Kenya + 2 more

IRIN Horn of Africa Update, 19 September

SOMALIA: UN security officers attacked by gunmen
Two United Nations security officers were evacuated from Merka, southern Somalia, on Tuesday after coming under attack by a group of gunmen. The two officers, one British and one Nepalese, were attacked at the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) compound by a group of "30 to 40 men bearing small arms", said a UN statement released on Tuesday.

Local security guards managed to repulse the attackers after a 20-minute fire fight at the WHO compound on Monday evening. According to the statement, the attackers were "a group of armed fundamentalists". It said a variety of organisations were active in Merka - which lacks an established authority - including members of the Islamic groups Al Itihad, and Al Islah, "as well as Sharia court supporters". The UN said it had closed for the foreseeable future all UN travel and operations in Merka "because of the continued threat". [See full version on: http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/cea/countrystories/somalia/20000919.phtml]

SOMALIA: Released aid workers "weary"

The release of two aid workers held hostage by militiamen in Mogadishu for more than eight weeks was welcomed by French and British government representatives. French Cooperation Minister Charles Josselin said he welcomed the release of the two aid workers, one of whom is a French national, Francoise Deutsch, an administrator for the Paris-based NGO, Action contre la faim (ACF). British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook also welcomed the release of the ACF workers, the other of whom is a British logistician, Jonathan Ward.

A convoy of jeeps mounted with anti-aircraft guns escorted Deutsch and Cook to Aidaley airstrip, north Mogadishu, where they boarded a special European Union flight, AP reported. They were also escorted by workers from the German aid agency, Bread for the World, and EU officials, AFP reported. Ward told journalists they had been held together in a "tiny room" in a heavily fortified building in south Mogadishu, and had been "treated well". Deutsch, reported as looking tired, said her biggest worry had been the absence of news during their captivity. Both aid workers wore traditional Somali clothes, news agencies reported.

A local Somali radio station said the release of the hostages followed mediation by a German aid agency and members of the Somali business community. The two aid workers looked weary and told local journalists they were well fed, but kept isolated from the outside world, Radio Banaadir said on Monday in a report monitored by the BBC. Other media reports say a payment by the Somali business community may have been as much as US $80,000.

SOMALIA: Parliamentarians in Nigeria

A group of members of the newly elected Somali Transitional National Assembly (TNA) are in Abuja, Nigeria, for an African parliamentary conference. Speaker of parliament, Abdullahi Abdullah Derow, was invited to the conference after the Djibouti-hosted Somali peace talks elected president Abdiqasim Salad Hasan on 26 August, diplomatic sources told IRIN. Attendance of the African conference marks the first formal international recognition of the newly elected MPs, said the source.

SOMALIA: Saudi Arabia bans livestock imports

Saudi Arabia on Monday banned the import of livestock from several African countries, including Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan. A Saudi Health Ministry official said the ban was imposed to fight Rift Valley fever, a disease which has killed at least 16 people in the kingdom, Reuters reported. The Health Ministry had posted experts to the affected region in southwestern Saudi Arabia, where they were spraying mosquito-infested areas, getting rid of dead livestock and controlling the movement of other livestock. The ban on imports of sheep, goats and camels from countries, including Somalia, was described by the Health Ministry as "temporary", Reuters reported. Cases of Rift Valley fever - a haemorrhagic disease spread from livestock to humans - have previously been reported in the countries covered in the ban, said the official from the Saudi Ministry of Health.

SUDAN: Government aircraft bombs clinic in the south

A Sudanese government aircraft destroyed a Catholic medical dispensary when dropping 15 bombs on Narus in southern Sudan on Monday at about 9.45 a.m. One person was killed, and at least five wounded, including two children, humanitarian sources said. The bombing of Narus, which is 45 km from the Kenyan border town of Lokichokio, was reported in Rome by the Roman Catholic Missionary News Agency, Misna.

Information released by a Catholic diocese in southern Sudan, made available to IRIN, said three bombs were dropped on the a clinic, which belonged to the Catholic Diocese of Torit. One man was killed, and three women and two children injured, including the nurse in charge, Clementina Lobaya. None of the patients were injured. The Antonov aircraft then dropped another 12 bombs on residential areas adjacent to the home of Bishop Paride Taban, who received the information during a meeting Catholic bishops in Rome. A Sudanese NGO, Sudan Medical Care, helped evacuate the wounded to the ICRC hospital in Lokichokio, said the Catholic sources. The destruction of the clinic was condemned by the Catholic diocese in southern Sudan as an act against "innocent and defenceless civilians", who would be left without medical facilities and attention. According to information from the diocese, Ikotos camp for displaced persons was also bombed on 14 September.

