DR Congo + 10 more

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 49 covering the period 4 - 10 December 1999

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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

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Two-front offensive launched by government

Regional analysts say the situation in DRC has taken a turn for the worse since September, with a two-front offensive launched by government forces. In the northwest Equateur province, DRC troops and their Zimbabwean allies are pitted against rebels of the Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) backed by Uganda, the analysts told IRIN on Thursday. The second front is in South Kivu where the government is reportedly reinforcing the "negative forces" comprised of the Interahamwe, ex-FAR and Mayi-Mayi fighters. According to the analysts, these militia groups are gaining in strength, posing a very real threat to the region. There is reportedly stronger popular support for them, as the local population wants to see the Rwandans leave Congolese territory. The Congolese Tutsi Banyamulenge forces are said to be returning to their Hauts Plateaux area where a "fortress-like mentality" is developing, the analysts added. They pointed out that the humanitarian situation in South Kivu is worsening and local reconciliation attempts between opposing ethnic groups have ground to a halt.

DRC: Holbrooke's main aim to find dialogue facilitator

US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke said on Wednesday the key aim of his current mission in Africa was to find a facilitator for the inter-Congolese dialogue scheduled to take place under the Lusaka ceasefire agreement. "The main point is that we are trying to find a facilitator," Holbrooke told reporters in Lusaka after meeting Zambian President Frederick Chiluba. "The choice of a facilitator is still elusive," Chiluba said after meeting Holbrooke.

DRC: Ikela settlement averts all-out battle

Senior-level delegations from Zimbabwe, Rwanda and the Rwandan-backed rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) on Tuesday agreed a settlement to put an end to serious fighting in the Bokungu-Ikela area of northwest Equateur province, news organisations reported. The fighting risked turning into an all-out war that could threaten the lives of hundreds of Zimbabwean troops besieged at Ikela airport. An agreement was reached in the Rwandan capital Kigali under which the Zimbabwean troops, trapped behind rebel lines at Ikela airport, would be allowed to bring in food and supplies. In return, government troops were to withdraw from the town of Bokungu, which they seized from the RCD last Thursday after fierce fighting, diplomatic sources said.

DRC: Army accused of summary executions

The DRC human rights group ASADHO has expressed concern over summary executions and harassment by the Congolese army in villages near the town of Basankusu in Equateur province. In the report, issued before the rebel Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) captured Basankusu from the army last week, ASADHO said the atrocities were committed in July and September in villages such as Pimu, Djombo and Kodoro after Congolese troops were repulsed by the MLC.

Meanwhile, MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba has moved his operational headquarters from Gbadolite to Basankusu after his troops captured the town last week, AFP reported. Gbadolite would remain the administrative centre of the MLC, Bemba said.

DRC: Kinshasa flooding "major threat" but manageable

A joint humanitarian meeting to evaluate the flooding that has displaced 15,000 to 20,000 people in Kinshasa concluded that while it was "a major threat" and would require continuous vigilance until at least mid-January, its "current dimension" was considered manageable with the existing human and financial resources. [situation report at http://www.reliefweb.int]

DRC: Greater access reveals countless numbers in need of relief

Aid agencies are beginning to get more access to people displaced by the war in both government- and rebel-held areas of DRC, but there are "countless others" in remote areas without access to humanitarian relief, the WFP reported on Monday. The agency visited Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Pweto, Goma, Bukavu and Bunia over the past three weeks to gather more information on the plight of IDPs, it said. "What we're finding is that, in some cases, whole villages have shifted to distant areas... and have brought with them virtually nothing to survive on. What worries us even more is that we're just seeing a fraction of the displaced people out there," said WFP Country Director Kees Tuinenburg in a press statement.

RWANDA: ICTR hands Rutaganda life sentence for genocide

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Monday sentenced former Interahamwe militia leader Georges Rutaganda to life imprisonment on one count of genocide and two counts of crimes against humanity. Judges Laity Kama, Lennart Aspegren and Navanethem Pillay unanimously found that Rutaganda "incurred individual criminal responsibility, in particular for having ordered, incited and carried out murders and for causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the Tutsi ethnic group" during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, an ICTR press release stated.

