IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 78 covering the period 23 - 29 Jun 2001
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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BURUNDI: Aid agencies suspend work in Bubanza
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Burundi has strongly condemned an attack on an NGO vehicle in Bubanza Province last week, and called on all armed factions to adhere to international human rights and humanitarian law. In a statement, he urged the armed groups to stop targeting civilians and aid workers. "Humanitarian workers, often at great risk to themselves, are delivering much needed assistance to the most vulnerable populations throughout Burundi," the statement noted. It recalled that the vehicle belonging to the British NGO Children's Aid Direct (CAD) was stopped by a "man in uniform". The man opened fire on the vehicle, killing the driver, and seven more "heavily armed men" emerged from the bushes and took the remaining three CAD workers hostage. They were released after one and a half hours. Three international NGOs who have been operating in Bubanza - CAD, International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Action contre la faim (ACF) - have suspended their activities in the province until further notice.
Meanwhile, the rebel Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD) denied any involvement in the Bubanza attack. In a statement, received by IRIN on Wednesday, the CNDD-FDD said it did not target civilians in its fight against the Burundian army.
BURUNDI: Defence minister meets Tanzanian counterpart on refugees
The defence ministers of Burundi and Tanzania met in Dar es Salaam over the weekend to discuss the issue of refugees and strained relations between the two countries, according to various reports. Burundian Defence Minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye arrived in the city on 23 June for discussions with his Tanzanian counterpart, Philemon Sarungi, to try and resolve some of the problems. A joint statement issued on 24 June said the two countries would set up commissions to deal with the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Burundian refugees living along Tanzania's western border. It said the refugees could be repatriated to Burundi or resettled in "other countries". Tanzania has been growing increasingly edgy about the continuing presence of the refugees, saying they are a burden on the country.
According to the BBC, Sarungi accused the Burundian army of committing border violations. Burundi, for its part, accuses Tanzania of allowing the camps to be used as recruitment bases for the rebel Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD). The joint statement described the consultations between the defence ministers as "frank and spirited". It also accused the media of exaggerating tensions between the two countries. Humanitarian sources told IRIN that ongoing arrangements are being made for the possible return of the refugees, including sensitising both the refugees and the host communities in Burundi on issues of land ownership and reconciliation. The sources say land will be a major issue when the refugees return, although Burundian army sources said there was enough land for everyone.
BURUNDI: Over 500,000 people displaced
There are about 580,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Burundi, an update by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) released on Monday said. It, however, cautioned that chronic insecurity and problems of access often made the compilation of exact figures difficult. It quoted UN sources as saying that 379,779 IDPs were recorded in 210 sites within Burundi as of May 2001. Following the dismantlement of the regroupment sites, more than 200,000 people may be dispersed in other areas of the countryside, NRC said. The largest number of the displaced now resides in sites of the southern provinces of Makamba (103,656 persons), Bururi (87,581 persons) and Rutana (77,901). NRC said the number of the displaced in Rutana had greatly increased since last September due to conflict, from 2,000 to almost 78,000 at present according to UN estimates.
It said that while many people have had to flee their homes to escape violence, displacement in Burundi was not just a consequence of the conflict. "It has been to a large extent the result of a planned action by the government, both in 1996-97 and 1999-2000, which became known under the name of regroupment policy," NRC said. It said because of the bad climate conditions, insecurity and massive forced displacement, malnutrition and disease were starting to cause more victims than war.
BURUNDI: Mandela invites regional leaders to meet on Burundi
The mediator of the Burundi peace process, Nelson Mandela, has invited 12 African heads of state to a summit in Tanzania next month, news organisations quoted Mandela's representative, Mark Bomani, as saying on Tuesday. "The facilitator will report the state of negotiations to heads of state of the Great Lakes region on 23 July in Arusha," Bomani said. "He will report on the progress made in mediating the conflict." The presidents of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Burundi, Rwanda, DRC, Togo, Zambia, Libya, Namibia and Gabon have been invited.
RWANDA: Three genocide convicts appeal in Belgium
Three of the "Butare Four" genocide convicts found guilty in Brussels on 8 June have filed an appeal in Belgium for a retrial. Alphonse Higaniro, 52, former director of a match factory in Butare, and two Roman Catholic nuns, Consolata Mukangango, 42, and Julienne Mukabutera, 36, known as sisters Gertrude and Maria Kizito, were found guilty of war crimes committed during the 1994 genocide and sentenced to between 12 and 15 years in jail. A lawyer for Mukangango said the appeal challenged the trial's judicial procedure on technical terms.
The "Butare Four" trial was described as "historic", because it was the first time that defendants were tried in Belgium under a 1993 law which allows Belgian courts to judge war crimes and human rights violations committed by foreigners on foreign soil, including armed conflict within a country. No information was available about the fourth defendant, Vincent Ntezimana, 39, a former professor at Butare university, who was found guilty of five out of the nine counts against him.
