Burundi + 2 more

IRIN Update 853 for the Great Lakes

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News and Press Release
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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
Fax: +254 2 622129
e-mail: irin@ocha.unon.org

RWANDA: Concern over growing insecurity in eastern DRC

Rwandan officials have expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. "Yes, were are closely following what is happening across the border," said Major Emmanuel Ndahiro, adviser to Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame. "[DRC President Laurent-Desire] Kabila's government has been air dropping arms to the Mayi-Mayi and Interahamwe militias," he told IRIN on Thursday. "His chief-of-staff is still in Walikale area. All this threatens the Lusaka peace agreement."

"The negative forces have a broader strategy of infiltrating our rear base, which is a major concern, especially after everybody had declared their positions to the Joint Military Commission set up by the Lusaka agreement," he said. "Though the situation is not yet out of hand, the international community should be aware of this." In early January, Interahamwe militias attacked northwest Rwanda and killed more than 20 people after a long period of relative stability.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels retake Shabunda

Rebel-held Goma radio on Thursday confirmed that the rebel Armee nationale congolaise (ANC) had retaken Shabunda in South Kivu after its "temporary capture" by the "negative forces". Forces composed of DRC government troops, Mayi-Mayi warriors, Rwandan ex-FAR and Interahamwe militia "had for some time occupied the district but were now dispersed into the forests", the radio said. It claimed they had "important logistical backing from the Kinshasa regime - orchestrated from Kigoma in Tanzania".

Independent humanitarian sources in the area told IRIN that reports of displacement caused by the fighting around Shabunda were false. They said people had been fleeing since November 1999, due to Interahamwe attacks on their villages, launched from the nearby Kahuzi Biega national park where the militiamen were hiding out. The sources said the Interahamwe had been raping women, killing and looting whatever they could.

DRC: MSF withdraws from Bunia

Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) has withdrawn its team from the Bunia area due to "growing distrust" towards the organisation among the local population. Consequently all its operations in the strife-torn Ituri district had been suspended, MSF said in a press release. "There has been growing distrust among the population towards MSF with regards to MSF's neutrality," said the organisation, which pulled out on Saturday. "This led to a violent attack on an MSF team and ultimately it became impossible for MSF to continue its assistance to the population." It expressed deep concern over the climate of hostility between the Lendu and Hema people in Ituri, which has led to thousands of horrific killings and tens of thousands of displacements.

DRC: Ituri residents warned not to obstruct NGOs

The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML), which controls Bunia, on Tuesday issued an appeal not to obstruct the work of international NGOs in the region. The statement, signed by Jacques Depelchin who is in charge of territorial administration, was read out over Bunia radio. "The recent clashes in our Ituri province have led some people to obstruct the activities of international NGOs," the statement said, stressing that this was "contrary to humanitarian and democratic principles". "We warn anyone who seeks to influence the departure of the organisations that they will be prosecuted for causing people in danger to be deprived of assistance." The statement concluded by apologising to the NGOs "which are victims of unacceptable treatment".

[To search IRIN's archives for reports on the Hema-Lendu crisis, click the following link: http://umva.ocha.unon.org/cgi-bin/htsearch?words=hema+lendu ]

DRC: Kinshasa hails improved ties with US

The government has stated that its relations with the US are much improved since last month's UN Security Council meeting on the DRC. In an interview with the private Congolese Raga television on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Yerodia Abdoulaye Ndombasi said the US attitude "is completely new". "There is a new wind blowing between us and the international community," Reuters quoted him as saying. "There were unexpected declarations...we are very happy."

BURUNDI: Security evaluation before regroupment camps are disbanded

The Burundi government will first carry out a security evaluation exercise before disbanding the much-criticised regroupment camps in the country. "In principle, we have agreed to close the camps, but a security evaluation exercise has to be carried out to determine whether it is safe for people," presidential spokesman Apollinaire Gahungu told IRIN. "This is not going to take long," he added. On 30 January, the 'Guardian' newspaper of Tanzania quoted "well-informed sources" as saying the Burundi government had allowed more than 80,000 civilians, who were being accommodated in 10 regroupment camps, to go home. International organisations have condemned the regroupment policy, but the government says it is aimed at protecting civilians from rebel attacks. The Burundi foreign minister recently announced at the UN Security Council that 10 camps in Bujumbura Rural would be closed "soon".

BURUNDI: New penal code adopted

The Burundi government has passed a new penal code with an emphasis on human rights issues. "There is a new procedure in place to review all cases and determine who stays in jail or who is freed," Human Rights Minister Eugene Nindorera told IRIN on Thursday. "My office is working with the minister of justice and the attorney general on this." His comments follow the release last month of over 200 prisoners awaiting trial. Human rights organisations have highlighted the appalling situation in Burundi's jails.

BURUNDI: 20 FNL rebels arrested

The military authorities say they have arrested 20 rebels of the Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) reportedly responsible for recent attacks in Bujumbura. The Agence burundaise de presse (ABP) quoted Bujumbura District Commander Major Fabien Ndayishimiye as saying investigations had also led to the seizure of hand grenades and the "identification of accomplices" including the Rwandan Interahamwe militia and ex-FAR. He said the FNL - which is the armed wing of the rebel PALIPEHUTU movement - was responsible for attacks on markets, churches and recreational places in the capital.

BURUNDI: Peace prospects "slim"

The latest analysis by Oxford Analytica (OA) on the Burundi situation has concluded that prospects for lasting peace are slim and the potential for humanitarian disaster remains high. The analysis, issued on Monday, noted that international attention was now focusing more closely on Burundi "as Hutu rebel groups increasingly coordinate attacks across neighbouring borders". "The flow of refugees across international borders has become a very serious problem and is compounding the pre-existing instability in the Great Lakes region." Internal displacement was also becoming critical, OA added. It said the main obstacles facing the Arusha peace process, under the new mediation of Nelson Mandela, were amnesty for combatants, the restoration of democracy and the improvement of internal security. "Successful negotiations depend on whether the respective leaders can avoid stipulating conditions that are unrealistic and work towards compromises that promote peace," it said.

Nairobi, 3 February 2000, 14:00 gmt

[ENDS]

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