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GREAT LAKES: Open Security Council debate on DRC scheduled
Prominent regional leaders will join senior western diplomats to discuss means of consolidating the Lusaka peace process on the DRC at a week-long open meeting of the UN Security Council from 24 to 28 January, UN officials stated on Thursday. US Ambassador to the UN and this month's Security Council President Richard Holbrooke said DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila had agreed to attend the meeting, along with other regional leaders, at which the intention was "to revitalise and recalibrate the Lusaka peace process and to help reinforce an African solution to an African problem," Agence-France Press (AFP) reported.
The coordinator of the Lusaka process, Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, and Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Robert Mugabe of Uganda and Zimbabwe - opposing combatant countries in the DRC - were expected to attend the meeting, UN officials told IRIN on Thursday. Of the other combatant countries, it was not clear who would represent Rwanda or whether Angola would be present, while Namibia was expected to be represented by foreign minister and UN General Assembly president Theo-Ben Gurirab, they added. OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim is also scheduled to participate.
BURUNDI: Amnesty accuses army and rebels of massacres
At least 43 people were killed by members of the armed forces on 31 December 1999 in Kabezi commune, Bujumbura Rural, which has been the scene of sustained conflict for the past few months, the human rights watchdog Amnesty International claimed on Thursday. Forty-three bodies had so far been found in three locations, and the killings appeared to have been a reprisal for an ambush at Gakungwe-Ramba on 28 December in which two soldiers were killed, Amnesty said. The human rights body said it had reports that the soldiers responsible were from military posts in Kabezi, Mubone and Ruziba communes, and said the government must "publicly acknowledge the killings" and ensure that those responsible were brought to justice. Fighting between the armed forces and rebels was reported to have continued following the alleged massacre, and there had been a series of attacks attributed to the rebel Forces nationales pour la liberation (FNL), Amnesty added. It cited an ambush on a minibus near Nyamugari on Tuesday, in which all the passengers were reported to have been killed, and said "the incident appears consistent with numerous attacks on vehicles in the vicinity attributed to armed opposition groups."
BURUNDI: Tutsi faction calls for Mandela visit
A dissident wing of the ruling party UPRONA on Thursday demanded that Nelson Mandela, who was appointed facilitator of the Arusha peace talks on the country on 1 December, visit the country for direct talks with the various conflicting factions."We want to warn him against stupidity," AFP quoted dissident UPRONA official Charles Mukasi as saying. UPRONA has previously expressed concern over the climate in which the Arusha peace talks were being conducted, noting that Hutu rebels continued to kill innocent people while talks facilitators were unable to put the process onto the path of peace.
RWANDA: Speaker of Parliament resigns
Speaker of Parliament Joseph Kabuye Sebarenzi resigned suddenly on Thursday, apparently to avoid a campaign to remove him from his post for mismanagement and abuse of office, Reuters news agency reported. "It is a decision I have taken on my own and I have already discussed it with the president," Reuters quoted Sebarenzi, a Liberal Party member, as saying. Member of parliament Tito Rutaremara, who was one of some 85 percent of deputies who had demanded Sebarenzi's resignation, said the Speaker - described as the third most powerful politician after President Pasteur Bizimungu and Vice-President and Minister of Defence Paul Kagame - had "made a lot of mistakes." Among these were "dictatorial rule, working against parliamentary rules and basic law, and interpreting laws though he was not entitled to do so," the BBC Kirundi/Kinyarwanda service quoted Rutaremara as saying.
RWANDA: Interahamwe again a threat in northwest
A series of attacks and confrontations throughout December appeared to confirm reliable reports of the infiltration into Rwanda from DRC of Interahamwe militias, and of a general increase in clashes between Interahamwe and Rwandan Patriotic Army forces, in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri prefectures, humanitarian sources have told IRIN. Recent incidents in Ruhondo and Nyamutera communes in Ruhengeri, and in Tamira resettlement site in Mutara commune, Gisenyi prefecture, confirmed that the Interahamwe were still operating from the volcanic forests in eastern DRC, on the border with Uganda and around Gishwati, which appears to be their in-country hide-out, they said. Relief agencies were again considering the safety of workers on the Kigali-Ruhengeri road, on which the need for military escorts had been lifted last July thanks to an improving security situation, IRIN was told.
RWANDA: Plans afoot to put private sector on its feet
The Federation of the Rwandan Private Sector (FRPS) is planning a consultation workshop with the Rwandan government, development agencies and foreign donors for March in an effort to get the private sector on its feet. Robert Bayigamba, vice-president of the FRPS said it was hoped to attract the World Bank, UNIDO, the ILO, UNDP, the EU, USAID and the governments of the US and the Netherlands to help the private sector through the promotion of micro, small, and medium enterprises; rehabilitation and restructuring of industries in the country; and establishing a framework of industrial policies, Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported on Thursday. A draft act to dissolve the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and to legally recognise the RFPS was to be presented to cabinet on Friday, a separate report stated.
DRC: Government denies reported Imese clashes
The Forces Armees Congolaises (FAC) on Thursday denied prior reports that government troops had been engaged in fighting with rebels of the Mouvement de liberation du congo (MLC) near the northern town of Imese this week, Agence France Press (AFP) reported. The area was "firmly in the hands of the Congolese armed forces" and there was no fighting in Imese, AFP quoted Colonel Eddy Kapend as saying. Travellers arriving in the Republic of Congo capital Brazzaville had on Tuesday reported MLC attacks against army units, which had failed to give them control of the town, the report added.
DRC: MSF aims for demonstrable neutrality in Ituri district
In response to the worrying humanitarian situation in the Ituri district of eastern DRC, where sporadic conflict between the predominantly pastoralist Hema and agriculturalist Lendu ethnic groups have displaced some 180,000 people, the health relief agency MSF has dispatched an extra team to the region north of Bunia, an MSF statement said on Thursday. "Scores of adults and children with machete wounds are being treated at the various hospitals in the region, and the violence is not likely to come to an end soon," MSF said. In response to accusations that it and other organisations had not been neutral in the conflict, MSF would base one team in Bunia, which has a predominantly Hema population, and another in either Rethy or Mahagi, which have a predominantly Lendu population, the statement added.
Nairobi, 7 January 2000, 14:00 gmt
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