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BURUNDI: New round of Arusha peace talks underway
The Arusha peace process kicked off again on Monday under the new mediation of former South African president Nelson Mandela. Addressing the opening session, Mandela pointed out there were only enough funds for this current round and the sides should approach the talks with a sense of urgency. He proposed issues for inclusion in Tuesday's plenary meeting such as the need to dismantle the regroupment camps, power-sharing, and the transition period. Several parties to the talks have expressed a wish that this round - which Mandela said may last up to two weeks - should culminate in a draft peace accord to serve as a basis for subsequent talks.
Sources attending the talks told IRIN that the main rebel groups CNDD-FDD and PALIPEHUTU-FNL had not arrived. The CNDD-FDD representatives reportedly failed to meet Mandela in South Africa for prior consultations, apparently for "logistical" reasons. The US envoy to the Great Lakes region, Howard Wolpe, told IRIN his country believed groups fighting on the ground should take part in the peace process "but they should first consult the facilitator, president Mandela, so that the arrangements are worked out". Mandela has stressed that the talks should be all-inclusive, contrary to his predecessor former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere. Speaking ahead of Monday's meeting, Mandela described the absence of the two rebel groups as a serious drawback.
A spokesman for PALIPEHUTU-FNL, Augustin Ntawogeza, told IRIN that the group was prepared to meet Mandela's mediation team for preparatory discussions. Afterwards, they could take part in the Arusha process, he said. He stressed it was the first time they had officially been invited to peace talks, and they were ready to participate, but there had been a problem with travel papers which first had to be resolved.
Diplomatic sources however told IRIN there were high expectations for the new mediation. All 18 negotiating sides are present in Arusha along with regional heads of state such as Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu, Burundian President Pierre Buyoya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania. The French and US presidents will reportedly address the meeting by television link.
The EU envoy to the Great Lakes, Aldo Ajello, told Burundi radio a western-style democracy could not be imposed on Burundi, which should find its own mechanisms for setting up a democracy. He said the fear of genocide by the minority Tutsis was real. "Someone might perhaps use that fear to grab power and remain in power, but the fear of genocide is there, it is real," he said. "These people must therefore be given some guarantees."
RWANDA: Kabarebe named new deputy chief of staff
The former chief of Rwandan army operations in DRC, Colonel James Kabarebe, has been appointed deputy chief of staff of the Rwandan army. According to the Rwanda News Agency (RNA), he replaces Colonel Frank Mugambagye who was recently appointed chief of the newly-formed national police. Kabarebe was removed from the DRC after Rwandan troops clashed with their Ugandan counterparts in the town of Kisangani last year.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Security Council meets
The UN Security Council on Friday held closed consultations to hear a briefing by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hedi Annabi on the situation in the DRC, a statement from the Council said. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended that the UN's mission in the DRC be expanded to over 5,500 personnel in all. Some Council members have requested further "clarification" of the expansion plans. The text of the draft resolution on expanding the UN mission has been circulated among Council members and a vote on the topic could take place this week. The Council was due to hold informal consultations on the DRC on Monday.
DRC: JMC meets overnight
Members of the Joint Military Commission (JMC) overseeing implementation of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement held an all-night session on Sunday and would likely conclude their discussions later on Monday, a UN mission (MONUC) spokesman said. "They met through the night till about 8 o'clock this morning and we expect it to continue today," the spokesman told IRIN on Monday. The UN was represented by MONUC Chief of Staff Colonel James Baxter, he said. The meeting, which began on Friday, is the fifth plenary session of the JMC, which includes the parties to the DRC conflict and several observers. News agencies quoted Zambian Presidential Affairs Minister Eric Silwamba as saying on Friday that one of the meeting's goals was to resolve administrative problems, including unpaid allowances for JMC representatives.
Meanwhile, the UN Special Representative for the DRC, Kamel Morjane, travelled to Lusaka on Monday to participate in the ministerial Political Committee meeting scheduled to take place after the JMC session, the MONUC spokesman said.
DRC: RCD to remain in Goma
The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) has denied press reports that it planned to shift its headquarters from Goma to Bukavu. "We are not going anywhere, we are staying in Goma. The decision to shift has never been taken," a senior RCD official told IRIN.
DRC: Preparatory peace dialogue slated for Thursday
A church-led initiative for a national dialogue in the DRC is due to begin on Thursday, an official from the DRC embassy in Nairobi told IRIN on Monday. "The meeting has been organised by different denominations in preparation for the inter-Congolese dialogue," he said. He said the churches sent out invitations to "everybody". "I know some will not come because they have a hidden agenda," he claimed. News organisations quoted opposition members as saying they would boycott the meeting, stressing that they supported the idea of the inter-Congolese dialogue as stipulated in the Lusaka peace accords. According to the DRC official, the initiative was a preparatory meeting and "should be encouraged because the Congolese people should learn to solve their own problems in their own land".
DRC: Kabila to set up new assembly
DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila last week set up a 15-member advisory committee to draw up plans for electing a legislative assembly in the country. "The president realised that the country could not just go on without this vital organ," a DRC embassy spokesman in Nairobi told IRIN on Monday. "We must have a parliament and members should be elected." News organisations quoted Kabila as saying the elections could take place "in the next few weeks" for the 300-member assembly. "It is time the country moved on, because if one part is occupied the other side should move on," the embassy spokesman said. "This is something that should have been done maybe two months after taking power. But first, we had money problems, then we needed to sit and talk but before we knew it, we were invaded." AP quoted opposition members as saying the assembly was an attempt to bypass a national dialogue on the DRC's political future.
UGANDA: ADF attacks continue in the west
Rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) are continuing attacks in the western Bundibugyo and Kabarole districts, according to an OCHA update. "There have been daily attacks, gun battles and/or ambushes occurring in parts of the district during the day and at night," OCHA noted. "These attacks have left several dozen civilians dead." News organisations also said that the rebels were now making more regular attacks and abduction raids inside the DRC.
Nairobi, 21 February 2000, 15:10 gmt
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