Burundi + 3 more

IRIN Update 813 for the Great Lakes

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U N I T E D N A T I O N S
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BURUNDI: Mandela nominated as new peace facilitator

Eastern and southern African leaders meeting at the eighth Great Lakes summit on Burundi on Wednesday nominated former South African President Nelson Mandela as facilitator of the Burundi peace process. The heads of state said in a statement that "they realised the importance of having a new facilitator provide political leadership" for the Burundi process and had therefore designated Mandela, after due consultation with the OAU and UN. South African President Thabo Mbeki thanked the summit leaders for their confidence in Mandela, while his spokesman Parks Mankahlana said Mandela had accepted the position, Hirondelle news agency reported. If he confirms his acceptance, Mandela will replace the late Julius Nyerere, former president of Tanzania, as talks facilitator.

BURUNDI: Arusha venue, negotiation infrastructure to remain

The summit, noting that the Burundi peace negotiations "have reached an advanced stage and substantial progress has been achieved", decided to keep Arusha as the main venue for the process "and also to continue with the negotiation infrastructure already in place, so as to maintain the gained momentum and make use of the experience already realised." It also called on all the parties to the conflict to extend Mandela "maximum cooperation" and to conclude the process rapidly.

BURUNDI: Summit calls for disbandment of regroupment camps

The regional leaders in Arusha also "noted with regret" that the political and security situation had not improved significantly in the country, and that Hutu rebels had stepped up attacks against the government. The summit "expressed its disappointment" at the government's continued use of camps to contain the civilian population - in spite of commitments to dismantle those in existence - and reiterated its call for Bujumbura "to immediately disband all regroupment camps."

BURUNDI: Three reported killed in attack on Rutana camp

Three people were killed and two seriously injured when "armed gangs" attacked a displaced persons camp at Karindo, Rutana Province, in the southeast of the country on Monday night, the Burundi news agency ABP reported on Tuesday. Armed groups were also reported to have attacked Rudehe camp in the northern Kayanza Province at the weekend, killing 17 people.

DRC: "Nutritional crisis" in Bas-Congo

High levels of both acute and chronic malnutrition have been observed in a "nutritional crisis" in Luozi and Mangembo districts of Bas-Congo, western DRC, with the influx of refugees and returnees from the neighbouring Republic of Congo likely to have exacerbated the situation, Medical Emergency Relief International (Merlin) reported on Tuesday. A sample of over 900 children under five years between mid-September and mid-October, the traditional lean period at the end of the dry season, showed malnutrition figures "high enough to cause concern", even in the absence of comparative data for other periods, the agency reported.

"Malnutrition is part and parcel of the hungry season but in this instance global acute malnutrition among children aged between six and 59 months was found to be 26 percent," it added. Severe acute malnutrition was 20.7 percent, and the majority of children with that condition were suffering from kwashiorkor (a severe form of protein-energy malnutrition, with a high risk of mortality in young children), the report said. Traditionally, Bas-Congo has substantial trade with the Republic of Congo but the closure of the border has "had a massive impact on the local economy and a severe knock-on effect on people's ability to feed their families," Merlin added.

DRC: 500 UN military observers to go on stand-by

The UN Security Council on Tuesday asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan "with immediate effect, to take the administrative steps necessary to equip up to 500 UN military observers with a view to facilitating future rapid UN deployment [in the DRC] as authorised by the Council." It underlined, however, that "the phased deployment of the UN military observers, with the necessary support and protection elements ... will be subject to its further decision" after it receives a technical assessment of security conditions in the country. In this regard, the Council asked that Annan "report to it as soon as possible on the situation in the DRC and submit his recommendation on further deployment of UN personnel in the country, and on their security."

Observers have noted that the Council, led by Namibia, wanted to show that the UN was proceeding towards the eventual deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission while the US, in particular, was wary of approving the 500 military observers at this time, when the Lusaka ceasefire appears to be on shaky ground. Tuesday's resolution was a compromise solution, they said, in that it demonstrated some momentum while demanding additional technical and security information before the Security Council would even consider the deployment of the observers.

DRC: Multi-disciplinary staff to support MONUC

The Security Council resolution also authorised a multidisciplinary staff in the fields of "human rights, humanitarian affairs, public information, medical support, child protection, political affairs and administrative support personnel" to assist the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC Kamel Morjane until 1 March 2000.

DRC: Fierce fighting, potential "bloodbath" reported in Equateur

Serious clashes were reported in the northwestern province of Equateur throughout Monday and Tuesday, even as the Joint Military Commission (JMC) - comprising all the combatants in the DRC conflict - was meeting in the Zimbabwean capital Harare to explore means of pursuing the implementation the Lusaka ceasefire agreement. Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) spokesman Kin-Kiey Mulumba on Wednesday warned Kinshasa to halt a bombardment of rebel positions at Bokungu, allegedly involving planes, helicopter gunships, river gunboats and heavy artillery in an attempt to break through to besieged Zimbabwean troops at Ikela airport, Associated Press reported. "The fighting is extremely violent. We're continuing to resist but, if they continue, the Zimbabweans at Ikela will find themselves in a bloodbath," AP quoted Mulumba as saying.

DRC: Rebel RCD denies American mercenary support

Mulumba also rejected Zimbabwean accusations that US mercenaries were involved on the rebels' side in southern DRC. "I'm categorically denying that we have any mercenaries on our side - least of all Americans," Mulumba told AP. Zimbabwe's defence spokesman Colonel Chancellor Diye claimed on Monday that American mercenaries were active in central and eastern DRC, fighting alongside Congolese rebels. "The presence of white mercenaries has been noticed, 15 at Lusambo and the same number at Kabalo. The mercenaries are American nationals manning communications equipment and artillery," Diye said. Lusambo and Kabalo are to the north and east respectively of the key Congolese diamond mining centre Mbuji Mayi.

UGANDA: Parliament passes rebel amnesty bill

The Ugandan parliament on Tuesday passed a bill offering rebels a six-month amnesty in an attempt to end long-running insurgencies by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the west of the country and Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the north. The rebels have six months from the date President Yoweri Museveni signs the bill into law to claim the amnesty by handing in their arms and giving themselves up, Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday. The amnesty bill - which calls for the reintegration of the rebels into society and can be extended by the government without going back to parliament - represents a new, more diplomatic approach to rebellions which have displaced over 400,000 Ugandans after Museveni insisted for years that the rebels were common criminals and could only be subdued militarily, Reuters added.

RWANDA: Annan holds talks with Rwanda on Arusha tribunal

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met on Tuesday with Rwandan Prosecutor-General Gerald Gahima and was expected to raise the issue of a proposed trip to Rwanda by Carla Del Ponte, prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Annan's spokesman Fred Eckhard stated in a press briefing in New York. Rwanda has denied Del Ponte a visa and suspended its cooperation with the Tribunal since the decision by the Tribunal's appeals chamber to release genocide suspect Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza on technical legal grounds. Del Ponte has since requested a review of that decision and indicated her eagerness to visit her office in Kigali and meet with the Rwandan authorities to discuss the Barayagwiza case.

Nairobi, 30 November 1999, 15:00 gmt

[ENDS]

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