Horn of Africa: IRIN Update, 10 May

from IRIN
Published on 10 May 2001
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for Central and Eastern Africa
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SUDAN: UN "deeply saddened" by pilot's death

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Kenzo Oshima said on Wednesday he was "deeply saddened" to learn of the death of the Danish ICRC pilot flying on a humanitarian mission over southern Sudan. The tragedy, which followed the brutal killings of six ICRC workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo less than two weeks ago, "underscored the dangers faced by humanitarian personnel in delivering assistance to those in need", he added.

Ole-Friis Eriksen was killed instantly in the attack, on a flight for which prior notice had been given and authorisation received from all the parties on the ground. The incident occurred roughly halfway between Lokichoggio and Juba, reportedly when the aircraft had just climbed back to its assigned altitude after a technical problem had forced it to descend briefly to 6,500 feet (2,000 m). The ICRC has suspended all its flights to southern Sudan pending the outcome of an investigation.

SUDAN: Government, rebels blame each other for Red Cross attack

The Sudanese government and the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) have each accused the other of responsibility for killing a Red Cross pilot in an attack on an ICRC flight between Lokichoggio, northwestern Kenya, and Juba in southern Sudan, on Wednesday.

The government of Sudan categorically denied that its forces had fired on the ICRC aircraft, Muhammad Dirdiery, Deputy Head of Mission at the Sudanese Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, told IRIN on Thursday. He said that the aircraft had come under fire while it was flying over rebel-held areas, and an SPLA statement accusing government forces of responsibility was "totally baseless" since there were no government forces in the area. The Sudanese government called on the international community to "condemn this barbaric act perpetrated by the SPLA", he added.

SPLM spokesman Samson Kwaje said that his movement had no forces in the area of the attack, which he placed in the Loronyo (4.39N 32.38E) area of Torit County [Eastern Equatoria], and said that the government and allied militias controlled the towns of Kapoeta, Torit and Juba, as well as the countryside around them. "The SPLM/A "therefore puts the blame squarely on the government of Sudan and its allied militias", which comprised the so-called Equatoria Defence Forces (EDF), the (Ugandan rebel) Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and various Kapoeta-based groupings under Peter Lorot, Chief Lokipapa and Paul Langa, Kwaje added.

SUDAN: Row over UN rights commission continues

The US State Department on Wednesday voiced opposition moves to plans in the US Congress to withhold American dues to the UN because of last week's ouster of the US from the UN Human Rights Commission in a secret ballot, which saw Sudan and other "human rights abusers" elected. The non-election of the US was galling enough to US congressmen, but the election of Sudan - which is on the US list of states sponsoring terrorism, and was recently described by US President George W. Bush as "a disaster for all human rights" - had reinforced a deep disillusionment in the US Congress about the UN, the Associated Press agency (AP) reported on Wednesday.

The Human Rights Commission election, by 54 UN member states on the UN Economic and Social Council, follows a series of public disagreements between Sudan and the new US administration, which has come under strong pressure domestically to take a harder line against Khartoum on human rights - and particularly religious rights. News organisations reported Bush's "human rights disaster" comments and an allegation that Khartoum was using humanitarian aid for southern Sudan for its own interests and not to relieve suffering; these were strongly denounced by Sudanese presidential adviser for the South, Makki Ali Balayil. He also denounced the US appointment of a special humanitarian coordinator for Sudan, saying that it appeared from Bush's comments that "the new envoy will proceed from a hostile attitude, and from ideas and convictions which have been formed beforehand and which are not related to reality," AFP quoted Balayil as saying.

The latest session of the UN Human Rights Commission, which concluded on Monday, expressed "concern at violations in areas under control of the government, including restrictions on freedom of religion, expression, association and peaceful assembly, arbitrary arrest and detention without trial, and cases of torture". It also called on Khartoum "to cease immediately all indiscriminate aerial bombardments of the civilian population", and for the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) "to abstain from using civilian premises for military purposes". It urged all parties to the conflict to respect and protect human rights; to put in place an effective and monitored ceasefire; to resume peace talks immediately; and to stop the use of weapons against the civilian population.

SUDAN: Government defends political detentions

The ruling National Congress party has defended its recent measure of detaining former Speaker of Parliament Hasan al-Turabi, now leader of the opposition Popular National Congress (PNC), and party colleagues as normal and essential for the upholding of the security of the citizens, according to the Sudanese newspaper 'Akhbar al-Yawm' on Tuesday. Press statements by Professor Ibrahim Ahmad Umar, Secretary-General of the National Congress, said that the measures were necessary because of claims by the PNC that it was its sacred duty to try to overthrow the government, the report said. Ibrahim said the government could not stand idly by in the face of such developments, and denied reports to the effect that the security arms of the state were evaluating political information and acting in the light of it without consulting the government, the report added.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Government denies restricting peacekeepers

Eritrea has rejected claims by the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) that restrictions have been imposed on the mission's freedom of movement in and around the disputed border. The Eritrean Commission for Coordination with the UN Peacekeeping Mission said in a statement on Wednesday that "UNMEE has no restriction on any supply and access routes throughout the country where it has been granted all the necessary bases, camps and facilities".

