Burundi + 2 more

IRIN Update 818 for the Great Lakes

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa
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DRC: Ikela settlement averts all-out battle

Senior-level delegations from Zimbabwe, Rwanda and the Rwandan-backed rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) on Tuesday agreed a settlement to put an end to serious fighting in the Bokungu-Ikela area of northwest Equateur province, news organisations reported. The fighting risked turning into an all-out war that could threaten the lives of hundreds of Zimbabwean troops besieged at Ikela airport. An agreement was reached in the Rwandan capital Kigali - after prior negotiations by aRwandan delegation in Harare - under which the Zimbabwean troops, trapped behind rebel lines at Ikela airport, would be allowed to bring in food and supplies. In return, government troops were to withdraw from the town of Bokungu, which they seized from the RCD last Thursday after fierce fighting, diplomatic sources said.

Meanwhile, the government-held town of Mbandaka is reported to be almost surrounded by Jean-Pierre Bemba's rebel Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) backed by the Ugandan army, diplomatic sources told IRIN on Wednesday. The government last week admitted the loss of Basankusu, northeast of Mbandaka, to Bemba's rebels - who have since made it their military headquarters. A contingent of ex-Forces armees zairoises (FAZ) and Angolan UNITA rebels have reportedly arrived in Gbadolite to support the MLC, the sources added.

DRC: JMC adopts concept papers on four key issues

A plenary meeting of the Joint Military Commission (JMC), established to implement the Lusaka ceasefire agreement, ended in Harare on Monday with the adoption of four concept papers, UN sources told IRIN on Wednesday. An official from the UN's JMC support team said the papers dealt with the disengagement of forces, disarmament of armed groups, withdrawal of foreign forces and humanitarian imperatives in the DRC. These had been finalised between 30 November and 4 December in Harare by working groups of the JMC. These papers "set out the principles of what is to be achieved" and were "quite tight and quite good," but it would still be up to the JMC to set out deadlines and modalities for putting them into practice, the official said.

The JMC meeting was marked by a "good debate" on the subject of numerous ceasefire violations reported in recent weeks, and "a spirit of cooperation to try and resolve them". The official said the results could be seen in the Ikela settlement. The next JMC meeting is scheduled for 20 January, but thereafter it is hoped to have a standing committee so that the JMC is constantly in session, he added.

DRC: US to give JMC US $1 million within days

US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke has called the DRC peace process "truly daunting" and pledged that Washington would deliver US $1 million to the JMC "within the next few days". Speaking in South Africa, in what diplomats called one of the most important policy statements on Africa by the current US administration, Holbrooke also urged other countries that had made commitments to the JMC to deliver the money promised.

DRC: Choosing dialogue facilitator "immediate next step"

Holbrooke also emphasised that outside peacekeepers could not deliver peace and said the people of the region "must commit themselves to the implementation of the Lusaka Agreement, to stop all the fighting, to bring in an outside facilitator into the process, to withdraw the outside forces and to replace them with a peacekeeping force". All sides must "take the most immediate next step in the Lusaka Agreement: to choose a facilitator for the political process (the inter-Congolese political dialogue)," without which the US would not support any peacekeeping force, he said. Kinshasa must also allow UN liaison officers and assessment teams the access, freedom of movement and security to do their jobs, Holbrooke added.

[see IRIN-SA item headlined "Holbrooke outlines new US policy on Africa" [19991207]

DRC: Conflict causes continued displacement in Katanga

The church umbrella group ACT, in a revised appeal for relief projects in Katanga and Orientale Provinces, quoted reports of a front of confrontation in Katanga "stretching from Lake Tanganyika to Kabinda in Kasai (Orientale)". The regular flow of displaced people from Manono, Nyunzu and Kabongo illustrated that the Lusaka ceasefire had "yet to come into effect" in the region, while the humanitarian situation in Moba, Kalemie and Nyunzu has been described as "a disaster", ACT stated. In Lubumbashi, international relief staff were "unanimous in describing the current situation as approaching a catastrophe", it added. It said there were some 110,000 internally displaced people in Katanga Province as of mid-October. Since then, there has been a regular and increasing flow rather than any general return to people's home areas. Lubumbashi had accumulated around 36,000 IDPs, while some 34,000 more have gathered at Malemba-Nkulu - a swampy region north of Lubumbashi, where access was difficult and where dysentery, malnutrition and malaria were habitual problems, it added. There were also significant concentrations of IDPs around Pweto and in Kamina, Likasi and Kasenga, ACT said.

DRC: "Deplorable" conditions reported in Kisangani

In Province Orientale, half of the population of Kisangani city was in need of humanitarian assistance and the condition of people was "simply deplorable", ACT stated. Adult malnutrition was running at 30 percent, and child malnutrition at 60 percent, while insecurity and the non-availability of seeds meant poor harvest prospects for the coming season, it added. The agency also reported acute need in the second city of Bunia, where half the 300,000 population needed medical assistance, and in Isiro, where malnutrition rates were reported to be high.

RWANDA: ICTR approves joint trial for media genocide suspects

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday agreed that prosecutors may hold a joint trial for two journalist genocide suspects, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. The suspects, former director of the extremist Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), Ferdinand Nahimana, and Hassan Ngeze, former editor of the extremist newspaper 'Kangura', had pleaded not guilty in November 1998 to amended counts, it added.

Initially, Nahimana and Ngeze were to be tried with two others: Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, another founder of RTLM radio, who was released last month by the ICTR Appeals Court on technical legal grounds, and an Italo-Belgian RTLM presenter, Georges Ruggiu, Hirondelle reported.

BURUNDI: Arusha peace negotiations resume

The Burundi peace talks resumed in Arusha, Tanzania, on Monday, with three of four committees continuing deliberations on their particular areas of concern, the Nyerere Foundation spokesman Hashim Mbita confirmed to IRIN on Wednesday. He said the committees looking at the causes of the crisis, democratisation and governance issues, and peace and security were in progress. "Committee four, on social and economic reconstruction, is not meeting this time because it has to wait for the outcome and findings of the other three committees," he added. Mbita said the delegates were "serious" in their deliberations and had received the new talks facilitator Nelson Mandela "gladly". The Foundation is awaiting the return of one of its top officials, Judge Mark Bomani, who went to confer with Mandela on the talks itinerary, Mbita added.

Nairobi, 8 December 1999, 15:00 gmt


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Item: irin-english-2115

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