Burundi + 3 more

IRIN Update 847 for the Great Lakes

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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RWANDA: Former parliamentary speaker flees to Uganda

The Ugandan authorities say they are searching for the former Rwandan speaker of parliament, Joseph Sebarenzi Kabuye, who fled to Uganda over the weekend. "We are looking for him, he may be hiding among the population," Uganda's Deputy Chief of Military Intelligence Lieutenant Colonel Noble Mayombo told IRIN on Wednesday. Without specifying whether Uganda would hand Sebarenzi over to the Rwandan authorities, Mayombo said "the whole issue will be handled in such a way that the interests of both countries are not jeopardised". The former Rwandan speaker was forced to resign on 7 January amid accusations of mismanagement and political infighting. He was later expelled from parliament at the request of his Liberal Party. Rwandan Prosecutor-General Gerald Gahima told IRIN on Wednesday that there were no legal proceedings nor any investigations against Sebarenzi. "He has no case to answer and he is free to go where he wants," Gahima said. "The matter is being dramatised for no good reason."

RWANDA: Speaker's presence in Uganda politically sensitive

Regional analysts told IRIN that the presence of the former speaker in Uganda is likely to affect the already frosty relationship between Kampala and Kigali, after their troops clashed in the DRC town of Kisangani last year. Sebarenzi was influential among genocide survivors' groups, which have been calling for more representation in the government and the economy. Sources in the Rwandan government told IRIN that Sebarenzi had been trying to get assistance for his political activities.

RWANDA: ICTR welcomes US court ruling on genocide suspect

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday welcomed a US Supreme Court ruling clearing the way for extradition proceedings against former Rwandan pastor, Elizaphan Ntakirutimana. "We are very happy with this decision," the Hirondelle news agency quoted ICTR spokesman Kingsley Moghalu as saying. "We believe it clears the way for his extradition to the ICTR." The next step would require a decision from US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "In the event that, as we expect, the Secretary of State approves the extradition, we will go into discussions with them on how to effect Ntakirutimana's transfer to Arusha," Moghalu said.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Annan meets African leaders

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday held talks with seven African heads of state, attending the Security Council debate on the DRC. According to his spokesman Fred Eckhard, they discussed plans for the UN peacekeeping operation in the country. Annan has recommended a total force of 5,537 UN troops. During the meeting, he raised the question of the regional and international dimensions of the conflict, and the need to address the longer-term security, humanitarian and development needs of the countries involved.

DRC: Bizimungu says security fundamental issue

Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu, who is attending the UN session, said if the international community could guarantee his country's security, it would pull out of the DRC. He told journalists in New York that security was the fundamental problem, and the international community had come to realise that disarming the Interahamwe and ex-FAR was crucial. According to a UN account of the press conference, he said these groups should be denied the possibility of support from the DRC government. Physically disarming the groups would not be difficult, he added. They were very good at killing civilians, but apart from their handling of arms, he had not seen any other examples of their brilliance, Bizimungu was reported as saying.

DRC: UN observers in Bunia

A team from the UN observer mission for the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) on Monday arrived in northeast town of Bunia to meet the authorities and local leaders in the area. MONUC spokesman Guy Pickett confirmed to IRIN on Wednesday that the team was in the town and had held discussions with political and military leaders of the rebel Rassemblement conglais pour la democratie-Mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML). Following the meeting, MONUC hopes to send a team of four liaison officers to be based in the area next week. "The officers will make contact with the local leaders and authorities," he said. "It will be the first phase of deployment of liaison officers and not yet the observer level."

DRC: Major gold mine gets management committee

RCD-ML leader Ernest Wamba Dia Wamba has appointed a committee to manage the Kilomoto gold mines in northeastern DRC. The management changes were announced on rebel-controlled Bunia radio, monitored by the BBC. All previous decrees concerning the gold mines have been abrogated, the radio reported. The Kilomoto gold mine, one of the largest in the area, was previously run by a Ugandan firm called Victoria. Last year, Wamba was embroiled in controversy over a mining deal he signed with a Grenada-based businessman.

DRC: Pipeline project expected to generate thousands of jobs

A joint venture is in the works to build two pipelines from the Congo River in DRC to the Middle East. The project, known as the 'Solomon Pipelines', was initiated last year, according to a statement from the Western Trade Corporation (WESTRAC), a Congolese company based in Kinshasa, and a partner in the project. One of the pipelines will go to the Middle East via Port Sudan, covering some 2,000 km. The other one will go through southern Africa via the Okavango delta and will cover 1,000 km. The other company involved is the US Sapphire Aqua corporation.

The statement said WESTRAC was given the rights by the DRC government to build and operate the pipelines to deliver "much-needed water to those arid regions". "Water will be given free as a humanitarian gesture by the DRC government to help alleviate the dangerous political tensions in those regions caused by the critical scarcity of water and to promote world peace," the statement said. The project is expected to generate thousands of jobs.

DRC: MLC reports fighting in Basankusu

The rebel Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) of Jean-Pierre Bemba has said government troops are advancing towards Basankusu in Equateur province. In a press statement, received by IRIN on Wednesday, the MLC reported fighting in the area on Tuesday, saying 12 government soldiers had been killed and several injured. It called on the Security Council to impose an immediate embargo on government-controlled areas in the DRC.

DRC: Alarming rate of disease and malnutrition

Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) has called on the UN Security Council to come to the rescue of the population on both sides of the conflict in the DRC. "The war has caused widespread population displacement and a total collapse of the economy," an MSF statement said." An urgent reaction is required in order to reduce the likelihood of a large scale food crisis in the cities and isolated regions of the country."

According to MSF, an estimated 900,000 people in the DRC are displaced and living in squalid conditions. "In large cities, food supplies have been curtailed and prices have skyrocketed. The six million inhabitants in Kinshasa are finding it harder and harder to feed themselves," the statement said. "In Kisangani, a city of 400,000, over 7,000 children are suffering from malnutrition."

BURUNDI: Army denies reports of over 40 deaths in rebel attacks

Burundi army spokesman Colonel Longin Minani has denied press reports claiming over 40 people had died recently in rebel attacks. "That is totally wrong," Minani told IRIN on Wednesday. "As far as we know, on 19-20 January in Rutana, our soldiers killed 20 rebels, although we believe there were probably some civilians among them who had been taken hostage." He said the army was still pursuing the rebels. "When we kill them, we do not need to announce it in the press," he added.

UGANDA: WFP resumes food deliveries to Bundibugyo

WFP has resumed food deliveries to Uganda's western town of Bundibugyo, after a one-month halt of operations in the area due to insecurity. A WFP spokeswoman in Nairobi confirmed to IRIN on Wednesday that six trucks carrying 33 mt of food left for Bundibugyo on Tuesday, escorted by the military, while another 60 mt loaded on 11 trucks left on Wednesday. She said the resumption followed a government assurance of security. "The situation appears to have calmed down significantly," she said. "WFP's priority is now to find how many more people have been displaced as a result of the [recent] serious upsurge in fighting [by the rebel Allied Democratic Forces]," she added. She said the food agency had carried out distributions in the area that made the food situation "relatively stable" throughout the affected period. "However, we are sure some of the newly displaced families might really need help at the moment," she said.

Nairobi, 26 January 2000, 14:40 gmt


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