Burundi + 4 more

IRIN Update 841 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
Tel: +254 2 622147
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e-mail: irin@ocha.unon.org

BURUNDI: Strike observed in Bujumbura

A trade union strike which began in Bujumbura on Monday, continued Tuesday, although the government said it was not widely observed and those who stayed away did so because they were "threatened". Government spokesman Luc Rukingama told Burundi radio the private sector was working as normal, while in the parastatals some people turned up and others stayed away. The BBC Kirundi service reported that the strike went off peacefully. Speaking over the radio, a trade union spokesman Benoit Ndayibarira denied that workers had been intimidated to stay away. He further denied that the trade unions were working for opposition politicians. "When a person's salary is no longer commensurate with current economic realities, if people's salaries are heavily taxed and all prices are hiked, how do politics come into this?" he asked. Bujumbura citizens told IRIN that schools, hospitals and parastatals observed the strike call.

BURUNDI: Buyoya facing "serious situation"

Regional analysts told IRIN the situation is very serious for President Pierre Buyoya whose economic policies are highly unpopular in Bujumbura. They drew parallels with the situation in 1996 when the-then president Sylvestre Ntibantunganya was overthrown because Bujumbura residents decided they had had enough of the worsening security situation and called on the army to help them. "For Burundians, particularly those in Bujumbura, if they feel the president is unable to lead they will urge the army to intervene," one analyst said. The opposition Alliance Nationale pour le Changement (ANAC) grouping, which comprises the hardline Tutsi party PARENA, is said to be exploiting the current economic turmoil. "Tutsis believe Buyoya has failed them, both economically and politically," the analyst added. An average civil servant earns the equivalent of US $28 per month, and the spiralling cost of fuel means much of the salary is spent on transport costs. "Many people feel they have nothing to lose," a citizen of Bujumbura told IRIN.

TANZANIA: UN High Commissioner visits Burundi refugees

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata was due to leave Tanzania for South Africa on Tuesday after visiting Burundi refugee camps, according to a UNHCR briefing. While in the Kirago camp on Monday, she told the BBC she wanted international pressure on governments "that harass their populations and force them from their homes". News organisations quoted Tanzanian Home Affairs Minister Ali Muhammad as telling Ogata the camps were beset by problems, such as a shortage of vital working tools including vehicles and radios. He also called for refugees to be issued with identity cards. It was "discouraging" to note Burundi continued to accuse Tanzania of training Burundi rebels, he added.

RWANDA: Ex-parliamentary speaker sacked by party

Joseph Sebarenzi Kabuye, who recently resigned as parliamentary speaker, has now been sacked as an MP by his Liberal Party, the BBC Kinyarwanda service reported on Monday. When he resigned as speaker earlier this month, he was accused of mismanagement and abuse of office. The radio said there were now further allegations against him of trying to cause division in the country's armed forces by calling on soldiers to rebel against the government. He is accused of aligning himself with Tutsis abroad, who support the former king of Rwanda, Kigeli Ndahindurwa V, and who are opposed to the current authorities. The king, who was overthrown in 1961, lives in exile in the US. A Rwandan newspaper, 'Newsline', recently wrote that Vice-President Paul Kagame had expressed concern over reports that the ex-king was "seriously recruiting an armed opposition group to topple the Kigali regime". "Whoever will come (by the gun), will definitely die. We are ready," Kagame was quoted as saying.

RWANDA: Problems coming to the fore

Observers say Sebarenzi's sacking highlights several potential problems in the country - possible division in the army and the resentment of genocide survivors who accuse the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) of abandoning them. Sebarenzi himself is a genocide survivor and has been accused of "inciting" other genocide survivors against the government, the observers told IRIN. And once again the focus is on the return of the former king to Rwanda. Ndahindurwa has called for a referendum in the country on whether he should return as king or as a private citizen. Regional experts say the RPF, fearful that the king could be used by opposition Hutus and Tutsis to create divisions in the country, insists he should return as a private citizen. The king maintains that as he was removed unconstitutionally, the people themselves should decide.

