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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Sides gather in New York
The main actors in the Democratic Republic of Congo conflict are in New York to bolster the efforts of the United Nations Security Council aimed at renewing implementation of the Lusaka peace agreement, news organisations reported. Consultations kicked off with the American Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, holding separate talks with President Pasteur Bizimungu of Rwanda and Laurent-Desire Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, ahead of Monday's meeting.
Presidents of the six countries involved in the conflict are attending the meeting, namely Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Sam Mujoma of Namibia, Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pasteur Bizimungu of Rwanda and Jose Eduardo Do Santos of Angola.
The main issues involved in the peace process include the disarmament of different armed groups operating in the DRC, the holding of a national debate, the deployment of a peacekeeping force and withdrawal of foreign troops. There have been numerous reported violations of the Lusaka agreement since it was signed last year, and each side blames the other for the violations.
Ugandan Minister in charge of the Presidency Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda told IRIN his country hopes the Security Council meeting will "support the operationalisation of the Lusaka agreement". He confirmed that all the parties to the Lusaka agreement support the selection of the former Botswana President, Ketumile Masire, as a facilitator to bring together all Congolese warring parties to a national dialogue.
DRC: WFP urges unimpeded humanitarian access
WFP has appealed for safe and unimpeded access by humanitarian organisations to needy people in the DRC. In a news release, issued on Monday, it estimated that about one million people had been displaced by the conflict and many were still trapped in the country's interior, cut off from humanitarian assistance. "We hope that the UN Security Council session on DRC will be fruitful and permit the establishment of safe corridors for the delivery, not only of relief supplies, but also of commercial food," said WFP's country director, Kees Tuinenburg. Agencies estimate that 10 million Congolese will be vulnerable to food shortages this year. "If we don't receive new contributions, we'll run out of food completely in May," Tuinenburg warned. The news release added that WFP last week managed to create a fourth corridor in southeast DRC to deliver food aid by barge to the town of Kalemie, across Lake Tanganyika from Kigoma in western Tanzania.
DRC: MLC reshuffle
The rebel Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) has reshuffled its secretariat in a bid to "improve the efficiency" of the movement. In a statement, received by IRIN, the MLC said two new "national secretaries" had been appointed, one from Kasai Oriental and the other from Bandundu. Adele Lotshove was named as the new head of press and information. The statement added that the MLC's Radio Liberte would soon start operating on shortwave and a new website had been launched at www.mlc-congo.org.
BURUNDI: Buyoya says peace process at advanced stage
President Pierre Buyoya has said he hopes for a peace accord in the first half of the year. In an interview, reported by Burundi radio, he said he believed the peace process was at an advanced stage. "We hope that in the first half of the year we can reach a peace agreement," he said. "We shall work for this...if there are a few difficulties along the way, let's be patient." He acknowledged the problem of violence still persisted and reiterated his wish that all parties to the conflict be represented at the negotiating table. "We have been informed that the new mediator is actively working on this," he added.
BURUNDI: Regroupment "short-term solution"
Refugees International (RI) has said the Burundian government's regroupment policy is a "short-term extreme solution" to the rebel insurgency and has not led to more control. "It has put enormous pressure on the moderate centre in Burundi and caused many people to flee their country for the refuge of Tanzania. It has also forced many young men into the arms of the rebels," RI said in a news bulletin. It warned of precarious health conditions in the camps and said malnutrition was on the rise. "The [regrouped] population risks becoming a permanent ward of the international community unless full access to fields is permitted at once," the report added, saying that in many camps people were allowed access to their fields for only half a day per week. "Although access to the regroupment camps is significantly improved, relief agencies are still struggling to provide the basics for life," it said.
TANZANIA: Camps "strained beyond capacity"
In another report, RI said the refugee camps in Tanzania were strained beyond capacity and had stretched the Tanzanian government's resources, as well as burdening host communities. "The total number of refugees - 500,000 in Kigoma and Kagera provinces - threatens to eclipse the local population," it said. The large refugee population had heightened insecurity, with incidents of robberies, rapes and crop theft. "The imbalance in resources available for refugees and Tanzanians is seriously straining relations between the two communities, and eroding support within Tanzania for hosting refugees," the report noted. It urged the donor community to make more funds available to UNHCR in order to tackle the issue.
TANZANIA: Kigoma prisons congested
The Tanzanian 'Guardian' daily said prisons in the Kigoma region were congested "as a result of an increase in the number of refugees being locked up for criminal offences". It quoted the Kigoma regional commissioner Abubakar Mgumia as saying "unlawful refugees" from the DRC, Burundi and Rwanda were a "huge burden" to the authorities. One prison with a capacity for 60 people was now holding 500 inmates, the newspaper said.
RWANDA: Border security with Tanzania discussed
A delegation from Tanzania met local Rwandan officials on Saturday in Rwanda's Kibungo prefecture to discuss security along the common border. The Rwanda News Agency (RNA) said the delegates also discussed how to strengthen cooperation between the two countries. "Security is the concern of Rwanda and Tanzania, no infiltrator should come from one country to destabilise the other," RNA quoted a Kibungo military official as saying. Although Tanzania had received a large number of former Rwandan soldiers and the Interahamwe militia, there were no frequent attacks in the neighbouring prefectures of Rwanda "due to close cooperation between the two countries", he said.
UGANDA: Government will not talk to rebels
Ugandan Foreign Minister Eriya Kategaya last week said the government would not talk to rebel groups because "they have no sensible agenda". "How do you talk to such people whose only business is to loot and kill people?", he said, according to the 'Monitor' daily. "A person like [LRA leader] Joseph Kony cannot change so how do you talk to him?" "Maybe we can only accept them if they surrender under the amnesty law," he said. "Let them use this chance."
Nairobi, 24 January 2000, 15:15 gmt
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