Burundi + 3 more

IRIN Update 846 for the Great Lakes

News and Press Release
Originally published
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Security Council debate underway

The UN Security Council debate on the DRC kicked off in New York on Monday with addresses by various state leaders involved in the conflict. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also spoke, noting there was still much ground to cover. "That is your responsibility as leaders," he told the meeting. "This is your opportunity to serve the African people and enlist international support for peace and stability on the continent." He said the deployment of UN military liaison officers had been obstructed "undermining confidence in the implementation process [of the Lusaka peace accord]". Annan also confirmed the appointment of former Botswanan president Ketumile Masire as facilitator for the inter-Congolese negotiations. "If the UN is to make the right kind of difference in the DRC and avoid the wrong turns that have led to tragic consequences elsewhere, we must be ready to...act in a way that is commensurate with the gravity of this situation," he said.

DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila, in a speech described by observers as "lacklustre", said the Lusaka accord was not working. He was prepared to offer "a hand of reconciliation" to all the parties "without prejudice", while President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda commented that "we are not chickens to be slaughtered by demented political actors. We expect the international community to support us in this".

In her opening remarks, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, said her country would provide US $1 million to "assist Ketumile Masire's efforts to facilitate the Congolese national dialogue". Such a dialogue was vital, she stressed. It could be a critical step, not only towards ending the current conflict but also in preventing future ones.

DRC: Rwanda calls for full implementation of Lusaka agreement

The Rwandan delegation to the Security Council debate demanded the full implementation of the Lusaka accord, including disarming the Interahamwe and ex-FAR. "A lot of time has been dedicated to discussing the deployment of a peacekeeping force, which is of course important, but other equally important provisions like the disarmament of negative forces has not been properly handled," Patrick Mazimhaka, the Rwandan minister in charge of the presidency, told IRIN on Monday. He believed there was not a strong commitment to disarm the armed groups as provided for in the agreement. "There is an obvious lack of creativity on how to disarm these negative forces. Everybody seems to be terrified by the idea of sending troops to the jungles of Congo to track down these people, but on a positive note we are encouraged by strong statements on this issue from England, France and Belgium."

"Our position is that earlier [UN] resolutions like cutting off arms supplies, diplomatic pressure and other measures aimed at criminalising these negative forces should be operationalised," he added.

DRC: MLC unhappy with UN meeting

Jean-Pierre Bemba's rebel Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) criticised the fact the rebel groups had not been invited to the Security Council debate. MLC Secretary-General Olivier Kamitatu told IRIN on Tuesday that by inviting Kabila, the international community was giving him "prominence and importance", while forgetting the "proponents of democracy". "We were turned down at the US embassy in Kampala which told us that we were not invited to the meeting, but if we wanted to go and see New York, we were free to do so," he said. "But this, we feel goes against chapter five of the Lusaka agreement which says all parties to the agreement are equal." "Because we were not invited, we decided to stay at home," he added.

DRC: MLC denies ceasefire violations

The MLC also denied government accusations that it had violated the ceasefire by attacking five towns along the Oubangui River on Friday. "These claims are totally false," Kamitatu told IRIN. "We are not launching offensives on such small villages, but rather, we are on the defensive in Dongo which government troops are trying very hard to get to." He claimed government troops attacked Mobambo, some 40 km from Dongo, on Friday "in their bid to get closer to our positions". "They used the Oubangui river and for the first time, they used infantry and launched an air attack on the river, shelling its banks," he said.

UGANDA: Army targeting rebel hideouts in DRC

The Ugandan army has confirmed the capture of five rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) camps on the Congo side of the Rwenzori mountains. "Yes, we are carrying out a general offensive, whereby the strategy is to flush out the ADF rebels from their camps in the mountains on both sides of the border," the army spokesman in western Uganda, Captain Shaban Bantariza, told IRIN on Tuesday. "We have so far managed to scatter them in the low-lying ares and the valleys, so that we can hunt them down efficiently." He confirmed earlier reports that Congolese nationals who had joined the ADF were surrendering. The Ugandan authorities claim the ADF rebels have teamed up with Congolese militias to beef up their capacity. The five captured camps on the DRC side of border are Kikingi, Mwenda, Muteero, Buhiira and Kajumbura. This follows the earlier capture of ADF camps in the Bundibugyo district of Uganda.

