Burundi + 2 more

IRIN Update 884 for the Great Lakes

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for Central and Eastern Africa
Tel: +254 2 622147
Fax: +254 2 622129
e-mail: irin@ocha.unon.org

RWANDA: UN "lies" will not affect ties

The Rwandan government has said its relationship with the UN will not be affected by a UN report accusing it of helping the Angolan rebel movement UNITA and breaking international sanctions. " We have had more strenuous relations with the UN in the past, the current lies are not going to affect our relationship with the UN," Rwandan government spokesman Joseph Bideri told IRIN on Friday. On Thursday, Bideri told the BBC his government was considering taking legal action against the UN.

According to the report, whose official version was released on Wednesday, UNITA and Rwanda "shared a common interest in overthrowing [DRC President Laurent-Desire] Kabila". The cooperation allegedly included the dispatch by UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi of a battery of UNITA anti-aircraft crews (SAM 16) to aid Rwandan-backed rebels in DRC. The Rwandans for their part are reported to have allowed UNITA to operate more or less freely in Kigali for the purposes of arranging diamond sales and meetings with weapons brokers.

RWANDA: Economic plan to assess gender impacts

A US $75 million Rwanda Economic Recovery Credit, recently approved by the World Bank, specifically requires action on a comprehensive plan to eliminate discrimination against women, and to improve their access to economic services and opportunities. A special report by the Bank, which has come under criticism for failing to address the uneven social impacts of its structural adjustment policies, said this week that the programme supporting the Rwandan economy would also require legislation to eliminate discrimination against women in inheritance and property ownership. "We now know that men and women do benefit or suffer from adjustment lending in different ways depending on their roles in society. It is therefore important that we take account of this in our adjustment lending and impact monitoring," said Elaine Zuckerman of the World Bank's gender and development group.

Over the next three years, the Rwandan government has said it intends to strengthen its economic management and deepen structural reforms, with particular emphasis on developing agriculture and rural markets, enhancing the role of women, promoting the private sector, and reforming the public sector. On gender issues, the civil code will be amended and women will be given the right to inherit and own property.

UGANDA: Reports of haemorrhagic fever unconfirmed

There has been no ministry of health confirmation regarding media reports of an outbreak of haemorrhagic fever in the Arua district of northwestern Uganda, a WHO official told IRIN on Friday. He said it was possible the transport through Kampala of laboratory samples from suspected cases in eastern DRC had led to confusion over the issue. He confirmed the death of one person in Aru on the DRC side from haemorrhagic fever, one of the 19 recorded deaths from Marburg fever in eastern DRC between 1 November and 13 March.

DRC: MONUC "very worried" by Kasai clashes

The UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) said on Wednesday it was "very worried" by reports of fighting in the Idumbe area of Kasai Occidental, between RCD-Goma and Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) forces on the one side and Congolese armed forces and allied SADC troops on the other. "If this news is confirmed, it would constitute a serious violation of the ceasefire agreement", MONUC said in a statement received by IRIN. MONUC has already contacted the Joint Military Commission (JMC) in Lusaka "so that together they can verify the veracity of this information to take the necessary measures to avoid a deterioration of the situation", the statement said. RCD-Goma on Wednesday said it had captured Idumbe and nearby Longakolo port after "weeks of provocations" by Kabila's forces. Military sources told IRIN on Friday that conflict in this area would be particularly serious as it would threaten communications between Ilebo and Kananga,
thereby also affecting Mbuji-Mbayi.

DRC: Washington warns of hate media in east

The US on Wednesday warned that it had received reports of "extremist literature and radio broadcasts" advocating hate and violence in eastern DRC. It described this as "a dangerous development" that further threatened peace in the Great Lakes region. Secretary of State spokesman James Rubin called on all regional religious, civil society, political,
and private sector leaders "to cease provocative language and actions that may inflame inter-ethnic tensions, and to work for peace and intercommunal reconciliation in the context of an overall peace settlement". Rubin also complained about the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) preventing Bishop Kataliko of Bukavu from returning to his diocese. Kataliko's continued confinement at Butembo, North Kivu, "serves to heighten emotions and exacerbate tensions in opposition-controlled areas of eastern Congo, particularly in South Kivu," Rubin said.

DRC: Prisoner releases welcomed

The US also welcomed as a "timely and significant step towards reconciliation" the decision by President Laurent-Desire Kabila to free 55 political prisoners earlier this month. It urged him to "continue in this positive direction by promptly releasing all remaining political prisoners".

DRC: Opposition leader attacks "repressive" regime

Opposition political leader Joseph Olenghakoy of the Innovative Forces for Union and Solidarity (FONUS) has denounced Kabila's "repressive system". Interviewed by Radio France Internationale he described the regime as "a system which respects no-one, a system which uses violence and lacks ideas". Earlier, he addressed a news conference at his house in Kinshasa saying Kabila was "a major obstacle to peace and national unity", and called for the UN to deploy rapidly in support of the Lusaka agreement, Reuters reported. The FONUS leader echoed last week's demand from the national consultation meeting in Kinshasa that foreign troops should leave the country, saying that the Zimbabwean and Rwandan armies, in particular, should quit gold and diamond-mining areas where they were "pillaging
Congolese resources". He also called for a general strike if foreign troops had not left DRC by 1 April. Olenghakoy was released from prison in June 1999 after serving one year of a 15-year sentence for defying a ban on political activities.

DRC: South African delegation due for talks

A high-level South African delegation led by Foreign Minister Nkosazana Zuma was due in Lubumbashi, Katanga Province, on Friday to begin three days of talks on the peace process with Congolese officials. Zuma would be accompanied by Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota and Safety and Security Minister Steve Tshwete. The negotiations were aimed at "supporting and encouraging the peace process", Reuters news agency quoted a South African official as saying. Zuma said she was going to DRC to discuss "common issues" as well as bilateral relations, which have been strained by accusations by Kabila that South Africa was backing the rebels in the east.

BURUNDI: Defence minister meets Mandela

Defence Minister Colonel Cyrille Ndayirukiye held talks in Johannesburg on Thursday with the peace process facilitator, Nelson Mandela, the Burundi embassy in South Africa confirmed to IRIN on Friday. It gave no details of the meeting, but said direct talks between the government and the rebel Forces de defense pour la democratie (FDD) - which also has a delegation in South Africa - were not envisaged "this time". Mandela's office on Friday declined to comment. Meanwhile, the BBC quoted FDD spokesman Jerome Ndiho as saying direct talks between the army and the rebels were necessary if the government wanted peace. "The most urgent issue is the ceasefire, there is no time to waste in the overcrowded Arusha talks," Ndiho said, adding that Mandela was right in taking a "direct path" by holding face-to face talks with those involved in the fighting.

Nairobi, 17 March 2000, 13:00 gmt


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