IRIN Update 1284 for the Great Lakes

Report
from IRIN
Published on 10 Oct 2001
UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for Central and Eastern Africa
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DRC: Preliminary inter-Congolese dialogue to begin Monday

The facilitator of the inter-Congolese peace and reconciliation dialogue, former Botswanan President Ketumile Masire, on Tuesday denied there were plans to postpone talks following the opening ceremony on Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

"The reports are simply not true. We are going ahead with our original plan and will hold the dialogue beginning Monday 15 October," Masire said.

The first week of the dialogue, he said, would bring together some 80 representatives from the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the armed and unarmed opposition, and civil society organisation in order to work on procedural matters. They will be joined by the rest of the delegates one week later, on 22 October. Some 330 total delegates from across the DRC will, thereafter, participate in the dialogue.

Adequate cash flow is reportedly a primary obstacle to beginning full-scale talks. "We are hoping the international community will provide further funding some time soon. Otherwise we will have to halt proceedings as soon as what we now have runs out," he said. A substantial portion of the initial pledges made and disbursed for the dialogue had been used in the nearly 20-month run up to the talks, he added.

Another obstacle is continuing disputes over the participation of Mayi-Mayi Congolese militias and the Ugandan-backed Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie - Mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML) armed opposition splinter group. "They will definitely be represented, after they've been nominated by the Congolese" Masire's spokesman, George Ola-Davies, said.

Also on Tuesday, political opposition groups in the DRC said the talks should be held in South Africa to overcome financial constraints. "The government would make the task easy for the ravaged Congolese nation by agreeing to go to South Africa where the bulk of the costs will be assumed by that country," Delphin Kapaya, of the opposition Renewal party, told AFP.

A coalition of civil society organisations in Kinshasa has also urged Masire to proceed with the full dialogue as planned, even if it means relocating it to Cape Town, where the South African government has reportedly offered to contribute 50 percent of the costs for the meeting.

The Rwandan-backed Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma) armed opposition movement endorsed on Friday the convening of preliminary talks as planned on 15 October, while suggesting that more representative talks could take place later in South Africa.

The inter-Congolese dialogue is a key element of the July 1999 Lusaka peace agreement. All primary parties to the conflict launched in 1998 by rebels in eastern DRC signed the accord, but its implementation has been stalled by cease-fire violations. DRC government forces backed by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe have been fighting armed opposition groups supported by Rwanda and Uganda since August 1998.

DRC: Mayi-Mayi/RCD-Goma reconciliation meeting planned

The Mayi-Mayi Congolese militias and the Rwandan-backed Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma) say a meeting aimed at ending hostilities between the groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is in preparation, the BBC reported from Kivu on Tuesday, quoting sources from these groups. It added that an agreement could be signed in Bujumbura ahead of the inter-Congolese dialogue due to begin on 15 October in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The BBC reported RCD officials as saying they are ready to meet the Mayi-Mayi if the group dissociated itself from the Rwandan Hutu Interahamwe rebels and the Burundian Hutu Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD), who have been causing insecurity in Rwanda and Burundi. Meanwhile, Mayi-Mayi representatives claim they have already cut their links with the Interahamwe and FDD, and have been reporting rebel hideouts to Rwandan and Burundian authorities.

A leader of the Mayi-Mayi groups, Jean-Paul Kabambe, told the BBC they wanted the meeting with the RCD held in Bujumbura because Burundians had shown good will by withdrawing forces from Mayi-Mayi areas such as Kazimiya and the Rusizi plain - though they are reportedly still in Baraka. Another reason for selecting Bujumbura is to allow foreign diplomats accredited in Burundi and representatives from the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC to witness the proceedings. Kabambe said Rwanda was not chosen as a location because it was supporting the RCD. He added that Mayi-Mayi delegates have traveled for the anticipated meeting from Kisangani, Kindu, North Kivu, Butembo, Bunyakiri and Uvira, but that they are awaiting those from Fizi, where fighting between Mayi-Mayi and RCD forces continues.

BBC also reported that in an effort to restore peace, Mayi-Mayi militias released about 40 political detainees, including a Munyamulenge, with the aid of the Reverend Amirado Amisi of the Great Lakes Human Rights Organisation.

ROC: WFP to launch feeding project for HIV/AIDS patients

The World Food Programme confirmed on Monday it would in October begin feeding 35,000 people affected with HIV/AIDS in the Republic of Congo. An official of the UN agency told IRIN that WFP had agreed to provide food, allowing patients to stay on the anti-retroviral cocktail of drugs. WFP says that by providing the families with food, the money they save form feeding themselves could be used to pay for medicines.

