Burundi + 4 more

IRIN Update 870 for the Great Lakes

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UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for Central and Eastern Africa
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e-mail: irin@ocha.unon.org

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Defections not a threat, rebels say

The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma) has played down the recent defection of a senior official, Roger Lumbala. "Some people joined the revolution thinking it would take weeks and they got positions," RCD Vice-President Moise Nyarugabo told IRIN on Monday. "But now that the struggle is taking a long time, people like Roger Lumbala, who was a cadre, have fallen out." He claimed Lumbala was being investigated for "gross misconduct" and was soon going to be arrested. Lumbala fled to Kampala, Uganda, on 14 February accusing the RCD of corruption, according to AFP.

The 'EastAfrican' newspaper on Monday reported that RCD-Goma is facing a leadership crisis following various attempts to topple its leader Emile Ilunga, and that its officials are defecting to rival rebel movements like the RCD-ML of Ernest Wamba dia Wamba and the MLC of Jean-Pierre Bemba. Regional analysts say the division within the RCD will affect the implementation of the Lusaka peace accord, due to a lack of centralised leadership. Rwanda backs the RCD-Goma while Uganda backs both RCD-ML and the MLC.

DRC: UN peacekeeping official to visit

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet, is finalising his plans for a mission to the DRC, expected to begin in the second week of March, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York on Friday. He said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was sending Miyet to the DRC to "explain the new Security Council resolution expanding the UN mission there". The mission would be the "first step" in setting groundwork for the deployment of 500 military observers in four bases at Mbandaka, Mbuji-Mayi, Kisangani and Kindu. The process could take 150 days "under ideal circumstances", he said. Miyet is expected to discuss with the DRC government "difficulties" concerning the proposed deployment. The Security Council on Thursday decided unanimously to expand the UN mission in the DRC (MONUC) to up to 5,537 military personnel. It also extended MONUC's mandate to 31 August 2000.

DRC: Government disappointed with UN resolution

The DRC government on Friday expressed disappointment over the UN Security Council resolution on expanding the military observer mission in the country, saying it failed to address "recognisable aggression". Reuters quoted government spokesman Didier Mumengi as saying the government would, however, accept the plan. "This is a half-measure which risks bogging us down in the kind of war we see in other African countries," he said. "[But] in the absence of anything better, we will accept the deployment."

DRC: "National consultation" starts in Kinshasa

A "national consultation" initiated by religious leaders in the DRC started on Monday in Kinshasa, the DRC embassy press attache in Nairobi, Mubima Maneniang Milang, confirmed to IRIN. "It was rescheduled because President Laurent-Desire Kabila was out of the country," he explained. "He is the first invitee." The meeting will continue to 4 March. DRC state television last week quoted one of the organisers as saying all religious groups "are deeply involved". The organiser said the approach was aimed at "paving the way" for the implementation of the Lusaka peace agreement, but "above all" to prepare for the inter-Congolese dialogue. "We are reminding you that the national consultation is an exclusively pastoral approach and will not be substituted in any way whatsoever for the inter-Congolese dialogue," he said.

DRC: Rights group cautions over national consultation

The DRC human rights organisation, La Voix des sans voix (VSV), said it welcomed the initiative but expressed concern over some elements of its organisation. In a statement, received by IRIN on Monday, VSV pointed out the fact that the meeting was being held in Kinshasa meant many of the key actors could not take part for security reasons. In addition, several opposition parties had also refused to take part, it noted. VSV said the government was "strongly implicated" in some stages of the organisation and therefore questioned the "neutrality" of the meeting. "VSV is sceptical regarding the outcome of this meeting and draws the organisers' attention to the risk of favouring a spirit of exclusion," the statement said. It warned of a possible "negative impact" on the inter-Congolese dialogue.

UGANDA: Army heads for ADF command post

The Ugandan army last week rescued 35 abducted civilians from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the ongoing offensive to dislodge the rebels from their mountain bases. "A total of 35 people, 21 Congolese and the rest Ugandans, have been rescued in a spate of two weeks, due to the pressure we are putting on the rebels as we close in on their command post," Captain Shaban Bantariza, army spokesman for western Uganda told IRIN on Monday. "The abductees are coming out from hiding in small numbers due to the fear of either being mistaken by our forces or being abducted by the rebels again."

UGANDA: No fresh deployment in Ituri

Meanwhile, the Ugandan army says there has been no fresh deployment of troops to the Ituri region in northeast DRC which has suffered a wave of ethnic clashes between the Lendu and Hema communities. "We have scaled down the deployment of troops to Ituri because the situation has calmed down as a result of dialogue between the Lendu and Hema," Bantariza told IRIN. "Also the heavy deployment of troops is a deterrent to whoever wants to pick up a machete and kill another." However, he warned that "if the need arises", the army was in a position to deploy more troops.

