Burundi + 2 more

IRIN Update 836 for the Great Lakes

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DRC: Kabila only considering attendance at UN debate

President Laurent-Desire Kabila on Monday refused to commit to attending a UN Security Council debate on the DRC conflict at the end of January. Speaking after intensive consultations in Harare at the weekend with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, a key ally in the current conflict, he said he had only formally received an invitation to attend the debate from the US embassy in Harare on Monday and would consider it on his return to Kinshasa on Tuesday, news organisations reported. The US holds the presidency of the Security Council for January and has scheduled a series of open debates on African issues. Kabila was concerned that the US had invited "all parties" to the conflict because he was not prepared to talk directly to rebel leaders, Agence France Presse (AFP) quoted a diplomatic source in Harare as saying.

Mugabe, for his part, said he would attend the Security Council debate to highlight rebel ceasefire violations, the lack of resources for the peace process, the delayed deployment of UN forces to help implement it and an apparent lack of urgency in addressing the conflict on the part of the international community, AFP added.

DRC: Fighting continues in Equateur Province

MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba on Sunday claimed to have recaptured the town of Libanda in Equateur Province. He also said it had retaken key positions near the town of Nkonya, which the Congolese army had earlier captured. Congolese army Colonel David Kolo rejected Bemba's claims, telling state television that "the named locations are definitely in the hands of the FAC and their allies." Kinshasa also claimed on Monday that it and its southern African allies had taken Kwalungu in Sud Ubangui region, and recaptured Gwaluru, in Equateur Province, from the MLC. There has been no independent confirmation of the respective claims and counter-claims.

Meanwhile, the UN Observer Mission in the DRC (MONUC) told IRIN on Monday the condition of government-allied forces trapped by RCD rebels in Ikela was unknown, with conflicting reports that a rescue mission was about to break through. "The whole thing, whether a siege or an offensive to rescue them, means the ceasefire is being abused around Ikela," MONUC spokesman Guy Pickett said. He also said MONUC could not confirm allegations by the Zimbabwean army that a family of seven were killed by rebels in the area of Eshimba, in the eastern province of Kabinda, on 1 January after being accused of informing for allied forces. "At least once a week we get claims of massacres in the local press but we just can't verify," Pickett said, pointing to the government's restrictions on MONUC's deployment. He said, however, that despite "minor ceasefire violations, there is still an awful lot to play for and there is still every reason to be optimistic."

DRC: OAU and US deplore ceasefire violations

OAU chairman, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, on Monday expressed concern at the resumption of fighting in DRC. "These regrettable developments are happening at a time when the OAU is continuing and intensifying efforts to ensure the implementation of the Lusaka agreement, the PanAfrican News Agency (PANA) quoted Bouteflika as saying. The US also called on Monday for all the combatants "to cease attempted military advances immediately," adding that there were "no valid reasons for any force with troops in DRC to conduct active military operations." In a Department of State press release, Washington urged all Lusaka participants "to use the JMC or bilateral contacts to resolve disputes over military issues swiftly," and warned that repeated ceasefire violations erode the confidence of the international community and the people of Central Africa who support Lusaka.

DRC: Rebel leaders continue unification project

The leaders' forum of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie - Mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML) and Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC), meeting in Kabale, southwestern Uganda, over the weekend have agreed on the rules of procedure for the rebels' unification project, as well as on tasks for the political and military commissions established under it, Rwandan radio reported on Monday. Senior Rwandan and Ugandan officials were also party to the talks. The leaders of the rebel movements - Emile Ilunga, Ernest Wamba dia Wamba and Jean-Pierre Bemba respectively - agreed to facilitate the movement of people and goods between the territories they control, and to harmonise their respective customs and taxation regimes, rebel-held Radio Bukavu reported. They also agreed to meet again on 4 February and at least once a month thereafter, Rwandan radio stated.

DRC: Commisions to consider political platform and national army

The rebel leaders' forum agreed that the new joint political commission would develop a common position paper for the rebel front for the inter-Congolese dialogue provided for in the Lusaka ceasefire agreement; among the issues would be power-sharing, human rights and good governance, the question of nationality, a federal system of government - whether during or after a transitional period - and the programme of an interim government, the station reported. Meanwhile, the military commission would consider the formation, character and mission of a new national army, as agreed under Lusaka, to comprise the merged government's Forces armees congolaises (FAC) and the three rebel forces. It would also start developing social reintegration and training programmes for those soldiers who would not be absorbed into the new national army, Rwandan radio stated. The commission have been scheduled to start work on 24 January.

DRC: Kinshasa denounces rebel call for sanctions

After the Kabale meeting, Ilunga, Wamba and Bemba also called for the UN and international community to impose economic sanctions on the government of President Laurent-Desire Kabila, rather than calling him to address the UN Security Council at the end of this month. "Kabila is behaving the way he is because there are no international sanctions," the Uganda 'New Vision' quoted Wamba as saying on Sunday. DRC Information Minister Didier Mumengi rapidly denounced the appeal for sanctions as "intolerable, unacceptable and irresponsible," Gabonese 'Africa No 1' radio reported. "Bemba wants to make the whole world believe it is the government which kicked off the hostilities in Equateur Province, whereas at the time of the signing of the Lusaka agreement, the Ugandans and Jean-Pierre Bemba were not occupying the positions they are claiming today," Mumengi said, adding that they should return to those agreed positions.