RWANDA: Ugandan soldiers defect, seeking political asylum
Some 50 Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) soldiers have defected to neighbouring Rwanda seeking political asylum, news agencies reported on Tuesday. Rwandan government spokesman Joseph Bideri told Reuters on 24 June that the soldiers "accuse the government of Uganda of political persecution, corruption and torture". Some of them subsequently began undergoing treatment in Kigali, Rwanda News Agency (RNA) quoted official sources as saying. It said some of the officers had signs of "torture" citing Colonel Samson Mande, who had his genitals damaged and is said to be recovering from injuries at a clinic in Kigali.
Responding to a UPDF statement that Rwanda should hand over dissident army officers to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as required by international law, Bideri told the independent Ugandan newspaper 'The Monitor' on Monday that "Uganda is holding some Rwandese army officers who haven't been handed over to the UNHCR. They therefore have no example to talk about." However, Lt-Col Noble Mayombo, head of the Ugandan military intelligence, assured 'The Monitor' that all dissident Rwandans in Uganda were under the protection of UNHCR. UPDF spokesman Lt-Col Phineas Katirima denied that any Ugandan officers had fled because of torture, and Mayombo added it was "ironic for people to leave Uganda citing torture and seek asylum in Rwanda".
RWANDA: Rwanda joins Nile basin development group
The government of Rwanda has joined the International Consortium for Cooperation on the Nile (ICCN), a newly-founded organisation of Nile basin countries with the objective of achieving sustainable development to benefit all people of the region, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported on 23 June. At a preparatory meeting for the ICCN's first meeting scheduled to take place on 26 to 28 June in Geneva, Rwandan Minister of Energy, Water and Natural Resources Marcel Bahude said the main objective of the Nile Basin Initiatives (NBI) was to develop water resources of the Nile in a sustainable and equitable way to ensure prosperity, security and peace for all people of the Nile base region. "Promotion of economic integration in order to eliminate rampant poverty in the region and... joint actions between the countries in the region which are seeking 'win-win' gains are some of the NBI's objectives," RNA reported Bahude as saying.
RNA also reported that World Bank representative for Rwanda, Edward Brown, had stressed the need to take into consideration the impacts of projects on the environment. Brown assured the ICCN it could count on the World Bank for funding. "You can always count on our support in meeting these challenges," RNA reported Brown as saying.
Other ICCN member countries include Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.
RWANDA: About 55,000 refugees by end of 2000 - US committee
Approximately 55,000 Rwandans were refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2000, a USCR country report for Rwanda said. It said nearly 30,000 of these people were in Tanzania, some 15,000 in Uganda, about 5,000 in Congo-Brazzaville, up to 3,000 in Kenya, about 1,000 each in Burundi and the DRC and 2,000 new Rwandan asylum seekers in Europe. It, however, said that an estimated 30,000 Rwandans in the DRC were living in "refugee-like" circumstances, "their entitlement to full refugee status uncertain pending full screening". Approximately 150,000 Rwandans were internally displaced at the end of 2000, although estimates varied widely because of different definitions about which populations qualified as displaced, the report said. Rwanda hosted nearly 30,000 refugees at the year's end, including about 28,000 from the DRC and some 1,000 from Burundi. While some 25,000 Rwandan refugees were repatriated during the year, about 10,000 new refugees fled the country, the report added.
DRC: Mayi-Mayi attack on FLC troops reported in Butembo
A Mayi-Mayi militia group reportedly attacked troops of the Front pour la liberation du Congo (FLC) on 24 June at their headquarters at Rwenda airport near Butembo in northeastern DRC, as well as at the local radio station, a regional analyst informed IRIN on Tuesday. Fighting continued around the two localities intermittently from 0400 to 1800 local time. Twenty Mayi-Mayi assailants, described by eyewitnesses as poorly armed, were killed in the attack before withdrawing to their base camp on the outskirts of the town. Butembo was reported to be "relatively calm" on Monday, although some store owners refused to open for business, fearing renewed fighting. The analyst told IRIN that "it is not clear what prompted the Mayi-Mayi to launch the attack, nor which political players stand to benefit from the situation". No civilian casualties or destruction of civilian property were reported.
DRC: Dialogue facilitator completes tour of SADC states
The facilitator of the inter-Congolese dialogue, Botswana former President Ketumile Masire, has returned to his headquarters in Gabarone, Botswana, following a tour of five Southern African Development Community (SADC) states, according to a press release issued by Masire's office on 22 June. During the five-day tour, Masire met with Presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. "I briefed the heads of state on progress in the inter-Congolese dialogue and also sought their advice on the way ahead," Masire said.
