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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-05-07

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:


Thursday, 7 May, 1998

This daily news round-up is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information. The latest update is posted at approximately 6:00 PM New York time.


  • Secretary-General says international community and UN failed to prevent 1995 Rwanda genocide.
  • Secretary-General travels to Burundi and Rwanda.
  • Secretary-General says progress has been "very slow" in peace process in Tajikistan.
  • United Nations Secretary-General pleased to learn of progress in Sudanese talks in Nairobi.
  • Security Council strongly condemns atrocities committed by armed elements against civilians in Sierra Leone.
  • Security Council welcomes continuing deployment of United Nations mission in Central African Republic.
  • Head of UN Special Commission recommends travel restrictions against Iraqi officials be lifted.
  • Iraq to submit distribution plan for humanitarian aid under UN oil-for- food programme.
  • General Assembly decides to continue discussion of "sunset" provisions, defers other reform proposals to next regular session.
  • Competition over dwindling biological resources threatens to be source of future conflicts, says head of UN Environment Programme.
  • United Nations food agency begins airdropping emergency food supplies to 50,000 people in southern Sudan.
  • Some 75,000 people have been evacuated in Paraguay as torrential rains continue to cause serious flooding.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Thursday in Kigali that the international community and the United Nations had failed to prevent the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

"We must and we do acknowledge that the world failed Rwanda at that time of evil," the Secretary-General said in his address to the Rwandan parliament. "The international community and the United Nations could not muster the political will to confront it. The world must deeply repent of this failure."

"Rwanda's tragedy was the world's tragedy," he said. "All of us who cared about Rwanda, all of us who witnessed its suffering, fervently wish that we could have prevented the genocide."

The Secretary-General said the evil in Rwanda was aimed not only at Tutsis, but at anyone who stood up or spoke out against the murder. According to Mr. Annan, when the killers began, they also sought out "moderate" Hutus who would not kill or would not hate. That fact, he said, gave hope that Rwanda would rebuild itself as one country, on which future generations would build a tolerant society, defined by forgiveness.

He emphasized that the return to peace, coexistence and reconciliation must begin with justice. It must be guided, he said, by an unshakable determination to end the culture of impunity and prosecute and punish the "genocidaires" under the full force of the law.

The United Nations was assisting Rwanda to strengthen the judiciary and improve its prisons, Mr. Annan said. Last week, the Security Council had acted on his recommendations and decided to increase the number of judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and also to establish a third Trial Chamber.

Continuing his African tour, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan travelled on Thursday from Tanzania to Burundi and then on to Rwanda.

Before leaving Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Secretary-General discussed the current situation in Burundi with advisors to former Tanzanian President, Julius Nyerere.

After arriving in the Burundi capital of Bujumbura, he met with the heads of various UN agencies and urged them to work together. He then met privately with the President of Burundi, Major Pierre Buyoya, before a formal meeting with the President and full delegations.

The President called for the United Nations to assist in the lifting of sanctions against Burundi and to help with the establishment of a special tribunal to deal with acts of genocide committed in 1993. He also asked for assistance with his country's reconstruction and development.

Later, in a speech to the Burundi Parliament, the Secretary-General declared his support for both peace tracks in the country, namely, the private one led by Mr. Nyerere and the internal one. He pledged his support for the nation's rebuilding and recovery and the settlement of the refugee problem in the process of reconciliation.

In the afternoon, the Secretary-General flew to Kigali where he delivered a speech to the Rwandan Parliament.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says that progress in the peace process in Tajikistan has been "very slow" over the past three months.

In his latest report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General notes that it now seems unlikely that elections can be held this year. However, Mr. Annan recommends that the mandate of United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT) be extended for six additional months until 15 November 1998.

UNMOT was established in 1994 to help the Tajik adversaries end the civil war which broke out in 1992, a year after Tajikistan became independent following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Secretary-General says it has become clear that the task of building confidence between the former adversaries in the central Asian country is more difficult than anticipated and will take longer than the "ambitious" timetable of the peace agreement.

At the same time, he adds, progress that was made, notably the appointment of six representatives of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) to the Government and the containment of the crises in March, late April and early May indicates the interest of both sides in continuing the peace process. "There are signs of a growing realization that it is necessary to proceed in a balanced manner, taking into account the priorities of both sides," says the Secretary-General.

Mr. Kofi Annan says he fully supports the approach adopted within the framework of the Contact Group which has identified a number of immediate objectives. The objectives include the completion of the first phase of the military protocol and the appointment of UTO representatives to the remaining eight government positions to be filled by them.

It is clear that comprehensive international support, including financial assistance to help Tajikistan on the path of reform and development, remains essential for the continuation of the peace process, the Secretary- General notes.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday said that he was pleased to learn that the parties to the conflict in Sudan had made progress in their talks held in Nairobi.

