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Tuesday, January 12, 1999 Published at 23:45 GMT

East Africa: The week in review

In this report compiled by BBC Monitoring:

No progress on Congo talks

[ image: Rebels deny reports of a massacre in eastern DR Congo]
Rebels deny reports of a massacre in eastern DR Congo
In the past week, the rebels fighting to overthrow Democratic Republic of Congo President Laurent Desire Kabila rejected his invitation to hold talks with them in the capital Kinshasa and also dismissed reports that they massacred about 500 civilians in Makobola, a village in eastern DR Congo.

On Tuesday the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) condemned the bombing of Kisangani, DR Congo's third largest city, by what it said was a Zimbabwean plane hired by Kabila's forces.

An RCD statement quoted by the Rwandan news agency (RNA) said the bombs dropped on Sunday hit a hotel, killing at least dozen people.

Mr Kabila said last Thursday that he would not go anywhere except Kinshasa to meet the rebels.

[ image: Kabila: No meeting unless in Kinshasa]
Kabila: No meeting unless in Kinshasa
RCD Deputy Chairman Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma responded by saying President Kabila himself had been invited to come to rebel headquarters in the eastern city of Goma. Mr Ngoma refused to go to Kinshasa.

"Negotiations follow a certain procedure," said Mr Ngoma, quoted by the Rwandan news agency RNA. "What we note as positive in this offer is that Kabila has finally accepted that direct talks be held between the Congolese people themselves."

The United Nations in Geneva said on Tuesday that a UN special rapporteur for human rights, Roberto Garreton, had been officially invited to visit DR Congo. President Kabila's government had previously barred him after he accused pro-Kabila forces of major human rights violations.

A controversy is still raging over the alleged massacre of about 500 civilians in Makobola by rebels on 31st December and 1st January, reported by the Rome-based Catholic mission news agency Misna. The village lies in DR Congo's South Kivu province.

The RCD denied that its forces were responsible.

"These reports are false," RCD liaison officer Jonas Padiri told RNA. He spoke of an attack in the area by about 400 Hutu rebels from Tanzania and Burundi, belonging to the Front for the Defence of Democracy in Burundi (FDD).

Rwandan refugees return

[ image: Hutu refugees head back to Rwanda]
Hutu refugees head back to Rwanda
On Monday, RNA reported that more than 2,000 Rwandan Hutu refugees had returned to Rwanda from DR Congo so far this year.

The Hutu refugees, who fled Rwanda in 1997, were returning from northeastern DR Congo's Masisi region.

Most of the returnees said they decided to return after Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu visited the border areas with "reassuring messages" in December.

Unrest continues in Burundi

Unrest continued in neighbouring Burundi last week, with Burundi radio reporting that 17 "terrorists" had been killed near the capital Bujumbura.

The commander of the first military region, Col Juvenal Niyoyunguruza, said the area had been declared a combat zone since last August.

A regional summit on Burundi has been set for 23rd January in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, the French news agency AFP reported.

A senior Tanzanian foreign ministry official quoted by AFP said the summit was likely to suspend, but not cancel, the economic sanctions imposed on Burundi by regional leaders in July 1996.

The sanctions followed the seizure of power by Tutsi Major Pierre Buyoya, and were designed to force him to negotiate with the Hutu rebels and return Burundi to constutitional rule.

Kenya and Uganda hit by food shortages

[ image: Failing crops threaten a crisis]
Failing crops threaten a crisis
The Ugandan newspaper `The New Vision' reported on Monday that famine was affecting over 1,500 families in the Rakai district of southern Uganda. World Vision International, a non-governmental aid organization, has started distributing 84 tonnes of relief food.

Kenyan TV reported that more than half of Kenya's population are facing the famine, despite a surplus maize crop, due to poor rains towards the end of 1998.

The Agriculture Ministry warned that a crop failure was expected in the Eastern, Coast, Central, Northeastern, Nyanza and Western provinces.

Agriculture Minister Musalia Mudavadi said the government would buy some of the surplus maize and then distribute it as relief food.

"While farmers in the major growing districts have surplus grain emanating from the successful long rains, farmers in the non-maize surplus regions are heading for total crop failure," Mr Mudavadi warned.

"It will be impossible for us to say that we can purchase all the maize. We have no pricing policy, apart from letting the market forces be the ones to determine the price."

China's foreign minister on tour

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan has visited Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania on a regional tour in the past few days.

[ image: Museveni: Inspiration from Chinese revolutionary history]
Museveni: Inspiration from Chinese revolutionary history
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told the minister that Africa had drawn inspiration from Chinese revolutionary history, especially from the late Mao Tse-Tung's military strategies, Ugandan radio reported.

President Museveni also expressed admiration for China's independent diplomatic approach, especially during the Cold War years, and for China's approach to the introduction of a free market economy without undermining political stability.

Mr Tang said there would be no change in the approach to Africa established by the previous generation of Chinese leaders. He said his tour was intended to boost China's cooperation with African countries.

On Monday, Mr Tang signed three cooperation agreements with his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete, Xinhua news agency reported. They include assistance to improve water supplies in the central city of Dodoma, and 100,000 dollars of emergency food aid alleviate the effects of drought and other natural disasters.

Rising tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea

Eritrea accused Ethiopia on Friday of threatening a new round of fighting.

[ image: Eritrea says Ethiopian forces remain a threat]
Eritrea says Ethiopian forces remain a threat
An Eritrean Foreign Ministry statement quoted by Eritrean radio said the "weyane [Ethiopian] government's current war threat signalled that Ethiopia would begin a war in the next few days or weeks" .

The ministry said preparations for such a war had been going on for the past eight months.

The statement said a speech by Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin to diplomats in Addis Ababa on 5th January, regarding peace efforts by the Organisation of African Unity, was "full of lies and distorted the real efforts under way" .

War erupted between the two countries last May over their ill-defined border. In June, they agreed to a US-brokered deal to halt air strikes.

Renewed fighting in Somalia

In Somalia, about 60 people were reported killed in heavy fighting in the southern port of Kismaayo last week. The Somali newspaper `Qaran' said fighting erupted last Wednesday between the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) militia, led by Gen Muhammad Sa'id Hirsi Morgan, and the Somali National Front (SNF).

SNF militiamen attacked the town from the north and west, the paper reported.

"Our contacts in the town told us that 60 people were killed and 100 others injured during the fighting," it said.

Ahmad Isma'il Ali, a spokesman for the SPM, said his militia killed 40 members of the rival group, and suffered eight losses.

On Saturday, the Somali newspaper `Ayaamaha' said life had returned to normal in Kismaayo, but many people had fled the town and "many people, mostly civilians, were killed".

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