Burundi + 4 more

IRIN Update 840 for the Great Lakes

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BURUNDI: Mandela urges all-inclusive talks

Former South African president Nelson Mandela has called for all-inclusive peace talks in Burundi, saying all sides to the conflict were to blame for tens of thousands of deaths in the country's civil war. Addressing Burundian parties in Arusha, Tanzania, on Sunday, in his new role as Burundi peace facilitator, Mandela said the "daily slaughter of men, women and children is an indictment against each and every one of you". "This process must be all inclusive. It must include not only the 18 political parties [currently taking part], but also armed groups on the ground," he added. Under the mediation of ex-Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, armed rebel groups such as the Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD) had been excluded from the talks.

Mandela also announced he had sent invitations to world leaders, including US President Bill Clinton and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia , to attend a plenary session on Burundi in Arusha next month, news organisations reported. He said the aim was to make external parties work together to end the conflict. "In Africa, we must try to speak with one voice," he stressed, saying the Middle East peace process had failed because foreign mediators had been competing. Burundi's Peace Process Minister Ambroise Niyonsaba hailed Mandela's speech, saying he believed the former president was "really committed" to ending the conflict. However he added that his government would like the facilitation team to find out exactly who the rebel leaders were and what they wanted "so that we can make a proposal with all the necessary information". Mandela has now gone to New York where he is due to address the UN Security Council this week on the Burundi situation.

BURUNDI: Economic situation threatening peace process

Burundi's Permanent Representative to the UN, Marc Nteturuye, has warned that the peace process in his country is threatened by a deterioration in people's purchasing power and urged the international community to support Burundi financially. "Without food, the message of peace cannot be heard," he told journalists on Friday. He stressed that Mandela did not hold the solution to peace in Burundi. "It lies with Burundi to bury the hatchet," he said. Nteturuye expressed concern that the unstable situation in the region was not favourable to peace in Burundi. Rebel groups in the region wanted to use Burundi as a new base to "continue their destabilisation", he warned.

In a separate press statement, Burundi's Permanent Mission to the UN said the humanitarian and security situation in Bujumbura Rural province had improved since the government regrouped the population last October. The statement, received by IRIN on Monday, noted that rebel attacks around the capital had ended and the outlook was "optimistic". "If this improvement continues, the government will not hesitate to allow the people to go home," the statement said.

BURUNDI: Museveni denies backing Buyoya coup

President Yoweri Museveni has "categorically denied" press reports that he backed the 1996 coup which brought President Pierre Buyoya to power in Burundi. In a press release, received by IRIN on Monday, the president's office said a story to this effect appearing in 'The Monitor' on Saturday was "totally false". 'The Monitor' quoted Museveni as telling a joint news conference with Buyoya and Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa in Entebbe on Friday, that although military coups were generally condemned, "in the case of Burundi we had to make an exception because of the special tragic and recent history of Burundi". However, the press release said at no time did Museveni say or imply that he supported Buyoya for taking power through a military coup. "President Museveni explained that, in the case of Burundi, the [regional] leaders had decided to deal with the government of President Buyoya as a way of ending the trauma of the people of Burundi." "It will be recalled that from the time of the military coup in Burundi, President Museveni was one of the leaders who pushed for economic sanctions...as a way of putting pressure on [Burundi] to start moving to the democratic path," the statement added.

TANZANIA: Refugee flow "very worrying" - UNHCR

The current influx of Burundi refugees into Tanzania - in a situation where almost half the places in the last refugee site available are rapidly being filled - was very worrying, particularly if the refugees continued to arrive at the same rate as over the past few weeks," UNHCR stated on Monday. Almost 1,000 refugees a day were now entering Tanzania from eastern communes of Burundi. Within three weeks of its official opening on 23 December, the new Karago refugee camp in Kibondo district had reached almost half its 45,000 to 50,000 capacity, the refugee agency stated in a briefing paper. Karago, established after all empty plots in Nduta and Mtendeli were occupied, was the last site allocated for refugees by the Tanzanian government, and "there are no additional sites, even for contingencies," UNHCR stated. "Options for the future settlement of newly-arriving Burundian refugees in Tanzania are very few and very costly," it added. The overall refugee figure for Tanzania at the beginning of 2000 was approximately 424,300 refugees.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sodako Ogata arrived in Tanzania on Sunday to begin a four-day visit, part of a 10-day, three-nation fact-finding visit to some of the major refugee situations in the Great Lakes region and Southern Africa, a UNHCR statement said. While in Tanzania, Ogata is scheduled to meet senior government officials in Dar es Salaam and visit Karago refugee camp.

RWANDA: French minister meets Kagame

French Cooperation Minister Charles Josselin arrived in Kigali on Saturday, the first visit by a French minister to Rwanda since the 1994 genocide. The Rwanda News Agency (RNA) said Josselin's meeting with Vice-President Paul Kagame marked a "timid beginning" to the normalisation of relations between the two countries. Addressing a news conference after the meeting, Josselin acknowledged the "sensitivity" of bilateral ties which he said were in need of a "review". "I believe that Vice-President Kagame, just as ourselves, without wishing to forget the past, without either side renouncing their own analyses, their own explanations, deems it right to place the emphasis on the present and, above all, on future cooperation," he said. Rwanda accuses France of supporting the regime of ex-president Juvenal Habyarimana, saying the French 'Operation Turquoise' in 1994 allowed the killers to flee the country. A BBC report noted that Josselin failed to deliver a formal apology. The minister pointed out that France was not alone in making serious mistakes during the genocide. For his part, Kagame said it was up to France to decide what responsibility it bore for the 1994 events.

