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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Tentative MONUC budget proposed
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has asked the General Assembly to authorise a tentative estimated budget of US $200 million to meet the "most immediate anticipated requirements" of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC). In a report dated 23 March, Annan said that while the full resource needs of MONUC were yet to be determined, and its full deployment was still subject to political, military and logistical constraints, "the formidable tasks envisioned for the United Nations under the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement require adequate preparations and subsequent financial support." At the end of March, the strength of MONUC's military component had reached 103 personnel, supported by 97 civilian staff, the report stated.
DRC: Some $33 million used so far
In the report, Annan said it was "imperative" that the necessary resources be provided so that immediate steps be taken to establish support infrastructure, purchase additional equipment and supplies and enter into the "necessary contractual arrangements" in anticipation of the phaseddeployment of an expanded MONUC, including 5,537 military personnel and additional civilian support staff. The US $200 million cost estimate was inclusive of some US $41 million authorised last year, of which US $33.3 million had been expended or obligated as of 29 February, the report said. The latest estimated requirements include US $42 million for accommodation, US $50 million for transport operations, US $40 for communications, US $15 million for air operations, US $27 million for equipment and US $26 million for personnel.
DRC: UN makes "conventional war" the priority
MONUC has identified "the conventional war" between the DRC government, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe on the one hand, and Rwanda, Uganda, and the rebels on the other hand, as the first problem it will address in its current, second phase of deployment. In a recent briefing paper, MONUC said it intended to implement five measures in sequence: expand its military liaison to include monitoring functions and development of the Joint Military Commission (JMC); complete the deployment of military observers; disengage and disarm the combatants' armed forces; and oversee the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country. The second problem, MONUC stated, was the disengagement, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) of armed groups in the DRC, and specifically in Kivu, Orientale and Katanga provinces. In addition to the 5,500 UN troops and military observers dedicated to the first problem, the DDR problem may require 11,000 UN troops, for a total personnel strength of about 16,500, it said.
DRC: MONUC sets out its plans
At each of its regional sectors - in Mbandaka, Kisangani, Mbuji-Mayi and Kindu - there would be a sector headquarters, communications unit, support hub and infantry battalion, according to the briefing document. The infantry battalions, of 850 men each, would establish a secure base, protect UN facilities, provide limited escort to military observers, and provide logistical back-up. In addition, river patrol companies would be established at Mbandaka and Kisangani, with 130 troops and nine patrol boats per company. The role of these river patrols would be to protect UN river convoy traffic moving from Kinshasa to Kisangani, and to "monitor, observe and report on" the combatants' military forces on or along the northwestern and northeastern areas of the Congo River. The patrols would facilitate humanitarian traffic on the river and try to encourage commercial river traffic through their visible presence, MONUC said. The UN force also intends to deploy 45-member medical units at Kisangani and Mbuji-Mayi.
DRC: UN force urged to establish peace
Former US undersecretary of state for African affairs, Herman Cohen, has stated that the UN's refusal to send peacekeepers to the DRC until there is peace on the ground created "a vicious circle", because many people, including himself, felt there could not be peace without the "blue helmets". Interviewed by Congolese state television in his capacity as "special adviser to President Laurent-Desire Kabila" Cohen, who runs a lobbying firm, said that DRC rebels were "not willing to see peace return" because their sponsors, Rwanda and Uganda, would then be forced to leave and the rebels would be left with nothing. According to the television, he said successive resignations in the Rwandan government showed that "an apartheid system" was taking root there. "There is no great difference between this system and the apartheid we witnessed in South Africa," he was quoted as saying.
DRC: Farming output threatened by increased fighting
Fighting between Rwandan-supported RCD rebels and Kinshasa-backed Mayi-Mayi militia is intensifying in South Kivu, displacing thousands more people as this year's first agricultural season is about to start, the NGO Action Against Hunger said on Monday. In a statement, it said most villagers had fled to neighbouring hillsides, almost all commercial activities had stopped, the displaced had little or no access to seeds and tools, and the only road south of Uvira had been cut off. "Trucks and cars have been restricted from passage, forcing the displaced population into complete isolation from the rest of the country," the statement said. In response, Action Against Hunger has distributed seeds to some 12,500 displaced families in the Uvira area. To bypass closed roads, the NGO last week had to deliver part of the seeds by boat from Burundi in a "risky" operation across Lake Tanganyika, it added.
