DR Congo + 2 more

IRIN Update 863 for the Great Lakes

News and Press Release
Originally published
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Wamba puts Ituri death toll at 4,000

In an interview with IRIN, rebel faction leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, said that "around 4,000" people had been killed in the Ituri clashes to date, but that the situation was now "more or less calm in terms of killings".

With additional Ugandan troops now in both Lendu and Hema villages, people were being encouraged to return home, he added. Wamba, who heads the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie - mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML), described the authorities as "a little bit confident".

He attributed the conflict to unequal access to land, an increase in poverty and an absence of state structures. The killings had escalated from June last year because of extremism on both sides, said Wamba dia Wamba.

He said he "has faith" that help will come from the international community, but that at least 25,000-30,000 peacekeeping troops would be needed in Congo to be effective. Putting peacekeepers only on the borders would be "ridiculous", said Wamba dia Wamba - adding that troops would be needed for "guaranteeing peace in the rest of Congo".

DRC: Peace monitors arrive in Bunia

Three peace monitors arrived in Bunia this week for an assessment mission, local sources told IRIN. Following a humanitarian meeting of about 200 international and local delegates last Friday, some UN agencies and NGO's are expected to carry out assessment missions in Bunia this week.

At the meeting, humanitarian agencies discussed the difficulty organisations were experiencing working in the area, including obstruction by extremists on both sides of the conflict. Representatives from the Hema and Lendu communities are being encouraged to commit to written agreements for humanitarian access and operations.

DRC: Ituri displaced hit 150,000

Up to 150,000 people are displaced by the conflict, say humanitarian workers in the area. A large displaced group in Drodro Catholic Mission, occupying two large church buildings and a secondary school, are in poor shape after camping out without assistance since the conflict started last June.

Kwashiorkor and marasmus is evident in children and adults, and there are deaths from diarrhoeal sickness. Skin diseases, cholera and hepatitas are also present. Thirty-five people have died among the group and been buried in fields nearby.

Despite reassurances by the authorities that it is safe to return home, individual cases of attacks continued last week when Hema and Lendu returnees attempted to go back to their land. A Hema man with serious machete wounds to the head was admitted to Bunia hospital last Thursday after returning to look for food in his fields in Bambumine. Last week, there were unconfirmed reports of killings of Lendu returnees in Tchomia; and one Hema man was admitted to Drodro hospital with arrow wounds after new attacks in the Blukwa area.

DRC: Uganda explains involvement in Ituri

The Ugandan authorities have, meanwhile, detailed the measures they have taken to end the ethnic conflict in Ituri province. "Last year, we advised that Lotshove Adele, the former governor, be removed because she was at the centre of the confusion, we do not mind her joining another group so long as she is out of the area," Colonel Henry Tumukunde, Uganda's head of military intelligence and security, told IRIN on Thursday.

A statement, issued by the Ugandan ministry of defence on Wednesday, said more Ugandan troops have also been sent to Ituri to bolster security. The statement said the intention was to "bolster both the RCD forces and the Ugandan force to restore law and order, disarm the protagonists and curtail the inflow of arms."

DRC: 230,000 more displaced persons

The number of internally-displaced persons (IDPs) in DRC has increased by some 230,000 since December, bringing the total estimated number of IDPs in the country to 1.12 million, according to the latest monthly report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Kinshasa.

Reasons for the increase included inter-ethnic tensions in the Ituri area of Province Orientale and renewed fighting in Equateur and Kasai provinces, it said. If the current level of tension in South Kivu continued for another month, most rural areas of the province could become deserted and a significant rise in the refugee flow to Tanzania may occur, the report said, adding that new waves of internal displacement were also observed in North Kivu. "Civilian populations are being deliberately targeted and arbitrary displacements are now an immediate objective, rather than a consequence of the conflict," it stated.

DRC: Reduction in humanitarian access

Meanwhile, access to war-affected and other vulnerable populations in the country significantly diminished on both sides of the frontline in January, greatly impacting the relief community's capacity to help the needy, the OCHA report said. The reduced access was due to heightened insecurity in eastern DRC, and to a "bureaucratic" process for the granting of clearances in many government-held regions, it said. The large disparity between the official and actual exchange rates was also affecting humanitarian operations, contributing to the "shrinking of humanitarian space" in both eastern and western DRC, it added.

RWANDA: New security chiefs appointed

Rwanda has appointed new security chiefs, created a new police force that will be headed by the former deputy chief of staff of the armed forces, and has also set up a security council to coordinate the work of state security organs. "These are new appointments that involved promotions and the creation of new organs and posts," Joseph Bideri, the Rwandan government spokesman told IRIN, on Thursday.

The new national police force will be headed by Colonel Frank Mugabagye, who was formerly deputy chief of staff. The general secretary of the newly-created state security council is chief of staff of the gendarmerie Brigadier-General Gastinze, the deputy is the director external security Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Karegyeya.

Nairobi, 17 February 2000 15:00 gmt


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