Eritrea denied there had been an incident on the Mendefera-Tserona road, in which an UNMEE logistics convoy was reported to have been forced to turn back by Eritrean Defence Force (EDF) personnel. No UNMEE vehicle had tried to use the Mendefera-Tserona road on 3 May, and no such incident had occurred on that road, the statement said. According to Eritrea, UNMEE had never used that road to access the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ).

The Commission said there had been several occasions where UNMEE units had moved into military zones in parts of the country "very distant" from the TSZ without notification, and refused to stop at checkpoints. "In all these cases, not a single warning shot has been fired," the statement said.

In accordance with the Algiers Peace Agreement, UNMEE is granted complete freedom of movement in and around the 25 km-wide TSZ. In a briefing to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, head of UNMEE, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila said that freedom of movement for UN peacekeepers within the TSZ was currently "the most serious problem" in the peace process.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Ethiopia accused of border killing

The Eritrean government has accused Ethiopian troops of shooting dead an Eritrean woman, Leul Haileselase, aged 27, in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) on the disputed border. A report by official Eritrean radio on Tuesday said the woman was killed in Kisad Emba, which lies between Zela Ambesa and Senafe.

The deputy spokeswoman for the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), Angela Walker, told IRIN that the killing was being investigated. "UNMEE can confirm the killing of the woman occurred, and is conducting an investigation of the incident," she said. Eritrean diplomatic sources said the incident was "the consequence of the continued Ethiopian presence in the TSZ".

Meanwhile, official Ethiopian radio said on Wednesday that a list had been released of 171 Ethiopian victims of Eritrean aggression. It said the Law Forum for Peace had based its report on first-hand accounts by relatives and close acquaintances of the victims, supported by photographs. Killings, abductions and beatings were carried out against the Ethiopians residing in Asmara, the Eritrean capital, and some other towns in Eritrea at the height of the war in May 2000, Ethiopian radio said.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Concern over militia numbers in buffer zone

The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) is seeking to establish the exact number of Eritrean militia to be stationed in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) on the disputed border. The deputy spokeswoman for UNMEE, Angela Walker, told IRIN that "diplomatic efforts were being made to try and obtain the numbers from the Eritrean authorities". UNMEE has repeatedly requested from the Eritrean authorities details on the size and composition of their militia and police in the TSZ. A signed protocol agreement allows for Eritrean civil administration to be restored in the TSZ, but does not specify numbers of armed police and militia.

Alongside concerns over restrictions on freedom of movement for UNMEE in and around the TSZ, the issue of Eritrean militia in the TSZ remains at present one of the major concerns for the peacekeeping mission, she said. Other issues of concern included the definition of the boundaries of the TSZ, with several villages on the southern boundary initially placed in the TSZ remaining under Ethiopian control, diplomatic sources said. There was also disagreement with Ethiopia concerning the Eastern Sector, with the unilateral return by Ethiopia to earlier positions two kilometres inside the established TSZ on the Bure-Assab road, the source said.

ETHIOPIA: Health agreement signed with Cuba

The Ethiopian government and the Republic of Cuba have signed an agreement outlining plans for cooperation in the health sector, according to Radio Ethiopia. The agreement would allow a senior Cuban medical team to provide health services and medical training in higher medical institutions and referral hospitals in Ethiopia for two years, the radio said.

The Ethiopian vice-minister for health, Dr Lamisho Haisho, was quoted as saying at the signing ceremony on Tuesday that the agreement would "create an opportunity to undertake joint research activities", as well as the exchange of scientific and health-related information. The agreement would also provide scholarships for Ethiopians to take part in both postgraduate and undergraduate medical and biomedical programmes, he said.

ERITREA: Refugees home by July

Nearly 11,000 Eritrean refugees have registered for repatriation from Sudan in the last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Tuesday. The UN agency said it was planning to return 62,000 refugees to their homes from Sudanese border camps by the end of July. Many of those who have registered are keen to be repatriated before the rainy season begins, UNHCR said.

UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said that some of the refugees had spent more than thirty years in exile in Sudan, having fled Ethiopia as early as 1967. Janowski said that 2,300 refugees were registering for the second time after a repatriation planned for last year was suspended due to renewed fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea. There are about 174,000 Eritrean refugees in Sudanese refugee camps, and it is expected that the remainder will return home during 2002, he said.

SOMALIA: Cholera team investigating cases in the south

A joint UNICEF, World Health Organisation (WHO) and COSVI (Italian NGO) team is investigating cases of suspected cholera recently reported in southern Somalia, from Qoryoley District in Lower Shabelle Region, humanitarian sources have told IRIN. In March, a cholera outbreak was reported in the coastal town of Marka, along with several other outbreaks in southern Somalia since the start of the year. UNICEF Somalia said the cumulative figure up until mid-April for cases in these outbreaks was 881, with 71 deaths confirmed - a case fatality rate of 8.1 percent.

