CENTRAL & EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 123 for 18 - 24 May 2002
Nairobi, 24 May 2002 (IRIN) - CONTENTS:CENTRAL & EASTERN AFRICA: UN Security Council conference proposal made publicDRC: Efforts to resume inter-Congolese dialogueDRC: RCD guilty of "grave violations of human rights" - UNDRC: Government meets financial partnersDRC-UGANDA: General testifies before DRC exploitation commissionRWANDA-UGANDA: Interahamwe reported present in UgandaUGANDA: Disarmament exercise leads to clashes in KaramojaROC: Kindamba besieged, humanitarian access deniedBURUNDI: Eleven killed in ambush, including only pygmy senatorBURUNDI: Hutu rebels free kidnapped bishopBURUNDI: Iteka concerned over freedom of speechTANZANIA: Condom shortageKENYA: Humanitarian concerns mount over Somali refugeesKENYA: Anti-AIDS groups demand urgency to match crisis
ALSO SEE:KENYA: Focus on the national flooding emergency at UGANDA: Special report on resettlement of Kikagati returnees at
CENTRAL & EASTERN AFRICA: UN Security Council conference proposal made public
A supplementary UN Security Council proposal for a regional summit on security and development in Africa's Great Lakes region says the agreement of "all countries concerned" in conflicts in the area should be obtained on "principles and procedures" capable of ensuring peace and stability.
The proposal is an addendum to the final report of the Council's mission to the region from 27 April to 7 May. The Council submitted the document - "International Conference on Peace, Security, Democracy and Development in the Great Lakes Region" - to parties to the conflict for their consideration.
The proposal aims at "laying the foundations for just and lasting peace and stability in the Great Lakes Region by dealing in global and long-term fashion with the factors able to help in achieving" the objectives of peace, security, democracy and development. The Council said it would be up to the parties to the conflict to decide when the conference should start, "keeping in mind that the process could begin as soon as the withdrawal of each of the foreign contingents currently deployed on the territory of the DRC has started being implemented".
Noting that the organisation of the conference was "a matter for the African countries alone to decide", the Council suggested that the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), with UN backing, could lead it.
With regard to participants, the Council suggested that the OAU invite the countries in the region directly concerned with the conflict - namely Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe - and those with past involvement in mediation attempts; as well as those hosting refugees stemming from conflicts in the region. The UN, the Southern African Development Community, international financial institutions, the EU and interested countries, including donors, could also participate "under a status that could vary depending on the issues tackled and the assistance they could provide to support the implementation of the outcome of the conference". [Full report
]DRC: Efforts to resume inter-Congolese dialogue
The facilitator of the inter-Congolese dialogue (ICD), Ketumile Masire, is continuing efforts to resume the inter-Congolese dialogue, with the assistance of the OAU. At a meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Thursday, Masire said "only a minute fraction" remained to be done to complete the dialogue, adding that if the parties could come back to the negotiation table an inclusive deal could be clinched in which there would be neither "victor nor vanquished", the Office of the Facilitator reported. Following the meeting in Ethiopia, Masire would travel to the DRC capital, Kinshasa, where he would meet President Joseph Kabila, and hoped "in the very near future" to continue negoting with the other Congolese belligerents in the conflict, the facilitator's office said.
Meanwhile, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, Chairman of the OAU, announced on Thursday that he had arranged a meeting of regional heads of state - to take place in Zambia on 30 May - to try to restart the ICD, Reuters reported. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda indicated his support for the meeting in a press release issued on Thursday. "They reviewed the ICD, and agreed that until an inclusive agreement is reached by all Congolese parties, the problems of the DRC and her neighbours will not be resolved," said a statement issued by the office of the Rwandan president.
President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, who met Kagame at the COMESA summit in Addis Ababa on Thursday, reportedly also expressed his support for the meeting, the office of the Rwandan president said. "They [both presidents] expressed support for the proposal to convene a summit of all stakeholders to discuss how best to realise a power-sharing arrangement in the DRC that would enable a stable transition," said the statement.
