Burundi + 7 more

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 2 covering the period 08-14 Jan 2000

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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BURUNDI: Buyoya reshuffles government

President Pierre Buyoya has carried out a major cabinet reshuffle, apparently in response to growing criticism within the country of the economic situation. The defence and finance ministers were among those to have been replaced. Regional analysts told IRIN on Wednesday they were associated with illegal trading and corruption, and there had been mounting opposition to them in the capital, Bujumbura. The analysts added that the reshuffle would do little to assuage growing anger over the government's economic policies, and Buyoya could not backpedal on recent decisions such as hiking the price of fuel, beer and taxes. According to the observers, the recently created opposition grouping, Alliance nationale pour le changement (ANAC), is trying to exploit public dissatisfaction with the government's policies. To add to Buyoya's woes, 19 trade unions have also threatened an all-out strike in protest at the government's policies.

A statement from the office of the president named the new ministers as follows: Defence Minister - Colonel Cyrille Ndayirukiye (replacing Alfred Nkurunziza) Finance Minister - Charles Nihangaza (replacing Astere Girukwigomba) Commerce Minister - Joseph Ntanyotora (replacing Darius Nahayo) Transport Minister - Cyprien Mbonigaba (replacing Epitace Bayaganakandi) Communal Development Minister - Denis Nshimirimana (replacing Gaspard Ntirampeba) Public Health Minister - Stanislas Ntahobari (replacing Juma Mohamed Kariburyo) Public Works Minister - Gaspard Ntirampeba (replacing Denis Nshimirimana).

BURUNDI: Government rejects massacre allegations

The government has dismissed an Amnesty International allegation that 43 civilians were killed by the army in Kabezi commune, Bujumbura Rural on 31 December, insisting instead that some 20 rebels were killed that night, AFP reported. "The attackers came and the army killed about 20 rebels and seized 17 weapons," the agency quoted defence ministry sources as saying. Officials accused Amnesty of spreading "false information," the report added.

BURUNDI: Mandela to hold first consultations in Arusha

Former South African president Nelson Mandela would make his first trip as facilitator of the Burundi peace talks in Arusha on Sunday, 16 January, for a briefing with the facilitation team and consultations with negotiators on how best to move the process forward, a press release from his office stated on Wednesday. Mandela would meet representatives of donor countries and institutions as well as the special envoys to the negotiations, the statement added. Mandela is then scheduled to address a UN Security Council debate on Burundi on 19 January.

DRC: Kabila sets precondition for presence at UN debate

President Laurent-Desire Kabila on Tuesday confirmed that a high-level Congolese delegation will take part in the UN Security Council's open debate on the DRC conflict in New York from 24 January. However, he set as a precondition for his own participation that Council president and US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke demand the withdrawal of Rwanda and Uganda from Congolese territory. Kabila, speaking on state television, also rejected any inter-Congolese dialogue in New York, saying any such talks must take place on Congolese soil. Meanwhile, the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) described as absurd Kabila's reported insistence in Harare on Monday that rebel representatives could be "allowed along the corridors but not in the meeting hall". The Lusaka agreement recognised equal rights and equal opportunities for all signatories, so the "proximity" strategy that Kabila wanted to impose on the UN was surprising and absurd, a rebel spokesman told Rwanda News Agency (RNA) on Wednesday.

DRC: Annan to outline "concept of operations" for peacekeepers

The next report by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Security Council on the DRC, which is expected to come out on Monday, 17 January, will contain "a concept of operations" for proposed UN peacekeepers based on the information sent back by teams of military liaison officers (MLOs), Annan's spokesman Fred Eckhard stated on Wednesday. The Security Council is scheduled to have a week-long open debate on the DRC from 24 January.

DRC: Fighting continues in Equateur Province

MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba on Sunday claimed to have recaptured the town of Libanda in Equateur Province. He also said it had retaken key positions near the town of Nkonya, which the Congolese army had earlier captured. Congolese army Colonel David Kolo rejected Bemba's claims, telling state television that "the named locations are definitely in the hands of the FAC and their allies." Kinshasa also claimed on Monday that it and its southern African allies had taken Kwalungu in Sud Ubangui region, and recaptured Gwaluru, in Equateur Province, from the MLC. There has been no independent confirmation of the respective claims and counter-claims.

