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BURUNDI: Peace talks enter committee stage
The Burundi peace talks underway in Arusha, Tanzania, on Thursday entered the committee stage after three days of open discussions. "The negotiations are taking shape, all the committees are to continue meeting for some weeks," Ambassador Welile Nhlapo, a senior adviser to the facilitator Nelson Mandela, told IRIN. He explained that the facilitator's role would be to offer advice and "from time to time he will come to Arusha". The current session is due to end on 9 March. Diplomatic sources attending the talks told IRIN there was now a "new methodology" which could facilitate the conclusion of the process. The text of the draft compromise proposal was now awaited, and this would be discussed by the committees.
BURUNDI: Tutsi parties criticise Mandela
Meanwhile, eight predominantly Tutsi parties attending the talks have issued a statement expressing concern over comments by Mandela regarding Tutsi monopoly of power in Burundi. "These conclusions tend to imply that the basis of the Burundi conflict is the political, economic and military domination of the minority Tutsi group over the majority Hutu one," the statement said. "This theory could generate tension and the risk of confrontation in the country, which might jeopardise the chances of success for the peace process." The parties warned they would not accept the facilitation team "if the plan for a compromise is founded on this theory". The statement was signed by AV-Intwari, PRP, RADDES, UPRONA, ANADDE, PSP, PIT and INKINZO. Diplomatic sources close to the facilitator told IRIN they did not believe Mandela's comments were made in a "spirit of confrontation".
The small Tutsi-dominated RADDES party was finally allowed to take part in the peace talks after being denied entry for two days. "We are happy to be allowed in, but this delay shows that some facilitators are manipulating the negotiations," RADDES leader Joseph Nzeyimana told IRIN on Thursday.
BURUNDI: Women's groups given observer status
Burundian women's groups were granted observer status at the talks after complaining that women's views were not taken into account and they were often the victims of Burundi's conflict. Catherine Mabobori, president of the Coalition of Women's Groups of Burundi, however expressed dissatisfaction that they had only been permitted to observe the plenary sessions and the not the committees "where most of the decisions are taken". She accused delegates of being "reluctant to give us any status on sexist grounds".
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Deadline for implementing ceasefire accord
Regional and rebel leaders meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, have set 1 March as the deadline for implementing the Lusaka ceasefire accord. According to a statement from the meeting, the leaders endorsed an updated draft proposal submitted by the ministerial political committee, to which the Joint Military Commission (JMC) reports. The summit brought together the leaders of Zimbabwe, Namibia, Rwanda, Mozambique, DRC, Zambia, Uganda and the Angolan defence minister, as well as the three rebel groups. The Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma) delegation was delayed for logistical reasons but hoped to be in Lusaka on Thursday. The statement reiterated the sides' commitment to the Lusaka accord and welcomed the UN's intention to expand the military observer force in DRC.
The UN Security Council was on Thursday expected to approve the resolution providing for the expanded deployment of over 5,500 personnel. In addition to increasing the military personnel, the draft resolution also calls on the Secretary-General to set up an experts panel to probe the alleged exploitation and commerce of natural resources and other forms of wealth in the DRC. The panel would investigate the links between these activities and the continuation of the conflict.
RWANDA: Prosecutor moots possibility of holding trials in Kigali
The prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Carla del Ponte, has said the possibility of holding trial hearings in Rwanda is "desirable". She told a news conference in Arusha the issue had arisen because the Supreme Court of Rwanda was being refurbished and would soon be equipped with the necessary security measures and other facilities to make it possible to hold such hearings there.
RWANDA: Tanzania drops genocide charges against suspect
Tanzanian meanwhile dropped genocide charges against a suspect, Bernard Ntuyahaga, in a bid to facilitate his extradition to Rwanda, news organisations reported. Ntuyahaga was freed by the ICTR last March in attempt to have him tried by the Belgian authorities. He was immediately re-arrested by Tanzania, and Belgium and Rwanda have both been vying for his extradition. Ntuyahaga is accused of involvement in the murder of former Rwandan premier Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers who were guarding her during the 1994 genocide. The murder charges against him still stand. "We have amended the charge sheet because genocide is not within the framework of the extradition agreement [with Rwanda]," Tanzania's State Attorney Ama Munisi told journalists. Ntuyahaga's lawyer Luc de Temmerman said he would now move to have his client released since the genocide charges had been dropped.
Nairobi, 24 February 2000, 14:15 gmt
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