Weekly anb0515_3.txt #6

WEEKLY NEWS ISSUE of: 15-05-2003      PART #3/6

* Congo (RDC). The battle for Bunia - 8 May: A number of people have been killed in north-eastern Congo in a day of fighting and looting. Thousands of residents are spending the night in buildings protected by UN peacekeepers. Clashes between rival ethnic militias broke out in Bunia following the withdrawal of Ugandan forces. The violence came as the President of Uganda and Rwanda met in London to discuss --among other issues -- peace in Congo where they have both supported rival rebel groups. Hundreds of militia fighters --some children -- roamed Bunia's streets, today, some armed with machetes and spears, others with guns. Reports say there have been heavy casualties and widespread looting and that thousands of people have fled the town. 9 May: No fighting has been reported today in Bunia but the UN spokesperson in Bunia, Patricia Tome, says the situation is volatile. She appeals for emergency food supplies and said about 1,000 students have mobbed the UN headquarters in the town to ask for help. The UN spokesperson says hundreds of families sheltering in a UN base had come under mortar fire and the UN troops have fired back. She says some 5,000 people had left their homes and sought protection from UN peacekeepers. 11 May: The United Nations has held talks with rival ethnic militias to try to end fierce fighting in the north-east of Congo. The Hema and Lendu militias, battling to control the town of Bunia, have been urged to withdraw to camps on the outskirts. More bodies of civilians from the latest fighting have been found -- including three babies -- while the few remaining aid workers in the area are battling to feed thousands of refugees. The situation will be discussed by the UN Security Council on 12 May -- which is expected to be asked to deploy more peacekeeping troops. There are currently 625 UN troops in Bunia, struggling to keep apart as many as 28,000 tribal fighters from across the region. "The problem is that there are too many armed groups in the town and as long as they remain in close proximity, it is easy for them to resume fighting," Amos Namanga Ngongi, head of the UN mission in Congo, said. He said that if the fighters went to the camps and disarmed, aid workers would provide them with food and medicine. The UN has been unable to calculate exactly how many people have been killed in the four days of fighting as some parts of the town are still off limits to them, but Mr Ngongi said the death toll would be "quite heavy". UN representative Patricia Tome said the bodies of five men, four women and three tiny babies were found in the centre of Bunia on 11 May. The adults had suffered gunshot wounds and cuts, and the babies had had their throats slit. She said that UN workers also found 13 nuns hiding at the site of a massacre near a church on 10 May, in which 20 people, including two priests, were killed. 12 May: Well-armed ethnic Hema fighters have taken control of Bunia. They forced out Lendu militiamen who had been in control for the past week after a two-hour battle, say United Nations officials in the town. The latest fighting came ahead of a meeting of the UN Security Council, today, to discuss the situation in Bunia. Senior figures including South African President Thabo Mbeki have urged the UN to increase its force there and strengthen its mandate. Following the takeover by the Hema Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), ethnic Lendus are leaving the town, says UN spokeswoman Patricia Tome. "If [UN peacekeeping] troops are going to be deployed they have to deployed quickly," she said. "The UPC say they have warned their men against committing abuses in the town but the Lendu are not going to take the word of the UPC and they are leaving." UN officials within Bunia say the Hema fighters launched their attack at 0600 local time (0500 GMT). Using artillery and mortars, they chased out the town's Lendu defenders within two hours. The officials said the militiamen, many of whom are drugged teenage fighters armed with machetes and spears, turned and ran in the face of superior fire power. The two sides have been fighting for control of Bunia and the gold rich region that surrounds it for the past week, since the Ugandan army withdrew following an agreement with the Congolese Government. President Joseph Kabila has invited all militia leaders to peace talks and called on them not to target Bunia's population. Because of the ethnic aspect of the conflict -- the Lendu and Hema are traditional foes -- many civilians have been killed. 13 May: An article in today's Belgium's La Libre Belgique wonders if the capture of Bunia by the Hema is the prelude to an internal Hema feud? The question is asked because of differing views expressed yesterday by a senior Hema leader, Thomas Lubanga, and Colonel Prince Mugabo, another Hema leader. -- A UN official says that heavy artillery is again heard in Bunia. Floribert Ndjabu Ngabu, leader of the Lendu Front of Nationalists and Integrationists, says his troops have launched a counter-attack. -- The UN Security Council has been discussing sending more peacekeepers to the Ituri district around Bunia. France has offered to contribute troops but the Hemas say they would consider them as enemies. The United Nations is to ask other countries to follow France's example in offering to send peacekeepers to the north-eastern Ituri region in Congo. The Security Council's president says a final decision on what should be done in Congo is not expected to be reached until later this week. -- The UN Children's Fund (Unicef) has announced that two planeloads of humanitarian aid supplies have been sent to Ituri. Medicine and water purification tablets were delivered to the UN military contingent (MONUC) for distribution, Unicef spokesman Damien Personnaz said. -- Carla del Ponte, prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia warns that the conflict in north-eastern Congo could constitute genocide. This term brings with it obligations under international law for the outside world to intervene. 14 May: Heavy fighting is once again raging in Bunia. Dead bodies are reported to litter the streets of the town. UN spokeswoman, Patricia Tome, says: "There's fire everywhere, from mortars, from Kalashnikivs and other heavy arms". Thousands of displaced people in Bunia are suffering in desperate conditions. The latest attacks come as Congo's President Kabila flies to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania for a regional summit to discuss the crisis in eastern Congo. Ethnic Hema and Lendu leaders are reported to have also left Bunia airport to attend the talks along with Congo's Human Rights Minister Ntumba Luaba who is sheltering at the UN compound. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 14 May 2003)

