Burundi + 2 more

IRIN Update 886 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
Tel: +254 2 622147
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e-mail: irin@ocha.unon.org

BURUNDI: FDD ready to go to Arusha

The main rebel leader, Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurikiye, has said his group - the Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD) - is now willing to take part in the Arusha peace process. The South African news agency (SAPA)
said the announcement was made by Burundi talks facilitator Nelson Mandela after he met Ndayikengurukiye in South Africa on Monday. However, the rebel leader put forward "non-negotiable" conditions for his participation, including the dismantling of regroupment camps in Burundi and the release of prisoners. "Nothing can be discussed as long as those
[regrouped] people are not released and allowed to return home," he told the BBC Kirundi service. "Nothing is possible as long as people who voted in favour of democracy are in jails." "We shall go to Arusha once those things have been done," Ndayikengurukiye stressed. He added that a political solution would take precedence. "Military reforms will come later," he said.

Burundi analyst Jan van Eck of the South Africa-based Centre for Conflict Resolution described the move as a "great achievement and a major step forward" for the Arusha process. "There is now a genuine tone of seriousness to the talks," he told IRIN on Tuesday. The development could really move the process forward as there could be genuine discussions on the cessation of hostilities between the belligerents. Van Eck said the FDD was giving out a "serious signal". He believed the other rebel group previously absent from the talks - PALIPEHUTU's Forces nationales de
liberation (FNL) - would also soon announce their participation, making Arusha a "very viable process". He added that the Arusha process would probably now gain more legitimacy inside Burundi. "We are now into negotiating mode," he said. "Both sides [rebels and government] have their demands, they can now negotiate."

BURUNDI: PARENA-FRODEBU pact slammed by internal parties

On the reported agreement between two extremes - the Tutsi-dominated PARENA party and the external wing of the mainly-Hutu FRODEBU party - van Eck said this would not derail the process. Observers say Jean-Baptiste Bagaza of PARENA and Jean Minani of FRODEBU have agreed on a joint position in a bid to oust their "common enemy", President Pierre Buyoya, and position themselves in preparation for a transitional government. The two have reportedly agreed a common stance on army reform, the electoral system and maintaining peace after an accord is signed. The PARENA-FRODEBU agreement has been slammed by the main Tutsi party UPRONA and the internal wing of FRODEBU, led by Augustin Nzojibwami.

RWANDA: President lashes out at parliament

Rwanda's new prime minister Bernard Makuza has presented his programme, shortly after the new government was sworn in on Monday. According to Rwandan radio, he pledged to respect human rights and maintain peace and security in the country. He also vowed to assist genocide survivors and raise living standards. Meanwhile, President Pasteur Bizimungu has condemned parliament for the late announcement of the government - more than a month after the resignation of the former prime minister Pierre-Celestin Rwigema. "It is necessary to control government activity, but this does not mean it has to fall," he said during the government swearing-in ceremony. "You chased away ministers, you chased away the speaker of parliament, you made a government fall... and I myself was almost sacked," he told MPs, according to the Rwanda News Agency (RNA). "There is a real problem with parliament's method of working."

RNA noted that differences between Bizimungu and Vice-President Paul Kagame over the composition of the new government - notably whether to keep Patrick Mazimhaka, the minister in the president's office - had contributed to the delay. The secretary-general of the ruling RPF, Charles Murigande, was quoted as saying the new ministers should not be people "who have to appear in parliament to give explanations regarding allegations of corruption". Mazimhaka - a close ally of Bizimungu - was left out of the new government amid accusations of corruption. Murigande also said the new government would be more open and relay information "to dispel rumours which are a source of disorder arising from a misinterpretation of events". He added that a constitutional committee would soon be formed to determine modalities for the succession.

RWANDA: Local elections in September

The new government also announced that elections at commune and prefecture level would take place in September. Local Government Minister Desire Nyandwi told RNA plans were underway to establish a national electoral commission which would implement and monitor the polls throughout the country. "We have decided to continue the democratisation process that began last year with the elections of local leaders at cellule and secteur levels," he said. RNA recalled that some 160,000 grassroots leaders were elected last March.

