Burundi + 3 more

IRIN Update 854 for the Great Lakes

News and Press Release
Originally published
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for Central and Eastern Africa
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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Uganda, Rwanda react to Ituri killings

Both Rwanda and Uganda have vowed to try and stop the killings between the Lendu and Hema ethnic groups in Ituri district, northeastern DRC. "We are investigating to determine whether there is a serious breach of international humanitarian law," Rwandan Minister in the President's Office Patrick Mazimhaka told IRIN on Friday. "We hope local leaders will address the underlying causes of the conflict like the use of land."

Meanwhile, Uganda's independent 'Monitor' newspaper quoted President Yoweri Museveni as saying Uganda had "intervened" at the request of the local authorities. "We understand it [the conflict] more," Museveni was quoted as telling a news conference on Tuesday. "It is mainly to do with land because some people get concessions on land on which other people are living. And given the chaos in Congo, the fact that there is no judicial system to arbitrate and say you are wrong or right, that is why they fight." "They had started introducing guns, but we have intervened and the situation is now quiet," Museveni added, according to the newspaper. "Where the local authorities have asked us, we have intervened to stop the fighting among these people."

The Ugandan-backed RCD-Mouvement de Liberation (RCD-ML), led by Professor Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, controls the affected area. Aid agencies estimate that between 5,000-7,000 people have been killed in the bloody clashes.

DRC: Rwanda again calls for disarming Interahamwe

The Rwandan government has reiterated its call for disarming the DRC-based Interahamwe militia, but believes this objective "is still very far away". The UN Security Council on Thursday debated the issue of a peacekeeping force for the DRC. Rwandan Minister in the President's Office Patrick Mazimhaka called for the deployment of a peacekeeping force, with a mandate to track down and disarm the Interahamwe militia and ex-FAR. "Our delegation to the UN Security Council meeting in New York advocated for the deployment of a peacekeeping force under Chapter 7, as clearly spelt out in the Lusaka [peace] agreement," he told IRIN on Friday. "This will facilitate the disarmament of negative forces and the smooth implementation of the peace accord."

"But unfortunately, this objective is still very far away, because there is a general reluctance to stick to the provisions of the agreement," he added.

DRC: RCD-Goma confirms battles with government troops in Equateur

The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) has confirmed it has been engaged in fighting Congolese government troops. "The situation on the ground is like this," the RCD army chief, Hugo Ilondo, told IRIN on Friday. "In Ikela [Equateur province], the enemy managed to link up with their troops, which we had been surrounding for six months at the airport. But we control the surrounding territory. They cannot even fly in supplies." Ilondo added that in the last few days, government soldiers had tried to attack RCD positions at Idumbe and Kole, south of Ikela, "but we repulsed them". He explained that the government forces wanted to link up with their frontline troops in Kananga and Mbuji Mayi.

DRC: Minister pledges British support

British Minister of State for Africa Peter Hain on Thursday reiterated his country's commitment to the DRC peace process. In a speech in Cape Town, South Africa, he underlined Britain's readiness to support the Lusaka peace accord with "money, people, political support and a UN force". According to a Foreign Office text of the speech, he said Africa needed peace if it was to excel. "Countries at war with themselves or their neighbours cannot develop," he said. A BBC report added Hain pledged that his country would not supply any more weapons to the region, following harsh criticism of its decision to sell military spare parts to Zimbabwe, one of the key participants in the DRC war.

DRC: 19 soldiers executed for sedition

Nineteen soldiers have been executed for sedition or acts of banditry in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the past week, AFP reported on Thursday. It quoted judicial sources as saying nine of the victims, including four members of the presidential guard, had been convicted and sentenced to death by a military court for murder and armed robbery. They were executed on Wednesday. On Monday two soldiers were executed for killing a motorist, while last Friday eight others faced the firing squad after being convicted of inciting an uprising by a battalion of the army's rapid intervention brigade.

RWANDA: Genocide suspect gets lawyers of his choice

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday granted a request by genocide suspect, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, to be represented by two North American lawyers for a crucial Appeals Court hearing slated for 22 February in Arusha. The Hirondelle news agency reported that the ICTR assigned Carmelle Marchessault and David Danielson, as the defendant had requested. The agency noted that the appointments were made after the Appeals Court ruled on 31 January that Barayagwiza should be assigned a new counsel and co-counsel. Barayagwiza rejected his former defence counsel Justry Nyaberi, who had represented him since December 1997, accusing him of incompetence and fraud.

BURUNDI: US restricts travel

The US on Thursday said it had restricted travel for its diplomats and other employees in Burundi due to security concerns. "As a result of the ongoing conflict between government and rebel forces in Burundi, the US embassy has restricted US government personnel from flying in or out of Bujumbura during the hours of darkness," a State Department statement said. However army spokesman, Colonel Longin Minani, told IRIN on Friday the Burundi authorities could not understand why the US State Department had issued such a directive. "Security has considerably improved and we are wondering why they had to issue this," he said.

Nairobi, 4 February 2000, 13:45 gmt


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