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IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 12 covering the period 20-26 Mar 1999

DRC: Garreton condemns upsurge of violence

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the DRC, Roberto Garreton, has condemned the upsurge of violence in the Kivus. In a statement issued in Geneva on Thursday, he urged all sides fighting in the area to respect international humanitarian law and spare civilian victims. According to the statement, he condemned specifically the killing of 70 people, reportedly by the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) in Rutshuru last month. Garreton also expressed concern over a reported massacre near Bukavu between 19 and 21 March, in which 250 people were allegedly killed.

The RCD meanwhile denied carrying out the killings. Its vice-president Moise Nyarugabo also denied a Reuters report earlier this week which alleged 100 people were killed in Magunga, near Baraka.

SADC pledges support for Kabila, government ready to meet rebels
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has reaffirmed support for President Laurent-Desire Kabila, but expressed concern over the continuing destabilisation of the region. In a statement issued on Monday in Gaborone, Botswana, a SADC committee expressed its “determination to safeguard the territory of the DRC”. Meanwhile, Zambian President Frederick Chiluba this week announced in Kinshasa that Kabila had expressed his readiness to meet the rebels.

Security Council and General Assembly debate conflict

The UN Security Council on 19 March held a day-long debate on the DRC situation. According to a UN press release, DRC Human Rights Minister Leonard She Okitundu accused Rwanda and Uganda of being the “sole obstacles to peace”. He said, however, that the DRC would be prepared to sign a ceasefire accord once Rwanda and Uganda withdrew from the country and an intervention force was deployed along the eastern border. Rwanda’s representative Patrick Mazimhaka accused the DRC of “violating its own sovereignty” by accepting the presence of former Rwandan soldiers and militias.

Meanwhile, in a UN General Assembly debate on the DRC conflict on Wednesday, Zimbabwe accused the international community of a “conspiracy of silence”, saying it had been largely uncritical of the “lack of democracy in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, while vocal in its criticism of the DRC”.

Sudan, Interahamwe “crucial element” in Great Lakes conflict
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan leaders have said their main adversaries are Sudan and the Rwandan Interahamwe militia. At a press conference last week, following Museveni’s visit to Kigali, the Ugandan president said the conflict “will only end if both the Interahamwe and Sudanese are disarmed from the Congo,” according to Rwandan radio.

Refugees arriving in Zambia with war wounds

UNHCR said the DRC refugee population in Kaputa, northern Zambia, had increased to 15,000 people over the past few days.

UNHCR Representative Mr Bajulaiye, in a press release received by IRIN, said that for the first time, refugees with battle wounds had arrived, although their condition was reported to be stable.

Meanwhile, RCD rebels said they shot down a Zimbabwean MIG fighter plane on 18 March near the government-held town of Kabinda, Kasai Oriental province, as journalists were shown the corpses of dozens of Zimbabwean troops around the nearby village of Eshimba.

Kabila expands cabinet

Kabila has expanded his new cabinet, the Agence congolaise de presse reported on Saturday. He named Frederic Kibassa Maliba - a former close ally of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi - as minister of mines and Dr Moleko Moliwa as minister of social affairs minister. Three new deputy ministers were also named.

Help for Bas-Congo’s refugee-hosting communities

The presence of more than 80,000 Angolan and Congolese refugees in the western province of Bas Congo could have “dire consequences” for both the refugees and the local population, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said on Tuesday. Conflicts in Congo-Brazzaville and Angola have caused Bas Congo’s refugee population to soar by 40,000 in the past eight weeks alone, the statement said. Bas-Congo itself was the scene of heavy fighting between August-October 1998.

Measles outbreak in Katana

Some 1,400 children have died of measles in the Katana health zone of South Kivu over the past year, a recent NGO survey has found. The survey, conducted by IRC between 10-12 March, revealed that the vaccination coverage rate in the area was “less than ideal”. An earlier IRC survey had found that 20 percent of child deaths in the area were attributable to measles. IRC estimates that some 45,000 of the estimated 56,200 children under five years old in the Katana zone need to be immunised against the disease.

Britain, US advise against travel to DRC

The British Foreign Office and the US State Department have both advised against all but essential travel of their nationals to the DRC. Meanwhile, a British Foreign Office statement on the recent expulsion from Kinshasa of two British embassy and four visiting officials said London expected the Congolese authorities to facilitate the sending of replacement officials to the British embassy. “Otherwise we cannot be expected to continue our present relationship with the DRC government,” the statement said.

