DR Congo + 3 more

IRIN Update No. 490 for Central and Eastern Africa

News and Press Release
Originally published
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: Kinshasa residents burning Tutsis alive

Various news media reported disturbing incidents of Kinshasa residents burning alive Tutsi rebels in the city. Radio France Internationale, in a report from the Kasavubu district yesterday (Thursday), said residents were "carrying aloft a charred body". "We have burnt Tutsis here," said one man, interviewed by the radio. "It was not the soldiers, it is we ourselves who burn the Tutsis." According to the radio, "similar scenes" were taking place in other districts of the capital. It cited soldiers as saying "several hundred rebels" were still hiding in the Masina area, some five km from the airport.

Gunfire was again heard in Kinshasa today (Friday), after a second night under curfew. State radio said the army was still "mopping up pockets of resistance".

ICRC gains access to Kokolo detainees

The ICRC said its delegates began visiting detainees at the Kokolo military camp in Kinshasa on 19 August. It said 160 detainees had so far been seen and food, blankets and hygiene items distributed. The ICRC added it is continuing efforts to obtain access to all persons held in connection with the conflict. The Kokolo base is believed to hold mainly ethnic Tutsi soldiers and civilians. The DRC authorities say they are there "for their own protection".

ICRC added it had taken measures to alleviate problems caused by power cuts in Kinshasa. Since the blackouts began, an ICRC tanker truck has delivered water on a regular basis to various neighbourhoods.

Banyamulenge movement accuses international community of "timid" reaction

The Banyamulenge political movement, Forces republicaines et federalistes (FRF), called on the international community, the UN and the OAU to stop Kabila's "genocide" against Tutsis in the DRC. In a statement received today by IRIN, signed by the FRF president Joseph Mutambo, the movement said "innocent and defenceless people are massacred and thrown into the Congo river or in mass graves in Kinshasa, as well as in various provinces, notably South Kivu and Katanga". It accused the international community of a "timid" reaction by leaving the victims with their "executioners" while evacuating foreign nationals.

Authorities urge Congolese rebels to rejoin army

The DRC armed forces yesterday broadcast a message over state radio calling on "young Congolese soldiers who have been led astray" to rejoin the regular army. Residents were also urged to "abstain from any acts violence against the Congolese soldiers who want to surrender".

New foreign minister asks diplomatic corps to condemn "aggression"

The new DRC foreign minister, Jean-Charles Okoto, met the diplomatic community yesterday to urge them to "condemn the Rwandan and Ugandan aggression". "This is the right time to remind you all that any leniency from the international community in dealing with this matter will seriously compromise the future of peace and stability, not only in the Great Lakes region, but also in the whole of the Central African region," he said, according to state radio.

Kabila leaves Kinshasa

The DRC government confirmed President Laurent-Desire Kabila had left Kinshasa and was directing operations from "elsewhere" in the country. The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) yesterday claimed Kabila had fled to neighbouring Brazzaville aboard a helicopter. Diplomats, quoted by Reuters, said it was likely Kabila was in his Lubumbashi stronghold.

UGANDA: Troops to remain "deep inside" DRC

The state-owned Ugandan 'New Vision' daily today quoted presidential adviser on security, Major General Salim Saleh as saying Ugandan troops would remain "deep inside" DRC until Kabila "accepts a political solution to the crisis there". Speaking from his Gulu base, Saleh said Ugandan troops "are physically being attacked by Kabila, Zimbabwe and Angola. We are not going leave Congo. We went there to save our national security."

Terrorists will be "wiped out", Museveni says

President Yoweri Museveni vowed to "wipe out" terrorists in the wake of Tuesday's grenade attacks on three buses, which killed at least 28 people in the Mbarara area. News reports said a rebel group, the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU), allied to the ADF, had claimed responsibility for the blasts. A fourth explosion on a Kigali-bound bus in the same area on Wednesday injured one woman. The DRC-based rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), in a statement received by IRIN today, condemned Museveni "for sending our sons and daughters to fight a senseless war in Zaire".

RWANDA: 160 killed since mid-August

The independent Hirondelle news agency said that while media attention has been focused on the DRC war, at least 160 people have been killed in Rwanda since mid-August. Most of the victims are ex-FAR and Interahamwe members, killed during clashes with the army. Hirondelle cited army sources as saying beween 12 and 14 August, a least 130 people were killed in fighting in the prefectures of Byumba and Ruhengeri. On 18 August, five schoolchildren and three other people were killed in an attack on Rwankuba secondary school in Tare commune, Kigali prefecture. Two days later, the Rwerere and Karago communes of Gisenyi prefecture were subjected to attacks by Interahamwe militia, Hirondelle reported.

SUDAN: Over one million face famine conditions

A special report issued by FAO on Wednesday said more than 1.2 million people in Sudan now face famine conditions, with widespread reports of children dying from starvation in Bahr al-Ghazal state. The report said the food situation throughout southern Sudan was precarious as a result of war and poor harvests. "Acute food shortages and severe malnutrition are on the rise despite stepped-up food aid distributions. Famine conditions have emerged in parts, particularly Bahr al-Ghazal where intensified fighting has resulted in fresh waves of population displacements," the report stated. It said nutrition surveys showed the rate of severe malnutrition among children had increased to 78 percent in some locations.

AFRICA: 18 countries face exceptional food emergencies - FAO

According to a special FAO report, released earlier this week, a total of 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are currently facing exceptional food emergencies. The causes are varied, including population displacement, civil strife, unfavourable weather, poor harvests and localised food deficits. Overall, however, the report concludes the current food outlook is "mixed" with favourable harvest prospects for much of east Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania. In the Great Lakes region, the report finds that "despite continuing instability and population displacements in parts, food production is steadily recovering, with production currently approaching the pre-crisis levels of the early 1990s." In southern Africa, the report concludes food production has dropped significantly, largely as a result of El Nino-related weather anomalies.

ERITREA: Asmara to release all Ethiopian prisoners "unconditionally"

The Eritrean government today announced it had released 71 Ethiopian soldiers, captured during the border conflict between the two countries earlier this year. In a statement, received by IRIN, the foreign ministry said all captured Ethiopians would be freed "unconditionally". Eritrea said there was no rationale to the conflict and it hoped to see an early resolution of the border problem "through technical demarcation, and if need be, by arbitration on the basis of established colonial treaties".

NOTE: DRC Information Sharing Exercise

On Wednesday 2 September, at 10:00, OCHA will host an information-sharing meeting on events currently unfolding in the DRC. All interested parties are invited to attend. The meeting will take place at the OCHA compound opposite the UN Gigiri complex.

Nairobi, 28 August 1998, 12:50 gmt


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