BURUNDI: UN bids for "safe quarter" for relief work

An initiative is underway to bring together the leaders of the major armed rebel groups in one place, sometime in the next two to three months, to discuss humanitarian activities, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Burundi, Kathleen Cravero-Kristofferson said. The purpose was "to talk about a safe quarter for humanitarian work and to ensure that all parties to the Burundian conflict understood the non-partisan nature of humanitarian assistance," she told a press conference in New York at the weekend. However, "an active effort was underway to allow the resumption of suspended activities" and there were plans to send an inter-agency mission to Burundi, probably in January.

BURUNDI: Arusha peace negotiations resume

The Burundi peace talks resumed in Arusha, Tanzania, on Monday, with three of four committees continuing deliberations on their particular areas of concern, the Nyerere Foundation spokesman Hashim Mbita confirmed to IRIN on Wednesday. He said the committees looking at the causes of the crisis, democratisation and governance issues, and peace and security were in progress. "Committee four, on social and economic reconstruction, is not meeting this time because it has to wait for the outcome and findings of the other three committees," he added. Mbita said the delegates were "serious" in their deliberations and had received the new talks facilitator Nelson Mandela "gladly".

TANZANIA: Burundi refugee numbers prompt top-level UNHCR visit

The UNHCR regional director for East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region, Wairimu Karago, is undertaking a fact-finding meeting in Tanzania this week in the context of heightened insecurity in Burundi, which has prompted a substantial increase in the number of refugees fleeing to Tanzania. The number fleeing the conflict in Burundi to Tanzanian refugee camps rose from 2,199 in September to 8,132 in October and 9,558 in November, according to a UNHCR press release. Karago, who visited Lukole refugee camp in Ngare district and Mbuba refugee transit camp earlier this week, is scheduled to meet Home Affairs Minister Ali Ameir Mohamed and Deputy Foreign Minister Emmanuel Mwambulukutu on Friday for key discussions, UNHCR added. Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa warned last week the country was finding it ever more difficult to cope with the number of refugees it is hosting.

UGANDA: NALU "only rebel group in west"

The little-known rebel group National Union/Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NULU/NALU) has said it is the only organisation operating in western Uganda and there is no such movement as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). In a statement sent to IRIN on Thursday, NALU's chairman Jafari Salimu claimed ADF was a "nickname" given by the Ugandan army, and said NALU had no connections with Islam. Expressing its opposition to the governing National Resistance Movement in Uganda, NALU warned it had "opened new axes" in the Buganda and eastern regions, in addition to the west. [See also IRIN Special Report of 8 December on the ADF rebellion]: http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/cea/countrystories/uganda/19991208.htm

UGANDA: ADF abducts 365 inmates in attack on prison

An estimated 200 rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) attacked Katojo prison near Fort Portal in western Uganda early on Thursday, killing two and abducting 365 of the 902 inmates, Ugandan newspapers reported on Friday. Minister of State for Defence Steven Kavuma told a press conference in Kampala that one Ugandan soldier and the wife of a prison warder had been killed, the independent 'Monitor' newspaper reported. The attack was aimed at gaining publicity for the ADF, reinforcing its depleted ranks through abductions and diverting the Ugandan army from its ongoing offensive against the rebels in the Ruwenzori mountains, Kavuma said. The prison had some ADF and treason suspects, the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper quoted Kavuma as saying.

ADF spokesman Rogers Kabanda, quoted by the 'Monitor', said the rebels' target was Ugandan Chief of Staff Brigadier James Kazini, who was reportedly in Fort Portal at that time. "We missed him narrowly but we are still looking for him," Kabanda said.

UGANDA: Parliament passes amnesty bill

The Ugandan parliament on Tuesday passed an amnesty bill which seeks to pardon rebels who surrender to the government, news organisations reported. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said the bill would initially be in force for six months with provision for an extension. It said the rebels would have six months to surrender from the date President Museveni signs the bill into law. The new law completes a change of policy by the government which had previously maintained that rebel groups could only be "subdued militarily", the BBC said. The main rebel groups are the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the north and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the west.

