Burundi + 3 more

IRIN Update 814 for the Great Lakes

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BURUNDI: Mandela widely welcomed as facilitator

The government and one faction of the main opposition party FRODEBU have welcomed Wednesday's designation by eastern and southern African leaders of former South African president Nelson Mandela as facilitator of the Burundi peace negotiations in Arusha. "Mandela can help us in this negotiation process. He's a man of international stature ... very experienced in resolution of conflicts and, I think, acceptable to the majority of Burundians. We are glad he has been chosen to lead this process," Hirondelle news agency quoted Burundi President Pierre Buyoya as saying. Jean Minani, leader of the external wing of the opposition Hutu party FRODEBU, said it was very happy to hear Mandela had been chosen as mediator because he was "someone of the highest stature" who had fought all his life against oppression, the agency added.

Buyoya also said "the question of the venue, who should assist (and) who should not assist" were for the new facilitator to decide, and he denied that the government had ever said it was against Arusha as a talks venue, Hirondelle reported.

BURUNDI: Annan hopes Mandela can "reinvigorate the process"

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also welcomed Mandela's designation as facilitator of the Burundi peace talks, and expressed the hope that Mandela's prestige and authority would "reinvigorate the process." Calling the appointment a timely decision, in light of the unstable political and security situation prevailing in Burundi, Annan called on all the Burundi parties "to extend maximum cooperation to the new facilitator towards the successful and urgent conclusion of the peace negotiations." The UN Secretary-General also reiterated his view that "there is no alternative to a negotiated settlement to the Burundi conflict."

BURUNDI: Hutu rebel coalition rejects South African involvement

The Union pour la liberation nationale (ULINA) - an umbrella grouping of minor Hutu rebel factions - said, however, it "strongly opposed" Mandela's nomination, and "would never participate in the talks of hypocrites". "South Africa has joined Rwanda and Uganda to assist Dictator Buyoya militarily, as well as ammunition (sic) to conduct killings of innocent Hutus in the concentration camps whereby hundreds of Hutus are being slaughtered daily," a press release from ULINA and the president of the Parti pour la liberation du peuple hutu - Forces nationales de liberation (PALIPEHUTU-FNL), received by IRIN, stated.

Some other Hutu representatives, including from the main rebel group CNDD (Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie), who attended the Arusha summit said in private they would have preferred the choice of former Botswana president Ketumile Masire because they do not accept that South Africa is neutral in Burundi or the Great Lakes region, Hirondelle reported.

BURUNDI: Buyoya says civilian camps an internal issue

President Pierre Buyoya on Wednesday rejected the criticism by regional leaders at the Arusha summit of Burundi's civilian regroupment camps, and their call that the camps be disbanded immediately. He told a press conference in Arusha the camps were "a problem of management of the situation in the country... not to be discussed in the peace process." The government has forced hundreds of thousands of civilians into regroupment camps, in which humanitarian conditions are reported to be deplorable and which have drawn strong condemnation from the international community.

BURUNDI: 10 reported killed in army-rebel clash

Ten rebels were killed and two soldiers wounded during clashes on Tuesday night in Gituro, Kamenge zone, north of Bujumbura, news organisations reported on Wednesday. The fighting occurred when a group of soldiers happened upon the rebels during its return from military operations in Bujumbura Rural, Radio Burundi quoted military sources as saying. At least 43 people have been killed in three separate attacks by ethnic Hutu rebels around the country since Saturday, according to military and government officials cited by Reuters news agency on Wednesday. The dead included 22 civilians, 19 rebels and two soldiers, they added.

TANZANIA: Mkapa "fed up" with Burundi accusations

President Benjamin Mkapa on Wednesday reiterated his government's denial that it has allowed Burundi refugees to train, equip themselves and launch attacks on Burundi from within Tanzania, and added that his government was "fed up with endless but baseless accusations" when that has never been its policy. Tanzania was finding it ever more difficult to cope with the number of refugees and earnestly asked "those countries that generate refugees... to create that political dispensation and those security guarantees that will stop their citizens from looking for sanctuary in other countries," the Tanzanian 'Daily News' reported Mkapa as saying. "We do not want to be a scapegoat for procrastination in the negotiations, and we abhor even the perception that Tanzania is an obstacle to the speedy resolution of the Burundi conflict," Mkapa added, in a speech that analysts considered evidence of severely strained relations between the neighbouring countries.

DRC: Inter-Congolese dialogue to be funded by the EC

The European Community has said it will finance the inter-Congolese dialogue, scheduled to take place in the DRC under the Lusaka ceasefire, if leaders agree on a timetable and the peace agreement holds. "We are waiting to get information on the ground before committing the funds," the German press agency on Wednesday quoted Finnish diplomat Leo Olasvarta as saying. Finland currently holds the presidency of the EC.

DRC: Bemba claims capture of 120 government troops

The Mouvement du liberation congolais (MLC), led by Jean-Pierre Bemba, on Thursday claimed to have captured 120 government soldiers during "Kabila's continuing offensive" in Equateur Province in the northwest of the country. Kinshasa had "vainly tried to retake the town of Bongandanga so as to continue their offensive to Lissala" but had 120 prisoners of war taken in the clashes, according to an MLC statement quoted by Agence France Presse (AFP). Meanwhile, the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) claimed to have retaken during heavy fighting on Wednesday positions at Bokungu, Equateur Province, that were lost to Zimbabwean forces on Tuesday.

DRC: Kabila allies allege new rebel ceasefire violations

The armies of three southern African states: Namibia, Zimbabwe and Angola, who are supporting President Laurent-Desire Kabila against Ugandan- and Rwandan-backed Congolese rebels in the DRC conflict, on Wednesday alleged that their bases in Ikela, northeastern Equateur, and also in the provinces of East and West Kasai in central DRC, had come under rebel attack in violation of the Lusaka ceasefire.

DRC: Minister calls for action to avert a catastrophe

The government on Wednesday warned that the floods engulfing Kinshasa as a result of the River Congo having burst its banks had already caused great distress and risked becoming a disaster if timely action were not taken. The Congo, fed by unusually heavy rains, made an estimated 10,000 homeless when it burst its banks and flooded 15 of 24 districts in the capital Kinshasa, Congolese media quoted government officials as saying. "The situation is very worrying. We must take precautions to avoid this turning into a catastrophe," said Health Minister Mashako Mamba, who appealed to the donor community for relief funds.

UGANDA: World Bank approves funding for projects

The World Bank has approved a total of $114.9 million for two development programmes it is supporting in Uganda: the Local Government Development Programme and the Second Economic and Financial Management Programme. The $80.9 million equivalent Local Government Development Programme will support the government of Uganda's national development strategy, contained in its Poverty Eradication Action Plan (1997). The plan is designed to ensure that the benefits of development are widely spread throughout the population. The objective of the $34 million equivalent Second Economic and Financial Management Project is to improve the effectiveness of public expenditure management, such as government planning, budgeting, financial management, monitoring and evaluation.

Nairobi, 2 December 1999, 15:00 gmt

[ENDS]

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