* Côte d'Ivoire. Situation improving - 10 May: The government of national reconciliation has approved a decree lifting a curfew imposed after the 19 September rebellion began. The decision was announced over the national TV service. 13 May: The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to send a new peacekeeping mission to Côte d'Ivoire to try to enforce a fragile ceasefire between government and rebel troops. The new resolution authorises the establishment of a small force of up to 76 military observers in the West African nation, which has suffered eight months of civil war. The resolution was adopted just hours after the Security Council postponed a fact-finding mission to West Africa which would have included a stop in Côte d'Ivoire. The token force will work alongside UN humanitarian agencies and the UN special representative. The mission, known by the acronym Minuci, will include 26 military officers and is expected to play a co-ordinating role between the existing West African and French forces on the ground in Côte d'Ivoire and to monitor the implementation of the peace agreement. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 13 May 2003)

* Côte d'Ivoire. Fin de l'état de guerre - Le vendredi 9 mai au soir, le gouvernement ivoirien de réconciliation nationale a officiellement proclamé la fin de l'état de guerre en Côte d'Ivoire et la suppression de toutes les "zones de guerre" sur l'ensemble du territoire national. Le 10 mai, le président Gbagbo a aussi signé un décret levant le couvre-feu instauré depuis huit mois en Côte d'Ivoire. Ce décret vient consolider la signature d'un cessez-le-feu sur tous les fronts décidé il y a une semaine. Le gouvernement d'union s'est également engagé à rétablir l'autorité de l'Etat dans les territoires sous contrôle rebelle. La proclamation de la cessation définitive de l'état de guerre met officiellement fin à la crise politico-militaire qui secoue le pays depuis septembre 2002. A partir du 15 mai, une mission du Conseil de sécurité de l'Onu entreprendra une tournée dans la sous-région, avec comme principal objectif l'évaluation de l'application des accords de Marcoussis de janvier dernier. - 10-11 mai. Durant le week-end, le gouvernement a mis au point un programme d'application des accords de Marcoussis, qu'il entend soumettre prochainement à l'Assemblée nationale. Il s'agirait en particulier des dispositions concernant la nationalité, l'identité, la présidence de la République, le foncier rural et le désarmement. - 13 mai. Le Conseil de sécurité de l'Onu a approuvé l'envoi d'une mission en Côte d'Ivoire (intitulée Minuci) chargée de faire respecter l'accord de paix. Le conseil a autorisé l'envoi pour six mois d'une mission pouvant compter jusqu'à 76 observateurs, chargés de surveiller la situation et de collaborer avec la force ouest-africaine et les militaires français. Kofi Annan avait initialement préconisé l'envoi de 255 hommes, mais les Etats-Unis ont souhaité que ce nombre soit réduit. Par ailleurs, le conseil a reporté une mission en Afrique de l'Ouest qui devait débuter jeudi. - D'autre part, selon des sources militaires et locales, plusieurs dizaines de personnes, hommes, femmes et enfants, de l'ethnie Guéré, auraient été tuées, les jours précédents, au cours de nouvelles violences interethniques dans la zone occidentale du pays. Les soldats français n'ont pu confirmer l'information. (ANB-BIA, de sources diverses, 14 mai 2003)