BURUNDI: Government urges calm after Arusha talks

The Burundi government has called for a compromise peace accord acceptable to all Burundians in order to avoid an "agreement without a future". In a statement, received by IRIN, the government said it hoped for a peace settlement as soon as possible but stressed that "favourable conditions" should be created for its implementation. There would be no imposition of a solution, the statement said. "Some people think, wrongly, that [Nelson] Mandela's speech [during last week's Arusha peace talks] has put an end to the debate or negotiations," the statement said. "President Mandela is there solely to help Burundians bring together their points of view...he is aware of this." The government urged people not to give in to panic, emotion and fear ahead of the possible taking of "crucial decisions" as this could compromise the peace process and encourage radicalism. "On the contrary, this is the time to demonstrate calm, lucidity and the logic of compromise," the statement said.

BURUNDI: Demonstrations no threat to Arusha talks - government

The government of Burundi says Saturday's demonstrations against the Arusha negotiations in the capital Bujumbura were "insignificant". "I cannot call them demonstrations because they were nipped in the bud," presidential spokesman Apollinaire Gahungu told IRIN on Monday. "The intelligence got advance information that the so-called demonstrators wanted to flood the central market and loot items. Troops were deployed and scattered small groups." He said that traffic resumed within an hour and everything was back to normal. He added that the president and two vice-presidents were explaining to the people what was going on in Arusha and "there is general understanding".

Tutsi groups were enraged by comments by the facilitator, Nelson Mandela, that Tutsis monopolised power in the country. News agencies say the demonstrations were a clear sign of nervousness among middle-class Tutsis, a major constituency of President Pierre Buyoya. Power-sharing arrangements with the majority Hutu are under consideration at the ongoing Arusha negotiations.

TANZANIA: Influx from Burundi slows down

The number of refugees arriving in Tanzania from Burundi has fallen sharply since the beginning of February, UNHCR said on Friday. "Only 5,000 new refugees have been recorded so far this month in Tanzania, compared to over 23,000 in January," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said. The recent arrivals reported continued fighting between government troops and rebels, particularly in the Gitega and Ruyigi provinces, and a resurgence of fighting closer to the Tanzanian border, he said. Some new arrivals reported that the border fighting was preventing more people from fleeing, Redmond added. All new arrivals from Burundi are transferred to Karago camp, which now hosts some 40,000 refugees.

TANZANIA: DRC refugees flee fighting, food shortages

The UNHCR spokesman said new refugee arrivals from the DRC had also slowed. "So far, some 600 new arrivals were recorded in February, compared to 1,300 in January," Redmond said. The Congolese refugees, who reportedly fled from Baraka, claim they were forced to leave due to acute food shortages during the past few months, he stated. Others who arrived form Uvira and Fizi in South Kivu claimed that heavy fighting was still raging and rebel forces continued to loot villages, Redmond said, adding that much of the local population was reportedly still hiding in South Kivu's forests.

RWANDA: Premier resigns

Prime Minister Pierre Celestin Rwigema has resigned his post, the Rwanda News Agency reported, citing official sources. It said the cause of his resignation on Monday had not been fully established, but the sources suggested it may be connected to conflict with the first vice-president of his party, the Mouvement Democratique Republicain (MDR). Rwigema has been implicated in the mismanagement of public funds when he was education minister, RNA said.

RWANDA: Prison security tightened after inmates escape

Security has been tightened at Rwanda's biggest prison, Nstinda, in the eastern Kibungo prefecture following reports that some inmates escaped, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) said. The prisoners escaped while they were out working. "Security has been tightened and strict supervision improvised especially during the inmates' time of work," RNA quoted the prison director, Floribert Kabera, as saying on Friday. "Some policemen responsible for prisoners have been dismissed following their negligence at work," Kabera said. RNA said all 12,605 prisoners at Nstinda prison were genocide suspects awaiting trial.

RWANDA: Potential drought in northeast

A meteorological official has said northeast Rwanda would face severe drought between March and May, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported. "The drought is predicted to be caused by the persistent off-shore westerlies that blow off Rwanda's northeastern region and some parts of the east, which has led to aridity in those areas," the meteorological official was quoted as saying. He urged farmers to plant early and use drought-resistant crops. However, a regional drought specialist who participated in a climate outlook workshop held earlier this month in Arusha, Tanzania, said the forecast was for a probability of normal to below normal rainfall in Rwanda. "The consensus of opinion among international scientists suggests a slight probability of below normal rainfall, not a forecast for extreme drought in the country," he told IRIN on Monday.

RWANDA: Officials meeting over fuel price increases

Officials from the Rwandan government and petroleum companies were set to hold talks on Monday aimed at attaining a reduction of fuel prices following last week's 20 percent increase by oil companies. A government official in Kigali told IRIN on Monday he did not have details on the agenda of the meeting but was certain the increases would dominate the discussion. Petroleum companies in Rwanda hiked the prices of fuel by 20 percent last week, raising commuter costs by 43 per cent. According to RNA, the government condemned the move on Friday describing it "illegal and unlawful".

Nairobi, 28 February 2000

[ENDS]

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