Burundi + 4 more

IRIN Update 871 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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RWANDA: Ex-premier says he won't flee

Former prime minister Pierre-Celestin Rwigema has explained he resigned on Monday due to summonses by the national assembly to explain various actions and the resulting "unpleasant words". According to his resignation letter, he said that consequently "there was no conducive atmosphere for one to work, especially as prime minister". On 17 February, the assembly voted to establish a commission to investigate Rwigema's alleged harassment and intimidation of Stanley Safari, the first vice-president of his Mouvement democratique republicaine (MDR), the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported. Safari had played a leading role in a probe of Rwigema's alleged mismanagement of public funds while he was education minister. "Which funds? I was not managing any funds," Rwigema told the BBC's Kinyarwanda service on Monday. He said he was still leader of the MDR party until its political bureau considered whether he should continue or be replaced. He stressed he would not be following the example of the former speaker of parliament, Joseph Kabuye Sebarenzi, who was forced to resign on 6 January and subsequently fled the country. "My plan is to live in my house, with my wife and children. I am still here, I will go nowhere and there is no reason for me to leave the country," Rwigema added.

RWANDA: Belgium should not be "haven" for genocide suspects - report

The London-based 'African Rights' organisation has accused members of the Belgian Catholic clergy of trying to interfere with the process of justice regarding the 1994 Rwanda genocide. In a new report, 'African Rights' recalls the case of two Rwandan nuns implicated in the genocide, who fled to Belgium, and have been "shielded from prosecution" by some Belgian priests and nuns. The two - Sister Gertrude Mukangango and Sister Julienne Kizito - are accused of instigating killings at the monastery of Sovu, in Butare prefecture and of assisting militia forces. "It is now almost five years since the accusations were first made public," the report stated. "With the strength of the evidence now available about the killings in Sovu, it is inconceivable that the nuns could continue to evade trial." The report said the leader of the Sovu militia, Warrant Officer Emmanuel Rekeraho - now imprisoned in Rwanda - had given a signed frank and detailed testimony "admitting his own role in the genocide and confirming that the two Sisters were deeply involved". The report also stressed that in the light of this case, "it is important to make certain that Belgium is not now and never again shall be a haven for genocide suspects".

BURUNDI: Humanitarian community to support peace process

UN agencies and the representative of the Arusha Fourth Commmission (on reconstruction and development) have met in Bujumbura to discuss ways of supporting the Burundi peace process. The meeting, held at the initiative of OCHA-Burundi, recognised that reconstruction and development activities should be preceded by sensitising the communities to cohabit peacefully, assisting the return of refugees and IDPs, as well as the demobilisation and reinsertion of the combatants. In a statement, OCHA said it proposed to strengthen links between humanitarian operations in Burundi and peace initiatives in a bid to consolidate the peace process. The UN Country Team in Burundi has launched a dialogue with the government and non-state organisations to try and find a common alternative to the current situation. The statement concluded that it was the role of the UN to advocate a broader approach among the international community.

BURUNDI: More sites to be dismantled

In its latest update on the humanitarian situation in Burundi, OCHA recalled that the dismantling of the regroupment camps would be carried out in stages, with the first phase providing for the return of 55,732 people from 11 sites in Bujumbura Rural. One site, Maramvya, has already been closed and a further four - Matara, Kinonko, Gitaza, Rutongo - will be closed between 1-7 March. Two more sites - Gatumba and Muberure - are due to be shut down on Friday. The first phase could take up to three months, OCHA said. It will be followed by a second phase in which 13 more sites should be dismantled. "We welcome the government decision to dismantle these sites and encourage the government to continue the process as long as the security conditions allow it," OCHA-Burundi chief Jahal de Meritens told IRIN on Tuesday. The UN Security Council on Monday urged Burundi to "abandon the policy of forced regroupment" and allow humanitarian organisations full access to the regrouped populations.

BURUNDI: Alarming nutritional situation

OCHA also warned of an alarming nutritional situation. Admissions to supplementary and therapeutic nutritional centres have more than doubled in the past weeks. A prolonged drought is gripping Burundi, particularly the provinces of Kirundo, Muyinga and Bujumbura Rural. OCHA is also concerned that the security situation is preventing aid deliveries to some parts of the country - particularly areas bordering Tanzania. There have been significant population displacements in the border provinces of Rutana and Ruyigi. Many homes have been burned, destroyed and looted by armed groups.

BURUNDI: Gloomy economic figures

The second vice-president, Mathias Sinamenye, has presented gloomy figures to an economic workshop in Bujumbura. According to the Agence burundaise de presse (ABP), he said the overall deficit in public finance reached 23 billion francs in 1999 and foreign aid fell from 230 billion Burundi francs in 1993 to 17 million francs in 1999. He added that the ongoing security and political crisis had had a negative impact on the economy, reducing overall production by 20 percent and cutting the overall investment rate from 51.1 percent to 6 percent between 1993 and 1999.

The agriculture sector in Burundi, which accounts for more than 50 percent of GDP and is the principal source of income for 90 percent of the rural population, has been adversely affected by the general insecurity. The current regroupment policy has also affected the agriculture sector.