UGANDA-SUDAN: Presidents sign peace accord

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday signed an agreement aimed at re-establishing diplomatic relations and promoting peace in the region, a communique issued by the mediating body, the Carter Centre, said. "President al-Bashir and President Museveni have taken an important step to restoring diplomatic relations and encouraging peace in their countries and all of East Africa," former US president Jimmy Carter said after the signing ceremony in Nairobi. Among the pledges contained in the 11-point document are renouncing the use of force to resolve differences, disbanding and disarming terrorist groups, respecting each country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, ceasing support to any rebel groups. They also agreed to return all prisoners of war to their respective nations, locate and return abductees to their families and offer amnesty and reintegration assistance to all former combatants who renounce the use of force.

SOMALIA: Puntland orders out three UN staff

The UN this week received letters of expulsion for three international staff members from the self-declared state of Puntland in northeastern Somalia. The letters, from Puntland's "interior minister" Hassan Abshir Farah, accused the three of "unsatisfactory services". Their proposed replacements should be submitted for approval by the Puntland authorities. John Spring of the UN Coordination Unit for Somalia told IRIN on Friday that the UN was still discussing the expulsions with humanitarian partners from the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB) but considered it unacceptable that Puntland should unilaterally order the removal of UN staff. Meanwhile, new missions and activities in the region are on hold, he added.

SOMALIA: "No longer synonym for crisis"

Somalia is no longer a synonym for crisis and should be seen in a different light from the past five years, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Randolph Kent, said. He told a press briefing in New York there were now areas of stability, particularly in the northwest, northeast and central parts. A steady increase in stability did not however mean there were no longer humanitarian problems, although the UN's approach could now be seen as preventative. Kent stressed that if the international community responded now, the vulnerability of 600,000 needy people would be eased.

SOMALIA: RRA sets up administration in Bay region

The Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA) on Thursday set up its own administrative area for the central region of Bay, news organisations reported. Former RRA spokesman Mohamed Ali Aden Qalinleh was installed as governor and other RRA fighters were appointed to senior positions in the regional administration. The RRA, which is backed by Ethiopia, seized the regional capital Baidoa six months ago from Mohamed Hussein Aideed's faction. This is the fourth self-governing area in Somalia after Somaliland, Puntland and Beletwein, the BBC pointed out.

DJIBOUTI: Opposition leader freed

Djibouti's main opposition leader Moussa Ahmed Idriss and two colleagues were freed from jail on Tuesday under a presidential amnesty for the holy month of Ramadan, AFP reported, citing state radio. It said more than 250 people held in Gabode civilian prison on the outskirts of the capital would benefit from the amnesty. Idriss was the only rival to President Guelleh in April's presidential elections. He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment in October for "spreading false news".

ETHIOPIA: Peace process in danger - Meles

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has said the peace process aimed at resolving the border war with Eritrea is now "in danger". In a magazine interview, reported by Ethiopian radio on Wednesday, he said the international community's failure to "condemn the aggression" showed it did not take African problems seriously. In another interview, broadcast by Ethiopian television on Monday, Meles said Addis Ababa "will not sign any document that fails to ensure its sovereignty". He was referring to a document on technical arrangements for implementing an OAU peace plan which he said contained "shortcomings".

ERITREA: Ethiopia "poised for war"

Eritrea, which has signed the document, accused the Ethiopian government of "formally rejecting the peace plan in its entirety". A foreign ministry press release said this came as no surprise. "The timing, however, indicates that the regime in Addis Ababa has completed its preparations and is poised to launch a war of aggression," the statement said.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Cabinet adopts amnesty bill

The cabinet on Wednesday adopted an amnesty bill for "war-related crimes", reported. According to the bill, all combatants who withdraw from militia groups and lay down their weapons by the end of this year will benefit from the measure. However those who "misused" their positions will be excluded. Under the bill, victims of the wars can sue the culprits and claim damages, the radio reported.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Kembe reported calm

The situation in the eastern city of Kembe is reported calm following the murder of seven members of former president Andre Kolingba's opposition Rassemblement democratique centrafricain (RDC) last month, humanitarian sources said. Investigation missions have been sent to the area. In an interview with 'Le soleil centrafricain', Desire Kolingba, the son of the former president, described the murders as a "provocation" by the ruling MLPC party and criticised the "passive attitude" of the UN peacekeeping force MINURCA. The seven killed included an army lieutenant, the head of the local gendarmerie and a vice-president of the RDC youth movement, but the motive for the killings remained unclear.

Nairobi, 10 December 1999, 12:45 gmt

[ENDS]

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