RWANDA: Annan proposes independent enquiry into genocide

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has proposed an independent enquiry into the genocide of 1994. In a letter to the Security Council, he said questions continued to surround the actions of the UN before and during the massacres. “It is therefore my intention to set up an independent enquiry into the actions which the United Nations took at that time,” he said.

Returnees from the DRC

Over 5,000 returnees have recently crossed the DRC border into Gisenyi, WFP said in its latest weekly emergency report. It said the majority of the returnees were women and children.

Meanwhile, humanitarian sources said insecurity as well as poor economic and social conditions in eastern DRC could lead thousands more people, including former supporters of the Interahamwe and ex-FAR, to return to Rwanda in the coming months.

Three sentenced to death

Three defendants were sentenced to death at a genocide trial of 20 people in the southern city of Butare, Rwandan radio reported. Five others were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Meanwhile, 13 genocide suspects have died of typhoid in two prisons in the southern Butare prefecture, news organisations reported, citing state radio.

ICTR judge resigns

Dionysios Kondylis of Greece, one of three new judges sworn in at the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) last month, has resigned due to “unforeseen family and personal reasons,” according to an ICTR press release.

Reintegration programme extended

UNDP and UNHCR have recently extended the lifespan of the Joint Reintegration Programming Unit (JRPU) for Rwanda through the end of 1999. A UNDP statement said that under the programme, reintegration activities valued at US $21 million were currently under way in the country. The JRPU was set up by the two agencies in 1997 to help ensure a coordinated use of resources for reintegration programmes targeting returnees, genocide survivors and other vulnerable groups throughout the country.

Unmet humanitarian needs in northwest

Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the government and UNFPA in northwest Rwanda’s displaced camps in December/January found that 53 percent of the population was under 15 years old and children in charge of households were estimated to be 4.5 percent, according to a report from a recent OCHA-organised coordination meeting attended by UN, NGO, donor and government agencies in Kigali. Most of the northwest camps have since been dismantled and more than 94 percent of the estimated 508,626 displaced persons have been resettled through the government’s grouped settlement programme. The report said that while conditions in the northwest settlements were slightly better than in the camps, priority outstanding needs were in the areas of health and nutrition, agriculture, and water and sanitation.

Society threatened by alarming HIV rate

AIDS is threatening some 600,000 people in Rwanda, excluding children under 12 and new-born babies, according to an IFRC report. More than 11 percent of the adult population is infected with HIV nationwide, the number of AIDS orphans is nearing 100,000, and the workforce is being seriously debilitated, the report said. Against the backdrop of endemic poverty and post-genocide trauma, “an epidemic could hasten the disintegration of Rwandan social fabric,” it warned.

Rwandans prepare for first post-genocide elections

For the first time since the 1994 genocide, Rwandans will go to the polls on Monday to elect local officials. The elections will be held at “cellule” level, to be followed by “secteur” level polls two days later. “This grassroot election is a test of whether the country should go ahead with elections at national level, or just stop there,” a regional analyst told IRIN on Friday.

BURUNDI: Bujumbura Rural “extremely volatile”

Bujumbura Rural remains one of Burundi’s most affected areas in terms of insecurity and humanitarian needs, OCHA-Burundi said in its latest information bulletin. Since November 1998, it has also seen a high number of newly displaced people which now stand at 40,000 in three locations. UN agencies have decided to limit their assistance to measures that would not encourage continued dislocation of these IDPs. The report described the security situation in Bujumbura Rural as extremely volatile.
Meanwhile, the US State Department recommended all US citizens in Burundi to leave the country “because of the uncertain security situation”.

EU urges successful completion of peace process

The EU has welcomed the ongoing Arusha peace process, while expressing concern over continued violence in Burundi. In a statement, the EU presidency urged both the rebels and security forces to “cease their acts of violence immediately”.

UGANDA: Food distributions ongoing in conflict-torn Gulu

Food distributions in Uganda’s wracked northern town of Gulu are ongoing due to loans and borrowing from in-country stocks of other programmes such as the refugee programme, WFP in Kampala confirmed to IRIN on Tuesday. WFP’s emergency operation requires close to 58,000 mt of food annually for 347,000 displaced persons in Gulu and Kitgum, the report noted.