TANZANIA: Refugee funding shortfall causes concern

A funding crisis facing humanitarian operations for refugees in Africa was at its worst in Tanzania where, by July, WFP would be unable to feed 525,000 people unless contributions were received immediately, a joint WFP-UNHCR statement said on Monday. "It is unthinkable that within only a few months, there will be over half a million people in Tanzania cut off from the food aid that is crucial to their survival," said WFP's Assistant Executive Director Jean-Jacques Graisse. "The great majority of these people - some 500,000 - are refugees living in camps who have no access to agricultural land and are totally dependent on WFP's food." The refugee population in Tanzania had recently been swollen by 120,000 to 500,000, most of the new refugees arriving from Burundi. At the same time, about 25,000 poor Tanzanians who live near the camps are also receiving WFP food assistance, the statement added.

TANZANIA: Karago camp hits capacity

UNHCR has been transferring all new arrivals from Burundi to Karago refugee camp established in December but, with 40,660 residents as of Monday, Karago "has reached its maximum holding capacity", UNHCR information officer Vincent Parker told IRIN on Monday. The agency was exploring ways to expand Karago, but if the camp could not cope refugees would be transferred to Ngara district in Kagera Region, where there was still some capacity, Parker said. The trend, however, was of significantly reduced numbers of Burundi refugees arriving in Tanzania, he said. Two hundred to 300 refugees were currently arriving each day and some 11,000 had arrived in February, compared to a total of 24,000 arrivals in January.

Parker also denied press reports of a cholera outbreak claiming 14 lives in Kigoma over the past two weeks. He said there had been only sporadic cases in villages in the region the past three months, and that 11 people detected with cholera at Kigoma refugee reception centres had all been treated at Ujijii Cholera Centre with no fatalities.

TANZANIA: Kigoma says it can take no more refugees

Kigoma Regional Commissioner Abubakar Mgumia has said all nine camps hosting refugees in the region have reached saturation point and would be immediately sealed off. The Tanzanian 'Guardian' daily quoted him as saying the three camps that had been set up as contingency centres in case of congestion - Lugufu I and II, and Karago - had already been filled to capacity. "I am afraid we have no other camps left to offer them [aid agencies] ... They will just have to take the refugees elsewhere," he said. He also complained that the refugees had had a negative impact on development in Kigoma. Incidents of armed robbery and other crimes were on the increase, and the refugees inflicted enormous damage on the environment, he said. "Instead of directing efforts on how to develop the region, the problem of refugees consumes about 60 percent of my time," Mgumia stated.

UGANDA: UNHCR, government in joint refugee screening exercise

UNHCR and the Ugandan government have been carrying out a joint exercise to clear a transit camp of Rwandan refugees crossing from Tanzania. Tomoko Niino, UNHCR's public information officer in Uganda, said the agency had been giving "technical advice" to the Ugandan government on screening refugees to move them from the transit centre to the government-designated refugee settlement of Nakivale. "The refugees say they are running away from Tanzania due to harassment," she told IRIN on Tuesday. UNHCR figures indicate that a total of 2,298 Rwandan refugees are being accommodated in the Nakivale settlement in western Uganda.

On Sunday, the 'New Vision' reported that Ugandan security personnel had "forcefully disbanded" a group of 400 Rwandan Hutu refugees, who had allegedly been expelled from Tanzania due to their Interahamwe connections.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UN force will be "undermined by split rebellion"

The leader of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-ML) Ernest Wamba dia Wamba has said that internal rifts and lack of clear leadership in rebel ranks will greatly undermine the UN peace mission in DRC. He also told the semi-official Ugandan 'New Vision' that President Laurent-Desire Kabila did not trust the rebels and "is not in a position to sit down at a national dialogue to reach a consensus on an arrangement that would bring peace and development." Wamba said RCD-Goma's "fundamental problem" was that it "has been a government-in-waiting". "That was a Rwandan government scheme which the Congolese population is resisting," he said. The UN Security council on 24 February authorised the deployment of over 5,500 troops to the DRC with a mandate to protect UN monitors and personnel on the ground.

DRC: Rebels not attending Kinshasa talks

Congolese rebels have turned down an invitation to attend national reconciliation talks in the capital Kinshasa. "My movement is not going to identify with any inter-Congolese talks outside Lusaka [peace accord]," Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) told IRIN on Tuesday. "Former Botswanan president [Ketumile] Masire is the only person who can invite us to any talks." Moise Nyarugabo, vice-president of RCD-Goma, told the Rwanda News Agency that the Kinshasa talks, organised by church groups, were an attempt by Kabila to undermine the Lusaka peace agreement, and his group was not attending either. Bishop Marini Bodho, one of the organisers of the talks, said Monday's planned opening ceremony had been put back to allow rebel representatives to arrive, Reuters reported.

DRC: Tshisekedi hails civil disobedience campaign in east

Meanwhile, veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi has expressed "total support" for the civil disobedience campaign in eastern DRC. In a statement issued on Tuesday in Johannesburg, the president of the Union pour la democratie et le progres social (UDPS), told the "people of eastern DRC" they should not be deterred from "aspiring to a just and long-lasting peace". "We strongly condemn the barbaric retaliations to which you have been subjected," the statement said. It called for the swift convocation of an inter-Congolese dialogue, mediated by Masire, as stipulated in the Lusaka accord.

Nairobi, 29 February 2000, 14:15 gmt


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