IRIN Update 1016 for the Great Lakes
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for Central and Eastern Africa
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BURUNDI: Rebel group requests further talks
The leader of one of the two armed rebel groups fighting government forces in Burundi has calked for more talks before signing a ceasefire to end the seven year-old war. "I didn't come here to sign a ceasefire," PALIPEHUTU-FNL leader Cossan Kabura told a news conference in Nairobi on Wednesday. "Peace talks have to start with political issues and so far we were excluded from them." He was in the Kenyan capital on the day regional heads of state and Burundian groups met for further talks on the peace accord. Three Tutsi parties also put their signatures to the document. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who is chairman of a regional peace initiative for Burundi, told the summit meeting the rebels "are not cooperating". "They are the ones creating new obstacles to ending the war," he said. "The mediator has been sending messages to them but they have not been forthcoming." Regional analysts told IRIN the rebels had not come to the Nairobi summit to sign a ceasefire. "During the consultations between the chief mediator President Nelson Mandela and the leaders of PALIPEHUTU-FNL it was agreed that the they should be given some time to join the peace process which they have been not part of and then negotiate a ceasefire," Burundi analyst Jan van Eck of the South Africa-based Centre for Conflict Resolution told IRIN.
BURUNDI: Doubt over follow-up meeting
President Pierre Buyoya expressed doubt that a follow-up meeting, scheduled for 25 September, would take place, Burundi radio reported. The radio noted the armed rebel groups were given 30 days to prepare for a follow-up meeting and a cessation of hostilities or else face sanctions. Speaking on his return from Nairobi, Buyoya commented that "things did not go the way we had wished". He said the regional heads of state had asked the facilitation team to "prepare a technical document" for imposing sanctions against the rebel groups if they failed to comply with the peace process. An official of CNDD-FDD, speaking over BBC Kirundi radio, rejected the 30-day deadline, saying it did not allow enough time. Burundi analyst Jan van Eck commented that the deadline was "not realistic". "A ceasefire cannot be negotiated in such a short time," he told IRIN.
Buyoya also commented on the closed-door meeting between PALIPEHUTU-FNL leader Cossan Kabura and regional heads of state in Nairobi. He said Kabura was urged to join the peace process. The rebel leader reportedly replied he would consult his supporters and report back to the mediator. Kabura also read out a prepared statement, reiterating his group's conditions and position - namely that it could not sign the accord because it had not been involved in the negotiations, and that those who negotiated were not the actual belligerents in the Burundi conflict. Heads of state refused to meet representatives of the other rebel group, CNDD-FDD, saying they were too low-level.
BURUNDI: CNDD-FDD slams "ethnicisation" of peace process
The rebel CNDD-FDD has appealed to all Burundians and the international community to "take the hand it is offering" in order to find peace and democracy in Burundi. In a statement, the CNDD-FDD leader Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye complained over the "ethnicisation" of the Arusha peace process and the subsequent accord, saying "this Burundian apartheid" was not in the country's interests. Noting that the Tutsis and Hutus had split into two blocs at Arusha - the so-called G10 and the G7 - Ndayikengurukiye said these divisions were "regrettable". "It is surprising to see officials from big countries, that have shaken off or condemned this scourge at home, come to support such a contemptible system in our country," he said. He recalled CNDD-FDD's peace proposal of 9 July 1999 which includes a call for returning to the "legitimate constitution of 9 march 1992".
BURUNDI: Tutsi parties against holding talks in Arusha
Predominantly Tutsi political parties under the G-10 grouping have rejected holding the next phase of negotiations - on 25 September - to the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, which has been the venue of the talks since 1998. A statement issued by the G-10 on Monday said they wanted the process to take place in Bujumbura and that they would only deal with the office of the mediator, rather than the facilitation team in Tanzania. The spokesman for the facilitation team, Brigadier Hashim Mbita, told IRIN no party had the authority to reject a venue for the meeting. "Refusing to respond to an invitation from the facilitation team means that they have do not respect the agreement," he said. Meanwhile a group of parliamentarians against genocide and exclusion (GPCGE), in a communiqué quoted by the Agence burundaise de presse, on Wednesday "expressed concern about the agenda of the forthcoming Arusha meeting and noted that the facilitation team was trying to impose implementation of an agreement which according to a section of the negotiators remains partly contentious".
