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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-08-25

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Monday, 25 August 1997

This document is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information and is updated every week-day at approximately 6:00 PM.


  • Half of Bosnian Federation's police force has been restructured, a UN spokesman reports.
  • UN Secretary-General's investigative team starts work in Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees calls for halt to violence in Great Lakes region of Africa.
  • Situation in occupied territories "very serious," UN Secretary- General tells NGO gathering.
  • UNRWA forced to cut services to Palestinian refugees in response to serious budget shortfall.
  • Secretary-General's Military Adviser to head UN team at peace- keeping training exercise in Brazil.

The formal inauguration of the Posavina Cantonal Police Force, scheduled to take place today in Orasje, brings to five the total number of police cantons in the Bosnian Federation which have been formally inaugurated. "This takes us to the half-way point in the restructuring of the Federation's police force," said a UN spokesman in Sarajevo. He expressed confidence that the remaining cantons would be restructured in the coming weeks.

Elsewhere, in Banja Luka, 30 Republika Srpska officers yesterday completed a two-day introductory training programme given by the UN International Police Task Force. Thirty more police will start that programme today.

Also in Banja Luka, UN officers are continuing their investigations into allegations of serious human rights abuses committed by the police. The spokesman said the UN is maintaining a round-the-clock presence in five police facilities in the city.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's team charged with investigating allegations of massacres of Rwandan refugees and other atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has started its work, a UN spokesman announced today.

The team, which arrived in the former Zaire on Sunday, met today with representatives of UN funds, programmes and agencies in Kinshasa. A meeting is planned with Etienne Mbaya, the Minister for National Reconstruction and Emergency Relief, who has been designated by the Government to deal with the UN team, but no time or date has been set. The Minister was reported to be in the south of the country. Among the issues to be addressed is the role and composition of the liaison committee to be appointed by the Government.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today condemned the attack that killed 148 people in a camp in Rwanda last week, and warned that this incident should not be used as a pretext for further violence in the Great Lakes region.

High Commissioner Sadako Ogata said she was "shocked and outraged" by Friday's attack against Mudende Camp in Rwanda's Gisenyi province. At least 131 Congolese refugees and 17 others, including one of the attackers, were killed, and another 80 were wounded in the assault -- the worst against a refugee camp in Rwanda. "This latest atrocity again demonstrates the need to end the spiral of violence which continues to plague parts of the region, " said the High Commissioner.

Rwandan officials said Hutu rebels were responsible for the attack on the camp, which holds more than 8,000 Tutsi refugees who escaped ethnic clashes in the Democratic Republic of Congo over the past several years.

According to UNHCR, thousands of returning refugees in Rwanda and Burundi have been caught up in ethnic clashes. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there have been reports of further killings of Rwandan Hutu refugees, while in Congo-Brazzaville, intensified fighting has left refugees and displaced people cut off from international assistance.

Pressure for repatriation is rife in the region, UNHCR reports. "The clamor for justice must be satisfied," Mrs. Ogata said, "However, not all Rwandan refugees were involved in the genocide. We must be able to screen them and separate the innocent from the guilty."

UNHCR is holding consultations with the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on how to tackle the deepening crisis in the Great Lakes region.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today characterized the situation throughout the occupied territories as very serious, particularly in light of the restrictions imposed by Israel following the recent bombing.

The Secretary-General has repeatedly and strongly condemned all acts of terrorism aimed at innocent civilians. He has also underlined the need for a commitment by the Israeli Government to eschew unilateral acts. "Measures that can be perceived as collective punishment against the Palestinian people are not conducive to understanding between negotiating partners," he said.

The Secretary-General's remarks were delivered by the Director- General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Vladimir Petrovsky, to the International NGO Meeting/European NGO Symposium on the Question of Palestine. "In the current circumstances of a deteriorating situation on the ground and great difficulties in the resumption of negotiations, NGOs will certainly be called upon to make an even greater contribution," he said.

Mr. Petrovsky said the Secretary-General underlined the need for international humanitarian assistance and development work to continue unimpeded in order to help establish the necessary environment for the resumption of negotiations.

The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Peter Hansen, has announced a number of cost-saving measures being taken to reduce a severe deficit in the financing of the agency, which is facing a $20 million deficit for the last four months of 1997 due to insufficient contributions from donor countries. Faced with this major crisis, UNRWA was obliged to take major cost-saving measures.

Addressing UNRWA staff, the Commissioner-General said, "As UNRWA has already exhausted available possibilities in the context of austerity measures and freezes in expenditure, for the first time I am compelled by circumstances to take more radical measures, including cuts and reductions" in services.

In an interview with UN Radio today, William Lee, the UNRWA Representative at UN Headquarters, said the agency had been forced to implement a 15 per cent reduction in international staff. In addition, UNRWA's share of university scholarships for 1997-1998 had to be frozen. A plan to recruit 250 teachers was also canceled due to the budget cuts. Instead, UNRWA will only be able to contract teachers on a short-term basis in the West Bank and Gaza.

Discussions are currently being held with the host authorities on the possibility of introducing new school and textbook fees, but the matter has not yet been decided. Also under consideration is a two-month freeze on hospital referrals and reimbursements. There will be a meeting in Amman between UNRWA, major donor countries and the host authorities on 9 September to clarify the future course of action.

For the first time, UN personnel will be active participants in the training of peace-keepers, as some 400 civilian and military personnel attend Fuerzas Unidas -- Peace-keeping Operations '97 South America, hosted by Brazil and cosponsored by the United States Southern Command. The UN Secretary-General's Military Adviser, Major General Franklin van Kappen, will lead a 21-person UN team with representatives from various UN departments and agencies, and will participate in two panels on UN peace- keeping.

"The exercise will help the United Nations and other participants to develop further peace-keeping doctrine and training standards, and to coordinate performance standards for peace-keepers," said General van Kappen.

The exercise scenario involves a fictional UN peacekeeping operation in a fictional nation. The events in the exercise are based on issues identified in peace-keeping operations, including human rights, ethnic rivalries and the breakdown of civil order.

Among those participating from the UN system are representatives from the Departments of Peace-keeping Operations, Humanitarian Affairs and Public Information, as well as from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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