Earlier, on 17 May, at a "brainstorming" session held in New York, the facilitator for the inter-Congolese dialogue, Masire, received the unanimous backing of the international community to continue his role as facilitator. The meeting - organised by the UN Department of Peace Keeping Operations - brought together representatives from the UN, donor countries, the IMF and the World Bank. [Full report
]DRC: RCD guilty of "grave violations of human rights" - UN
The United Nations mission in the DRC (known by its French acronym MONUC), has accused the Rwandan-backed Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma) armed opposition movement of "grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law" in the eastern DRC city of Kisangani, where the RCD is the de facto administrative authority. "In light of overwhelming evidence, and even though a mutiny appears to be at the origin of the reprisals committed by the RCD, MONUC considers the exactions to have been unjustifiable and unacceptable," the UN mission said on Thursday in a preliminary report on a mutiny within RCD-Goma in Kisangani from 14 to 21 May.
While still compiling a definitive list of victims, MONUC has, so far, recorded the deaths of at least 23 people, including civilians, which occurred when hostilities erupted early on 14 May. On 15 and 16 May, executions took place on Kisangani's Tshopo Bridge and at the UNIBRA pier. MONUC personnel reported seeing corpses floating in the River Congo, some of which had been mutilated and stuffed into plastic bags. Twenty other corpses were found in a mass grave to the east of the airport.
In an interview with Voice of America radio on Wednesday, the RCD-Goma spokesman, Kin Kiey Mulumba, said his organisation was calling for the establishment of an international independent commission of inquiry. "Killing a man, whether he is a Tutsi or Hutu or Muntu, is an atrocity. We must condemn these atrocities wherever they come from. Now RCD is accused, but I wonder, in what interest would our movement engage in a diabolic operation that would eventually mar its image? And who would profit by these sombre events?" he said. [Full report
Meanwhile, a barge carrying humanitarian goods arrived in Kisangani on Wednesday, Jean-Bosco Mofiling, an assistant humanitarian affairs officer at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told IRIN. He said the barge had carried 1,000 mt of medical material, fishing equipment, seeds, food, cooking utensils, school supplies, construction material and other non-food items, three-quarters of which had already been discharged at Kisangani. Of the total consignment, he said, 131 mt was discharged in ports of Lisala, Bumba and Isanga along the River Congo. Soldiers of the UN mission to the DRC had escorted the consignment.
]DRC: Government meets financial partners
Delegates at a meeting between the DRC government and its development partners have expressed readiness to respond positively to a call by a UN Security Council mission for more economic aid to the country, the World Bank reported on Tuesday. It said that several delegations also expressed readiness to contribute to a bridging loan for settling the country's arrears to the Bank and the IMF.
Delegates at Tuesday's meeting discussed the country's economic situation, debt, ways to speed up and increase financial aid, and eligibility for the Highly Indebted Poor Country Debt reduction initiative. DRC Finance Minister Matungulu Nguyamu, the World Bank, the IMF, the African Development Bank Group, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and individual donor countries attended the meeting.
The World Bank reported there was general agreement among delegates on the analysis of the country's economy, which included the following: satisfaction with the implementation of the IMF-monitored economic programme, which has been in place for over one year; encouragement by recent political progress in the DRC; concern with the "dire humanitarian and social needs" in the country which could destabilise the transition process; and support for the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, which was broadly endorsed at the recent inter-Congolese dialogue. [Full report
]DRC-UGANDA: General testifies before DRC exploitation commission
Facing threats of arrest, the Ugandan acting army commander, Maj-Gen James Kazini, testified on Monday before a six-member government judicial commission set up to investigate allegations of the nation's involvement in the illegal exploitation of natural resources of the DRC, the commission's chairman, Justice David Porter, a British expatriate, told IRIN on Tuesday.
Although Kazini made no startling revelations, Porter admonished him for having been caught telling "at least 10 lies" to the commission in the course of his testimony on Monday. [A transcript of Kazini's testimony can be found on the website of The New Vision Ugandan government-owned daily newspaper at http://www.newvision.co.ug/detail.php?story=42143
Porter told IRIN that Kazini's prior failure to appear before the commission had delayed its investigation "by two or three weeks", and that it had therefore brought the matter to the attention of the foreign ministry, which would then decide if an extension of the commission's mandate, due to expire on 31 May, would be granted. [Full report
]RWANDA-UGANDA: Interahamwe reported present in Uganda
Members of Rwanda's Hutu militia group, the Interahamwe, who were responsible for the 1994 genocide and have since been in exile, are active in Uganda, news agencies have reported. AFP cited what it said was a report from a military commission - the Joint Verification and Investigation Team (JVIT) - set up by Rwanda and Uganda to probe the activities of Rwandan dissidents stating that "there has been some Interahamwe activity in the national Mgahinga Park area" of southwestern Uganda.