TANZANIA: Bomb experts sent to refugee camps
The Tanzanian authorities have deployed bomb experts to refugee camps in western and northwestern regions following last week's threat from a hitherto unknown group called the Anti-Hutu Revolution Burundi Group (AHRBG) to bomb refugee camps in Tanzania, the Tanzania 'Guardian' daily reported on Wednesday. "Our specialists are combing areas said to have thousands of landmines," the Kigoma regional police commissioner told the newspaper. "However, the task is not a two-day or one week exercise. It will take time to come out with the findings because the area they are combing is vast and covered with heavy forest." Tanzania hosts thousands of refugees from Burundi and has been accused the Burundian government of arming and training rebels.
DRC: Rights body seeks release of journalists
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) organisation on Wednesday called on the DRC government to immediately release five jailed journalists, and to reverse a ban on 10 private and church-owned radio and television stations. The ban was issued by a ministerial decree on 14 September, a statement from the organisation said. The organisation also urged the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma) to release a detained freelance photographer, and to reopen a radio station owned and operated by civil society organisations. "Time and again, the Congolese government and rebels have shown equal zeal in their attempts to suppress free expression in the DRC," a senior researcher in HRW's Africa division, Suliman Baldo, said. "These journalists are being attacked because they criticise people in power. That is unacceptable."
Information Minister Dominique Sakombi last week banned 10 private and church-owned radio and television stations, "publicly blaming them for their failure to abide by the set of instructions that unilaterally define the contents of their programmes". HRW further said that in the rebel-controlled town of Bukavu in eastern DRC, a photographer, Jean-Pierre Tanganyika, was arrested on 26 August after a grenade explosion in the town, for "having taken pictures of injured victims at the scene". "His current whereabouts remain unknown," HRW noted. [For the full report see http://www.hrw.org]
DRC: MONUC denied clearance to Mbandaka
The DRC government has denied clearance to the UN Observer Mission in the DRC (MONUC) to enter the northwestern town of Mbandaka in Equateur province. MONUC's Chief Support Officer, Colonel Regis Barman, confirmed to IRIN on Thursday that because of the lack of clearance, the organisation had not been able to visit, resupply or change their three officers currently in Mbandaka. "Even within Mbandaka itself, our officers are not allowed to move freely, their movements are restricted," he said. "They have not been allowed to go to the airport or the port since 8 August," he added. "Discussions are going with the authorities to find a solution to the problem."
The UN Security Council in February allowed for the deployment of 500 military observers and some 5,000 troops in the DRC to observe the ceasefire and the withdrawal of foreign troops in the country. However, the deployment has been delayed because of ceasefire violations and the government's refusal to grant full freedom of movement to the officials. MONUC has deployed in 14 places with a total of between 80 to 100 officers inside the country. The officials are divided up into teams of three to four people except for Kisangani (eastern DRC) where there are seven teams with some 30 officers. MONUC has also deployed teams of between three and four to all belligerent countries, Barman noted. "We are not intelligence officials, we are just doing the duty we were entrusted with," he explained. "We cannot deploy more, if we are not allowed to freely move and carry out our task."
DRC: Official terms MONUC's allegations "fake"
Meanwhile, a DRC official in charge of government relations with MONUC, Leonard Ntwaremba Onfre, dismissed Colonel Barman's claims that MONUC had been denied clearance in Mbandaka. "These are fake allegations," the Associated Press (AP) quoted him as saying. He said in Mbandaka airport's case, "construction projects" were making it impossible for UN planes to fly in. "As soon as it is finished, MONUC will be able to land," he said. MONUC on the other hand, said the construction had not prevented DRC warplanes from taking off from Mbandaka airport in recent weeks.
DRC: Local airlines merge in Goma
The Congolese Air Lines (LAC), owned by the Goma-based Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma) has entered into partnership with the private company, Transit Air Congo (TAC), rebel-controlled radio reported on Wednesday. It said the inaugural flight of the two companies was flagged off at the weekend by RCD first vice-president Jean-Pierre Ondekane.
DRC: CAR president visiting
The Central African Republic (CAR) president Ange Felix Patasse is in the DRC for talks with the country's president Laurent-Desire Kabila, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported. The talks are expected to centre on security following the continuing war near the border of the two countries between DRC government forces and rebels, it said.
Nairobi, 21 September 2000, 15:00 gmt
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