Angola + 3 more

IRIN Update 881 for the Great Lakes

News and Press Release
Originally published
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa
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RWANDA: Kigali to expose "forces" behind UN allegations

The Rwandan government has vowed to expose the "forces" behind allegations contained in a leaked UN report accusing Vice-President and Defence Minister Paul Kagame of allowing rebel Angolan UNITA officials to operate freely in the country. "There is a deliberate conspiracy by some organisations and individuals to tarnish the image of Rwanda internationally and this plot has been going on for some time," Nicholas Shalita, the director of information in Kagame's office told IRIN on Tuesday. "At this stage we cannot take it any more. We shall expose them [the forces] after we study the allegations in the UN report."

A press statement released by Rwandan defence ministry on Monday denied any link with UNITA. "The government of the Republic of Rwanda awaits the report of the UN Security Council's Angola sanctions committee in order to make a detailed response to the allegations that Rwanda is involved in violating UN sanctions on UNITA," the statement said. "Vice-President Kagame has never had any contact with Jonas Savimbi or any member of UNITA. Antonio Dembo, whom the report alleges visited Rwanda to meet government officials, is not known to the vice-president or any member of the government or armed forces. Whoever made any such claim should be considered a liar, and treated with the contempt they deserve."

RWANDA: UN unhappy over leaked report

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said the organisation was unhappy that the report by Canada's UN representative Robert Fowler - which is due to be released on Wednesday - had been leaked. "What's interesting ... is the aggressive nature of how he [Fowler] has approached his job," Eckhard said. "He wants to document where sanctions are not being honoured, and point fingers at specific individuals who might be involved. I realise that there's already been a reaction to the leaked report of various people denying responsibility for weakening the sanctions regime."

RWANDA: Allegations "outrageous", Kagame says

Kagame said he was personally attacked in the report whose allegations he described as "outrageous and ridiculous". In comments broadcast by Rwandan radio, he said the UN investigation team was given "adequate explanations and answers". "I reject any implication of what was said [in the report] because it has no basis," he stated, adding that Rwanda would challenge the findings.

RWANDA: New premier returns from Germany

Newly-appointed Rwandan Prime Minister Bernard Makuza has returned to his country from Germany, where he was the ambassador, to take up his job. He told Rwandan radio that his appointment "showed a sign of confidence and trust" on the part of the government. He said he was ready to face the challenges ahead. Makuza, 39, hails from Gikongoro prefecture. The new government, meanwhile, has yet to be announced more than 10 days after the resignation of the former premier, Pierre-Celestin Rwigema.

RWANDA: Military officer shot dead

A Rwandan army officer, Second Lieutenant Epa Rutaisire, was shot dead in Kigali on Saturday night as he was returning home, the Rwanda News Agency said, citing security sources. He was reportedly killed by armed men in military uniform who were travelling in a vehicle with DRC number plates, RNA said. His murder follows that of a Liberian national working for the World Food Programme (WFP) and presidential adviser Aciel Kabera.

RWANDA: Over 200 guns handed in

Over 200 guns have been handed in to the police following an announcement by the defence ministry that all illegal weapons should be turned over, Rwandan radio reported on Tuesday. The deadline expired on Sunday, 12 March.

RWANDA: Miyet visits Kigali, Kampala

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet, on a tour to prepare for the deployment of an observer force in the DRC, has ended a visit to Rwanda and was expected to arrive in Uganda on Tuesday. "Yes, the Under-Secretary-General briefed us on the deployment of the observer force," Patrick Mazimhaka, Rwandan Presidency Minister, confirmed to IRIN on Tuesday. "At this stage the parties are renewing their commitment to the Lusaka agreement. There are concrete issues to discuss about the actual deployment of the force because there is no definite plan yet."

Rwandan radio said Miyet promised to deal with the problem of the the Interahamwe militia "without going to war". "It must be clear at this point: the UN forces will not engage in war operations," Miyet said. "It has never been the case, it will not be the case. So, we will have to find solutions by which we treat...the problems of the Interahamwe. But you cannot expect that the UN forces will fight as proxies for anyone."