RWANDA: Reconciliation still main challenge

Rwanda's charge d'affaires at the UN in Geneva, Canisius Kananura, has said the government's main challenge is to reconcile the three ethnic groups in the country. He told the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that while Rwanda was continuing to make "tireless efforts" to eliminate discrimination, the country had not yet healed fully from the 1994 genocide. Kananura said the government had reestablished the rule of law and established commissions on unity and reconciliation, and on legal and constitutional issues. Parliamentary power had been divided among eight political parties and, while the transitional period of government had been extended last year for an additional four years, an electoral commission would be established in 2001 to prepare for free elections "within the next few years", he added.

Peter Nobel, the committee member who served as the UN committee's rapporteur on Rwanda, said there remained serious problems with the administration of justice, and especially judicial independence, as well the presence of some 4,500 minors among an estimated prison population of over 120,000. Other committee members suggested that the UN Security Council should take urgent disarmament measures (such as happened in Kosovo) and that the Rwandan government should consider an amnesty to all, since "forgiving is not forgetting".

RWANDA: UN welcomes new inheritance rights for women

The UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, has welcomed the government's recent legislation to allow women and girls to inherit land and other properties. Under Rwandan tradition and law, it was expected that they would get access to communal properties owned by fathers or husbands, but the injustice of this gender discrimination became "a dramatic issue" after the 1994 genocide that left thousands of households headed by female children who were not entitled to inherit family properties, a UN press release stated on Monday. "There are an estimated 45,000 households headed by orphaned children, 90 percent of them by girls who did not have access to land which is essential to the livelihoods of their families. I congratulate the government of Rwanda ... this is a practical step of redressing one of the consequences of the genocide," said Otunnu, who had been negotiating with the government on
this issue since his visit to the country in February 1999.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels "prepare for federalism"

The political bureau of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) is to put in place provincial structures "in preparation for a federal state in Congo". RCD Second Vice-President Moise Nyarugabo told RNA consultations would be held in all the communities to nominate candidates. "North and South Kivu will serve as blueprints so that we can eliminate possible mistakes before proceeding with the other liberated provinces," he said. The operation will be coordinated by RCD territorial administration chief Joseph Mudumbi and will consist of electing
provincial representatives "by tribe".

DRC: RCD plays down senior official's suspension

Meanwhile, Nyarugabo played down the suspension of the political bureau and information chief, Lambert Mende. He said the move was a "disciplinary matter related to internal problems in the movement but not any big problem". "People are trying to make it a big thing, but it's a small thing," he told IRIN on Tuesday. "In any organisation it's important to do such things for internal discipline." He declined to go into detail, but denied Congolese media reports that Mende was disciplined for challenging the RCD leadership. "To challenge the leadership is not the problem. He is not the first to challenge the leadership and challenge is not bad, it is healthy. There are some other acts within the organisation that are not acceptable," Nyarugabo said.

DRC: Little respect in Katanga for legacy of Kabila's brother

Public tributes last month at the funeral of Georges Katwal, director of the Katanga branch of the internal security service, l'Agence nationale de renseignements (ANR), and younger brother of President Laurent-Desire Kabila, masked a lamentable state of affairs in the province, the Kinshasa-based weekly 'La Tribune' reported at the weekend. Thousands of Congolese, including Kabila, paid tribute to Katwal in Lubumbashi on 27 February but many did so in honour of the president, who remained popular, and not his brother, for whom there was little respect, the paper said. "It is an established fact that the ANR-Katanga had become a real instrument of terror, reprisal and extortion," it said. "Arbitrariness was the order of the day." "At Lubumbashi town hall, there is a complete catastrophe. Insults, incivility and mismanagement have finally tarnished the image of this city," 'La Tribune' stated, adding that prices were skyrocketing and "mafia-types" were reasserting themselves to secure "unjustified accumulation of wealth". "The couldn't care less attitude" of the provincial administration was one reason "why the people are fervently calling for democracy," the report concluded.

Nairobi, 21 March 2000, 14:40 gmt


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