The Sudanese parties concluded the talks, sponsored by the Inter- governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), by agreeing in principle on the right of self-determination for the people of South Sudan, a statement attributable to the Secretary-General said.

The Secretary-General said that he was encouraged that the next session of the negotiations will be convened in three months' time in Addis Ababa. He reiterated his full support for the IGAD peace initiative on Sudan.

Mr. Annan called on the parties to sustain the political momentum to find a negotiated solution to "one of the most protracted conflicts on the African continue," the statement concluded.

The Security Council on Thursday strongly condemned the atrocities committed by armed elements against the civilian population in Sierra Leone.

Following a briefing by the Secretariat on the situation in the country, Council President, Ambassador Njuguna Mahugu of Kenya said that the Council called for "these inhuman acts to stop immediately". In this regard, he added, members of the Security Council urged that respect for human rights and civilian order be restored and that a true process of long-term national reconciliation be promoted in the country.

Ambassador Mahugu said that the Council expressed its deep concern over the continued fighting and the serious humanitarian situation resulting from instability in the eastern parts of Sierra Leone. In this connection, he added, the Council expressed its appreciation to those organizations and countries providing assistance and encouraged them to continue doing so.

Members of the Security Council made a "passionate appeal" to the combatants to cease these hostilities and that armed elements surrender to the legitimate authorities of Sierra Leone. They also appealed to neighbouring countries to do everything in their power not to fuel the conflict in Sierra Leone, the Council President said.

Ambassador Mahugu, said the deployment of military liaison personnel in Freetown was proceeding on schedule and included the reinforcement of the Special Envoy's Office with political and humanitarian officers.

The Council expressed its great appreciation for the work being done by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its Monitoring Group, ECOMOG, in addressing the many problems of Sierra Leone. The Council once again urged the international community to provide logistical support in order to enable ECOMOG to complete its work, Ambassador Mahugu said.

The United Nations Security Council has welcomed the continuing deployment of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA).

The President of the Council for the month of May, Ambassador Njuguna Mahugu (Kenya) told reporters in New York, following a briefing by the Secretariat, that the Council also welcomed "the encouraging progress made towards national reconciliation in that country."

In March, the Security Council established the United Nations mission in the country with a military component of not more than 1,350 personnel for an initial period of three months, starting on 15 April 1998.

MINURCA replaced the Inter-African Mission to Monitor the Implementation of the Bangui Agreements (MISAB) whose mandate expired on 15 April.

The chief UN arms inspector has recommended that the Security Council lift the travel restrictions it imposed against Iraqi officials.

Richard Butler, the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), which oversees the dismantling of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, says Iraq has met the requirements for ending the travel ban. The Security Council imposed the restrictions in November 1997 against Iraqi officials who interfered with UN arms inspections.

In a letter released on Wednesday, to the President of the Council, Mr. Butler said Iraq had granted unrestricted and unconditional access to all sites -- including those it designated "sensitive" and "presidential" -- that UNSCOM wished to inspect.

Iraq had also granted the Commission unrestricted access to various equipment, Mr. Butler wrote. However, it had not yet provided access to records which the Commission had previously requested. He said he hoped the Iraqi Government would provide these records.

In the next few days, Iraq was expected to submit its draft distribution plan for food and medicine it is allowed to import under the UN's oil-for- food programme, a UN spokesman said on Thursday.

Eric Falt, the spokesman for the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, told correspondents in Baghdad that when the plan was ready it would be forwarded to the Secretary-General. He said the Government was now finalizing the various sectoral components, with direct input from the UN on the share to be allocated to northern Iraq. Representatives of the technical ministries had also been working closely with UN agencies, but the Government had final responsibility for the document, he added.

The target for the new and enhanced humanitarian allocation was $3 billion, up from $1.3 billion in phases I, II, and III of the oil-for- food programme, he said, adding that expenditures depended on available revenues and on how much oil Iraq was able to pump.

Mr. Falt said the current nutritional and health status of the Iraqi people had received a lot of attention in government reports and the media. However, educational needs were enormous and they affected the future and the spirit of millions of Iraqi school children and university students. "It is critical that the Government be able to rebuild the entire eduction system as quickly as possible, in order to recover from initial damages and now from a severe lack of funding," he added.

The General Assembly has decided to continue discussing, during its current session, the Secretary-General's proposal to impose time-limits on new initiatives involving new organizational structures and/or major commitments of funds, also known as "sunset" provisions.

A decision submitted by Assembly President Hennadiy Udovenko (Ukraine) was adopted without a vote on Wednesday afternoon when the Assembly resumed consideration of various measures and proposals on United Nations reform.

