Burundi + 3 more

IRIN Update 823 for the Great Lakes

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for Central and Eastern Africa
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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Masire asked to mediate

A Botswana government spokesman told IRIN on Wednesday that the country's former president, Ketumile Masire, had been asked by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to be the official mediator in the DRC crisis. "The rebel factions in Congo have been particularly anxious to get Dr Masire as the mediator, especially after it was clear they could not get the former South African president, Nelson Mandela," a foreign ministry spokesman said. "All sides agree that Dr Masire will make an excellent, impartial choice here, and he is currently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the OAU will formally put the proposition to him."

Earlier in the week, representatives of the governments of Zimbabwe and Namibia, which sent forces to intervene against Ugandan and Rwandan-backed rebels in Congo, told IRIN they too considered Masire a good choice for mediator. The spokesman on Wednesday pointed out that Botswana, like South Africa, had adopted a more neutral stance on the DRC than Zimbabwe and Namibia, which boded well for Masire's role as mediator.

DRC: UN asked to deploy in eight sites of concern

The Joint Military Commission (JMC), established to implement the Lusaka ceasefire, has called on all parties to the agreement who have not done so "to ensure their effective presence and participation in the regional JMCs". This follows claims, particularly from Zimbabwe, that Rwanda and Congolese rebel groups had not contributed personnel to the regional JMCs at Kabinda and Boende because of "continuing attempts at gaining more territory". The regional JMC at Kabalo is due to be installed by Monday, 20 December, and the others by the first week of January, provided the necessary resources have been made available, according to JMC headquarters in Lusaka. The UN Observer Mission to the DRC (MONUC) has been asked to facilitate, through provision of air transport, the establishment of the four regional JMCs.

DRC: Kindu to complete first batch of UN liaison deployments

MONUC has confirmed, meanwhile, that its military liaison officer (MLO) teams are now installed in Goma, Kananga and Gbadolite, as well as in Kinshasa. Following consultations with the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), another team - originally destined for Kisangani - will now be based in Kindu, where the RCD considered it would be better positioned to perform its tasks, MONUC spokesman Major David Hannah told IRIN. The dispatch of the first MLO teams was delayed by changes in the political and military situations, problems in relation to personnel arrival dates, climatic conditions and aircraft availability, and these would probably delay future deployments as well, despite "best efforts being made to keep to the proposed schedule", Hannah said.

DRC: UN teams to be "proactive agents of the peace process"

While MLO tasks did not include any use of force, interpositioning between combatants or "any activity that might imperil the personal security of individual MLOs", the teams would not just "bear third-party witness" to military activity on the ground, Hannah said. They would also be "proactive agents of the peace process on the ground", with a role to explain and advise on all aspects of the Lusaka Accords, disseminate information in support of the peace process, influence parties to comply with the accords and "to dissuade parties from inappropriate action if necessary", Hannah told IRIN.

DRC: Rebel official reported arrested in Goma

Roger Lumbala, deputy head of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD)'s department of territorial administration, has been arrested in Goma, rebel-controlled Uvira radio reported on Tuesday. Lumbala has been accused of assisting dissident officers to escape from custody and organising the secret training of Congolese youths with the aim of rebelling against the RCD, the radio station quoted Chief of Staff Commander Igo Ilondo as saying.

DRC: Annan welcomes US plan to focus on Africa

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday welcomed a promise from US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke that the UN Security Council would hold no less than three special sessions on Africa in January, during which Washington will hold the revolving presidency. "If Africans think the world has forgotten them, they should take heart," Annan said. Holbrooke announced in South Africa last week that the US would "make Africa the priority of the month" at the Security Council in January, with one session on the DRC, one on Angola and possibly two others on subjects to be announced. The meetings have been scheduled "to focus the UN and, we hope, the world - or at least that part of the world that listens - to the problems and the importance of this continent," Holbrooke said.

RWANDA: Students claim ruling party "politicising" education

One of the Rwandan students who fled to Uganda has criticised the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) for "politicising" an academic issue. In an interview with the BBC Kinyarwanda service, the student - one of 42 English-speaking Rwandan students fleeing the Rwandese authorities - said the government was about to jail them because they had refused to study in French, a language they did not know. "The RPF played a major role," he said. "It realised the students were going to cause insecurity in the country." "What is sad is that an academic issue became politicised," he added. The students had written to the prime minister, a member of the Hutu Mouvement democratique republicain (MDR), regarding their plight. "The government started to say that we were working with the MDR," the student said. "They started to call us Interahamwe."

A Rwandan ruling party official, quoted by the BBC, said the students had failed their exams because they had refused the language lessons offered to them. Regional analysts told IRIN the issue is significant as "for the first time there are Tutsi casualties of government policy". "These people who returned in 1994 are now refugees again," one analyst said. But, he added, the government is refusing to set the precedent whereby students can dispute their language of instruction.

RWANDA: Annan promises to act according to UN inquiry's requirements

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday said he would act according to the requirements of a report by a UN independent inquiry team set up six months ago to investigate the organisation's role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. "As a human being...I feel that it is painful and tragic that we could not have done more to avoid Srebrenica, to avoid Rwanda and to avoid what happened in East Timor," Annan told journalists at UN headquarters in New York. He said the UN did the "best it could" with the assets it had under the circumstances, but reiterated there were important lessons to learn. "If the report requires that we do take action against individuals or groups - or if there is gross negligence - we will," Annan stressed.

The team was to present its report to Annan on Wednesday.

UGANDA: 90 prisoners recaptured

Ninety of some 360 prisoners, freed by Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels following an attack on Katojo jail in Fort Portal last week, have been recaptured by Ugandan soldiers, Presidential Press Secretary Hope Kivengere confirmed to IRIN on Tuesday. She said a further 72 had "managed to escape" from the rebels. The independent 'Monitor' newspaper said on Tuesday the 90 inmates were recaptured when government soldiers closed in on the ADF rebels in the Semliki National Park in western Uganda.

UGANDA: WFP temporarily halts food deliveries in Bundibugyo

WFP has temporarily halted its food deliveries in the western Ugandan town of Bundibugyo a following recent spate of attacks by ADF rebels, WFP's reports officer Alzira Ferreira told IRIN on Tuesday. "We have not officially suspended our operations in the area," she said. "Although we have relocated our staff from Bundibugyo to Fort Portal because of the attacks last week, we are hoping to resume deliveries as soon as we have security guarantees from the government," she said. Ferreira said there were reports that many people were moving into Bundibugyo and Nyahuka towns from the mountains. She added that most of the agency's December distributions had been carried out. She also said the nutritional status in most of the areas was reasonable. "What is worrying us is if the security situation continues to keep us away the place," she said.

UGANDA: Seven die in rebel ambush

Meanwhile, seven people, including one soldier, died on Saturday when their truck en route to Bundibugyo overturned following an ADF ambush, the semi-official 'New Vision' reported on Monday. "At the time of the attack, the vehicle was heavily loaded with people and merchandise," Bundibugyo's Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Edward Masiga said.

BURUNDI: Cholera reported in some camps

A cholera outbreak has been reported in some camps in Burundi. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said there have been five deaths and 125 cases reported at the cholera treatment centre in Kabezi camp as of 14 December since 20 November. OCHA said cases had also been reported in other camps such as Ruziba, Ruyaga and Mubone. "It is still not yet of great concern, although if the cases increase it can get quite serious," an OCHA official told IRIN. MSF is also reportedly setting up a cholera treatment centre in Ruziba.

Nairobi, 15 December 1999, 14:45 gmt


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Item: irin-english-2153

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