Meanwhile, the UN Observer Mission in the DRC (MONUC) told IRIN on Monday the condition of government-allied forces trapped by RCD rebels in Ikela was unknown, with conflicting reports that a rescue mission was about to break through. "The whole thing, whether a siege or an offensive to rescue them, means the ceasefire is being abused around Ikela," MONUC spokesman Guy Pickett said. He also said MONUC could not confirm allegations by the Zimbabwean army that a family of seven were killed by rebels in the area of Eshimba, in the eastern province of Kabinda, on 1 January after being accused of informing for allied forces. "At least once a week we get claims of massacres in the local press but we just can't verify," Pickett said, pointing to the government's restrictions on MONUC's deployment. He said, however, that despite "minor ceasefire violations, there is still an awful lot to play for and there is still every reason to be optimistic."

DRC: Rebel leaders continue unification project

The leaders of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML) and Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC): Emile Ilunga, Ernest Wamba dia Wamba and Jean-Pierre Bemba, meeting in Kabale, southwestern Uganda, over the weekend agreed on rules of procedure for the rebels' unification project, as well as on tasks for the political and military commissions established under it, Rwandan radio reported on Monday. The leaders' forum agreed to facilitate the movement of people and goods
between the territories they control, and to harmonise customs and taxation regimes, rebel-held Radio Bukavu reported. They also agreed to meet again on 4 February and at least once a month thereafter, Rwandan radio stated.

DRC: Commissions to consider political platform and national army

The rebel leaders agreed that the new joint political commission would develop a common position paper for the rebel front for the inter-Congolese dialogue provided for in the Lusaka ceasefire agreement. Among the issues would be power-sharing, human rights and good governance, the question of nationality, a federal system of government - whether during or after a transitional period - and the programme of an interim government, the station reported. Meanwhile, the military commission would consider the formation, character and mission of a new national army, as agreed under Lusaka, to comprise the merged government's Forces armees congolaises (FAC) and the three rebel forces. It would also start developing social reintegration and training programmes for those soldiers who would not be absorbed into the new national army, Rwandan radio stated. The commissions have been scheduled to start work on 24 January.

DRC: Interior minister discusses border security with Bangui

Interior Minister Gaetan Kakudji met the Central African Republic's ambassador to the DRC, Bernard Sissale, on Monday to discuss "issues related to security at their common border and the movement of people and goods across their border," DRC state television reported on Tuesday. A statement by the Forces armees congolaises (FAC) broadcast by Congolese state television on Monday claimed the rebel Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) was infiltrating from the Central African Republic, despite a defence accord between the two countries. It also said "the international community must take note of the massive military recruitments of elements loyal to the MLC which is taking place in Central African Republic, more precisely in Ouango," and that former CAR president Andre Kolingba was sponsoring the recruitment process, Reuters news agency reported.

Kolingba's Rassemblement democratiquecentrafricaine (RDC) party subsequently denied FAC's accusations that he has been supporting recruitment by the Congolese rebel Mouvement de liberation du congo (MLC) in the Central African Republic. RDC secretary-general Idriss Salao categorically denied the allegations, which he said were "nothing but a string of lies", and called on the national and international community not to be deceived by "gross and undignified manoeuvres" that originated in the internal political dynamics of the Central African Republic.

DRC: Amnesty report slammed

The government has rejected a recent report by Amnesty International on the human rights situation in the country, describing it as "misguided". The DRC embassy in Washington said the report "reaffirms the West's misguided notions of the strife in the Congo" and had failed to take into account that "governments are justified in adopting heightened security measures when civilians and the state are threatened by foreign forces," Agence-France Presse reported. The Amnesty report, released on Monday, accused the DRC authorities of "brutally curtailing" the activities of peaceful political opponents, journalists, human rights defenders and trade union activists. "Although the armed conflict has exacerbated the situation, the government is using the war against armed opposition groups and foreign military forces as a pretext to subject the Congolese to unwarranted repression, despite the fact that most of the victims are themselves opposed to the insurgency," the report said.