RWANDA: Meeting tackles corruption

Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo has warned that the "evil of corruption" is becoming a serious problem in the country. Addressing a national-level meeting in Kigali to discuss the issue, he called for the "combined efforts" of all Rwandans to combat corruption, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported. He said participants in the meeting would gain knowledge about the forms and causes of corruption, and devise ways and means to eradicate it "especially in government bodies".

RWANDA: ICTR prosecutor hopeful Barayagwiza will stand trial

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Carla del Ponte, has said she expects the court to reverse a decision to drop charges against genocide suspect, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, AFP reported. She told a news conference in Brussels on Monday, she was hopeful her request to have the decision annulled would be granted so that a trial could take place. The charges against Barayagwiza were dropped on technical grounds, and Rwanda has temporarily suspended cooperation with the ICTR in protest at the decision.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels reject Amnesty report

The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) on Tuesday denied accusations by Amnesty International of involvement in human rights abuses in areas within its jurisdiction. "Of course this is not true," RCD head of security and intelligence Dr Bizima Karaha told IRIN. He dismissed claims by Amnesty that the RCD was responsible for the massacre of civilians at Kahungwe market and the killing of 12 women accused of witchcraft in Mwenga, both in South Kivu. "It is unbelievable that it [Amnesty International] can say such things," he said. "It was the Mayi Mayi [militia] who killed the people and the number of people who died around the market were between 10-12 and not 50 as it reported," Dr Karaha said. "As for the women, it is the Mayi Mayi who believe in witchcraft and actually believed that they were losing the battle because women were usurping their powers and were causing them the bad omen, so they killed them," he said.

In its latest report, the human rights watchdog Amnesty International accused RCD forces, "backed by government troops from Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda and other armed groups opposing them such as the Mayi Mayi and the Interahamwe" of "perpetrating widespread human rights abuses" in areas under their control. It said that during a visit to North and South Kivu in November 1999, its representatives gathered evidence of "widespread, deliberate and arbitrary killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and torture".

DRC: US and France differ over peacekeepers

French Cooperation Minister Charles Josselin has said at least 10,000 international peacekeepers will be required for the DRC, rather than the 3,000-4,000 proposed by the US. AFP said he told a news conference in Paris on his return from a visit to Africa there was a "divergence" between France and the US on the size of the peacekeeping force. "We think it will be necessary to deploy a force of at least 10,000 men in the Great Lakes region to guarantee the success of the Lusaka peace deal," he said. He added that the peacekeepers should be sent to the region as soon as possible. "The Lusaka accords cannot succeed unless the international community exerts maximum pressure on the protagonists and mobilises the necessary means on the ground," he noted. DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila has not yet announced whether he will attend a meeting in New York next week of major players in the war. "It would be very regrettable if he did not seize this opportunity," Josselin told reporters.

DRC: Government soldiers reportedly crossing into Congo

DRC soldiers are reportedly crossing into Congo Brazzaville in an attempt to avoid taking part in a government offensive against the rebels, news organisations said. "I am sure that those young men don't want to fight anymore," Secretary-General of the rebel Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) Oliver Kamitatu told IRIN on Tuesday. "President Kabila is preparing a general offensive," he said. Kamitatu said he heard over the radio that the soldiers were crossing the Ubangi river into neighbouring Congo. AFP on Monday reported that more than 50 DRC soldiers had fled across the border. It quoted Congolese officials as saying the soldiers were in Impfondo "but will be repatriated to Kinshasa".

UGANDA: Museveni in Bundibugyo

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is visiting the western town of Bundibugyo which has recently suffered an increase in attacks by the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Presidential Press Secretary Hope Kivengere told IRIN on Tuesday that although she did not yet have details of the visit, "the president is in the area to consult and meet army officers". On Saturday, some 24 people were killed and about 15 others injured after ADF rebels attacked the Kirindi camp for displaced people. This followed a raid on another camp last week in which 10 people were killed.

Nairobi, 18 January 2000, 15:00 gmt

[ENDS]

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