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BURUNDI: Mandela on lightning visit to Bujumbura
Ex-South African president Nelson Mandela arrived on a lightning visit to Burundi on Friday for talks with the army, parliament and diplomats in his capacity as peace mediator. He is also due to have a short meeting with President Pierre Buyoya, who greeted him on arrival at the airport. Addressing reporters, Mandela expressed optimism that the peace talks were moving forward and that a solution was near, news organisations reported. He will return to South Africa later in the day. His visit was preceded this week by an upsurge in fighting in Burundi, which the government and rebels blame on each other, although Bujumbura was reported calm on Friday. Government officials have welcomed the visit, but say it is too short to fully grasp the problems of Burundi, while opponents criticise it as "giving legitimacy" to the country's rulers. The government's main adversary, the rebel Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD), however, has expressed support for the visit.
BURUNDI: Situation "volatile", army says
The army confirmed the deaths of 26 civilians in an upsurge of rebel violence over the weekend. In a statement sent to IRIN on Wednesday, the defence ministry called on the population to "step up its vigilance and to denounce these law-breakers who continue to cast a shadow over our country". The statement said the civilians were "brutally massacred": seven on 'route nationale 1' north of Bujumbura, 16 at Mushara camp in the southern Makamba province and three at Muyange camp in Nyanza-Lac, also in the south. Army spokesman Colonel Longin Minani, speaking on Burundi radio, described the current situation as "volatile", and linked it to Mandela's visit. He also said 40 rebels had been killed by the army in the south. The FDD meanwhile blamed the army for launching an offensive ahead of Mandela's visit to "prove to him the time was not right to dismantle the regroupment camps."
RWANDA: Kagame urges exiles to return
Rwandan leader Paul Kagame, who was inaugurated as president in Kigali on Saturday, pledged to "cement unity" in the country. In his inaugural speech, broadcast by Rwandan radio, he said his government would "continue to fight sectarian politics among Rwandans". In this context, he urged Rwandan exiles to return to the country. "Let them come to join hands with us and build our country," he said. "I also call upon Rwandans still in the DRC and elsewhere, still harbouring a plan of waging war against their country, to give it up and come back..." He recalled that the government sent troops to DRC to put an end to attacks by ex-FAR and Interahamwe militias against Rwanda. The fact that Rwandan troops were in the neighbouring country "does not mean that Rwandans like to fight or that Rwanda would like to be a superpower in this region," he said. "If these Rwandans [in DRC] were to agree to give up their plans to kill, massacre and cause destruction...and if the leadership of DRC stopped attacking Rwanda or helping those attacking Rwanda, then the problem would be solved. We would then have no reason to have troops in Congo."
RWANDA: Report says human rights abuses cross ethnic divide
The New York-based Human Rights Watch, in a report released on Thursday, accuses the Rwandan government of "using the pretext of security to cover human rights abuses against Rwandan citizens". The report details cases of murder, assassination, torture and arbitrary detention which it says were carried out by the security forces. According to HRW, human rights abuses in Rwanda go beyond the ethnic divide. "The Tutsi-led government is now targeting Tutsi survivors of the 1994 genocide because they are supposedly political opponents," HRW consultant Alison DesForges says in the organisation's press statement. The Rwandan government dismissed the report as a "propaganda tool". Presidential adviser Emmanuel Ndahiro told IRIN the report was political, "timed to discredit the smooth political transition" in the country.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Morjane urges UN to act
The UN Special Representative for the DRC, Kamel Morjane, says the ceasefire has been holding since 16 April and that the UN peacekeeping mission MONUC "is now receiving more cooperation from the government". Speaking to reporters on Tuesday after briefing the Security Council, he called on the Council to take advantage of these events and "act now". "MONUC must now work closely with the parties to start discussion of the implementation of the disengagement plan," a UN report quoted Morjane as saying. The plan foresees a distance of 30 km between the opposing forces. He urged member states to contribute troops so that a UN force could be deployed as quickly as possible.
DRC: Two summits planned
Two summits on the Congo peace process are being planned in Algeria and Zambia within the next two weeks. According to a press statement from the Algerian presidency, which currently chairs the OAU, one summit will be held on 30 April and will be attended by Presidents Laurent-Desire Kabila of the DRC, Frederick Chiluba of Zambia, Joachim Chissano of Mozambique, Oumar Alpha Konare of Mali, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria. Former Botswanan president Ketumile Masire, the facilitator of the inter-Congolese dialogue, is also invited to the summit. "It is not a formal OAU summit, it has been called by the current chairman of the OAU for consultations with a number of presidents on the Congo peace process," Desmond Orjiako, OAU Chief of Information, told IRIN. In a related development, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda told Reuters news agency over the weekend that regional heads of states agreed to hold a summit in Lusaka "within two weeks" after last week's summit in Zimbabwe.
UGANDA: Army not withdrawing from DRC
The Ugandan authorities have denied media reports that the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) has withdrawn two battalions form the DRC. "What is happening is a normal administrative movement or relocation of troops," Ugandan Minister of State for Defence Steven Kavuma told IRIN on Wednesday. "It has nothing to do with the anticipated withdrawal of foreign forces from the DRC under the Lusaka ceasefire agreement." He said any troop withdrawal would only come after the full implementation of the ceasefire accord.