Plight of child soldiers and sex slaves highlighted

The UN Secretary-General’s latest report on the abduction of children from northern Uganda said that about 85 percent of girls who arrive at a Gulu trauma centre for former abductees of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had contracted sexual diseases during their captivity. The report said the LRA since 1986 had abducted up to 10,000 boys and girls. Children are forced to fight, both in Ugandan and Sudanese territory, and girls as young as 12 are given to commanders as “wives”.

Bombing in eastern Uganda

Ugandan police have arrested 12 people in connection with a bomb blast near a police station in the eastern town of Iganga, media reports said. The bomb, said to have been planted by a previously unknown group, the People’s Freedom Movement/Army, caused no injuries.

SUDAN: WFP warns of dangerously low stocks

WFP urgently needs funds to prevent its emergency food supplies for Sudan from running out in June, a statement from the UN food agency said. An additional US $63.8 million is urgently required to provide food for the rest of 1999. Some 2.3 million Sudanese rely on WFP food for their survival as a result of civil war, drought and floods.

US agency warns of “forgotten tragedy”

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has warned that Sudan risks becoming a “forgotten tragedy”.

Announcing aid to Sudan worth over US $130 million to date in the 1999 financial year, USAID’s administrator Brian Atwood said “Sudan continues to be the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis, but tends, due to the ever-growing number of disasters, to be what has come to be called a forgotten tragedy,” he told a US sub-committee on African affairs on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has approved humanitarian aid worth 13.5 million euro (US $14.7 million) for victims of conflict in Sudan. The aid, managed by the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), will support about 30 health, water and food security programmes over the next year, according to an ECHO statement.

Slavery allegations denied

Sudan’s permanent mission to the UN has denied allegations of slavery in Sudan, saying the claims have “played upon lazy assumptions to raise public outrage”. The mission, in a statement received by IRIN on Wednesday, said the “reality is that the unfortunate inter-tribal clashes over water and pastures results occasionally in regrettable habits of one tribe abducting members of another as a reciprocal retaliatory measure.”

No hostages for ransom - SPLM

The rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) at the weekend denied Khartoum’s claim that it was holding relief workers as hostages for ransom, saying its release of the two Swiss ICRC workers without ransom was a clear indication of its position in this respect. It reaffirmed that it would not release three Khartoum officials abducted on 18 February alongside the ICRC workers in Kong in the Pariang area of Bentiu county, southern Sudan, describing them as “officials cum spies.”

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Some displaced prepare to return home

UN agencies have begun to return to Brazzaville, where they are to start immediate humanitarian operations, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard announced in New York on 19 March. The move followed improved security conditions over the past weeks, he said. The immediate priorities of the UN agencies are to assist in the return of displaced populations to two abandoned neighbourhoods of southern Brazzaville, and to obtain more information on the situation of displaced populations further south in the Pool and Bouenza regions, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Georg Charpentier told IRIN from Brazzaville on Monday.

The return of an estimated 26,000-30,000 people, now staying in displaced sites of northern Brazzaville, to their homes in the Bacongo and Makelekele areas of southern Brazzaville will begin as soon as government authorisation is provided, Charpentier said. Meanwhile, contradictory information has been received about the humanitarian situation in Pool, but the condition of the displaced “is certainly precarious,” Charpentier said. An estimated 100,000-120,000 people who fled southern Brazzaville towards Pool in December remain unaccounted for.

Deteriorating crisis largely ignored - Amnesty

In response to what it calls a deteriorating human rights crisis largely ignored by the international community, Amnesty International on Thursday urged governments and intergovernmental organisations to “wake up to the gravity of the crisis” in Congo-Brazzaville and to take “immediate measures to bring it to an end.” In a report received by IRIN, Amnesty said hundreds of unarmed civilians were killed from late 1998 to early 1999 alone. The abuses were largely the result of power struggles between the country’s political leaders, including President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, former president Pascal Lissouba and former prime minister Bernard Kolelas, it said.

UNITED NATIONS: Human Rights Commission starts session

The human rights situation in the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and Sudan will be examined by the UN Commission on Human Rights during its 55th session, which began on Monday. The 53-member commission will also address the issues of child soldiers, mercenaries, traffic in women and girls and the effect of structural adjustment policies on the full enjoyment of human rights, among other topics. Amnesty International has urged the Commission to “make human rights and not politics the yardstick of its work”. Amnesty’s secretary-general Pierre Sane said that victims in places such as the Great Lakes region had been let down by “governments’ failure to match human rights rhetoric with adequate support for action”.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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