IRIN Update No. 616 for Central and Eastern Africa

Report
from IRIN
Published on 24 Feb 1999
UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for Central and Eastern Africa
Tel: +254 2 622147
Fax: +254 2 622129
e-mail: irin@ocha.unon.org

ETHIOPIA/ERITREA: Heavy fighting continues in Badme

Heavy fighting continued today (Wednesday) between Ethiopian and Eritrean troops along the Badme front. "The fighting is extremely intensive since yesterday (Tuesday) morning," Eritrean government spokesman Yemane Ghebremeskel told IRIN today.

Ethiopia on its part maintained that fighting would continue "until our sovereign territory has been restored". A statement from the office of the government spokesperson said Ethiopia was just exercising its right to self-defence with scrupulous observance of both humanitarian principles and the Geneva convention on war.

It said that if outside observers wanted the fighting to cease, they should apply all possible pressure on Eritrea to accept and implement the OAU framework agreement for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Diplomatic shuttles continue

State officials from three countries converged on Angola today as efforts to bring peace to the DRC continued. Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, South African Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo and Tony Lloyd, envoy of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, arrived on separate missions to enlist the Angolan government's help in obtaining a ceasefire in the DRC, according to the Associated Press (AP). The six-month-old conflict between the Kinshasa government and the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) also took Lloyd to Lusaka and Kinshasa earlier this week. Other stops on his 22-26 February mission include Namibia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Uganda, according to press reports.

Chissano, for his part, visited Uganda on Monday and, on Tuesday, he travelled to Kinshasa with a message from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on ways to end the DRC conflict, according to Reuters. AFP reported that Zambian President Frederick Chiluba was scheduled to travel to Chad on Wednesday to discuss the war with his Chadian counterpart. Troops from Chad, Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe are fighting on the side of the Kinshasa government against the RCD, supported by Uganda and Rwanda.

Three-percent malnutrition found in Goma

Preliminary results of a nutrition survey conducted in Goma indicate that three percent of the children in the town are malnourished, humanitarian sources told IRIN today. The survey, carried out last week by several international NGOs, shows that close to one percent were severely malnourished. While there is no serious nutritional problem in Goma, there is a need for very targeted food assistance to vulnerable groups, the sources said. Details of the survey results are expected shortly.

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

The army has recaptured the town of Ngoma Tse-Tse, 20 km west of Brazzaville, AFP reported yesterday (Tuesday). Citing a military source, AFP 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.

SUDAN: Rebel town bombed by government planes, NPA says

Sudanese government aircraft bombed rebel-held Yei yesterday afternoon and again during the night, the NGO Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) said today. An NPA spokesman told IRIN one civilian was killed and six others injured in the afternoon raid, in which 24 bombs were dropped over a one-hour period. No casualties were reported from the 12 bombs dropped during the second 20-minute raid, which started at 12:30 a.m. today, he said.

NPA said the town had been bombed 11 times since March 1998. The spokesman said it was the first time two bombing raids had taken place in one day and only the second time Yei had been bombed at night over the past year. "Night-time bombings are more frightening because people are in their houses and have difficulty seeing their way to the bunkers," he said.

UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General wants bigger Security Council role in peacekeeping

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday expressed regret at the UN Security Council's increasing tendency to leave peacekeeping to regional bodies.

"It is ... unfortunate that in recent years the Security Council has been reluctant to authorize new United Nations peacekeeping operations, and has often left regional or subregional organizations to struggle with local conflicts on their own," Annan said. "That puts an unfair burden on the organizations in question," he noted in an address he gave at Georgetown University in Washington on receiving the Jit Trainor Award for Distinction in the Conduct of Democracy. "It is also a waste of expertise in peacekeeping which the United Nations has developed over the years."

While the United Nations has been developing "a sound infrastructure for directing and supporting peacekeeping operations", he said, the number of UN peacekeepers has been shrinking: 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". "We must not dismantle the capacity to provide that help," a UN press release quoted him as saying.

Citing the DRC as an example of the need for international assistance for regional bodies, he said: "You only have to list the countries which make up a "regional force" in the (DRC), for instance, to realize that many of them are already involved in the hostilities on one side or the other." Experience has shown that "peacekeeping is best done by people outside the region, who are more easily accepted as truly detached and impartial", he added. The United Nations, he continued, "must be prepared for a conclusion which many African leaders have already reached: that if a peacekeeping force is required in the Congo, the United Nations would probably have to be involved".

However, "...no 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."

Nairobi, 24 February 1999, 1630 GMT

[ENDS]

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