DRC: US $4.2 million project to protect world heritage sites

Five national parks adversely affected by the continuing armed conflict in the DRC are scheduled to benefit from a US $4.2 million investment under a 'Biodiversity Conservation in Regions of Armed Conflict' project to be implemented by UNESCO. The project, for which UNESCO has recently received a pledge of US $2.9 million from the UN Foundation, is intended, among other things, to protect endangered species unique to the sites: Garamba National Park; Okapi Faunal Reserve; Virungas National Park; Kahuzi-Biega National Park; and Salonga National Park, UNESCO stated. "The influx of refugees along border areas, rebel activities, banditry and increased poaching are affecting these sites adversely. The expansion of commercial hunting is also seriously undermining the hunter-gatherer way of life of the Mbuti Pygmies of the Okapi Reserve and other indigenous people who depend largely on wildlife for survival," a UNESCO press release stated. [for further information, see http://www.unesco.org/opi/eng/unescopress]

UGANDA: Rebel campaign continues in the west

Twelve people were killed and some 10 others injured in an attack on Bundwarume camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Mataisa, Bundibugyo district, on Monday evening by rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the 'New Vision' newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing police sources. Monday's deaths brought to 23 the number of civilians and Ugandan soldiers killed by the ADF in Kabarole and Bundibugyo districts between Saturday and Tuesday, the paper stated. The army claimed to have seized a sizeable arms cache and killed at least 29 rebels: eight in Kibaati in the Rwenzori mountains, five in Bugomba after an attempted attack on an IDP camp, and 12 after the army bombarded hideouts in Bundibugyo and Kabarole during the same period, the 'New Vision' added.

UGANDA: ADF warns civilians

The ADF on Thursday warned civilians to "separate" from the Ugandan army so that they do not get caught in crossfire. In an interview with the independent 'Monitor' daily, ADF spokesman Rogers Kabanda accused the army of using civilians in the camps of western Uganda as human shields. "All civilians must quit and separate from the UPDF. We want to deal with combatant soldiers," Kabanda said, However, UPDF information chief Captain Shaban Batariza described the allegations as propaganda, and also denied ADF claims that most of the Ugandan army was in DRC.

UGANDA-RWANDA: Plight of Rwandan students under review

UNHCR and the Ugandan government on Wednesday denied news reports that there were more than 120 Rwandan students seeking asylum in Uganda whose whereabouts were not clear. Uganda's Deputy Director for Refugees Carlos
Twesigomwe told IRIN that his office was only aware of about 40 students who had sought asylum. "The process to determine their status will be reviewed this coming Friday," he said. "I have no idea of the extra number. We don't know where they are, or where they are coming from." A UNHCR official in Kampala told IRIN that it knew of 60 students who had
sought asylum but that it had found no evidence of persecution against the group and did not intend to provide them with humanitarian assistance.

A Rwandan newspaper, 'Rwanda Newsline', in a recent report criticised Vice-President Paul Kagame for his handling of the students. "There is a tendency for Kagame the general to forget that he is a politician when he addresses problems that should normally be addressed by Kagame the politician," the newspaper said. "The language issue in schools is slowly
evolving into a really hot potato on the RPF's plate for several reasons, but mainly because it probably represents the first real challenge for the RPF-led government of national unity."

RWANDA: UN to be sued for "complicity" in genocide

The UN is to be sued for "complicity" in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in what is believed to be the first such lawsuit against the organisation, news agencies reported on Tuesday. Prominent human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robinson and a former investigator with the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Kigali, Michael Hourigan, were acting for
two Rwandan women whose families were among those who died in the genocide, the BBC reported, citing the Australian newspaper 'The Age'. One of the women, Anonciata Kavaruganda, the wife of former Rwandan Supreme Court judge Joseph Kavaruganda who was killed because he sympathised with the Tutsis, has alleged that Ghanaian UN soldiers supposed to be protecting her family were drinking and socialising with the Hutus while she and her children were tortured, the BBC quoted 'The Age' as saying.

RWANDA: French diplomatic visit imminent

French Secretary of State Charles Josselin is set to make a one-day official visit to Rwanda on Saturday, 15 January, in what would be the first visit of a high-ranking French government official since the 1994 genocide, news organisations reported on Tuesday. Josselin was expected to visit one genocide site and meet Rwandan government officials, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reported. Observers recalled that France's 'Operation Turquoise' in southwest Rwanda during the 1994 genocide was strongly criticised by the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) for allowing the Interahamwe and ex-FAR to flee into neighbouring the then Zaire. Josselin's itinerary also includes visits to Tanzania and Uganda, and discussions with Congolese rebel groups, DPA reported.