According to the document there were "unconfirmed reports of Interahamwe presence in the dense forest of Bwindi" in southwestern Uganda, AFP reported, and that "small groups of Interahamwe would transit from the DRC to Rwanda". Moreover, clashes had also broken out in February between the Interahamwe and the Ugandan army, following the discovery of Interahamwe camps and leaflets containing propaganda against Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
The JVIT, comprising two Rwandans, two Ugandans and a British representative, conducted its interviews with civilians, Ugandan army representatives, local police officers and a national park warden between 14 and 16 May.
Responding to the allegations, the Ugandan army spokesman, Maj Shaban Bantariza, told IRIN on Wednesday that whereas the report had mentioned "some Interahamwe activity", it had not specified what the word "activity" actually meant. "It is very important to define what those activities are," he said. "It [the JVIT] was set up to establish whether the Interahamwe had established camps in Uganda and whether that was with the Ugandan government's support," he said. "Neither of those things has been found. There are no camps in Uganda and no attacks have taken place from Uganda." [Full report
]UGANDA: Disarmament exercise leads to clashes in Karamoja
The Ugandan army has said it is facing difficulties in persuading one of the five ethnic groups in the districts of Moroto and Kotido in the northeastern Karamoja subregion of Uganda to disarm.
The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) has been carrying out a disarmament programme in Karamoja since December. Maj Shaban Bantariza, the UPDF spokesman, told IRIN that the Jie, one of the five main Karamojong groups, was resisting efforts to disarm them and had instead dug trenches around their huts, from which they were shooting at soldiers.
"All the other ethnic groups in Karamoja are cooperating. The problem is only the Jie," Bantariza said. "When we go there, they shoot at us from their manyattas [settlements], and we shoot back," he added. Bantariza was responding to recent claims of alleged harassment of civilians in the Karamoja region by the Ugandan army. Ugandan media reported on 17 May that the Karamojong in Moroto had been demonstrating against soldiers, whom they accused of looting property, beating and molesting civilians and assaulting girls and women. The protests allegedly followed an operation by the UPDF on 13 May within Moroto municipality, the government-owned New Vision newspaper reported.
Bantariza said the UPDF had, on Thursday 16 May, carried out a major sweep of Kotido, in which a number of military uniforms, rocket-propelled grenades, more than 30 rifles and several hundred rounds of ammunition were recovered. Two soldiers died in the operation, while up to 13 Karamojong were killed, he said. "We lost two soldiers in the operation. Isn't that a battle? Why do they want us to be nice and courteous in battle?" Bantariza asked. [Full report
]ROC: Kindamba besieged, humanitarian access denied
At least 5,000 people have been trapped since 31 March in the town of Kindamba, in the Pool region of the Republic of Congo (ROC), and the Congolese government has not yet granted the international community access to assess humanitarian needs there, the office of the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator reported on Monday. "The UN and its partners have attempted on two occasions to fly to Kindamba to assess humanitarian needs," the report said. "Each time they were denied, because the military was unable to guarantee the safety of the plane and personnel."
It added, "Available information suggests that close to 50,000 persons have now been displaced by fighting in Congo's Pool region, a number that it seems likely will continue to grow in the coming days."
Using testimonies collected from internally displaced people arriving in the capital, Brazzaville, the UN has gained some understanding of what life has been like for the population of Kindamba. "Packed into three displacement camps, they have faced the threat of starvation and disease," the UN reported. "Their rights have been violated and their homes destroyed. It is unclear for how long this situation will continue." The UN also reported that women are being raped "by more than one soldier at once, and threatened that they will be shot if they report it". [Full report
Meanwhile, the first round of national legislative elections are scheduled to take place on Sunday in the ROC, despite calls from the opposition for a postponement in order to update and verify lists of registered voters, and continued insecurity in the Pool region, which borders the capital, Brazzaville. The government has stated that if instability prevented elections from taking place in certain regions, they would simply be held at a later date. A second round of legislative elections is due to take place on 23 June, concurrent with local and municipal elections.