While in Kampala on Friday, ahead of his arrival in Rwanda, Josselin said his government was ready to broker an international conference on security and development in the Great Lakes region, the Ugandan 'New Vision' daily reported. He added that President Yoweri Museveni had welcomed the move and that such a conference would "help us have a comprehensive view of the problems in the region".

RWANDA: ICTR defence team visiting

A team from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) defending genocide suspect, Ferdinand Nahimana, on Friday began a week-long visit to Rwanda in search of evidence, the Hirondelle news agency reported. It noted that the visit went ahead despite Rwanda suspending cooperation with the Tribunal over its decision to free another genocide suspect on technical grounds last November. Nahimana was the head of the extremist Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) which exhorted Hutus to kill Tutsis during the genocide. Rwanda has said that while it would not stop the visit, it would not cooperate with the ICTR team including providing security.

RWANDA: DRC pullout depends on arrival of UN peacekeepers

President Pasteur Bizimungu has said his country will pull out of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) once UN peacekeepers are in place, Zimbabwean radio reported on Sunday. He told journalists after meeting his Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe in Maputo, Mozambique, that the UN Security Council would be approached to send the peacekeepers in "good time". The Lusaka peace accord had failed to hold due to the absence of UN peacekeepeers, he added. Despite being on opposite sides in the DRC conflict, Rwanda and Zimbabwe still had bilateral relations, he stressed.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kabila skips SADC summit

DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila failed to attend a special summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on the DRC conflict in the Mozambican capital Maputo on Sunday, or to have a delegate attend in his place, news organisations reported on Monday. "Perhaps Kabila was busy with other matters, and perhaps the people who might have represented him were also busy," Reuters news agency reported Mozambican host President Joachim Chissano as saying. The Maputo summit noted "with concern" the lack of progress in implementing the Lusaka peace agreement signed in August 1999, and Chissano said a new effort would be made to bring together the combatants before the UN Security Council debate on the DRC on 24 January. SADC also repeated its call for the UN to send a full peacekeeping force to the DRC, which it is reluctant to do until a ceasefire holds.

DRC: Scepticism over reports of military outcome in Ikela

The Joint Military Commission (JMC) responsible for implementing the Lusaka peace agreement on Monday cast doubt on Zimbabwean news reports that the Forces armees congolaises (FAC) and its allies had broken the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) siege of government-allied troops at Ikela airport, Equateur Province. The allied forces command in Kinshasa claimed in a statement to have cleared the route to Ikela of rebel forces, news organisations reported. "I have heard nothing on that. I don't think anything is going on just now in relation to Ikela," a JMC spokesman told IRIN.

DRC: JMC to revise peace schedule in light of slow progress

The JMC on Sunday concluded its fourth plenary session in Lusaka, Zambia. During the three-day meeting, a special mission on the Ikela situation was instructed to return to the town "and broker an immediate cessation of hostilities", a press release stated on Sunday. The session also covered the general status of ceasefire implementation, release of POWs and the need for a revised calendar for implementation, which has lagged far behind the schedule set in the Lusaka accords. Continuing ceasefire violations, the action to be taken about them and possible changes to the structure of the JMC to enhance implementation of the peace process were also discussed, the press release stated, without elaborating on decisions reached.

DRC: UN "weighing up intervention forces"

At the United Nations in New York, there was "a lot of diplomatic activity behind the scenes as the players align themselves" for the DRC debate opening on 24 January, a diplomatic source told IRIN on Monday. While it was impossible to "second-guess the deliberations of the Security Council", indications were that the size and deployment strategy of a UN force was being deliberated, he said. The options being explored were essentially: a dispersed effort of several hundred observers with local protection throughout the country; or, a more concentrated force deploying in one or two key areas to achieve a local disengagement which it was hoped would then become more general. The Security Council debate should give a better idea of the direction being taken, the diplomat added. Meanwhile, it appeared that the presentation of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report to the Security Council on the current situation would not take place on Monday as scheduled, Annan's spokesman Fred Eckhard said in a press briefing on Friday.

DRC: Police clash with opposition supporters

Police in Kinshasa clashed with opposition activists and students on Sunday before breaking up a meeting of the opposition FONUS (Forces novatrices pour l'union et la solidaritÚ) party of Joseph Olengakhoy, Reuters reported. "There have been clashes with the police. They have already arrested 23 people outside my house," Reuters quoted Olenghakoy as saying. The opposition leader, who was released from jail in June 1999 after serving one year of a 15-year sentence for flouting a ban on political activity, had previously held several meetings with his supporters, the report added. Olenghakoy recently boycotted political talks convened by Kabila, and has said that the inter-Congolese dialogue provided for in the Lusaka accord "should take place in a country in which human rights are well established" - and not in Africa.

UGANDA: Relief work disrupted by western insecurity

Precarious security conditions in the Bundibugyo district of western Uganda have curtailed humanitarian activities, forcing the suspension of most activities for some 105,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) and relocation of staff members, an emergency report by WFP released late last week stated. Attacks continue to be reported along the main transport routes and on IDP camps, although the Ugandan army was now providing protection for the camps, it said. "WFP is ready to resume food deliveries and food distributions once clearance is received and improved protection measures are put in place for its food convoys," the report added.

UGANDA: Army claims Congolese recruits deserting ADF

The UPDF claimed on Friday that Congolese who had joined the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) were deserting due to the intensive campaign against it by Ugandan army units, the semi-official 'Sunday Vision' newspaper reported. A group of 100 Congolese rebels had deserted the ADF when the army took its bases at Bukwale, Mboma and Masule in Bundibugyo district, the paper reported, citing a military source informed by one such deserter.

Nairobi, 17 January 2000, 14:20 gmt

[ENDS]

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