Vice-President Paul Kagame on Monday held talks with a delegation of UN officials, led by Arnold Peter van Walsun, the Dutch ambassador to the UN. Rwandan radio said the talks centred on implementation of the Lusaka ceasefire accord. The delegation is visiting Kampala, Kigali and Kinshasa.

UGANDA: UN envoy meets Museveni

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, Berhanu Dinka, met President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala on Sunday to discuss Dinka's new mandate and to seek Museveni's views on the current situation in the region. According to a statement issued from Dinka's office in Nairobi on Tuesday, the discussions focused particularly on Burundi, for which Museveni is chairman of the regional peace initiative. "During their meeting, they also discussed the proposed international conference on peace, security, democracy and development in the Great Lakes region," the statement said. In his new mandate, Dinka is tasked with participating in meetings of the Burundi peace process, addressing the regional dimensions of the DRC conflict, and consulting with regional leaders on the proposed conference on the region. He met OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim in Addis Ababa on 6 March and will continue his consultations with leaders in the region, including Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC, the statement added.

DRC: Belgium wants "partnership" with central Africa

Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, who is in Kinshasa, has condemned the "occupation" of DRC and said its territorial integrity was a "sacred principle that must be respected", Reuters news agency reported. He was speaking after talks with DRC Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia. Michel's spokesman Koen Vervaeke said the visit reflected a change of Belgian policy towards Africa. "We want to develop a partnership between Belgium and Central Africa," Reuters quoted him as saying.

Belgian government officials and civil society representatives last month met to discuss the country's policy towards Central Africa and concluded that the region's problems needed a regional approach. Belgium should "engage in a political commitment without waiting for peace in the region, nor for the domestic stabilisation of the states concerned," the meeting concluded, according to the foreign ministry website. It noted that in the DRC, there could be no structural cooperation without peace. "Nevertheless, nothing prevents Belgium from promoting cooperation in the fields of justice, health, education, human rights and administration."

DRC: Kabila pardons 49 prisoners

President Laurent-Desire Kabila has pardoned 49 political prisoners, including the former Bas-Congo provincial governor, 'King' Mizele, PANA news agency reported. Twenty-nine of Mizele's supporters were also pardoned. Mizele staged a revolt in 1997 calling for the restoration of the historical kingdom of Kongo, PANA recalled. He and his supporters were detained for allegedly undermining national security.

DRC: Growing chance of cabinet reshuffle ahead of talks

Foreign actors are reportedly actively pressuring the Congolese rebels to accept a proposal that Kabila's position as head of state in a future transition government would not be negotiable at upcoming inter-Congolese negotiations, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said in its latest quarterly report on the DRC. It said the proposal, first raised by Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, appeared to have strengthened Kabila's security regarding his own position. "If Mr Kabila were to get such a guarantee, he would probably be much more willing to compromise on other aspects of the peace deal, such as where the UN troops are to be deployed," the report stated. It was conceivable that the rebels and the internal opposition may accept Kabila as president of a transitional government if he could provide satisfactory guarantees that he would submit himself to the outcome of a future democratic national election, the report added.

Meanwhile, a strong lobby against the proposal had emerged within Kabila's own government, and there was a growing chance that he would reorganise his cabinet before the start of the inter-Congolese negotiations called for in the Lusaka ceasefire agreement, the EIU said.

DRC: Inflation reaches 333 percent

The economic situation in the DRC will continue to deteriorate until the government reverses some of its more "disastrous" economic policy decisions, the EIU said in its quarterly report. Official attempts to control market operations "by diktat" - including the ban on foreign-currency holdings and the fixing of the exchange rate at unrealistic rates - would continue to "backfire spectacularly", it said. Shortages of basic goods were expected to worsen. Importers and domestic traders who supply Kinshasa were being increasingly hindered by these policies and were either withdrawing from the market or resorting to expensive and risky attempts at evasion, it said. Meanwhile, annual inflation rate rose to 333 percent in 1999 from 147 percent in 1998, the report said, citing estimates from the US embassy in Kinshasa.

Nairobi, 14 March 2000, 14:30 gmt


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