WFP said that the international pharmaceutical firms had agreed, in principle, to sell drugs to the government at cost price. In addition, the government has agreed to reduce the price even further to low income families.

PANA, quoting sources at the National AIDS Eradication Programme, reported on 3 October that the target feeding population were residents of Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, Dolisie in southern Congo and Ouesso in the north. The food, it said, would be distributed by Caritas and Christian Women's Movement for Peace, or MOPAX. PANA also quoted health officials as saying that HIV/AIDS prevalence in Congo was around 7.78 percent and was expected to reach 11 percent by the end of the year. It added that close to 100,000 people were HIV infected but that this figure could be higher because victims of sexual violence during the 1993 and 1997 to 1999 wars have not been fully considered.

RWANDA: Population to be 16 million by 2020

Rwanda's population - set to double to 16 million by 2020 at its current growth rate of 3.2 percent per annum - will present a major challenge to the government, Finance and Economic Planning Minister Donald Kaberuka has said.

The government, he said, needed to raise the gross domestic product from the current US $290 to $900 by 2020 if it is to cope with the increase in people.

"This is an ambitious agenda requiring a growth of 7 percent to 8 percent per annum, implying fairly high rates of savings in the coming years," he told a conference reviewing the country's poverty reduction strategies, the Rwanda News Agency reported.

Rwanda's population density was 250.7 per sq km in 1998, making it one of the most crowded nations in the world. Kaberuka told delegates that to meet development goals there must be good government, poverty reduction, prudent management of the economy, people trained for a service-based economy and implementation of a vigorous rural development policy. The nation's effort to attain an 8-percent annual growth of the economy would fail, he said, unless agriculture was transformed from the predominantly subsistence scale to that of commercial production.

"The desired economic transformation calls for institutional and legal reforms to ensure security of land ownership and [its] optimal use as well as developing a market in land assets," he said.

RWANDA: Open dialogue on political development, says ICG

In a new report, titled Consensual Democracy in Post Genocide Rwanda: Evaluating the March 2001 District Elections, the Brussels-based think-tank International Crisis Group (ICG) urges the international community to open talks with the Kigali government as soon as possible on political development to ensure that political activity is fully liberalised ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2003.

According to ICG, district elections held in Rwanda in March 2001 were an important step in the country's transition to civilian democracy from a highly militarised system of government established after the 1994 genocide.

"The aim of the district vote was to begin the process of local empowerment and reconciliation, in accordance with the Rwandan Patriotic Front's (RPF) model of 'consensual democracy'. There was a high turnout and the elections were well organised, but the tight political control exercised on the electoral process undermined its democratic potential," the ICG reported in a report released on Wednesday.

"Rwanda is now at a crucial stage of post-genocide reconstruction and reconciliation," ICG President Gareth Evans said. "After seven years in power, the RPF has to be accountable to the people of Rwanda, and not just to itself, its military leadership or its own ideology. A warning from the international community is warranted to prompt the RPF to deliver on its own political promises."

For the complete ICG report, go to www.crisisweb.org

BURUNDI: President supports foreign participation in protection force

Despite criticism from some politicians, President Pierre Buyoya said Tuesday he would welcome the participation of four African countries as members of a special protection force that will guard state establishments and returning political exiles, AFP reported.

Members of the force are likely to come from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa which on 5 October forced were in the technical Military Committee that visited Burundi to review the security situation and the possibility of sending a small peacekeeping force to that country. However, the pro-Tutsi PARENA party has objected to the idea, saying the presence of these troops would be tantamount to a invasion of Burundi.

"The troops may be coming under the flag of cooperation but they will be treated as invaders," Net Press reported the leader of PARENA, former Burundi president Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, as saying.

Foreign participation in the special protection force is being contemplated because details such as the total strength of an all-Burundi unit, personnel recruitment and training have not been decided. The only agreement so far is that half the force would be Tutsi and half Hutu.

AFRICA: Second "Big Table' to review continent's relations with partners

Africa's relations with its external partners will be the subject of a second informal consultation meeting between Finance ministers from several African countries and their counterparts from Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) development co-operation ministries 14-15 October in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Finance and Planning ministers from 14 African countries -- Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda -- are scheduled to attend the meeting, known as the 'Big Table'. OECD development cooperation ministers and heads of aid agencies from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States will attend.

The 'Big Table' is an initiative designed by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) to promote frank dialogue between African finance ministers and their OECD counterparts. The format and agenda are designed to allow for maximum interactive dialogue, with no formal statements.

The discussions will focus on three thematic clusters: on good governance, on making aid more effective, and on an African-owned process for peer review and self-monitoring by governments of progress towards meeting their development benchmarks.

[The full report is available on www.uneca.org

Nairobi, 10 October 2001; 15:25 GMT

[ENDS]

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