RWANDA: Kigali hails US decision to deport genocide suspect

The Rwandan government has welcomed a decision by the US Supreme Court on Monday to turn over an elderly Rwandan clergyman to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania. "We would have preferred the deportation of the suspect to Rwanda, but we are happy with the decision to send him to Arusha," Rwanda's Prosecutor General Gerald Gahima told IRIN on Tuesday.

The suspect Elizaphan Ntakiritimana, 75, was seeking to prevent the US government from surrendering him to the ICTR. He is accused of taking part in the massacre of Tutsis and moderate Hutus during the 1994 genocide. A federal judge in Texas ruled in 1998 that there was sufficient evidence against Ntakiritimana. The suspect's defence lawyer has argued that handing him over is unconstitutional as the US has not ratified a treaty to extradite people to the UN tribunal.

RWANDA: Arusha tribunal found "reasonably effective"

A UN panel of experts reported on Monday that the ICTR and the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia had been "reasonably effective" in carrying out their mandate, but proposed a number of technical recommendations to speed up procedures. The expert group, appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the request of the General Assembly, concluded that "the operations and functioning of the Tribunals are, given the constraints to which they are subject, reasonably effective in carrying out the missions mandated by the Security Council". It noted that each tribunal was administered by one registry - in contrast to national structures where the prosecution and judges have separate administrations - and that this situation could lead to friction. The group did not find overpowering evidence in favour of having a separate prosecutor for each Tribunal, but suggested it would take "a minimum of seven or eight years" for the ICTR to complete its work, a UN press release stated.

RWANDA: Genocide suspect to appeal against decision on his lawyer

Rwandan genocide suspect Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza on Monday said he would appeal against the ICTR's decision to have him retain his lawyer Justry Nyaberi, whom he accuses of fraud. ICTR President Navanethem Pillay last week rejected Barayagwiza's demand to change lawyers, saying "no exceptional circumstances have been made out to warrant a change of counsel". Furthermore, she said, it would delay a review of the Appeal Chamber's decision to drop the charges against Barayagwiza on technical grounds.

BURUNDI: Mandela confident of solution

Peace process mediator Nelson Mandela has expressed confidence that the Burundi conflict will be settled, the South African Press Association (SAPA) reported. Addressing journalists in Johannesburg, he said opposition and pro-government groups had agreed to "stop bickering" with each other and within their own groups. "Time is running out...but I'm confident a settlement is likely sooner than we think," Mandela said. "I can't speculate when we will reach an agreement but I'm confident that the leaders will find common ground before the funds run out within the next two months." Mandela also confirmed he had invited several heads of state to the next round of peace talks in Arusha, Tanzania, next month. Burundi President Pierre Buyoya has been summoned to South Africa for a meeting with Mandela on 7 February, ahead of the talks, to discuss the issue of regroupment camps which are "overshadowing the negotiations", SAPA said.

Meanwhile, US President Bill Clinton has pledged his personal support for Mandela's peace efforts, news organisations quoted the former South African president as saying. According to Mandela, Clinton will join the peace talks either in person or by video conferencing, the BBC reported. Mandela has also asked French President Jacques Chirac to help him find a settlement to the conflict.

BURUNDI: Minister denies thousands of refugees fleeing

President Pierre Buyoya and his two vice-presidents on Monday met regional military commanders and provincial governors, the BBC Kirundi service reported. The meeting, in Bujumbura, focused on security issues and the illegal sale of goods to neighbouring countries. Interior Minister Colonel Ascension Twagiramungu, who took part in the meeting, told the radio that rebel activities had forced some Burundians to leave the country. He denied however that 20,000 people had fled. "There is a discrepancy between those talking about 20,000 people and the figures given by the interior ministry," he said. The provincial governors were quoted as saying that some Burundians became refugees to get financial assistance.

Nairobi, 25 January 2000, 15:00 gmt


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