The purpose of "sunset" provisions is to strengthen the role and capacity of the United Nations by focusing its efforts on activities which have continuing relevance, usefulness and effectiveness.

The decision also included provisions pertaining to the Secretary- General's proposals for a Development Account, a revolving credit fund, pilot projects on budgetary practices, core resources for development and a new concept of trusteeship.

The Assembly welcomed the Secretary-General's proposal to designate its fifty-fifth session in the year 2000 as the Millennium Assembly. It further decided it would continue to consider his note on the Millennium Assembly at its fifty-third session. The Secretary-General recommended that the Assembly include a Millennium Summit devoted to an in-depth consideration of the theme "The United Nations in the twenty-first century" and a non- governmental Millennium Forum held in conjunction with the Assembly.

The General Assembly also decided to defer to its fifty-third session other reform proposals dealing with resources for development and a new concept of trusteeship.

Competition over dwindling biological resources threatens to become a major source of national and international strife in the decades ahead, the head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said on Thursday.

UNEP's Executive Director, Klaus Topfer was addressing representatives of over 170 state parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity currently meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia under UNEP auspices.

The Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity has been convened to promote global action on fresh water, ecosystems, marine and coastal areas, forest biodiversity and agricultural biodiversity.

Mr. Topfer called the Convention a "peace policy" for reducing future wars and conflicts. He emphasized the importance of biological diversity to human well-being and survival. "Our life support system is at stake, and we cannot afford for each of us to tackle the challenge in isolation," Mr. Topfer said stressing the need for joint efforts to secure the basic human needs of adequate food, clean water, sufficient energy, safe shelter, and a healthier environment.

The Convention was signed at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit by over 150 countries and now has 172 States Parties. Its objectives are "the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources."

UNEP's Global Diversity Assessment, produced with the participation of some 1,500 scientists, paints a frightening picture of species extinction. Since the year 1600, species extinction has occurred at 50 to 100 times the average estimated natural rate and is expected to rise to between 1,000 and 10,000 times the natural rate, the assessment concluded.

The Bratislava conference which started on 4 May is scheduled to last for two weeks.

The United Nations food agency on Thursday began airdropping emergency food supplies to 50,000 hungry Sudanese in the towns of Ajak and Akon, in the crisis-hit province of Bahr El Ghazal.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) began the operation following an agreement by the Government of Sudan last Sunday to allow the United Nations to use three additional C-130 planes, bringing the number of authorized C-130s to five.

"These planes are the lifeline for tens of thousands of Sudanese right now" said David Fletcher, WFP southern sector Coordinator for Sudan. He pointed out, however, that the human suffering seen over the last few weeks could not be changed overnight but WFP hoped that it "can stem the magnitude of the tragedy."

WFP said that tens of thousands of Sudanese have not yet received any assistance. The agency's teams which are currently distributing food in the are of Rumbek indicate that women have been collapsing at food distribution sites from sheer hunger, desperation and exhaustion. "With every day that passes more and more people are at risk," Mr. Fletcher stressed.

The newest C-130 arrived overnight at the United Nations base camp in Lokichoggio, Kenya from South Africa. The remaining two large aircraft are expected to arrive shortly, including one from Angola later this week.

Each plane is expected to make two flights per day dropping a daily total of 96 tonnes of food, enough to feed 240,000 people per day. This is three times the amount of food that was being delivered one week ago, said WFP.

Mr. Fletcher said that any setback the current airdropping operation is likely to face will be from an uncontrollable element such as the weather. "For example, we've just learned that heavy rains which are pounding down in some areas of Kenya, have damaged a bridge on the road we use to transport relief supplies to Lokichoggio," he said.

WFP, which is working in southern Sudan under the auspices of Operation Lifeline Sudan, provided more than 362,000 metric tonnes of relief food to an estimated 4.7 million victims of war and drought in four earlier operations beginning in 1992.

Some 75,000 people have been evacuated in Paraguay as a result of serious floods caused by torrential rains due to the El Nino phenomenon, in several provinces of the country.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in the Chaco region, the overflowing of the Parana River caused floods which have now spread to the southern part of the country.

The most critical situation is in the city of Pilar, Neembucu Province, where the river's level has reached 8 metres, says OCHA, adding that this level is expected to rise further as the rains continue to fall.

OCHA says that emergency relief requirements for the affected people include zinc and plastic sheeting, food supplies, family tents, wooden straps, plywood, clothing, mattresses, blankets, pneumatic boats, generators and medicines.

The governments of Switzerland and the United States have made cash contributions of more than $40,000, says OCHA. Other locally-based organizations are assisting the affected people with relief supplies including food.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <> - email:

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