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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels capture strategic town
The Goma-based rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) on Tuesday reportedly captured two towns in Kasai Occidental. "After weeks of provocations by Kabila's troops and his allies on our positions at Kole and Dekese, we decided to take back Idumbe and Longakolo port on the way to Ilebo town," RCD Vice-President Moise Nyarugabo told IRIN on Wednesday. He said DRC troops had been using the towns to bring in reinforcements. "If they try to attack our positions again we shall advance further," he warned. In Harare, the Zimbabwean army confirmed the fall of Idumbe and threatened to retaliate for what it called a direct threat to the capital Kinshasa, the Associated Press reported. Idumbe is 375 miles east of Kinshasa.
DRC: Reconnaissance team visits Mbuji-Mayi
A 12-person UN reconnaissance team travelled on Tuesday to the Kasai Oriental town of Mbuji-Mbayi, one of four locations where the UN Observer Mission in the DRC (MONUC) planned to base its military personnel, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York. Discussions between UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet and DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila last week resulted in an agreement in principle for the start of the UN reconnaissance missions, he said. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Security Council had given him "the heavy responsibility of deciding when conditions are ripe" for deployment of the expanded MONUC force to monitor and facilitate implementation of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement. Speaking in London on Tuesday at the commemoration of Commonwealth Day, Annan said Miyet was currently in the region to make "an on-the-spot assessment" of those conditions.
DRC: "Logistics" assessed for battalion deployment
The UN reconnaissance team in Mbuji-Mayi was scheduled to return to Kinshasa on Wednesday and government clearance had already been received for the team to undertake a similar mission to Mbandaka in Equateur province on Thursday, a MONUC spokesman told IRIN. The team, composed of MONUC personnel and experts from UN headquarters, were primarily assessing "logistics", including accommodation, the state of the airfields, river transport, communications facilities, and how easy it would be to resupply the sites, he said. Rebel-held Kindu and Kisangani - the two other proposed battalion bases for the 5,500 military observers and troops planned for MONUC's phase II deployment - were already assessed by reconnaissance teams prior to the dispatch of UN Military Liaison Officers (MLOs) last year, the spokesman said on Wednesday.
DRC: UN officers now in 11 sites
During MONUC's first phase, some 85 MLOs were based in 11 locations within the DRC, including Gbadolite, Gemena, Lisala, Isiro, Bunia, Boende, Goma, Kananga, Kinshasa, Kindu and Kisangani. One more MLO team was planned for Kabinda but had not yet been deployed due to logistical problems, and there were other MLOs based in regional capitals, the spokesman said. Any additional MLOs who arrived in the DRC from now on would form part of MONUC's second phase, he added.
DRC: JMC meeting set for next week in Kampala
A meeting of the Joint Military Commission (JMC), which oversees implementation of the Lusaka accord, is scheduled to take place in Kampala next week. "A meeting of the JMC is scheduled for Wednesday and we have a lot of work pending," Amama Mbabazi, Uganda's Minister of state for Foreign Affairs in charge of regional cooperation and chairman of the JMC's political committee, told IRIN on Wednesday. He said the work included reaching agreement on the rules of procedure. There have so far been three plenary sessions of the JMC, with the last one held in Harare, Zimbabwe from 29 November to 6 December.
DRC: "Massive" displacement in South Kivu
Further massive displacement of civilian populations was reported in South Kivu due to insecurity, WFP said in its latest weekly emergency report, citing a "strong militia presence" in the area. "Over the past two weeks, military hostilities have moved away from urban centres toward forests and little information is available to humanitarian actors on the condition of civilians in these areas due to lack of access," the report said. Only about 60,000 out of an estimated 200,000 displaced people were currently in accessible areas, it stated.
DRC: Shabunda clashes continue
Meanwhile, clashes of "varying intensity" were continuing in Shabunda as well as the mining areas of Lulingu and Kachungu, the WFP report said. Attacks by Interahamwe militia have moved northwest from Kalonge toward the forest of Bunyakiri. Some humanitarian activities in Bunyakiri, Katana and Uvira have had to be temporarily suspended due to insecurity along the northern axis. An estimated 55,000 displaced people had arrived in the Bukavu area alone since January, the report stated, adding that malnutrition was reported to be increasing as the displacements continued.
DRC: "Weak basis" for resuming friendship, Belgium says
Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel has spoken of a "weak basis" for the resumption of "friendship" between his country and the DRC. In comments broadcast by DRC television earlier this week during his visit to Kinshasa, Michel said he believed "things are changing" in the DRC. "I have not come here to make a valued judgement, but just to see how a small country, a friend of the Congolese people, can help restructure more efficiently our cooperation and perhaps strengthen it in the long run," he said. Stressing Belgium's willingness to help in the reconstruction effort, he appealed to President Laurent-Desire Kabila to "try and convince those around him and make efforts to create conditions for peace, not war".
BURUNDI: FDD leader reportedly visits Tanzanian camp
Leader of the rebel Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD), Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye, has reportedly gone to the Karago refugee camp in western Tanzania on a "recruitment mission", the private Netpress news agency reported. He was quoted as telling refugees that the FDD was "strong". Instead of attending the Arusha peace talks, he said, the FDD would "enter Bujumbura as liberators". According to the Netpress report, he claimed the FDD had "many means". Ndayikengurukiye has yet to participate in the Arusha process, despite being invited by the new facilitator Nelson Mandela.
UNHCR spokesman Paul Stromberg said the agency had no knowledge about Ndayikengurukiye's alleged visit to the Karago camp. "UNHCR has certainly not sponsored any visit by Jean-Bosco to the camps," he told IRIN. He said that with ever-growing numbers in the camps, tension was increasing among the refugees and rebel leaders were able to feed on this. Observers note that "rivalry" in the camps between supporters of the CNDD-FDD breakaway group and those who back Leonard Nyangoma, leader of the Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD), probably led to the murder last month of Nyangoma's brother Jean Batungwanayo, a doctor at Muyovosi camp. Tanzanian media reports said the killers were suspected members of an underground Hutu extremist group.
BURUNDI: Fuel prices hiked
The authorities have warned that fuel rationing may be implemented to restore order to the sector, Burundi radio reported on Tuesday. In comments broadcast by the radio, Commerce Minister Gervais Nkanagu announced that fuel prices had been increased. He said the move had been necessary because of a threefold increase in the international price of fuel, the Burundi currency devaluation and problems along Burundi's supply route - from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma in western Tanzania and from Eldoret in Kenya to Bujumbura. Super grade petrol now cost 570 Burundi francs a litre, diesel 520 francs a litre and kerosene 450 francs a litre.
RWANDA: Denmark to extradite genocide suspect
Denmark on Tuesday decided it would extradite a genocide suspect to Arusha, Tanzania, to face charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), news agencies reported. The suspect, Innocent Sagahutu, a former captain in Rwanda's army during the 1994 genocide, was arrested last month in Denmark on an ICTR extradition request, the Associated Press (AP) said. Sagahutu, 38, is charged with crimes against humanity, including mass rape, and is suspected to have been involved in the killing of 10 Belgian peacekeepers, it reported. Denmark's justice ministry determined that Sagahutu's extradition would not violate Danish law despite his legal status as a political refugee, AP said, adding that Sagahutu had appealed the ruling.
Nairobi, 15 March 2000, 14:20 gmt
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