Burundi + 3 more

IRIN Update 825 for the Great Lakes

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UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for Central and Eastern Africa
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e-mail: irin@ocha.unon.org

RWANDA: Kigali wants apology in person from Annan

Rwanda has called on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to come to Kigali personally and apologise for the UN's failure to prevent the 1994 genocide. "We expect the secretary-general to come here to personally offer his apologies and those of the UN," Minister in the President's Office Patrick Mazimhaka told the BBC. "We hope he will take the trouble because he was in charge at the time." An independent enquiry into the UN's role during the genocide, commissioned by Annan, concludes that the UN failed the people of Rwanda and it should have apologised "more clearly, more frankly and much earlier". The report, which found the UN lacking in leadership and decision-making, recommended that the Secretary-General actively seek ways to launch a new beginning in the relationship between the UN and Rwanda. [full report available at http://www.un.org/News/ossg/rwanda_report.htm]

RWANDA: Annan fully accepts findings of report

In a statement expressing "deep remorse", Annan said he fully accepted the findings of the enquiry team "including those which reflect on officials of the UN Secretariat, of whom I myself was one". "Of all my aims as Secretary-General, there is none to which I feel more deeply committed than that of enabling the United Nations never again to fail in protecting a civilian population from genocide or mass slaughter," he said.

RWANDA: Dallaire blasts UN "impotence"

Canada's General Romeo Dallaire, who commanded the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda at the time, has lashed out at the "bureaucratic impotence" of the UN. In a report, obtained by the Canadian 'National Post' on Thursday, Dallaire indicated he felt the Rwanda peacekeeping mission was flawed right from the planning stages. "Since the UN commenced peacekeeping operations in 1956, it has quite honestly learned very little from its mistakes," Dallaire's report said, according to the 'National Post'. Member countries impose "inadequate force structures" and "hopelessly restrictive mandates", while budgets are "hacked and slashed for bureaucratic or national interest", he commented.

RWANDA: French decision to extradite genocide suspect hailed

Rwanda has welcomed a decision by France to extradite former higher education minister Jean-de-Dieu Kamuhanda to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha on genocide charges. Interviewed by Radio France Internationale, Justice Minister Jean-de-Dieu Mucyo said he hoped this was just a beginning. "We know there are many genocide suspects in France," he said. "I would have preferred that he be extradited to Rwanda, but the fact he has been arrested and will be sent to Arusha is already something."

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: POW release should begin by year-end

The Joint Military Commission (JMC), charged with implementing the Lusaka ceasefire accord, has proposed that the repatriation of prisoners of war should begin by 25 December. In a concept paper adopted after the just-ended third plenary session in Harare, received by IRIN, the JMC agreed that all parties to the conflict should submit a list of POWs and detained persons to the JMC chairman and ICRC before 15 December. However, the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) has expressed reservations over the dates, given the situation on the ground. The paper also said humanitarian corridors would be set up subject to the results of independent and transparent humanitarian assessments.

On the subject of disarmament, the paper says the UN has the primary responsibility and obligation to track down armed groups, while the JMC, UN and OAU will jointly determine the practical modalities for this. Information would be sought from Burundi, which is not represented in the JMC, but which has rebel armed groups operating out of the DRC.

DRC: Release of political prisoners "positive step" - UDPS

President Laurent-Desire Kabila has freed 156 political prisoners in Kinshasa, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Friday. They include 90 members of the Parti lumumbiste unifie (PALU) and four of the Union pour la democratie et le progres social (UDPS). A senior official of the UDPS, Mr Mukendi, told Radio France Internationale that Wednesday's releases were a positive step. "This will contribute to the smooth conduct of the inter-Congolese dialogue," he said. "This is a significant decision which will help us move forward." The authorities had indicated there would be further releases, he added.

DRC: UN, British envoys comment on talks with Kabila

The head of the UN observer mission in DRC (MONUC) Kamel Morjane met President Kabila on Wednesday for talks which he described as "fruitful". Morjane told DRC state television that the president pledged to work with him "and help me carry out my difficult mission". He said MONUC was determined to guarantee the independence of the DRC and its territorial integrity.