At stake in this election are 137 seats in the National Assembly and 66 in the Senate. Since 1998, ROC has had a National Transitional Council (NTC) consisting of 75 non-elected members. The NTC was created to replace the bicameral parliament that existed prior to the 1997 civil war. The NTC will be replaced by the bicameral parliament chosen in this election. According to the International Foundation for Election Systems, the number of registered voters in the ROC is about 1,600,000, of a total estimated population of three million. [Full report
]BURUNDI: Eleven killed in ambush, including only pygmy senator
Eleven people, including the only senator from the minority Twa community, were killed on Wednesday when rebels ambushed two minivans were ambushed near Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, a local journalist told IRIN on Friday.
The National Assembly had confirmed the death of Senator Jean-Bosco Rutagengwa, AFP reported. The Twa, or pygmy, ethnic group represents 1 percent of Burundi's 6.5 million inhabitants. The Twa are believed to have been the first people to settled in the region, preceding successive migrations of Hutu farmers and Tutsi herders. It is believed that Rutagengwa was not specifically targeted.
Eight other civilians and two government soldiers were among the dead, and an additional six civilians were seriously wounded in the incident at Gasozo, 17 km east of the capital, on Route Nationale 1. The highway has come to be known as "the Road of Death", the news agency reported. In the nine years of Burundi's civil war, more than 100 civilians have been killed on the this road.
Military sources blamed the ambush on the Forces nationales pour la liberation (FNL), known to operate in Bujumbura Rurale, the province that surrounds the capital. "The FNL rebels are losing the war in Bujumbura Rurale," an army officer told AFP on Thursday. "The army has lost dozens of soldiers there, but rebel losses are 20 times as high," he added. A rebel official told AFP this, noting that "not only have the rebels lost many fighters, but the FNL is now divided, which weakens us a little more". [Full report
]BURUNDI: Hutu rebels free kidnapped bishop
Burundi Hutu rebels freed on Thursday the Roman Catholic Bishop of Ruyigi, Monsignor Joseph Nduhirubusa, whom they seized in an ambush seven days ago, the Missionary Service News Agency, MISNA, reported. He was freed to the papal nuncio in Burundi, Monsignor Michael Courtney, in a village near to the city of Bubanza, some 31 km north of Bujumbura. Courtney described Nduhirubusa as being exhausted, but "in good condition".
The rebels, the Forces pour la defence de la democratie, seized Nduhirubusa and his driver on Saturday as they drove through the Kabire forest toward Ruyigi, in the east of the country. The rebels shot dead two government army escorts. However, in a communiqué announcing the abduction, the FDD said they had taken Nduhirubusa "to guarantee his safety" since there was a war on in the country.
Earlier this week, MISNA quoted Western diplomats in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, as saying that Nduhirubusa's abduction was most likely as a result of mistaken identity. The Associated Press reported that he was the second high-ranking Roman Catholic cleric the rebels had abducted since 1996, when they killed the archbishop of Gitega, Joachim Ruhuna.BURUNDI: Iteka concerned over freedom of speech
The indigenous human rights advocacy group, Iteka, expressed concerned on Thursday over the transitional government's restriction of civil liberties in Burundi. In a statement, Iteka expressed concern at "the tendency" of the government to try to achieve this objective by intimidating the media.
Iteka cited the case of a meeting held by journalists on 16 May at which the state prosecutor and the defence minister had issued "threats". During the meeting, the prosecutor banned Radio Publique Africaine from reporting on investigations into the November 2001 killing of the World Health Organisation's head of operations in Burundi, Dr Kassi Manlan, Iteka reported. The defence minister, for his part, had ordered journalists to desist form interviewing Burundi rebels while ceasefire negotiations were in progress.
