Burundi + 2 more

IRIN Update 888 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

RWANDA: President resigns

President Pasteur Bizimungu resigned from office on Thursday, citing "personal reasons" in his letter of resignation to the National Assembly. In a second letter, Bizimungu submitted his resignation as vice-president, executive committee member and political bureau member of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), but said he would continue to serve the movement as an ordinary party member, Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported. "I have tried my best to serve the movement and the country. At the same time, I ask your pardon for what may not have gone so well," he wrote to RPF president (and Rwandan Vice-President) Paul Kagame.

Bizimungu on Monday condemned parliament for the late announcement of the new Rwandan government - more than a month after the resignation of the former prime minister Pierre-Celestin Rwigema. "You chased away ministers, you chased away the speaker of parliament, you made a government fall... and I myself was almost sacked. There is a real problem with parliament's method of working," RNA quoted him as saying. Observers had noted differences between Bizimungu and Kagame over the composition of the new government, notably whether to keep Patrick Mazimhaka, the minister in the president's office. Mazimhaka, a close ally of Bizimungu's, was left out of the new government amid accusations of corruption.

RWANDA: Little shock at Bizimungu's departure

Bizumungu's resignation - on a day when speaker after speaker censured him in parliament - was scarcely unexpected. A western diplomat in Kampala told IRIN that his resignation was not a surprise in diplomatic and donor circles. "As early as November last year we expected Kagame to take over... it's not a typical coup or military takeover that can cause ripples in the international community."

RWANDA: Biruta to hold reins as acting president

Under the terms of the 1993 Arusha agreement on Rwanda's transition, the new Speaker of Parliament Vincent Biruta, from the Social Democratic Party, will serve as acting president for a period of three weeks. During that time, the RPF - which holds the presidential portfolio in the transitional government - will propose two candidates for the post of the president, on which the 18-member cabinet and 70-member national assembly will hold separate secret ballots. In the event of a stalemate, all parties in the transitional government will be asked to propose their candidates. The RPF would meet on Friday to decide on its two presidential candidates, General Secretary Charles Murigande told IRIN on Thursday. He also denied that there was any split in the party, and said Rwanda had the institutions in place to ensure a smooth succession.

RWANDA: 50,000 genocide victims to be buried

The remains of some 50,000 victims of the 1994 genocide are to be buried in a mass grave at a Kigali memorial site on 7 April, Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported on Wednesday. So far, over 14,000 remains had been unearthed from Nyamirambo and 5,800 from Biryogo suburbs for reburial, it quoted Nyarugenge commune leader Augustine Kampayana as saying. Sixty eight million Rwandan francs has been put aside to cover the cost of the reburial in Nyarugenge commune of Kigali Urban, Kampayana said. The government also intends to establish genocide memorial sites in 150 of the 151 communes in the country, RNA stated. Giti commune in Byumba prefecture, northern Rwanda, was the exception having never had participated in the slaughter, it added.

RWANDA: Government to set up compensation fund for genocide victims

Meanwhile, Rwandan Justice and Institutional Relations Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo announced that preparations were underway to establish a compensation fund for those affected by the genocide. Laws were being drawn up to cover the set-up and management of the fund "such that those who deserve compensation can start getting it," RNA on Wednesday quoted Mucyo as saying. "Different countries and organisations have expressed their willingness to contribute money as long as they are made to understand how the fund will be run," Mucyo added.

DRC: Security Council demands "immediate stop" to offensives

The UN Security Council on Wednesday expressed its deep frustration at renewed military offensives on several fronts in the DRC, and warned the combatants that the planned deployment of a 5,500-strong UN mission could not proceed amid renewed fighting. "Council members expressed their dismay at the new offensive launched in the province of Kasai, which resulted in the seizure of the town of Idumbe," Ambassador Anwar Karim Chowdhury of Bangladesh, who holds the Council's rotating presidency, said in a press statement.

The statement also noted Council members' deep concern about continued fighting in the provinces of Equateur, Katanga and Kivu, and reports of "widespread preparations being made for further military action, including training and significant rearmament." Demanding that all parties "put an immediate stop to fighting", council members emphasised that the UN's second phase deployment could not be completed in the midst of military actions. "If it is not safe, if hostilities resume, we of course know from past experience that that's no place to send peacekeepers," said Fred Eckhard, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet, is scheduled to give the Security Council a more detailed briefing next Tuesday after his return from a recent fact-finding visit to the region.

