unless it is given sufficient strength and firepower to carry out its assignment, and assured of the full backing of the Security Council when it has to use that power."

UNHCR: Guidelines on detaining asylum-seekers upgraded

UNHCR has updated its guidelines on the detention of asylum-seekers. According to a spokesman for the agency, UNHCR regretted the fact that, too often, asylum-seekers were held in prison, sometimes with common criminals, whereas they should only be detained in exceptional circumstances, such as for reasons of public safety or to ascertain identity. Furthermore, detention must be prescribed by national law and conform to international standards, it said, adding that children should not be detained and particular attention should be paid to vulnerable groups.

Nairobi, 26 February 1999 16:30 GMT


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