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IRIN Update 828 for the Great Lakes

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DRC: US admits "dragging its heels" to ensure UN gets things right

The future of the United Nations would be determined by its handling of the DRC conflict in the coming months and that explained the US "dragging its heels" on support for a peacekeeping force, US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke has stated. Some of the conditions of the Lusaka agreement had not been fulfilled by its signatories and Washington did not intend to "hand over a blank cheque" to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations when details of a possible peacekeeping missions, and its cost, had not been worked out, Holbrooke said. "We are dragging our feet right now, but not because we are opposed to peacekeeping in Congo. We are dragging our feet because we want the peacekeeping operation, and we want to get it right," IPS quoted him as saying.

The US ambassador's comments followed a briefing to the UN Security Council by Under-Secretary for Peacekeeping Bernard Miyet in which he said the UN Observer Mission to the Congo (MONUC) had managed to deploy 62 of 90 proposed military liaison officers, but still did not have the freedom of movement to conduct a survey of the military situation in the whole country, IPS added. Without that, said Miyet, "we will not be in a position fully to assess the conditions for security... or to develop a detailed and comprehensive concept of (peacekeeping) operations."

DRC: UN call for restraint, especially in South Kivu

The UN's Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hedi Annabi on Tuesday urged the UN Security Council to call on the parties to the Lusaka agreement to "refrain from initiating or pursuing offensives, and to do everything possible to prevent outbreaks of violence, especially in South Kivu." He said that the parties should also refrain from "hostile propaganda and bellicose statements," and permit access by humanitarian organisations to affected populations. Annabi said the particular concern in South Kivu was that the Congolese Tutsi Banyamulenge could trigger "large-scale organised attacks" against Tutsis if it responded to current threats with violent actions against its neighbours.

DRC: Rebels hail Kabale agreement

A senior official of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), Bizima Karaha, has described the Kabale agreement to form a united rebel front against President Laurent-Desire Kabila as "extremely important". "For the first time all the liberation movements in the Congo have decided to form a common front with common objectives," he told Rwandan radio on Tuesday. "It will also help the non-armed opposition to join us and ... we shall make a very big, positive impact in the Congo." Karaha added that a "common vision" had developed among the three rebel groups - the RCD, the RCD-Mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML) and the Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC). "The remaining issue is to forge the whole thing in one big structure," he said.

RCD-ML leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba said the three groups had joined ranks in a peace process which would bring people together. "Hopefully, we think that through the national dialogue...we will be in a position to find the principle for legitimacy and we will be able to set up a new political order," he told Rwandan radio. "In that sense, the coming millennium would find our country in political stability."

UGANDA: Bundibugyo "starvation" fears overstated

Humanitarian sources in Uganda on Wednesday discounted media reports in the country that displaced people in the western district of Bundibugyo were "faced with starvation." A recent upsurge in ADF attacks has resulted in a surge from the countryside into camps for internally-displaced people (IDPs) and continued insecurity could make the food situation critical, 'The Monitor' newspaper reported on Monday. However, a recent nutritional survey showed malnutrition in Bundibugyo to be as low or lower than most of Uganda, even after 8-10 months of displacement, and the current situation should not be overplayed, humanitarian officials told IRIN. Current insecurity would "make it more difficult for people to access food" but the WFP had done most of its December distribution - to some 18,000 people around Bundibugyo town and 87,000 in the surrounding district - before it was forced to suspend operations for security reasons, they added.

UGANDA: Kampala assures UK on uses of debt write-off

Treasury secretary Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile has reassured Britain that the benefit Uganda is to accrue from the UK's 100 percent debt write-off for the most highly-indebted poor countries would be used to tackle poverty and improve education. British Chancellor Gordon Brown announced details of the scheme on Tuesday and Uganda was among one of the first four countries due to benefit from the $70 billion scheme, which is expected to be by the end of January 2000.

UGANDA: Minister says army "ready and alert"

Security Minister Muruli Mukasa said on Tuesday that the security forces had tightened security and were ready for challenges during the Christmas season - whether in the west, by the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), or in the north and northeast, by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and Karamajo tribal warriors. "The UPDF is ready and fully alert in all these areas during this season (Christmas) and early next year," the independent 'Monitor' newspaper quoted Mukasa as saying. The ADF was targeting weak spots in western Uganda, including displaced people's camps, in light of security having been generally tightened by the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF), the 'Monitor' quoted Mukasa as saying.

TANZANIA: Involvement in Burundi killings again denied

Tanzania has reiterated it was not involved in the Rutana killings in southeast Burundi in October, when seven Burundians and two UN staffers were murdered. A foreign ministry statement, reported by Tanzanian radio on Tuesday, rejected a Burundi government report which stated the names of those responsible for the killings and said they had returned to their bases in Tanzania. "The statement said there are no FDD [Forces pour la defense de la democratie] rebels in Tanzania," the radio reported. "The statement stressed that the Burundi military government had neither proof nor had it communicated with Tanzania regarding the issue."

BURUNDI: Fighting restricts fishing on Lake Tanganyika

Fishing activities on Lake Tanganyika have been restricted following an upsurge in fighting between rebels and Burundi coast guards, the private Azania news agency reported on Monday. It said rebel units had reopened an infiltration route via the lake from bases in the Ubwari forest of eastern DRC. Last week, Burundi coast guards sank a rebel boat on the lake before it was able to reach its destination, the agency said. Eight people in the boat drowned.

BURUNDI: FRODEBU politician shot dead

An opposition FRODEBU member of parliament was shot and killed by soldiers after drinking at a bar in a northern Bujumbura suburb on Monday night, news organisations reported. The Agence burundaise de presse (ABP) said Gabriel Gisabwamana, the MP for Bujumbura's Cibitoke area, was killed after refusing to show his identification papers to security forces on patrol. Army spokesman Colonel Longin Minani said investigations were underway. "We request that civilians collaborate with the armed forces to avoid such incidents," he said, adding that the incident took place after the 22:00 curfew. The Associated Press cited a source as saying the soldier who shot Gisabwamana knew him well. The MP had been accused by soldiers and neighbours of failing to take part in neighbourhood patrols mounted by the police following intensified rebel attacks, the source said.

BURUNDI: Government claims cholera risk eased in western camps

A major health and sanitation campaign in civilian regroupment camps in Bujumbura Rural has controlled the risk of a major cholera outbreak, according to the Burundi authorities. At Ruziba camp, just outside Bujumbura city, there had been 300 cases of cholera recorded in the past few weeks but only five deaths, according to health officials quoted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Tuesday. Everything was being done to provide clean, chlorinated water and health education in the camps, they added. The government declined to give a timetable for dismantling the camps, saying that people would return home as soon as security had been restored. It maintained that, with "proper partnership" from relief organisations, the camps would prove to be sustainable, at least as an interim solution, the BBC added.

Nairobi, 22 December 1999, 13:45 gmt

[ENDS]

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Item: irin-english-2187

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