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DRC: 20,000 evacuated amid Kinshasa floods
The flooding in Kinshasa which has resulted from historically high water levels in the Congo River has forced city authorities and NGOs to evacuate 20,000 people from their homes in 13 of the capital's 24 communes, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on Thursday. With the peak of the rainy season expected in the course of this month and two-thirds of Kinshasa vulnerable to flooding, "the risk of having to move a considerable portion of Kinshasa's six million people to safer places is high," an OCHA flood report warned.
Drinking water supplies are at risk of contamination and the rising flood is threatening the Inga hydraulic installation that provides power for Kinshasa and the Republic of Congo capital, Brazzaville, the report said. Health authorities are concerned because sanitation in Kinshasa is already precarious and cholera is endemic. An emergency committee chaired by the Ministry of Health has appealed for donor assistance, and a preliminary list of requirements "in case of a drastic deterioration of the situation" includes: tents, plastic sheeting, oral rehydration salts, chlorine, medical kits, cooking sets, fuel and food supplies for an estimated 500,000 people for three months, OCHA added.
[see OCHA Situation Report at http://www.reliefweb.int]
DRC: Rebels surrender Bokungu
The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) said on Friday it had surrendered the key town of Bokungu, Equateur Province, to government-aligned forces amid heavy bombardment on Thursday. Rebel forces could no longer resist helicopter and river assaults at Bokungu in the northwest of the country, but withdrew to a new defensive line where they could prevent government and Zimbabwean forces from gaining access to allied forces besieged at Ikela, the Associated Press news agency quoted RCD spokesman Kin-Kiey Mulumba as saying. There was "a massive attack" by the government alliance, involving three gunboats, four helicopters and Antonov bombers, Mulumba claimed.
DRC: Zimbabwe admits bombing rebel positions
In the Zimbabwean capital Harare, army spokesman Colonel Chancellor Diye confirmed that his forces were using air strikes and gunboats against the rebels - in what has been described as the fiercest fighting since the Lusaka ceasefire agreement - and would continue the offensive until they broke through to the Zimbabwean forces at Ikela, news organisations reported. "The forces there have been surrounded at the airport. The rebels are bombing them in their positions and are trying to cut off their supply lines to Ikela," the British Broadcasting Corporation quoted Colonel Charles Maredza as saying. Ikela had been designated an area of government control under the Lusaka accord, according to Diye.
DRC: Kinshasa calls for testimony to ceasefire violations
Meanwhile, the Forces armees congolaises (FAC) on Thursday claimed it had experienced continued attacks "on all FAC positions", and again alleged that Angolan UNITA rebels had been involved. The government army condemned "the attack and occupation of Basankusu", Equateur Province, on Tuesday as well as rebel action at Kimpangu in Bas-Congo Province from Sunday to Tuesday, according to Radio-Television Nationale Congolaise (RTNC) on Thursday. The FAC was "abiding by the Lusaka accords" and denounced repeated ceasefire violations on the rebel side, the statement said, before calling on OAU and military observers in the DRC to "bear testimony to them."
BURUNDI: Mandela prepares for mediation role
Former South African President Nelson Mandela is ready to start work in his new role as facilitator of the Burundi peace talks this weekend, with Judge Mark Bomani (a key figure in the Arusha peace process during the tenure of the late Julius Nyerere) scheduled to travel to South Africa on Saturday to brief him, news organisations on Thursday quoted Mandela's spokesman Parks Mankahlana as saying. South African President Thabo Mbeki said Mandela's appointment was an indication of confidence in South Africa's ability to help resolve regional conflict, that his government would do "all it can" to help Mandela and that it had already seconded senior officials to support the process.
BURUNDI: Refugees International makes call to keep hope alive
Refugees International has made a strong plea that, while "grim reality has increasingly limited the humanitarian response in Burundi," vulnerable populations in the country should not be left to fend for themselves and the international community should do all it can to assist civil society during the current crisis. "We must make modest investments in transitional relief to development programmes so that people can see that progress is possible. These programmes can be implemented in areas of the country that remain secure. Such programmes build momentum for peace by focusing people on the future instead of the past," it stated in a press release.
In addition to assisting the peace process and making clear that development aid will not be provided until security and access for humanitarian workers is provided, donors should work together on plans to put Burundi back on the development path as soon as a ceasefire is in place, Refugees International stated. "Having such plans in place and on the table is one of the most important actions they can take to convince all parties to move quickly to a peaceful resolution," it said, adding that donors and NGOs alike should work closely with civil society groups to support rehabilitation in areas that are secure, and to plan for transitional programmes as soon as they are feasible.
[see 'Give Burundi A Chance' document at http:www.refintl.org]
DRC-RWANDA: Kagame says Rwanda willing to withdraw
Rwandan Vice-President and Defence Minister Paul Kagame has declared his government's willingness to withdraw its troops from the DRC if Rwandan concerns were addressed. "We have no business being in the Congo", Kagame told the German daily 'Die Tageszeitung' in an exclusive interview during an official visit to Berlin this week. Asked whether Rwanda would withdraw if a UN force was sent to the DRC, Kagame said: "Let it be the United Nations or anyone else - even if a single country were to replace our forces and take care of our security concerns, we would withdraw that very day."
While in Germany, Kagame said the situation "remains volatile" in the Great Lakes region due to large numbers of Interahamwe and other militias operating in the DRC, Radio Rwanda reported on Thursday. Kagame said he was optimistic that "a long-term solution to the problem would be found" if the Lusaka signatories respected it, but noted that "a quicker response from the international community in support of the Lusaka agreement would have helped contain the volatile situation in the DRC."
RWANDA: Prosecutor formally appeals Barayagwiza release ruling
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday formally filed her brief requesting a review of the decision of the Appeals Chamber of the Tribunal to release genocide suspect Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza on technical legal grounds, UN Spokesman for the Secretary-General Fred Eckhard told journalists on Thursday. Del Ponte said she had new facts that she hoped would prompt a reversal of the decision; alternatively, she hoped the appeals court would remove its provision that the release should be "with prejudice" to the Prosecutor, thus allowing the ICTR to re-arrest Barayagwiza, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. "There is no date set for the Chamber to make its decision," Eckhard stated on Thursday.
Eckhard also said the indictment against a high-ranking former Rwandan official arrested in France last week - the first time a person accused by the Tribunal has been arrested in France - was "formally sealed" on Thursday, and that arrangements were underway for the transfer of the accused to Arusha. The suspect has been widely reported to be Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, Minister for Further Education, Research and Culture in the interim government that presided over the 1994 genocide, who was arrested on 26 November in the French town of Bourges.
Nairobi, 3 December 1999, 15:00 gmt
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