IRIN Update No. 501 for Central and Eastern Africa

Report
from IRIN
Published on 14 Sep 1998
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: Heavy fighting reported in Goma

Heavy fighting broke out in Goma today (Monday) at about 3 am, humanitarian sources and news agencies reported. The fighting, which lasted about five hours and involved automatic weapons fire and mortar fire, was heard in the centre of the town and near the airport. AP said the attack on Goma was launched by DRC government forces backed by Mayi-Mayi warriors and Rwandan Hutu Interhamwe militia, but DRC rebel political leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba told AFP "we don't know" who was attacking. Rebel-held radio in Goma, which went off the air briefly during the fighting, resumed broadcasting at about 9 am, saying that rebel forces had defeated unspecified "enemies" and instructing the local population not to panic.

In other military developments, the DRC government over the weekend claimed to have re-captured the towns of Ubundu, Shabunda and Kamitunga from rebel forces, AFP reported. However, these claims were disputed by the rebels, who also denied earlier government and other claims regarding Kalemie on lake Tanganyika falling to loyalists. AFP reported Kinshasa authorities as saying that the DRC army and its allies had installed their forward headquarters in the town of Kindu in Maniema province. Meanwhile, rebel military leader Jean-Pierre Ondekane said on Saturday that he had moved his military headquarters from Goma to Kisangani.

DRC state television, monitored by the BBC, accused the rebels of recruiting mercenaries from Serbia, Colombia, Somalia and South Africa. Rebel forces, meanwhile, told AFP that they had killed a "white man" fighting on the side of government forces near Lubutu.

Hutu rebels allegedly trained in Sudan

The "East African" weekly newspaper reported today on claims that some 2,800 Rwandan and Ugandan Hutu rebels were being trained at three camps in southern Sudan as part of the government of Sudan's support to Kabila. The newspaper quoted the director of Ugandan's External Security Organisation as saying that the training of the Hutu youth was part of a "Sudan-Congo conspiracy", which also involved joint support for Ugandan rebel groups, including the LRA. The "East African" reported an official of the Sudanese Embassy in Nairobi as denying the allegations. Last week, the Brussels-based Le Soir newspaper reported that 2,000 Sudanese soldiers were sent to the DRC to support Kabila's army.

Meanwhile, DRC rebels helped UNITA to capture Maquela do Zombo, a town in the Uige Province of northern Angola, the Chinese news agency, quoting the 'Journal of Angola' reported on Saturday.

OAU talks fail, SADC summit begins

OAU-sponsored peace talks, which began on Thursday in Addis Ababa, ended on Saturday morning without agreement on a cease-fire in the DRC, news agencies reported. The talks, chaired by the Zambian defence minister, included ministers from the DRC, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Uganda andRwanda. News reports indicate that participants were divided over theissue of rebel participation in the negotiations, with the Ugandan and Rwandan delegations reportedly walking out of the talks after failing to convince the other delegates to allow the Congolese rebels to participate.

Heads of state or representatives of 14 African countries, are meeting at the SADC annual summit in Mauritius. The summit of the Southern African Development Community was opened by South African President Nelson Mandela on Sunday, and President Kabila was reported to have arrived there this morning. Envoys from Uganda and Rwanda, not members of SADC, were reportedly invited to participate in the portions of the summit dealing with the DRC crisis. Meanwhile, the DRC, which joined SADC on a probationary basis last year, has now become a full member of the regional group, RFI reported today.

Kabila visits Chad, Gabon and CAR to garner support

Before travelling to the Mauritius meeting, Kabila visited Chad, Gabon and the Central African Republic in a bid to garner additional support from regional leaders, news agencies reported. On Friday, President Idriss Deby of Chad pledged his country's "unconditional support" to Kabila, while Gabonese President Omar Bongo on Saturday condemned the "occupation" of the DRC by foreign troops. Bongo said he planned to convene a summit of central African countries in the coming days during which he would reveal "peace mechanisms" for the DRC, news agencies reported.

EU envoy on "fact-finding" mission

EU Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Aldo Ajello, travelling in the region on a fact-finding mission on the DRC crisis, met Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Friday and discussed options for restoring peace in the country, the South African Press Agency (SAPA) reported. The EU envoy has also visited Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and Kinshasa as part of his fact-finding mission, SAPA added.

Matadi road reopens as Kinshasa power out again

Electricity was again cut in Kinshasa late yesterday (Sunday), only a few days after a month- long disruption of power in the capital had ended. Authorities blamed the latest blackout on technical problems unrelated to the war, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Congolese TV monitored by the BBC on Friday night reported that the road between Kinshasa and the port town of Matadi in Bas-Congo province had re-opened, under army protection. Five ships carrying goods and drugs had berthed at the port of Matadi, and the first buses and trucks form Matadi arrived in Kinshasa on Saturday, news agencies reported. WFP has so far airlifted 100 mt of food aid from Pointe-Noire to Kinshasa, for distribution to vulnerable groups in the city.

The UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, is in Kinshasa. An OCHA official told IRIN he is discussing with the authorities "issues of humanitarian concern including access to populations in need of humanitarian aid throughout the DRC."

SUDAN: Yei hospital bombed

Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) announced a hospital it runs in Yei, southern Sudan was the target of a bombing raid on Sunday in which one person was killed and 22 injured. An NPA spokesman, speaking to Reuters, alleged the 12-bomb attack was made by an Antonov aircraft of Khartoum government's air force. Twelve people were killed in a similar attack on March 5 this year.

Libya, Egypt deliver aid

Large areas of northern Sudan are affected by flooding of the Nile. Early estimates speak of 100,000 people being affected, according to OCHA. Two aircraft carrying humanitarian aid including medicines, blankets, tents and food from Libya to Sudan arrived in Dunqulah, northern Sudan at the weekend, according to Libyan state radio. The flight, according to Sudanese TV is a "direct challenge to the UN sanctions imposed on Libya" which placed an embargo on flights to and from Libya. Libya had last month delivered medicines by air to Sudan after the US bombing of the Shifa pharmaceutical plant, news agencies report. Map: http://www.expediamaps.com/results.asp?Place=Dunqulah

Egypt sent flights on Friday and today (Monday) of tents, food, medicine and jute sacks for making sandbags. Today's flight carried a team of doctors, Reuters reports. Sudan made an emergency appeal for US $20 million last week in response to the floods.

Pro-government factions clash

Clashes between southern factions led by Riek Machar and Paulino Mateb in the Bentiu area have resulted in "serious human losses and material damage" AP reports. Both Machar and Mateb joined the pro-government southern coalition in April 1997.

CORRECTION: Sudanese displaced near Kassala

In last Friday's IRIN Weekly Roundup 37-98, a typo substituted Kampala for Kassala in an item about displaced Sudanese people, which also mispelled Eritrea. IRIN regrets the error.

REMINDER: Information meeting in Nairobi on Wednesday

The weekly OCHA Information Exchange Meeting is to take place at 10 am at the OCHA/IRIN meeting room, UN Avenue, off Limuru Rd, Nairobi on Wednesday 16 September.

Nairobi, 14 August 1998, 15:50

[ENDS]

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