Masire also informed the leaders of plans for a preparatory committee meeting for the inter-Congolese dialogue to be held in Gabarone beginning on 16 July. Issues to be discussed at the meeting include the date, venue and rules of procedure for the dialogue. Masire said the SADC leaders were supportive of his plans on how to proceed with the dialogue, and they pledged to do their utmost to help advance the DRC peace process. "I'm much encouraged by the support of the five leaders we saw," Masire said. Masire made a similar tour of Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda in late May.
DRC: Over 2 million uprooted people The USCR last week released an overview report of statistics and recent history of refugees and IDPs in the DRC. Among its most notable data is that DRC was the source of more than 2.1 million uprooted people at the end of 2000, including some 350,000 refugees and asylum seekers, and an estimated 1.8 million IDPs. Approximately 1 million Congolese fled their homes during the year, and there were significant numbers of refugees from DRC in at least ten countries: about 110,000 in Tanzania, nearly 100,000 in Congo-Brazzaville, some 60,000 in Zambia, 28,000 in Rwanda, 15,000 in Central African Republic, 12,000 in Angola, 10,000 in Uganda, 5,000 in Burundi, 2,000 in Cameroon, and 2,000 in Malawi. About 8,000 citizens of DRC applied for asylum in Europe during the year. Congo has a total population of about 50 million.
At the same time, about 275,000 refugees from six neighbouring countries were in DRC at the year's end: 170,000 from Angola, 70,000 from Sudan, 20,000 from Burundi, 10,000 from Uganda, 5,000 from the Central African Republic, and 1,000 from Rwanda. The report noted that an estimated 30,000 or more Rwandans were in DRC living in refugee-like circumstances, but their status remained undetermined pending assessment of their asylum claims. [The complete report can be found at http://www.refugees.org/world/countryrpt/africa/congokinshasa.htm]
UGANDA: Election violence deaths
NAIROBI, 27 June (IRIN) - At least seven people were shot dead in election violence across Uganda, news agencies reported on Wednesday. Violence erupted in a village near the eastern town of Mbale after a bodyguard of candidate Simon Mulongo allegedly shot and killed five opposition supporters, the semi-official 'New Vision' daily said. The newspaper reported that an angry mob then disarmed Mulongo's bodyguard before killing him. "At least six people are dead, and eight are injured and are in Mbale hospital," Reuters quoted police spokesman Eric Naigambi as saying. Voters in the village had accused Mulongo and his entourage of handing out bribes to buy support.
In a separate incident in the south-central town of Mityana, the minister of state for gender, youth and culture, Vincent Nyanzi, was arrested after his bodyguard shot and injured a supporter of his rival for the town's parliamentary seat. According to the 'New Vision', Nyanzi was one of 150 people taken into custody across the country for alleged election malpractice and violence. Meanwhile, in the western district of Hoima, the chief administrative officer, Patrick Mwesigwa, was arrested for allegedly using soldiers and police to force electors to vote for his preferred candidate for the Buhaguzi seat, the newspaper said.
The violence marred a generally peaceful day of polling across the country, in which voter turnout was thought to be low - lower than the 60 to 70 percent seen in March's presidential elections, Reuters said. "There is no enthusiasm. The turnout is very low compared to last time. I think people are weary of elections," Lawrence Mukasa, an election official in Mukono, 20 km east of Kampala was quoted as saying by Associated Press. [For further details see IRIN separate report entitled "UGANDA: Seven killed in election violence]
GREAT LAKES: Belgium approves "Plan of Action" for peace
The Belgian government has approved a 37-page document entitled "Construction of Peace in the Great Lakes: An Action Plan". According to the text, received by IRIN on Monday, the plan underlines three "main challenges" for the region: restoration of the DRC's territorial integrity and sovereignty; implementation of democratic structures and state mechanisms; and the restoration of basic infrastructure vital to the resumption of economic activity, as well as to relief efforts by humanitarian organisations.
The action plan focuses primarily on DRC, and includes three guidelines for the country: strengthening development cooperation; unfreezing loans blocked since 1991; and reinforcing actions of preventive diplomacy. However, there is no mention of cancellation of the huge bilateral debt of DRC to Belgium. The plan also puts "a lot of hope" in the inter-Congolese dialogue, and underlines that "the end of the illegal exploitation of minerals like diamond or coltan could assure the Congolese state of new incomes."
With regard to Rwanda, the plan recognises improvement in sectors such as education, justice, agriculture and health, but remains cautious due to the combination in Rwanda of "characteristics of a post-conflict country and of a country at war". Belgium has not yet resumed direct bilateral aid to Kigali. As for Burundi, the plan notes that "the general situation is of particular concern", noting the existence of a "huge gap" between the population and the politicians. "The execution of aid programmes to this country is difficult," it states. The plan stresses two "reference points" of Belgian action in the region, namely the Lusaka and Arusha agreements, but insists that "Africans must find for themselves their own solutions."
Nairobi, 29 June 2001
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