DRC: Rights group welcomes prisoner releases
The US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday said it welcomed the recent release of "more than 100" political prisoners in the DRC. In a statement, the organisation urged President Laurent-Desire Kabila to release additional detainees eligible for an amnesty announced by the government last month. "This is a significant step forward and the Congolese government must be commended for it," the HRW statement said. A government commission was currently visiting prisons and security lockups to examine cases of political prisoners and decide whether to release them, but "administrative delays" had prolonged the detention of people entitled for release according to the terms of the amnesty, the statement added. Congolese state television last week reported that 89 prisoners had been released near Lubumbashi following the amnesty decree.
BURUNDI: Buyoya ready for ceasefire talks
African heads of state, meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, have expressed concern over the "slow pace" of the Burundi peace talks, the Internews agency reported. According to a joint statement issued on Monday, the leaders of Kenya, Namibia, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Nigeria and Libya's Secretary for African Unity, also said that some of the resolutions adopted at previous summits had not been carried out. The leaders hailed the mediation of Nelson Mandela and his efforts to bring previously-excluded rebel leaders to the negotiating table. President Pierre Buyoya of Burundi was quoted as saying his government was ready for ceasefire talks with the armed rebel factions. "We are available at whatever time...my government will spare no effort to see us come to a solution," Buyoya said.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo warned that the longer the military stayed in power in Burundi, the more society would "lose its vital habit of thinking creatively and democratically and solving its problems accordingly". He said he had told Buyoya that the Burundian leader "has the lion's share of responsibility to ensure that peace is attained".
BURUNDI: Delegates to try and narrow differences
After Monday's summit meeting, heads of delegations attending the Burundi talks will meet from Tuesday to Friday to "narrow their differences" on outstanding sticky issues, regional analysts told IRIN. These include the electoral system, the transitional institutions and army reform. A 200-page compromise draft agreement has been drawn up for the sides to consider ahead of the next round of negotiations in April, which the rebel Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD) and Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) are expected to attend. Both the rebel and government sides have stressed that a peace agreement cannot be reached without a ceasefire, and observers are optimistic that negotiations on this issue can now begin in Arusha.
RWANDA: More reaction to 'National Post' article
Rwanda's representative to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has asked the Arusha-based tribunal to say whether one of its investigators had leaked a document alleging that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) assassinated Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana in 1994, the Internews service reported. The representative, Martin Ngoga, was reacting to a recent article in Canada's 'National Post' newspaper, which implicated the RPF in the downing of an aircraft transporting Habyarimana and the-then president of Burundi. The Rwandan government has rejected the allegations. The 'National Post' cited a leaked confidential UN report as the source for the article and said the information had been provided in 1997 to former ICTR prosecutor Louise Arbour. "There are a number of contradictions in the article," Internews quoted Ngoga as saying last Thursday. "We are simply asking the Tribunal to tell us the relationship it has with the paper."
An ICTR spokesman told IRIN on Tuesday that the Tribunal had no comment on the 'National Post' article. "Up to now, there is no official response", he said.
RWANDA: UN committee advises on human rights focus
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has expressed appreciation over the establishment of an independent National Human Rights Commission in Rwanda, as well as the legislative and practical steps taken to eliminate institutionalised and other forms of racial discrimination. In its concluding observations and recommendations, adopted on Friday, it also commended state efforts to improve the economic and social rights of the minority Twa people, notably through the provision of housing.
However, it recommended that Rwanda ensure equal treatment of detainees before the law, and adequately respond to and prevent acts committed by members of the military or civilian authorities. It also advised Rwanda to continue efforts to shorten the duration of pre-trial detention, and suggested that an amnesty be granted to lesser offenders who had confessed to their crimes. The committee voiced concerns over youths spending long periods in detention, and recommended that efforts be made to reintegrate such juveniles into the community - notwithstanding "the serious and tragic acts which some juveniles were accused of by the courts".
RWANDA: Tuberculosis on the rise
The recorded incidence of tuberculosis (TB) has doubled in the last five years, and the disease now poses a real threat, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported on Monday. "TB is increasing with the AIDS rate. This requires effective TB programmes, with adequate resources ... the most productive and economically active portion of the population are being hit," RNA quoted Dr Karibushi Blaise, the doctor in charge of Rwanda's TB and leprosy campaigns, as saying. In 1999, the recorded incidence of TB in government hospitals was 6,557 Rwandans, up from 3,057 in 1995, the report stated, adding that an estimated 45 to 40 percent of all new TB cases in Africa were accompanied by an underlying HIV infection.
UNICEF last week described TB as "one of the most seriously neglected and underestimated health, human rights and poverty problems of our era". Inadequate TB treatment services and incorrect self-treatment, where patients began but did not complete a course of treatment, threatened to usher in a "humanitarian and epidemiological disaster" of widespread multi-drug resistant TB, UNICEF added.
Nairobi, 28 March 2000, 14:30 gmt
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