IRIN Update No. 540 Central and Eastern Africa

Report
from IRIN
Published on 06 Nov 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: Kagame admits involvement of Rwandan troops

Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame today (Friday) admitted his troops were helping rebels in DRC, a South African foreign ministry spokesman told IRIN. Kagame told President Nelson Mandela during a visit to Pretoria the troops had been in DRC since August, but declined to say how many. At a news conference in Pretoria, Kagame said Rwanda became involved due to security concerns, news organisations reported. There had been "good reasons" why Rwanda had not acknowledged its troop presence before now, he added. Mandela said Rwanda's admission now paved the way for a ceasefire and a meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) would soon be held to hammer out a deal. Kagame however warned Rwanda would not pull out its troops until its security concerns were addressed.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana yesterday (Thursday) said his country was greatly concerned by DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila "preaching genocide" to some 46 million Congolese citizens. Speaking to diplomats in Kigali, he described the DRC as a "den of armed groups bent on destabilising security in the region", Rwandan radio reported. He added Kigali was obliged to safeguard the security of citizens as long as Kabila and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe kept threatening to "push the war into Rwanda".

Chadian troops "facing problems"

Chadian media sources told IRIN today it was officially acknowledged in N'djamena that Chadian forces fighting in DRC were facing problems, mainly due to the fact they are operating in unknown territory. The sources pointed out the Chadians are used to operating in desert conditions, rather than the jungle terrain of DRC. The Chadian government is believed to have sent up to 2,000 troops to DRC.

Cholera situation "critical" in South Kivu

The provincial health authorities have reported a critical cholera situation in South Kivu, with very high mortality rates. A report by an international NGO, received today by IRIN, quoted the provincial authorities as saying that 16,396 cholera cases had been registered between 1 January and 1 November. Of these 1,290 had died, 50 percent of them since the war broke out in August. The most affected areas visited by the authorities and the NGOs are said to be Shabunda, Mwenga, Uvira, Katana, Bukavu, Baraka and Nundu.

RWANDA: Cyangugu communes all affected by cholera

Meanwhile in Rwanda, local health autorities said the cholera epidemic had affected all communes of Cyangugu prefecture, bordering South Kivu. Some 3,006 cases, including 55 deaths, had been reported as of 12 October. The epidemic was mainly due to lack of drinking water.

ICTR defendant refuses to plead

A detainee at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has refused to plead at his initial court appearance, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported yesterday. Like other detainees who last week staged a protest hunger strike, Emmanuel Bagambiki, a former prefect of Cyangugu, was complaining he had not been allowed the defence lawyer of his choice. Bagambiki said he had no confidence in the Belgian lawyer assigned to him by the tribunal.

Northwest displaced put at 630,000

A press briefing from OCHA-Rwanda says the number of displaced people in the northwest, according to government figures, continues to rise. The figure for displaced people mianly in Ruhengeri and Gisenyi prefectures, as of 31 October, was 630,000. People are arriving at camps from the forests where they had been taken by the Interahamwe and ex-FAR. In the camps, they are protected by the Rwandan army and helped by the humanitarian community. The OCHA statement calls for more humanitarian assistance, particularly in Ruhengeri prefecture. The displaced population is increasingly vulnerable to illness, particularly respiratory diseases, malaria and diarrhoea, the statement added.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Renewed shelling reported ahead of peace talks

Renewed shelling reportedly occurred around the Ethiopian border town of Adigrat this week, ahead of peace talks in the Burkina Faso capital Ougadougou this weekend. AFP said local residents claimed Eritrean shells fell on the town on Wednesday and some casualties were reported. Border skirmishes resumed last week, after a three-month lull in hostilities during which both sides reinforced their border troops. Reports say a minimum of 200,000 troops are massed along the common border.

Current OAU chairman, Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, is due to host the weekend peace talks aimed at resolving the border dispute. OAU Chairman Salim Ahmed Salim left Addis Ababa on Wednesday to prepare for the meeting. Ethiopian and Eritrean religious leaders of both Moslem and Christian faiths are also due to meet over the weekend in Oslo to discuss the border conflict, news reports said.

However, the continuing war rhetoric from both sides casts a shadow over the success of peace mediation. In a recent radio interview, Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki accused Ethiopia of intransigence and "beating the drums of war", while Ethiopia retorted that Isaias had adopted a "warlike attitude".

Meanwhile, Eritrea resolved its territorial dispute with Yemen over the Hanish islands and Isaias arrived in Aden on Wednesday on an official visit to the country. According to Yemeni radio, he described the dispute as "transient" and said Yemen and Eritrea were "family". President Ali Abdullah Salih of Yemen said the issue had been "exceptional" and that
both countries enjoyed brotherly relations. They were now moving into a new chapter of promoting and developing ties, he added.

KENYA: Major displacement in Wajir district

Fear of attack in the area of the recent massacre in Wajir district has caused major displacement among pastoralist communities, independent journalists told IRIN today. Herds of camel and cattle have congregated at water points in Eldas, Giriftu and Arbajahan, which is putting stress on water holes and grazing. A journalist, who visited the massacre site, reported seeing dead livestock along the roads, as a result of herds having to trek long distances, with little water, to areas which are normally considered poor pastures. Survivors with bullet wounds are still being picked up at these centres and taken to Wajir district hospital for treatment.

Residents of Wajir town and local politicians and elders complain the government has been indecisive in tracking down the raiders and some 17,000 stolen animals. There is little visible sign of increased security in the area, journalists said. Without decisive government action, local residents fear a revenge attack with weapons easily available from the porous Ethiopian and Somali borders.

SUDAN: World Vision closing four feeding centres

World Vision is planning to "phase out" four therapeutic feeding centres in Bahr al-Ghazal by the end of the year as a limited harvest has temporarily reduced the threat of starvation in the region, the NGO said in a statement received by IRIN today. Although the centres may need to be reopened early next year, closing them in the meantime will encourage displaced populations to resettle, World Vision said. The centres, located in Thiet, Ngapagok, Luonyaker and Panacier, have assisted about 2,000 malnourished children.

World Vision will continue to monitor the health and nutritional situation in the area, working from supplementary feeding centres, the statement said. Bahr al-Ghazal is likely to "slip back into a famine situation" in the first quarter of 1999 because of displacement, insecurity and poor crops, it added.

Nairobi, 6 November 1998, 14:40 GMT

[ENDS]

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