DRC: Government accuses Bangui of ignoring rebel infiltration

Meanwhile, an army statement broadcast by Congolese state television claimed the MLC was infiltrating from the Central African Republic, despite a defence accord between the two countries, news organisations reported. DRC had asked the authorities in Bangui to clarify a situation which could damage relations between the two countries, Reuters news agency reported on Monday. It also said "the international community must take note of the massive military recruitments of elements loyal to the MLC which is taking place in Central African Republic, more precisely in Wango," Reuters news agency reported on Monday. Those sponsoring the recruitment and transportation of rebel recruits included former CAR president Andre Kolingba, Congolese television claimed on Monday.

DRC: Death sentence for businessmen trading currency with rebels

Two Lebanese businessmen found guilty by a military court of espionage and of illegal foreign currency transactions with rebel forces in eastern DRC have been sentenced to death, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported on Monday. Two other Lebanese businessmen were acquitted of the same charges, it said. Lebanon has since appealed to President Kabila for clemency, which is the condemned men's only hope in the absence of an appeal mechanism in DRC's military courts, the BBC stated on Tuesday.

BURUNDI: Government rejects massacre allegations

The government has dismissed an Amnesty International allegation that 43 civilians were killed by the army in Kabezi commune, Bujumbura Rural on 31 December, insisting instead that some 20 rebels were killed that night, AFP reported. "The attackers came and the army killed about 20 rebels and seized 17 weapons," the agency quoted defence ministry sources as saying. Officials accused Amnesty of spreading "false information," the report added.

BURUNDI: Mandela plans preparatory visit to Arusha

Former South African president Nelson Mandela would make his first trip as facilitator of the Burundi peace talks when he visited Arusha on Sunday 16 January to meet the main leaders involved and review the process so far, Associated Press reported on Tuesday. "This is a first acquaintance, getting to know the ground and getting to know the people" for which an agenda had not yet been set, AP quoted Jakes Gerwel, an aide of Mandela's as saying. Mandela would depart for the US, where he was scheduled to address the UN Security Council debate on Burundi on 19 January, the report added.

RWANDA: UN to be sued for "complicity" in genocide

The UN is to be sued for "complicity" in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in what is believed to be the first such lawsuit against the organisation, news agencies reported on Tuesday. Prominent human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robinson and a former investigator with the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Kigali, Michael Hourigan, were acting for two Rwandan women whose families were among those who died in the genocide, the BBC reported, citing the Australian newspaper 'The Age'. One of the women, Anonciata Kavaruganda, the wife of former Rwandan Supreme Court judge Joseph Kavaruganda who was killed because he sympathised with the Tutsis, has alleged that Ghanaian UN soldiers supposed to be protecting her family were drinking and socialising with the Hutus while she and her children were tortured, the BBC quoted 'The Age' as saying.

RWANDA: French diplomatic visit imminent

French Secretary of State Charles Josselin is set to make a one-day official visit to Rwanda on Saturday, 15 January, in what would be the first visit of a high-ranking French government official since the 1994 genocide, news organisations reported on Tuesday. Josselin was expected to visit one genocide site and meet Rwandan government officials, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reported. Observers recalled that France's 'Operation Turquoise' in southwest Rwanda during the 1994 genocide was strongly criticised by the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) for allowing the Interahamwe and ex-FAR to flee into neighbouring the then Zaire. Josselin's itinerary is also to include visits to Tanzania and Uganda, and discussions with Congolese rebel groups. Josselin's delegation of eight parliamentarians would Bernard Caseneuve, who chaired the French national assembly's commission on the Rwandan genocide, DPA reported.

RWANDA: New police force to replace national gendarmerie

A new national police will be recruited to replace the gendarmerie and the local defence force "as soon as all legal technicalities are finalised", Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported at the weekend. "The initial national police force will be comprised of 3,500 policemen, who will be selected from the existing soldiers of the national gendarmerie, local defence and the public," RNA quoted national gendarmerie commander Major Denis Kareera, who has responsibility for establishing the new force, as saying. Those gendarmerie who were not been taken on in the new force would have the option of joining the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), the report added.

RWANDA: Goma delegation promises Gisenyi security cooperation

A delegation from the RCD rebel-held Goma area of eastern DRC has assured residents of Gisenyi prefecture in northwestern Rwanda of the RCD's full cooperation in curbing the activities of Interahamwe and ex-FAR (Forces Armees Rwandaises) militias operating in the DRC, Rwanda News Agency reported on Sunday. Gisenyi suffered a number of Interahamwe throughout December after enjoying relative security earlier in 1999, humanitarian agencies recently reported. The Goma delegation was in Gisenyi at the weekend at the invitation of the Diocese of Nyundo and the Prefecture of Gisenyi to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Bishopric of Monsignor Faustin Ngabu of the Catholic diocese of Goma.

Nairobi, 11 January 2000, 15:45 gmt

[ENDS]

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Item: irin-english-2258

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