SUDAN: Right group reports wave of arrests

Sudanese government security forces have arrested large numbers of people belonging to opposition groups in different towns in Sudan after accusing the Popular National Congress (PNC) of inciting riots. A press release by the Sudanese Victims of Torture Group (SVTG), a Sudanese human rights body based in London, named 58 male detainees. It called on all governments and human rights organisations to urge the Sudanese government to release those held without valid charges, and uphold the right of the detainees right to fair and impartial trials. The organisation also called on the government to "ensure the physical and psychological integrity of all the detainees".

According to the press release, issued 18 September, the 58 detainees were arrested in Al-Fashir (western Sudan), Port Sudan (capital of Red Sea State in the east) and Al-Ubayyid (capital of Kordofan State) after the government accused the PNC of inciting riots. The press release said the PNC had also been accused of being "the hidden hand" behind student demonstrations protesting against school fees in Port Sudan. The PNC is the party led by Hasan al-Turabi, the former Speaker of the National Assembly and leader of the National Islamic Front (NIF. The crimes against the state department of the attorney general's office said it had started investigating the incident to determine if there was a case to be submitted to court, according to the press release.

SUDAN: Government says rebel leader's offer "encouraging"

A Sudanese government spokesman said recent statements by the leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLA), John Garang, were encouraging for a peaceful solution. The minister of culture and information, Dr Ghazi Salah al-Din Atabani, was reported to have said by Sudanese state television, monitored by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), that the fact that Garang had expressed readiness to take steps towards a peaceful solution indicated "a new language". He said he hoped it expressed "a true desire for peace". The minister said the statements would be evaluated in the context of "efforts being made for peace, and the reaction will be commensurate". Garang said in a recent interview that he would be ready to meet with Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir. The gesture towards a peaceful solution to the civil war in the south comes as representatives from the two sides prepare for talks in Nairobi on Thursday, under auspices of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

SUDAN: Rebels release seven prisoners to ICRC

The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) released seven Sudanese detainees to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on 17 September. An ICRC press release said the detainees had been handed over by the SPLA in Kurmuk, southeastern Sudan, on the border with Ethiopia. With the agreement of the SPLA and the Sudan government, the detainees were then flown from the Blue Nile State to Khartoum in an ICRC plane, said the statement. The detainees had been registered and regularly visited by the ICRC during captivity and, according to ICRC procedure, were going home of their own free will.

Meanwhile, the Sudanese news agency, Suna, monitored by the BBC, carried a statement by the secretary-general of the Peace Advisory Office, Muhammad Ata, welcoming the release as a "positive indicator" for the peace process. He said it would promote the peace efforts expected to be exerted during the peace talks due to be held in Nairobi under the auspices of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Nairobi this Thursday. The statement said both sides had taken positive steps towards the release of prisoners, ceasefire agreements and declaration of a general amnesty.

HORN OF AFRICA: UN special envoy calls for more drought aid

Catherine Bertini, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy on Drought in the Greater Horn of Africa, on Tuesday made an impassioned appeal for increased donor assistance, pointing out that "3.3 million people in Kenya are in dire need of food".

Addressing a press conference in Nairobi, Bertini, who is the executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), described in detail the effects and consequent needs of Kenya in dealing with what is now called the worst drought on record. Bertini, who was on a week-long follow-up tour to her April visit, described how the situation had changed as the result of the prolonged drought. "In April we thought we were funded for Kenya, but as the drought continued, we realised we weren't," she said.

In fact, the UN has resourced only 70 percent of Kenya's current needs. According to a recent UN report, of the US $146 million budgeted for the crisis in Kenya, US $46 million was still needed. The report went on to say that, of all the countries in the Horn of Africa, Kenya needed the most urgent donor attention, as the country still faced a serious relief gap until early December 2000, and donor pledges needed to be quickly stepped up. While humanitarian assistance was planned until the end of the year, it was already foreseen that major relief assistance would be needed until at least mid-2001. [For full version see: www.reliefweb.int/IRIN]

Nairobi 19 September 2000 16:00 gmt

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