As of 2 May, no positive confirmation of cholera in two cases from two separate villages was made by the team, UNICEF said. Medical supplies and chlorine have been pre-positioned in Qoryoley, and the team is investigating another case in Gobale village, Lower Shabelle. Humanitarian sources told IRIN that recent reports of cholera in Wanle Weyne, Lower Shabelle, had been "exaggerated", and confused with other diarrhoeal diseases. With the onset of the rainy season, a rise of diarrhoeal diseases was expected, said the source, but not cholera. Cholera is endemic in Somalia and, although appearing with different outbreaks every year, is typically associated with the dry season from December through to May, according to a UNICEF fact sheet. Regarding cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases in Somalia, it says Somalia's infant mortality and under five mortality rates "remain among the highest in the world". Diarrhoeal disease, acute respiratory infections, tuberculosis and malaria are still the leading causes of death for infants and young children in Somalia, accounting for more than half of all child deaths.

SOMALIA: Encamped militia fight over resources

At least five people were killed when fighting broke out between two militia groups encamped by the interim government in Mogadishu, a resident told IRIN. More than 10 people were injured during the clash on Wednesday. Fighting broke out in the former police transport depot in north Mogadishu, where militia from north Mogadishu have been encamped for training and demobilisation. Five militia members died, while four of the injured were innocent civilians living near the camp, the sources said. The fighting was contained after clan elders and government officials intervened.

Mogadishu residents told IRIN the fighting started over who should run the camp, and who should be in charge of its food, and of fuel distribution. "This was a fight over resources, aggravated by elders the government assigned to the camp," the source said. The fighting has attracted criticism of how the camps are being run, and the dependency on elders to control the militia. One resident told IRIN that it demonstrated the need for the Transitional National Government (TNG) to take "full responsibility" for the camps.

SOMALIA: New passports "illegal", says opposition

The Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC) said it was opposed to the planned issuing of new passports announced this week by the Transitional National Government (TNG). A senior SRRC official told IRIN that the move would be "an arbitrary and illegal decision". The SRRC is a group of southern faction leaders opposed to the TNG.

Abdullahi Shaykh Isma'il, one of the five co-chairmen of the SRRC, told IRIN that the issuing of passports was an action "sovereign in nature and a state prerogative". He said any such passport issued by the TNG would be "fake" and illegal. The SRRC do not recognise the TNG as a national government, but call it the "Arta group" - a reference to the Djibouti-hosted Somali talks held last year. Abdullahi Shaykh said only a new government of national unity could legally issue a new passport

Meanwhile, Hilowle Iman Umar, who currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the SRRC, said on Wednesday that the TNG move on passports was "like declaring a travel ban on the vast majority of the Somali people who do not appreciate the Arta group", Agence France-Presse (AFP) said. The self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, northeastern Somalia, also criticised the issuance of new passports. The Puntland administration called it "a crime against the people of Somalia" and said people in the region would continue to use the old passports, AFP said.

SOMALIA: SRRC slams reconciliation committee

The Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC) has criticised the reconciliation committee recently formed by the interim government, and said it was an attempt to undermine the SRRC. Abdullahi Shaykh Isma'il, one of the five co-chairmen of the SRRC, said the reconciliation committee was "an arbitrary and desperate action" by the Mogadishu-based Transitional National Government (TNG). The office of the prime minister of the TNG announced on 6 May the appointment of a 25-member peace and reconciliation committee, which would send representatives to all regions in Somalia.

Abdullahi Shaykh said it was an attempt by the TNG to deceive the international community into believing it was "serious" about reconciliation. He said Somalia's problems could only be addressed by a "truly representative reconciliation conference" of all concerned parties.

SOMALIA-KENYA: Refugees ordered to leave Mandera

Kenyan authorities have ordered some 10,000 Somali refugees who have been living in the Kenyan northeastern border town of Mandera to leave the area, the BBC reported on Wednesday. Local officials told the refugees that they had a week to either go back home or move to existing refugee camps in Kenya, the BBC said. Local officials said the presence of so many people in Mandera had placed a burden in the town's infrastructure.

Humanitarian sources said the refugees had fled into Kenya a month ago after fighting broke out in the border town of Bulo Hawa, southwestern Somalia, among rival factions of the Marehan clan. Many were staying with friends and relatives in the Kenyan town, or had set up temporary shelters; others were "commuting" to and from Bulo Hawa in the hope that security would improve. At least four people have been killed by land mines near Bulo Hawa since the fighting erupted, said the source.

[The Horn of Africa Update issued on Wednesday 9 May, was erroneously dated in the text, Tuesday, 8 May. IRIN apologises for this error.]

Nairobi, 10 May 2001


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