Iteka said prohibiting coverage of investigations into Manlan's death stimulated the phenomenon of impunity that was "eroding" Burundi society. It added that the ban on interviewing rebels failed to conform to press laws or the journalistic code of ethics, whose principal mission was to inform the public on the ceasefire negotiations. Iteka, therefore, demanded that the government revise all the injunctions imposed at the 16 May meeting, that it allow the media to inform the public freely on the peace process, and that it permit all the protagonists in the conflict to express themselves freely.TANZANIA: Condom shortage
The government of Tanzania has expressed concern that the country is facing a shortage of condoms, with only a million now in stock - sufficient for one month - although their wide availability is a central plank of national strategy to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Deputy Health Minister Hussein Mwinyi told reporters of the condom shortage on 17 May as he announced that a consignment of defective condoms returned to the manufacturer last month would be replaced "as soon as possible" with quality ones by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the Guardian newspaper reported on Saturday.
The shortage follows the return of a batch of 10 million condoms the UNFPA imported for free distribution across Tanzania, but rejected in April as sub-standard by the Tanzania Bureau of Standards and the Ministry of Health. The UNFPA announced on 11 May that it would replace the condom shipment intended for use in Tanzania, after a laboratory in the United States confirmed defects in samples submitted for testing. None of the condoms had been released from storage in Tanzania, it added.
An estimated 50 million condoms are used in Tanzania each year, according to the BBC. Tanzania's National Policy on HIV/AIDS, a 45-page document published in November 2001, supports and promotes the use of condoms as a key method of curbing HIV transmission. In mainland Tanzania, some 12 percent of the sexually active population is HIV-positive, though there are serious regional variations, according to informed sources. And the HIV/AIDS pandemic - which has now infected about two million people in Tanzania - poses a serious challenge to the country's development, undermining the capacity of both public and private sectors to deliver on national development goals, according to the UNDP. [Full report
]KENYA: Humanitarian concerns mount over Somali refugees
An unprecedented influx of refugees from Somalia into the northeastern Kenyan town of Mandera as a result of escalating inter-clan fighting which broke out in southern Somalia in April is putting a heavy strain on the local population in the arid district, where malnutrition levels have risen to between 30 percent and 40 percent in recent weeks. At the same time, humanitarian officials said that international relief organisations were concerned over reports that Kenyan officials had forced the thousands of refugees who had fled the fighting in Bulo Hawa, in Gedo Region, to return to their country.
According to media and humanitarian reports, the inter-clan fighting has sent two waves of refugees into Mandera. The first, of some 5,000 refugees, entered it nearly a month ago. The second, at the beginning of May, brought the estimate to 10,000, according to international media organisations and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
However, at least 6,000 of the refugees were now living just inside Somalia, having been forced to leave Mandera, after Kenyan authorities began using threats and intimidation, the BBC reported on Tuesday. "The police came to the camp and told us through loudspeakers to leave Mandera in two days or face the consequences," the BBC quoted one of the affected refugees as saying. A humanitarian source told IRIN that NGOs and UN agencies were "frustrated with the Kenyan government's attitude", and were seeking ways of bringing pressure to bear on the authorities to reconsider their position, either by involving the donor community or by making a public statement on the situation. [Full report
]KENYA: Anti-AIDS groups demand urgency to match crisis
AIDS organisations meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on 19 May urged political, religious and community leaders to step up, expand and intensify the fight against the disease, and provide better leadership and guidance to society in the face of the scale of the pandemic.
"The current budgets and support levels do not reflect the urgency of the pandemic," the activist organisations asserted, pointing out that the disease had now infected some 2.2 million people in the country, and was claiming 700 lives a day.
The organisations urged Kenya's leaders to address structural problems in the health sector, fight discrimination against HIV-infected people, and help society overcome the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS issues. They also demanded the speedy introduction of cheaper, generic AIDS drugs as provided under in the new Industrial Property Act, which became law in Kenya on 1 May.
The groups issuing the call for an intensified push against HIV/AIDS included the National AIDS Control Council of Kenya; Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya; The Association for People With AIDS in Kenya; the Post-Test Club; Soul to Soul; the Kenya AIDS and Drugs Alliance; Action Aid (Kenya); and Medecins Sans Frontieres. They were marking the 19th International AIDS Memorial Day at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi with public mourning for the loss of loved ones and a call to strengthen the commitment to fighting the pandemic. [Full report