* Djibouti. Etat-major américain - Le général américain John Sattler, précédemment embarqué à bord du navire de commandement Mount Withney, qui croisait dans le golfe d'Aden et en océan Indien, a reçu l'ordre d'installer son état-major à Djibouti dans le cadre des actions entreprises par les Etats-Unis contre le terrorisme international. De là les forces spéciales américaines seront engagées dans des actions antiterroristes dans la Corne de l'Afrique (Djibouti, Ethiopie, Erythrée, Kenya, Somalie et Soudan). Au camp Lemonnier, une ancienne base de la Légion étrangère en République de Djibouti, 1.200 soldats américains stationneront au terme d'un accord signé en février 2003. (Le Monde, France, 9 mai 2003)

* Ethiopie/Kenya. Inondations - Tout comme au Kenya (voir nos informations du 5 mai), les pluies torrentielles ont fait des ravages en Ethiopie. Dans l'est du pays, qui avait connu des mois de sécheresse, au moins 40 personnes se seraient noyées. "Des villages entiers ont été détruits et les habitants ont dû chercher refuge dans les montagnes", a déclaré à la BBC le ministre éthiopien de l'Energie, Mohammed Dirir. La rivière Shebelle a débordé et quelque 100.000 habitants des villages riverains sont sans abri. - Au Kenya, selon des sources locales de l'agence Misna, les pluies restent violentes et la situation semble empirer. Selon les dernières données de la Croix-Rouge, au moins 40 personnes ont péri dans les inondations. Le 7 mai, le gouvernement a déclaré l'état d'urgence national et fait savoir que l'armée serait mobilisée pour secourir la population. Les métérologues affirment que les pluies continueront pendant tout le mois. (ANB-BIA, de sources diverses, 9 mai 2003)

* Gambie. Sécheresse - aide d'urgence - Le conseil d'administration de la Banque africaine de développement (BAD) a approuvé un don de 500.000 dollars à la Gambie pour une aide d'urgence aux victimes de la sécheresse. Ce don servira à aider les populations les plus touchées par les pénuries alimentaires consécutives à la longue sécheresse qui a touché 235.000 habitants dans 10 des 35 districts du pays en 2002. Quelque 1.600 tonnes de semences seront aussi fournies aux populations pour la prochaine campagne agricole qui commence en juin. (PANA, Sénégal, 10 mai 2003)

* Guinea-Bissau. Strike bites - 13 May: Unpaid civil servants in Guinea-Bissau have begun a series of week-long strikes. On 12 May, schools and hospitals were closed and energy and water supplies switched off by the workers who have not been paid for six months. The strikes have deepened tension in the former Portuguese colony where officials have twice postponed a planned general election because of a lack of cash. Correspondents say the conditions are already terrible in the country of a population of one million. Food shortages have reportedly worsened in recent months. Teachers say they will strike for two weeks, while staff at hospitals and clinics and water and energy workers are refusing to work for a week, Portuguese state radio Radiodifusao Portuguesa reported. At least 80% of workers stayed away from work, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported. President Kumba Yala is reported to have met privately last week with senior military officers angry that the army has received no pay since last year. Senior officers last week were said to have stayed away from the swearing-in ceremony of new Defence Minister Filomena Tipote. The previous minister, Marcelino Cabral, was fired by President Yala for criticizing the government and was later arrested on slander charges. (BBC News, UK, 13 May 2003)

* Kenya. Concerns grow over flower farms - BBC One's "Real Story" has been in Kenya to expose the cheap labour, health risks and environmental damage at farms which supply supermarket flowers to the UK. The flower farms around Lake Naivasha are set in beautiful scenery with prolific wildlife. But for the men and women who work on them life is an endless grind. They travel to work in the early morning in company trucks that are grossly overcrowded, causing some to faint. In huge greenhouses, often in sweltering heat, they tend miles of plants which are sprayed regularly with toxic pesticides. Kenya exports 35,000 tonnes of cut flowers to Europe, putting it only behind Colombia and Israel for global flower exports, and giving it 60% of the US $165 million African flower trade. Almost half is creamed off by the supermarkets. Another complaint from the workers is that the toxic chemicals in the pesticides they are exposed to are affecting their health. Rashes, chest complaints, nausea, and even miscarriage, have been associated with spraying. (BBC News, UK, 12 May 2003)

* Kenya. Alleged British war crimes - Scotland Yard has launched a war crimes inquiry into events 50 years ago in Kenya, where British officials are accused of involvement in atrocities during the Mau Mau insurgency. It is thought to be the first time that British police have investigated acts by British citizens that could lead to their prosecution for breaching the Geneva Convention. (The Guardian, UK, 14 May 2003)

Weekly anb0515.txt - #3/6