Burundi + 2 more

IRIN Update 873 for the Great Lakes

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RWANDA: New government to be announced next week

There is "technically" no government in Rwanda since the resignation of Prime-Minister Pierre-Celestin Rwigema, a senior Rwandan official said on Thursday. "Members of the government are working on a caretaker basis until the new government is announced sometime next week," Patrick Mazimhaka, minister in the President's office, told IRIN. Under the 1993 Arusha agreement on Rwanda, which remains in force, the post of prime-minister is to be occupied by a member of the Mouvement democratique republicaine (MDR). Rwigema resigned on Monday, saying there was "no conducive atmosphere" for him to work as a result of various summonses by the national assembly.

RWANDA: Ex-king says he is not a "tool"

Rwanda's exiled former king, Kigeli V, has refused to be used as a "tool" by groups opposed to the current government who are seeking to restore the monarchy. "Don't I have a brain?", he said in an interview with the BBC Kinyarwanda service. "How can I accept to be used?". Recent events in Rwanda, such as the resignation of the prime-minister and the parliamentary speaker fleeing to Uganda, have been linked to moves to bring back the king, including the alleged formation of an armed force. Speaking from the US, Kigeli said he would not return by force. "My return will be decided by Rwandans," he said. "I will accept whatever decision they take in relation to my return." He denied he had been meeting exiled groups to discuss ways of restoring the monarchy, although he said many people had asked him to return.

BURUNDI: Humanitarian community meets to discuss peace initiatives

A meeting in Bujumbura last Friday of the international and national humanitarian community, including donors, stressed the crucial role of aid organisations in the country's peace process. The OCHA-organised forum underscored the importance of resuming bilateral and multilateral aid to the country, and noted it was important to recognise the existence of community-based "informal" peace processes alongside the official initiatives currently underway. "It was felt that parts of the community (eg the youths in Bujumbura, the army and the Tutsi diaspora) have not been properly contacted and sensitised and that their needs are currently not addressed," a statement from the meeting said. It recommended that two working groups mobilise international agencies and local associations to identify community initiatives and "forgotten groups".

BURUNDI: Contact with rebels crucial for talks' progress

A spokesman for the Burundi peace process facilitator said on Wednesday that the committee discussing Burundian peace and security issues in Arusha, Tanzania, may need to meet at least once more before Easter to complete its work, news agencies reported. The spokesman, Hashim Mbita, said members of the peace committee could not proceed with their work until the facilitator, Nelson Mandela, met with Hutu rebel groups not participating in the Arusha talks, the Internews agency reported. It said Mandela was scheduled to meet with the rebel groups sometime this month. Meanwhile, Tanzania's 'The Guardian' newspaper on Thursday quoted Mbita as saying that Mandela was expected to meet the rebels and Burundian military leaders "any time from now." Some of the 19 delegations taking part in the negotiations were optimistic that a signed agreement could be concluded by late April or early May, 'The Guardian' said, adding that current committee consultations were expected to wind up on 5 March.

BURUNDI: Rains to worsen camp conditions

Appalling conditions in Bujumbura Rural's regroupment sites are set to further deteriorate with the coming rains, increasing the need for their rapid dismantlement, Refugees International said on Wednesday. In a statement, it said poor sanitary conditions combined with the rains would lead to water contamination, potential cholera outbreaks and a possible large malaria outbreak in the camps. "Given the weakened condition of the population due to malnutrition, stress and numerous chronic diseases, the potential exists for significant loss of life," the statement said. "Time is running out" for the estimated 330,000 people in the regroupment sites, it added.

OCHA has said some 55,700 people in 11 regroupment sites were scheduled to be returned to their home areas under the first phase of the government's camp dismantlement plan, which could take up to three months.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rwanda rejects JMC move

Rwanda has rejected a proposal to move the base of the Joint Military Commission (JMC) to Kinshasa, a Rwandan government official said on Thursday. "A proposal to that effect was presented to us but we rejected it....We cannot send our people to Kinshasa for security reasons," Theogene Rudasingwa, advisor to Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame, told IRIN on Thursday. Sources close to a regional heads of summit held last month in Lusaka told IRIN the secretariat of the JMC, which is responsible for overseeing implementation of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement until the deployment of a peacekeeping force, had proposed shifting the body's headquarters from Lusaka to Kinshasa to strengthen cooperation with the UN Observer Mission in the DRC (MONUC). The heads of state had approved the principle of a joint MONUC/JMC structure that would facilitate "close coordination during the period of deployment of the UN military observers in the DRC," according to the summit's joint communique.

Nairobi, 2 March 2000, 15:30 gmt

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IRIN-CEA

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