Burundi + 3 more

IRIN Update 839 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

GREAT LAKES: Refugee situation "especially critical", Ogata says

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata has described the situation in central Africa as "especially critical" and called for faster solutions to ease the plight of refugees and displaced people. Addressing the UN Security Council on Thursday as part of its "month of Africa", she expressed particular concern over increasing numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the region and the continent as a whole. The bulk of uprooted people in Africa were now IDPs, she pointed out. "Nowhere, however, war and violence affect millions of exhausted civilians more than in central Africa," she stressed. Taking the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as an example, she said it was crucial for the Security Council to provide "more decisive support" in conflict resolution. She bemoaned the fact there were no effective conflict-resolution mechanisms in place in Africa, stressing armed groups in one country were often supported by governments in neighbouring states. "The presence of IDPs throughout central Africa is not only a humanitarian problem, but also one of security," she told the Council, stressing the need for established mechanisms to deal with the IDP problem. Dealing with IDPs was often more arduous than dealing with refugees who cross borders, she said. Ogata also noted the "grave imbalance" in the provision of aid to Africa, compared with other areas of the world, and this was "unacceptable". "The Security Council has an essential role to play in preventing, containing and resolving conflicts, and hence refugee problems, in Africa," she said.

AFRICA: Security Council calls for more help for refugees, IDPs

The Security Council, at the end of its debate, expressed concern over the "alarmingly high" numbers of refugees and IDPs in Africa and stressed the need to address the root causes of armed conflict. In a statement, its current president, Richard Holbrooke of the US, acknowledged the shortfall in funding for refugee and IDP programmes in Africa, and called on the international community to come up with the necessary financial resources. For IDPs in particular there was no comprehensive protection programme and existing norms were not being fully implemented, he noted. "The Council affirms the need to ensure adequate protection and assistance for both refugees and IDPs, taking into account the special difficulties in the provision of humanitarian assistance to IDPs in Africa," he said.

Holbrooke seeks to redefine refugees

During the debate, Holbrooke said the definition of refugees was outdated and should include IDPs. "What is a refugee? They don't care. They are all homeless," he noted, according to Reuters. UNHCR's mandate should be expanded to include IDPs, he said. However, Ogata said she was unsure the refugee agency could take on the task. "It is enormous," she said. "Just by going in, you do not solve the problem. You have to be effective."

UGANDA: Large ADF arms cache found

The Ugandan army says it has discovered a large arms cache belonging to the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in western Uganda. According to the 'New Vision' daily, 78 machine guns, four rocket propelled grenades and seven tortoise hand grenades were found on 5 January in Bwera, Kasese district. Chief of Staff James Kazini told reporters the weapons were part of consignment which was air dropped by Sudan in 1996. The cache was discovered during a major army operation against the ADF codenamed "Mountain Sweep", the newspaper reported. Kazini said that between 11 November 1999 and 1 January, 66 rebels had been killed and 24 captured. "The ADF has no future," he was quoted as saying. "I have deployed enough zonal forces to occupy their former bases, block their routes." He claimed the rebels were now operating out of the Virunga national park in neighbouring DRC.

On the Ugandan army's operations in DRC, Kazini said they had been a success, 'New Vision' reported. "We went to Congo to secure the airports against Sudan," he said. "We have also closed the land supply route - the Mahagi-Bunia-Beni corridor." Thousands of Ugandan troops had been pulled out of DRC and deployed in the Ruwenzori mountains against the ADF, he added. He did not believe there was a "real link" between the ADF on one hand, and the Mayi-Mayi and Interahamwe militias on the other.

BURUNDI: Regional leaders express support for Arusha process

The presidents of Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda ended their summit in Entebbe on Friday with a call on all sides in the Burundi conflict to desist from attacking non-combatants and their property. In a communique, received by IRIN on Friday, Presidents Pierre Buyoya, Benjamin Mkapa and Yoweri Museveni noted the "historical good neighbourliness" between Burundi and Tanzania and agreed that "existing mechanisms of consultations regarding border issues...be expeditiously implemented". Relations between Burundi and Tanzania are very tense due Bujumbura's assertion that rebels are operating out of refugee camps in western Tanzania. Tanzania has consistently denied the charges. The communique said the three leaders believed the solution to the Burundi conflict lay in the rapid conclusion of the Arusha peace process under the facilitation of former South African president Nelson Mandela, who is due to pay his first visit to Arusha in his new capacity on Sunday. They called for an enabling environment in Arusha so that all stakeholders, including the armed groups, could take part in the peace process.

BURUNDI: At least 13 dead in rebel ambush

At least 13 people were killed in a rebel ambush at Mpehe in Burundi's central Muramvya province on Thursday, news organisations said, quoting army spokesman Colonel Longin Minani. Five soldiers were among the dead. The area had been relatively quiet in recent months, the news reports noted.

RWANDA: French minister visits ICTR

French International Cooperation Minister Charles Josselin paid his first visit to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha on Friday, saying he expected greater cooperation between Paris and the ICTR. He told the Hirondelle news agency the Tribunal was "pioneering a new international justice system". Josselin, who is due to go on to Kigali, said he expected to meet Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame on Saturday. Relations between the two countries have been strained ever since France's military 'Operation Turquoise' in southwest Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, which the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) says allowed many of the killers to escape to the-then Zaire. This will be the first visit to Rwanda by a French minister since the genocide.

RWANDA: Canada urged to extradite genocide suspect

Meanwhile, Rwanda has called on Canada to extradite genocide suspect Leon Mugesera, the DPA news agency reported. Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo said Mugesera, a former senior staff member in ex-president Juvenal Habyarimana's office, was accused of urging Hutus to kill Tutsis and throw their bodies into the Nyabarongo river. Mugesera fled to Canada where he is seeking political asylum, DPA said.

RWANDA: Kagera Basin Organisation meets

The semi-defunct Kagera Basin Organisation (KBO) ended a two-day meeting in Kigali on Thursday with a call for merging with the East African Community (EAC), the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) and Rwandan radio reported. Ugandan Foreign Minister Eriya Kategaya noted that the KBO had been created in 1977 to replace the EAC. "Now that the EAC is revived, with Rwanda and Burundi as willing members, the secretariats should be integrated," he commented. The KBO comprises Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Rwandan radio said the ministers discussed a plan of action for recovery as the KBO was in a "critical condition", both financially and institutionally. Kategaya expressed support for regional solutions to regional problems. "For instance problems which happened in Rwanda and which are happening in Burundi, it is good to handle them regionally here because we understand each other," he said.

Nairobi, 14 January 2000, 13:50 gmt

[ENDS]

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