News and Views on Africa from Africa
Last update: 1 July 2022 h. 10:44
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DR Congo

A Congolese human rights organisation has protested against the secrecy surrounding the trial of suspects alleged to have been involved in the 16 January 2001 assassination of Laurent-Desire Kabila, the then-president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In a statement released on 6 May, La Voix des Sans-Voix (VSV - Voice of the Voiceless) condemned the exclusion of the free press from media coverage of the trial and demanded that not only the trial be opened to the public but also that it be broadcast live via radio and television "so that the Congolese people know the truth about the death" of Kabila. It warned that any judgment rendered by the court after a trial behind closed doors would constitute a "masquerade of a trial".

The trial, which was originally open to the public, opened on 15 March 2002 before the Cour d'ordre militaire (COM - Military Order Court). On 22 April, the court accused private press outlets of a lack of objectivity in their reporting, and thereafter allowed only military press and state media representatives to attend proceedings. On 2 May, citing reasons of state security, the court went a step further by banning the state media from admission, and allowing entry only to the military press.


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on 8 May called on Ethiopia and Eritrea to expedite the repatriation of prisoners of war (POWs). It said it was concerned by a "slowdown" on the part of both countries in handing over POWs captured during the bloody border war which ended two years ago. However, Prof Jacques Forster, Vice-President of the ICRC, insisted that Ethiopia was not in violation of the four Geneva Conventions by failing to repatriate POWs.

Under the 1949 third Convention 1949, POWs should be repatriated when hostilities have ended "without delay". But hundreds of them are still being held by both Ethiopia and Eritrea.

"I would not say they are in violation, because it is a process - releasing prisoners of war," he said at a press conference on 8 May in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, following a five-day tour of Ethiopia. "The experience we have [is] it takes time. It shouldn’t take too much time, but it does take time."

Forster went on to say: "There was a positive start in the process of releasing and repatriating the prisoners of war. The process has now slowed down, one could say. We are concerned by the length of [time being taken up by] the process. We are concerned, because behind each case you have an individual, you have a family. It is a major humanitarian concern," he said.

Forster noted that the delays affecting POW repatriations had been occasioned by failure to establish the whereabouts of an Ethiopian senior officer missing in Eritrea. He said the Ethiopians were deeply concerned about the air force colonel, Bezabih Petros, after the aircraft he was piloting was shot down over Eritrea.


The Ebola haemorrhagic fever outbreak in Ogooue-Ivindo region of Gabon has ended, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on 9 May. The last notified case died on 19 March and no cases have since been reported, it added. "As of 6 May, the Gabonese Ministry of Public Health officially declared the end of the capital outbreak," WHO said. "No further cases have been reported for a period equivalent to twice the maximum incubation period for Ebola," it added. WHO did not mention the status of the outbreak in Republic of Congo.

The outbreak began in December 2001 and has mainly affected the Mekambo area, 600 km east of Libreville, and districts across the border in neighbouring Republic of Congo. On 10 April, WHO said 65 confirmed cases including 53 deaths had been reported by the Gabonese Ministry of Health. In nearby Republic of Congo, 32 cases including 20 deaths had been reported as at 29 March in Mbomo district, in the western Cuvette region while 23 deaths were reported in Kelle district.

Ebola is a haemorrhagic fever transmitted through direct contact with body fluids of infected persons or other primates. There is no cure and between 50 percent and 90 percent of victims die.

Kenya - Somalia

World Vision Kenya has announced that it and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) are constructing 2,200 shelters for 11,000 Somali Bantus who will be relocated from Dadaab Refugee Camp in northeastern Kenya to Kakuma Refugee Camp in the northwest. The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told IRIN last week that it could not yet state when exactly the relocation would start, but World Vision said the work on the shelters for them was expected to be completed in Kakuma within three months. The construction area has already been set aside and survey work started, according to the NGO.

The US decided last year that it would resettle over 8,000 Somali Bantus in 2002, probably because UNHCR feared tension in Dadaab, arising from the fact that Dadaab has a predominantly non-Bantu Somali population, if the Bantus were resettled there, according to humanitarian sources. This was the likely reason for the decision to move the Bantus to Kakuma, which also has a substantial Somali population, but is predominantly Sudanese,they told IRIN.

Early in January there were some 132,000 refugees in Dadaab (over 129,000 of them Somalis) and just over 83,000 in Kakuma, of whom about 67,000 were Sudanese and about 12,000 Somalis, according to UNHCR figures. (Source: []

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