RWANDA: Improved food productivity in northwest

Preliminary results of a joint food assessment mission to northwestern Rwanda last month indicated that more land was being cultivated with improved productivity. According to a humanitarian update from UNOCHA in Kigali, the northwest was already supplying other prefectures of the country with certain products such as potatoes and vegetables. Those families with small plots, who have no access to land, who have been settled less than three months, and households who headed by widows or children were still considered most vulnerable, the report said. It said the FAO estimated that 90,000 people in Ruhengeri and 60,000 in Gisenyi still needed "immediate assistance" with quality seeds, cattle re-stocking and agricultural produce storage. Access to clean water was still a major problem for the population in the northwest, OCHA added.

RWANDA: Returnees continue to arrive from eastern DRC

Rwandan refugees were continuing to return home from eastern DRC, mainly from North Kivu, the OCHA report said. It cited UNHCR as saying refugees were crossing at an average rate of 420 persons a week. The total number of returnees in 1999 had now reached 31,630 and around 10-15,000 more were expected to return in the coming months. OCHA also reported that there were 65,000 child-headed households in the country. It said there were 6,000 street children and 3,848 children in orphanages.

TANZANIA: Rapid rise in Burundi refugee numbers

A recent influx of refugees from Burundi wascontinuing, with 10,000 refugees having arrived between 1 and 12 January, UNHCR figures received by IRIN on Thursday stated. There were now some 20,000 Burundi refugees at a new camp at Karago, Kigoma Region (opened on 22 December to receive new arrivals from Burundi, due to the saturation of existing refugee camps), the agency said. Some 22,000 people sought refuge in western Tanzania during December, despite a lull during the first half of the month, UNHCR added. In all, almost 50,000 Burundians have arrived in Tanzania since the beginning of October 1999, bringing the total number of Burundi refugees in Tanzania to over 320,000.

TANZANIA: Commissioner denies supporting Burundi rebels

The government commissioner for Kagera region, General Tumanene Kiwelu, on Wednesday denied claims that Tanzania was assisting Burundi rebels, the BBC Kirundi service reported. Kiwelu, who was visiting Burundi refugee camps in western Tanzania, said his country "has never assisted Burundi rebels and it has no such plan". The private Burundi news agency Azania on Tuesday reported that Burundi rebels were trading with Tanzanian soldiers to acquire arms. Kiwelu said thefts and criminal activities in the Kagera region was on the increase, and that most of those arrested were Burundi refugees and former Burundi soldiers who had fled with their country with weapons.

SOMALIA: Food security concerns remain in south-central zone

The main humanitarian concern continued to be the situation of agro-pastoralist families in rain-fed areas of central and southern Somalia, particularly in the regions of Bakool and Gedo, IRIN was informed this week. One million people from a population of an estimated four million in the south-central area were 'at risk' of food insecurity, while 600,000 of this number - mostly in Bay, Bakool and Gedo - remained in need of food aid. Relief agencies were keeping a close eye on both insecurity and the harvest obtained in rain-fed areas, which were considered critical in a very fragile situation, but - whatever the change in those - substantial food aid would be required, at least until June, IRIN sources said. The situation in the north of Somalia was not considered immediately threatening, especially since recent rains had improved pastures somewhat, they added.

SOMALIA: Arms embargo committee asks for intelligence on violations

A UN committee aimed at improving the implementation of a UN Security Council arms embargo on Somalia has requested countries that have knowledge of violations to inform it, since the committee itself does not have any effective monitoring mechanism. The committee viewed the efficacy of the arms embargo as "more necessary than ever" to underline "the firm commitment of the international commitment to establishing a lasting peace in Somalia", and was considering a number of proposals for action, but it relied "solely on the cooperation of states and organisations in a position to provide information on violations," a letter from outgoing committee chairman Jassim Mohammed Buallay to the Security Council in late December stated.

ERITREA-SUDAN: Minister emphasises "strategic ties"

The Eritrean Foreign Minister, Haile Woldentensae,arrived in Sudan on Thursday to officially open the Eritrean embassy in Khartoum - an event that follows the 3 January agreement between the two countries to restore diplomatic relations and reopen their borders. Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail, who officially received Woldentensae, said the tensions of the past "must be an exception" - Eritrea and Sudan severed diplomatic ties in 1994 - and the rule should be constructive cooperation. "We view Sudan's relations with Eritrea as strategic ties between two neighbouring countries ... therefore, we have no ceiling for the development of these ties: we are working to develop them in all aspect - in the political, security, economic and cultural aspects," Ismail said on Sudanese television. Khartoum was last week handed back the Sudanese embassy in Khartoum, which had been occupied by the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Nairobi, 14 January 2000, 15:30 gmt


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