DRC: Masire blocked from visiting rebel-held areas

The facilitator of the inter-Congolese dialogue provided for by the Lusaka agreement, former President of Botswana Ketumile Masire, was on Wednesday prevented from travelling from Kinshasa to rebel held areas by the Congolese authorities, according to a BBC report. In a interview with the BBC on Thursday morning, Congolese Foreign Minister Yerodia Ndombasi said Masire had informed the government of his travel plans beforehand, and that a meeting had been scheduled with him to sort out the confusion. Masire was scheduled to travel to Gbadolite, headquarters of Jean-Pierre Bemba's Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC). From there, he was set to meet officials of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie - Mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML) in Bunia, and of the RCD in Goma. "This shows you that Kabila is a real problem to the peace process. Masire was coming here to get the views of the Congolese. Who is Kabila to stop him? These are not encouraging signs and the international community should take note of this; otherwise, we are back to nothing," an MLC official told IRIN on Thursday.

DRC: Fear of Lusaka's final failure growing

"The Lusaka Agreement could now collapse" in the face of ceasefires violations and more general failures to implement other steps towards an end to hostilities, analysts with 'Oxford Analytica' stated on Wednesday. "Real commitment to the ... peace initiative on the part of the many warring parties has yet to be established", and significant improvements in implementation will have to be achieved if the UN is even to consider expansion of its troop deployment. Meanwhile, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the DRC, Roberto Garreton, has stated in his latest report that, "until now, in operational matters, the only party to have fulfilled its obligations under the ceasefire agreement appears to be the United Nations.". He said there was a general perception throughout DRC that "the international community is not doing anything to end the conflict", yet there was no consensus on what it was that abstraction called 'the international community' should do.

DRC: Serious government and rebel rights abuses cited

Both the Congolese government and allied militias on the one hand, and rebels controlling eastern DRC on the other, "committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, such as murders and attacks on the civilian population, including the rape of non-combatant women" throughout 1999, Garreton's report said. In both government-controlled and rebel-held parts of the country, he said, it was "essential to put an end to the discretional authority, impunity and arbitrariness of the so-called 'security forces', which, to the population, means the exact opposite of what their name indicates."

The principal violations on the government and allied side were attacks on the civilian population, especially in the bombing of Kisangani, Zongo, Libenge, Goma and Uvira, and the murder of some 300 civilians in Mobe. There had also been sexual violence against women, specifically during the flight of the Forces armees congolaises (FAC) from Equateur Province at the start of last year. The continued use of a Military Court that failed to guarantee a fair trial, systematic use of torture, denial of free speech, enforced disappearances and summary executions were among the other serious rights violations noted.

The "cruellest and most violent actions" committed by the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) were "unspeakable massacres" of civilian populations throughout the year in revenge for acts committed by Mayi-Mayi nationalist guerillas, Garreton said. Many of these incidents occurred in North and South Kivu, with the RCD initially denying involvement and later acknowledging some of them as "unfortunate mistakes," his report added. In addition, there were incidents of arson and destruction, and the deportation to Rwanda and Uganda - or worse, 'disappearance' - of Mayi-Mayi fighters and others arrested during military operations, he said. "During his two visits to Goma and Bukavu,
the Special Rapporteur was struck by the prevailing climate of terror and humiliation in RCD-controlled territory," Garreton's report stated.

BURUNDI: Rights group calls for ICTR role

The international non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday railed against the proposal, floated at the latest round of Burundi peace talks in Arusha, for an amnesty for those who had committed crimes against humanity. "An amnesty in Burundi is exactly the wrong direction to take," HRW Executive Director for Africa Peter Takirambudde stated in a press release. "How can there be any hope of justice and order ... if crimes of this magnitude are left unpunished?"

Takirumbudde's report advocated the creation of a new division of the existing ICTR to prosecute crimes committed in Burundi, stating that Rwandan Hutus represented almost half the combatants in some rebel units operating around the capital, Bujumbura. "Many of them are soldiers of the former Rwandan government, responsible for the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda," it added. HRW also proposed the use of foreign jurists within Burundi's courts to speed up the judicial process for thousands of people accused of ethnic killings and other attacks since 1993. "If a peace is cobbled together without justice for Burundi, this will be felt throughout the region," Takirambudde warned.

BURUNDI: Army reported to be in step with peace process

The Burundi army is fully behind the country's ongoing peace process, Defence Minister Colonel Cyrille Ndayirukiye said on Wednesday after his return from South Africa, where he led a delegation from the Burundian army to meet the Arusha talks facilitator Nelson Mandela. The peace process and the defence forces were the centre of the talks, and delicate questions such as the integration of rebel forces into the regular army were discussed in South Africa, Burundi radio quoted Ndayiruke as saying. The delegation had pledged its support of the "internal and external peace processes," it added. Ndayiruke had not met the leader of the rebel CNDD-FDD, Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye, but was not opposed to doing so once "an appropriate framework was organised," the report added.

Nairobi, 23 March 2000, 15:00 gmt


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