IRIN Update No. 577 for Central and Eastern Africa
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for Central and Eastern Africa
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TANZANIA: Drought reports "exaggerated"
Humanitarian sources in Tanzania have described local press reports of a famine emergency as "exaggerated". "There could be a problem around the corner in February/March and that's what we need to ascertain, but there's no cause for panic at the moment," the sources told IRIN today (Wednesday). "There is a genuine need in some of the regions and we are responding to it." WFP is distributing food to drought-affected people in the two worst hit regions of Singida and Dodoma and is conducting a food security assessment across the country.
Local media have claimed that up to 300,000 people are at risk in 15 of Tanzania's 20 regions. To date there have been 15 reported deaths from starvation. But the alleged fatalities are "very anecdotal and certainly not due just to starvation," the sources said. They however acknowledge that Tanzania is facing shortages compounded by the drought of 1996/97 and the heavy El Nino rains of 1997/98. This season's short rains have also been late. Household incomes are currently being stretched by low livestock prices and high maize prices, the sources added.
Retired soldiers recruited for DRC, paper says
Retired Tanzanian army officers are allegedly being recruited by Uganda to fight alongside anti-Kinshasa rebels in the DRC, the independent Dar es Salaam newspaper 'The Guardian' reported yesterday (Tuesday). Quoting unnamed sources, the paper said the last batch of former officers left for training in Uganda last month. 'The Guardian' added that at the time of going to press, it could not establish whether the ministry of defence was aware of the recruitment drive.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels claim capture of northwestern town
Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) rebels said yesterday they had captured the northwestern town of Gemena in Equateur province, news agencies reported. Rebel commander Sylvain Buki told journalists in Goma that Gemena fell at the weekend. There was no independent confirmation of the claim.
Rebels raise power-sharing idea
The RCD would insist on occupying the posts of vice-president as well as ministers of defense and foreign affairs in any government of national unity formed to resolve the DRC crisis, the Kinshasa-based 'La Reference Plus' newspaper said on Monday. 'La Reference Plus' said the proposed power-sharing arrangement was one of the issues raised by RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba during his discussions with Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi on Saturday.
DRC and Congo-Brazzaville sign non-aggression pact
DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila and his Congo-Brazzaville counterpart Denis Sassou-Nguesso signed a non-aggression pact in Brazzaville yesterday to prevent their territories being used as launch pads for destabilisation. According to media reports, a joint statement at the end of the meeting said the two neighbours agreed to dismantle any "irregular force bases" and to prevent the build up of armed gangs.
Kampala, Kigali to keep troops in DRC
Uganda and Rwanda are to keep their troops in the DRC until a political settlement is reached that satisfies their security concerns, news reports said yesterday. The agreement was made at a one-day meeting between Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart Pasteur Bizimungu in the Ugandan border town of Kabale. In a joint statement, both men dismissed as "baseless" media allegations of conflict between Rwandan and Ugandan troops in the DRC.
Four Ugandan officers removed from DRC
Four Ugandan army officers have been arrested and sent home from the DRC for alleged misconduct, the semi-official 'New Vision' reported today. The newspaper, citing military sources, said Lieutenant Colonel John Nyakaitana, a captain and two lieutenants are being held in Kampala charged with various offences.
Reduced harvest expected in Uvira
Late rains, renewed displacement, recent insecurity and looting of seeds and tools will result in a reduced harvest in the Uvira area of South Kivu, an NGO assessment has found. As a result of the situation, the number of people in the area requiring support has increased, with some "highly vulnerable" groups requiring urgent assistance, Food for the Hungry International (FHI) said. In a report received by IRIN, FHI also said some 11,000 people displaced from the Vyura and Kalemie areas of Katanga were currently living in crowded conditions and "below a minimum acceptable humanitarian standard" in Uvira's schools and factories.However, the Vyura displaced were just one of many vulnerable groups in the area, and aid should therefore be provided proportionally, FHI said. The NGO's agricultural programme targeting some 6,000 vulnerable families in Uvira was suspended in August due to the conflict.
Meanwhile, humanitarian sources said the security situation in Uvira had improved and night-time shootings had stopped. It was possible to travel by road between Baraka and Kamanyola, and the border to Burundi was now open, the sources said. However, the escarpment road north of Kamanyola continued to be plagued by banditry, they added.
UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator to visit DRC and Congo-Brazzaville
The UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths is to travel to the DRC and Congo-Brazzaville from 18-23 January to review humanitarian conditions, according to OCHA headquarters in New York. In the DRC he will discuss mechanisms for cooperation in the delivery of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by fighting. In Brazzaville he will assess humanitarian requirements and discuss coordination arrangements with UN agencies.
SUDAN: Opposition barred from delivering peace petition
Leaders of Sudan's banned opposition parties were yesterday prevented from handing over a protest letter to President Omar al-Bashir calling for an end to the war in the south, AP reported. The 17-man delegation including former vice president Aber Alier and several former generals were stopped by security guards. The opposition leaders called for a "just and permanent peace agreement" and for a "democratic foundation" in the country.
ETHIOPIA: FAO/WFP predicts near-record harvest but continued shortages
A joint FAO/WFP report predicts near-record crop yields in Ethiopia this year, but warns that some 2 million people will still require 180,000 mt of food aid in 1999. Cereal and pulse yields were forecast to reach 11.69 million mt, up 36 percent on last year's poor harvest. But even with improved yields, food security has remained chronic in many parts of the country because of limited availability and access to food, according to a FAO/WFP statement received by IRIN. Overall, the joint assessment mission estimated a sharp drop in food aid needs for 1999. Of the roughly 180,000 mt required, 35 percent is needed for the Amhara region, 33 percent for Oromo and 20 percent for Tigray. The estimate does not include relief aid requirements for pastoral areas nor Ethiopians displaced by the border conflict with Eritrea.
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