The British ambassador to DRC, Douglas Scrafton, also met Kabila and reiterated his government's support for the Lusaka accord and its readiness to play a role in the restoration of peace in the DRC. He told the television that the choice of former Botswanan president Ketumile Masire was good "because the inter-Congolese debate can now effectively take place". "No country can benefit from this long-lasting war, it is everybody's interest to see peace prevail in the DRC and the entire region," Scrafton added.

DRC: Boma flooded, but Matadi port secure

A joint assessment mission organised by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to Bas-Congo province noted an "exceptionally high water level" in the Boma area, but said flooding was unlikely at the port of Matadi this season. An OCHA report said farmland had been flooded, but not the port itself. The Inga hydroelectric dam was equipped to take a significant amount of water, the report noted. Relief operations are underway, but concern was expressed over the fact that some families not affected by floods were coming forward as beneficiaries.

UGANDA: More troops deployed in west

More Ugandan soldiers arrived in the western town of Fort Portal, in Kabarole district on Thursday to help flush out the rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) who have recently stepped up their attacks in the area. The semi-official 'New Vision' on Friday quoted Chief of Staff James Kazini, who is coordinating the army offensive against the rebels, as saying two more battalions of about 1,000 men would be deployed in the area.

UGANDA: UNHCR declines to assist Rwandan asylum seekers

UNHCR on Thursday has said it will not provide humanitarian assistance to a group of Rwandan students seeking asylum in Uganda, saying there is no indication of persecution against them in Rwanda. A UNHCR statement from Kampala said the agency had conducted investigations into the case of the Rwandan students, who claim they face imprisonment in Rwanda after protesting against instruction in French, a language they do not know. UNHCR said it had established that all Rwandan university students are expected to be proficient in both English and French, and that the government had provided language-learning classes, but these students had refused to study French. It was also established that the students took part in a demonstration earlier this year against the Rwandan government's policy of compulsory French language in their education programme.

UGANDA: HRW report suggests link between Kampala and UNITA

A new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggests a link between Uganda and Angola's UNITA rebels, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said. The report lists some 20 aircraft which reportedly flew into UNITA-controlled areas last year "without giving prior notification". One of the aircraft was said to have been leased to the Ugandan airforce in 1998. "What the aircraft was doing that year in UNITA areas remains to be seen," the report said. Investigations by HRW revealed that senior Ugandan officials were allegedly involved.

BURUNDI: MSF sets up in Ruziba

Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) has set up a camp in Ruziba, Bujumbura Rural, to provide medical assistance to those affected by an outbreak of cholera in the province's regroupment camps. An MSF official in Nairobi told IRIN the agency received a request from Burundi's health ministry late last week to resume its full operations in the camps. "Although this request was unacceptable, MSF decided to set up a cholera camp in Ruziba," she said. "MSF chose Ruziba because it is close to town and because there are no medical NGOs in the area." According to figures from the ministry, some 161 suspected cases were registered in five days with five deaths. MSF said it had not confirmed these figures. The agency also said there were unconfirmed reports of the risk of an epidemic in six other camps. "However, we can only move into the camps if cholera is officially declared an epidemic and this can only be done by the ministry of health or the WHO," she said.

BURUNDI: US urges end to relocations

The US on Thursday called on the Burundi government to end relocations of civilians into regroupment camps as this was not only leading to the current reported deaths and disease in the camps, but "are breeding long-term resentment", AP reported, quoting State Department spokesman James Foley. "The United States strongly and unequivocally condemns rebel attacks on civilians in the area," he said. "Nonetheless, the US remains gravely concerned about the forced movement of the population and its humanitarian and human rights consequences."

BURUNDI: Government defends policy

Meanwhile, the Burundi government reiterated that the regroupment programme was set up at the "request of the people" who wanted protection from violence and intimidation by rebel groups, the BBC quoted a Burundi military spokesman as saying. The government also maintains that its actions have been misunderstood by critics and has called for more international assistance to ensure the camps are sustainable.

Nairobi, 17 December 1999, 14:40 gmt

[ENDS]

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