GREAT LAKES: Holbrooke to lead UN Security Council mission
The US ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, is to lead a Security Council mission to the region, the UN announced. The seven-member delegation will arrive in Kinshasa on 4 May and return from Lusaka on 8 May. The delegation is also due to visit Uganda and Rwanda. A statement from the Security Council presidency said other members of the delegation included Jean-David Levitte (France), Moctar Ouane (Mali), Martin Andjaba (Namibia), A. Peter Van Walsum (Netherlands), and Said Ben Mustapha (Tunisia), Jeremy Greenstock (UK).
REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Lasting peace hinges on international support
International support to post-conflict programmes was essential to ensure the success of Congo's fragile peace process and prevent a return to hostilities, the Geneva-based Henry Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HDC) said in a report on a recent mission to the country. The report, received by IRIN on Friday, said that since the signing of the peace accords, people in the Congo had achieved a level of peace "unimaginable only a few months ago", despite having been "ignored during its most difficult period." The accords have led to a new sense of optimism and a surprisingly speedy return of hundreds of thousands of displaced people to their homes. But a certain amount of scepticism remained in view of the country's recent history and past political failures, it stated. Without the financial and moral support of the international community, as well as its "political oversight", the peace process could fail. The demobilisation and reintegration of ex-combatants were among the priorities, the HDC report said. Meanwhile, UN sources said that some 600,000 people in the country - out of the estimated 810,000 displaced by the war - had returned to their homes since the signing of the peace accords.
HORN OF AFRICA: Cross-border migration "will spread crisis"
Warning that "we are now at the early stages of what could be a massive human tragedy", a summary of findings and recommendations to the UN Secretary-General on drought in the Horn of Africa says that many countries in the region could be affected by the disaster. Cross-border migration could increase dramatically, says the report produced by UN special envoy to the region Catherine Bertini. By far the largest number of people presently affected by drought are in Ethiopia, but cross-border migration by affected communities intensify and spread the crisis. The report says governments in the region "bear the main responsibility for disaster prevention ...and providing relief assistance to their citizens" but that the magnitude of the current drought "far exceeds the financial and logistics capacities available for the governments in the region". It added that an estimated 16 million lives at risk will be reassessed as the rains failed to arrive in March. "If there are no rains by May the number of people in need of relief will increase significantly," it said.
ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Indirect talks in Algeria
A delegation led by the foreign ministry will be going to Algeria for indirect talks with Ethiopia on the border conflict scheduled for 29 April, Eritrean presidential adviser Yemane GebreMeskal said on Thursday. He told IRIN that Eritrea "has accepted all talks aimed at ending the conflict" and blamed Ethiopia for failing to reach an agreement based on the OAU peace process. Ethiopia also confirmed it would take part, according to a foreign ministry statement. Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin will head the Ethiopian delegation at the invitation of the current OAU chairman, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
ERITREA: UN describes situation as "precarious"
UN Resident Coordinator for Eritrea Simon Nhongo told IRIN that the humanitarian situation in Eritrea was "precarious" and that "the situation could easily slide into a catastrophe". UN agencies had appealed for US $42.7 million in January for humanitarian needs, including 62,800 mt of food aid to cover 372,000 people affected by war and over 211,000 hit by drought, but there has been a shortfall in food pledges and deliveries to Eritrea. Nhongo said donors had reacted to the "more publicised situation" in other areas of the Horn of Africa, but that "people are on the brink" in Eritrea.
SOMALIA: Delegates from Djibouti pursue peace talk agenda
Two delegations from Djibouti arrived in Somalia in an attempt to persuade Somali leaders to participate in a peace conference now expected to take place on 2 May, AP news agency reported. The conference was supposed to run from 20 April to 5 May, but was halted by controversy and anti-Djibouti demonstrations in Somalia the day before it was due to begin. On Wednesday, one delegation from Djibouti met with leaders in Baidoa, capital of Bay region in southern Somalia, and the other delegation visited Hiran region in central Somalia.
SOMALIA: Cholera epidemic
A cholera epidemic currently sweeping southern Somalia has killed hundreds of people, health officials say. According to Reuters, some 50 people have died in Dinsor and Qansahdhere in the Bay region in the last few days, and nearly 400 deaths have been recorded over the last two weeks. Local officials and spokesmen warn that prolonged drought and hunger have made people vulnerable to the epidemic. WFP has appealed for aid to feed 600,000 Somalis affected by drought, particularly in north and northwest Bakool and Gedo.
SUDAN: Urgent appeal for two million Sudanese facing starvation
Nearly two million Sudanese could face starvation if food stocks are not replenished by June, WFP warned in a statement released from Khartoum on Thursday. The statement said there was an urgent need for pledges of food aid to avert a crisis. It warned existing stocks would run out in June. "Current stocks will finish at precisely the same time they are needed most, at the peak of the hunger months which last from April until October," the statement said. Dwindling food stocks have forced WFP to reduce essential therapeutic and supplementary feeding programmes for the malnourished. Only 11,300 mt of food had been donated out of an appeal for 55,000 mt issued in January, said WFP.
Nairobi, 28 April 2000, 15:30 gmt
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