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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Warring parties assure peacekeeping chief
All the warring parties in the DRC have reiterated their commitment to respect the Lusaka ceasefire agreement, news agencies reported on Wednesday. "There were oral assurances on all sides of their strong determination to cooperate," Reuters quoted UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet as saying in Kampala. He was speaking at the end of a regional tour to pave the way for the deployment of some 5,500 UN military observers and troops under phase II of the UN Observer Mission in the DRC (MONUC). "We have to see on a daily basis if these commitments are translated into cooperation on the ground," he said, after meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Earlier, he said in Kigali that 500 military observers in the force would be stationed in about 100 different locations in the DRC, Rwandan radio reported. Miyet was quoted as saying that UN infantry battalions composed of some 850 troops were expected to be deployed in four different locations to each ensure supplies and support to observers in a radius of about 200-300 km.
DRC: Peacekeepers to get condoms
Meanwhile, the proposed budget for MONUC included a line-item for the procurement and distribution of condoms as part of efforts to sensitise UN peacekeeping personnel in the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said on Wednesday. He said although there was no evidence that peacekeepers had spread AIDS, the UN had stepped up preventive measures because UN civilian and military personnel in peacekeeping or humanitarian operations could be exposed to the dangers of spreading or contracting the disease.
DRC: Businessman plans "new currency system"
The retired chairman of the Grenada-based First International Bank of Grenada Ltd, Van.A.Brink, has said he is working on plans for a new currency system in the DRC. Interviewed by the 'Wall Street Journal' from his base in Uganda, Brink said he had signed three agreements with Congolese rebel groups to funnel more than US $40 million from First Bank to build roads and hospitals in the DRC. He has forged ties with the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML) of Ernest Wamba dia Wamba and says the rebels have agreed to promote another Brink entity, the 'Union Reserve System', which seeks to replace DRC's currency with money backed by natural resources. He told the newspaper his motives "are purely humanitarian".
DRC: Ban on foreign currency reversed
Meanwhile, the DRC government has reversed a decree outlawing the use of foreign currencies in the country, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday. A statement by the Central Bank said it would now be possible to buy and sell using national or foreign currencies in designated free exchange zones, including commercial centres and mining areas. The government banned foreign currencies last year in a bid to stabilise the economy shattered by war, corruption and mismanagement, AP said. However, the move added to the downward economic spiral, scaring off foreign investors and leaving hard currencies in short supply, the news agency noted.
DRC: Government requisitions private TV station
The government has requisitioned one of Kinshasa's main private television channels, Reporters sans frontieres (RSF) said on Tuesday. In a statement received by IRIN, RSF said the state's Office des biens mal acquis (OBMA) had on Saturday requisitioned the station, Radiotelevision Kin Malebo (RTKM), based on a ministerial decree dated 7 March. The transmitters were also seized, it said. RTKM is owned by Ngongo Luwowo, an exiled ex-minister of information under former president Mobutu Sese Seko. "This kind of measure is not in the direction of greater press freedom," RSF secretary-general Robert Menard said in the statement. AFP on Tuesday reported that no reason had been given for the measure, but that police had moved into the station's building.
DRC: Rebels should join national consultation, Belgium says
Opposition groups in DRC should not "spit immediately on the national consultation" process being coordinated by church groups in DRC because, even if it was not perfect, it offered the possibility of opening a real dialogue, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said on Tuesday. "If you say that President [Laurent-Desire] Kabila is trying to co-opt the national consultation, maybe you should try to co-opt it as well," Reuters news agency quoted Michel as saying at a press conference in Kinshasa. "The national consultation, even if imperfect, is a start, a beginning. A domino has fallen ... and could lead to a real Congolese debate." The main rebel and political opposition groups boycotted the consultation last week on the assumption that Kabila would hijack the process, yet it called for Kabila to allow greater space for political activity, form a transitional government and appoint a prime minister.
UGANDA: Kampala denies UNITA sanctions busting
The Ugandan government on Thursday denied that it had any dealings with the Angolan rebel movement UNITA, and specifically that it had allowed the rebels' aircraft to refuel at Entebbe. The allegation was contained in a report to the UN Security Council on Wednesday regarding UNITA sanctions busting. "That is not possible, we do not deal with UNITA. Ideologically, we are completely opposed to them," said Hope Kivengere, Press Secretary to the Ugandan President. "Certainly, there is no way this government can allow Savimbi's people to refuel here ... to us, UNITA is a pariah in Africa," she told IRIN. The UN report claimed Uganda had sometimes allowed the refuelling of aircraft in transit to UNITA-controlled areas. Refuelling was described in the report as "an important but indirect sanctions-busting component", allowing aircraft from eastern Europe to proceed to Angola with military equipment and other commodities for the rebels.
BURUNDI: Transporters strike over fuel price rises
The Burundi transporters' organisation, Atrabu, has responded to a government hike in petrol prices by calling a transport strike for Thursday and Friday. Atrabu, which went ahead with the strike in Bujumbura on Thursday, demanded negotiations with the government to establish new fares that would not bring about losses for transporters, to guarantee fuel supplies, and to establish a fuel committee, the BBC's Kirundi service reported. The increases announced by Commerce Minister Gervais Nkanagu brought the cost of super grade petrol to 570 Burundi francs a litre, diesel to 520 francs a litre and kerosene to 450 francs a litre.
The transport strike was "very painful to the public" in Bujumbura on Thursday, with employees having to walk long distances to work, a resident told IRIN. To make matters worse, even those with cars had no fuel and the price of taxis had risen to between 1,500 and 3,500 francs, she said. Civil servants were particularly unhappy, and there were rumbling threats of industrial unrest if the fuel price rise was not offset by salary increases.
RWANDA: Government reaping benefits from privatisation programme
The privatisation of former public sector enterprises has brought the state three billion Rwandan francs (about US $10 million) in the three years to the end of 1999, the government's privatisation secretariat stated on Tuesday. Some 606.3 million francs (roughly US $20.2 million) had also been spent on preparing the ground for the sale of additional government enterprises targeted, without which it would have been difficult to dispose of them, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) quoted secretariat spokesman Anselme Ngabonziza as saying.
Rwanda's privatisation programme is continuing steadily, with almost half of the 70 enterprises identified for privatisation having been sold or in the process of being sold, the latest country report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) stated. The government has plans to break up the water, gas and electricity components of the state provider ElectroGaz in preparation for selling it, and to change the regulatory environment to allow it sell off the state telecoms company Rwandatel, it said. Investment levels will have to rise to 19.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2000-01 to sustain the strong economic growth rate of recent years, and international investors have shown interest in both ElectroGaz and Rwandatel, scheduled for sale this year, the report added. The privatisation programme is a key plank of a new macroeconomic Policy Framework Paper for 2000-01, which sets targets of 5-6 percent economic growth per year; inflation below 5 percent; and a current account deficit level of about 17 percent, excluding official transfers, the EIU added.
Nairobi, 16 March 2000, 15:00 gmt
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