IRIN Update No. 615 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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ETHIOPIA/ERITREA: US statement riles Ethiopia
The Ethiopian government today (Tuesday) described as "out of sync with .... reality'" a statement by the U.S. government expressing regret at Ethiopian air strikes against Eritrea since the weekend and calling for a moratorium on air raids.
"The talk about air moratorium at a time when a full-scale war is raging .... is amazingly naive and amounts to showing lack of seriousness about the magnitude of the crime committed by the Eritrean authorities," Ethiopia said in a statement.
The U.S State Department's deputy spokesman, James Foley, said yesterday (Monday) that Washington "deeply regrets the use of air power by Ethiopia in the current conflict, in particular against economic targets and near civilian population centers".
"We urge the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to resume the moratorium immediately," he added. "We also urge the Eritrean authorities to continue to uphold their commitment to the terms of the moratorium."
Meanwhile, Eritrea said today its forces had repelled an Ethiopian assault on the western front, destroying or capturing several tanks, news agencies reported. Ethiopia's ground assault began after Antonov warplanes and artillery bombarded Eritrean positions early this morning, APquoted an Eritrean Foreign Ministry statement as saying. Ethiopia today confirmed fighting at the front, but declined to give details.
SOMALIA: New arms supplies alleged
An unidentified vessel has been unloading military equipment thought to be for faction leader Hussein Aideed at the port of Merca, south of Mogadishu, several independent diplomatic and political sources have informed IRIN. The materiel is said to include arms, ammunition and armoured personnel carriers. Meanwhile, a Mogadishu newspaper, 'Xog-Ogaal', monitored by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), reported on Sunday that 200 of Aideed's militiamen would soon be trained in Eritrea. [For full item see Irin-english-328, headlined 'SOMALIA: New supplies of arms to Somalia alleged']
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 yesterday, the ICTR noted that nearly half of the counsels it had appointed thus far to defend indigent accused came from Canada and France. The paper 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.
It said that contrary to reports in some media alleging that the moratorium was implemented so as to hire African lawyers, practically all the counsel assigned to indigent accused persons since its imposition had been non-Africans, mainly from Belgium, Italy and the United States. The paper also noted that, by international law, it was up to the Tribunal to choose defence lawyers for accused persons who were indigent.
Detainee Jean-Paul Akayesu, who was assigned a French-speaking Italian lawyer as defence counsel on 9 February, has insisted on being represented by a Canadian for his appeal. Akayesu, the paper said, had asked the Canadian lawyer to represent him free of charge but had not received a response from the attorney.
Three new judges sworn in
Meanwhile, three new ICTR judges, Lloyd Williams from Jamaica, Dionysios Kondylis of Greece and Pavel Dolenc from Slovenia, were yesterday sworn in, bringing the total to nine. The UN General Assembly elected the new judges in November from among candidates put up by 18 countries. They will work in a third trial chamber established by a resolution of the UN Security Council last year to speed up the work of the tribunal.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Zambian peace plan
A fresh peace plan for the Great Lakes region, proposed by Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, has received support from the European Union (EU). In a declaration issued in Brussels on 17 February, the EU said it "expresses once again its strong support for the regional peace initiatives undertaken among others in the framework of SADC and the OAU as well as by President Chiluba." It added that it "would be prepared to consider a rehabilitation programme for DRC in case of an effective cessation of hostilities, and internal progress on peace, democracy and respect for human rights".
The plan proposed by Chiluba provides for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of foreign troops from the DRC and the deployment there of a UN-backed peacekeeping force, Reuters reported yesterday. Other aspects of the proposal include the provision of security guarantees for Rwanda and Uganda. Chiluba was expected to discuss the plan this week with Uganda's Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda's Paul Kagame.
Meanwhile, PANA quoted Mozambican President Joachim Chissano as saying yesterday in Lusaka that he was prepared to help Chiluba in his bid to bring peace to the DRC. He also denied reports that he was being identified to replace Chiluba as SADC's chief mediator in the DRC crisis.
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 yesterday from Uvira. Four other people also received death sentences, it said.
UNITED NATIONS: Talks on protecting civilians in armed conflicts resume
The UN Security Council yesterday resumed talks on the protection of civilians, especially women, children, refugees and internally displaced persons, during armed conflicts. Speakers called for stronger enforcement of humanitarian law, unimpeded access for humanitarian workers and an end to the recruitment of child soldiers. They noted that parties who were accountable to no one often ignored or had no knowledge of international humanitarian and human rights laws. Landmines and the proliferation of small weapons also had to be tackled, they said.
The meeting was held to allow countries that are not members of the Council to share their views. A UN press release quoted several delegates at the meeting as drawing attention to the anarchic nature of contemporary conflicts, most of them internal. Other speakers said economic sanctions should be targeted so as not to increase the poverty and suffering of the primary victims of war - women, children and the elderly.
CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: 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.
A crisis unit was set up by the government to transport and assist the displaced persons. The unit includes WFP, UNHCR and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the report added. Fighting between government forces and militia groups since late 1998 has displaced an undetermined number of people from the Pool region and other areas of southern Congo.
SUDAN: UNICEF to probe slavery issue
The NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said it had bought the freedom of another 300 women and children enslaved in Sudan, BBC reported yesterday. It said the freed slaves were part of a group of 600 women seized in raids by government troops and allied Popular Defence Forces militia. Last month, CSW said it had bought the freedom of more than 1,000 women enslaved during raids near Wau. BBC quoted a spokesman as saying the organisation had paid about US $50 per person.
Meanwhile, a UNICEF spokesman in Geneva told IRIN today that UNICEF would carry out a study on slavery in Sudan. The Sudanese government had asked the UN agency to look into the slavery allegations, he added.
Nairobi, 23 February 1999, 1630 GMT
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