IRIN Update 890 for the Great Lakes
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BURUNDI: Peace process resumes
The Burundi peace process resumed in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha on Monday, attended by several heads of state and the facilitator, Nelson Mandela. African leaders - including Presidents Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Pierre Buyoya of Burundi, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania and a Libyan cabinet minister - met in closed door session ahead of the meeting, Kenyan radio reported. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is also in Arusha, although he reportedly did not attend the closed door negotiations. Regional analysts point out the Arusha peace process has been given new momentum with the inclusion of armed rebel groups, although they were not present at this round of talks.
BURUNDI: No accord at this time - Buyoya
President Pierre Buyoya, speaking at Bujumbura airport on Sunday before leaving for Arusha, said that while the peace talks were at an advanced stage, there was not yet sufficient progress for a peace accord. "There will be no peace agreement at the meeting that starts tomorrow [Monday]...it is not possible," he said, according to Radio Umwizero, which broadcasts from Bujumbura. Buyoya noted that talks had not yet started on the issue of a ceasefire which had to precede the signing of a peace accord. "We have to tell Burundians to be realistic," he said. "Negotiations are always difficult in the last phase... indeed, I believe that we may conclude a peace accord in the coming months, but we are not there yet."
BURUNDI: Rebel FNL agrees to negotiate
The rebel Forces nationales de liberation (FNL), previously excluded from the Arusha peace process, has announced it will now take part in the talks, news organisations reported. The main rebel group Forces de defense pour la democratie (FDD) announced last week that it too would take part, following talks in South Africa with the mediator, Nelson Mandela, who has formally invited both movements to attend. FNL's leader Cossan Kabura was quoted as saying his main concern was the formation of a new army in Burundi. Top-ranking army officers are mostly drawn from the Tutsi minority. The FNL and FDD leaders would not be present at this current round of talks, given the short notice, but Mandela said they could attend the next round of negotiations, due on 25 April.
BURUNDI: Bujumbura cordoned off ahead of protest
Security forces cordoned off the capital Bujumbura over the weekend to head off a demonstration by anti-genocide groups opposed to aspects of the Arusha peace talks. The private Netpress news agency said the city was practically inaccessible by vehicle on Saturday and traders were angry over the loss of business. "The large number of police and gendarmes mingling with the demonstrators and pedestrians created confusion and nervousness among the people hemmed in the town centre," Netpress said. It described the demonstration itself as a success. Participants marched through the city, brandishing slogans such as "No negotiations with the genocidal terrorists", "No amnesty for the perpetrators of genocide", "No to the dismemberment of the national army", "No to the recolonisation of Burundi", "Burundi should be ruled by clean Tutsi, Hutu and Twa". The Agence burundaise de presse (ABP) said the demonstration had been banned by the Mayor of Bujumbura, Pie Ntiyankundiye, for security reasons.
RWANDA: Court confirms Kagame as acting president
The Supreme Court ruled at the weekend that Vice-President Paul Kagame should assume the duties of President of Rwanda until a successor was found to former President Pasteur Bizimungu, who resigned last Thursday. The court issued a statement on Saturday stating that "the project of agreement among political forces signed on 24 November 1994, which creates the post of vice-presidency, prevails over the Arusha peace accords signed in 1993 when the two are in conflict," Radio Rwanda reported. "The Protocol of Agreement says that the Vice-President assumes the duties of President when he is no longer able to carry out his duties as head of state," the report added. The Arusha accords stated that it was the Speaker of Parliament who should take over in those circumstances. A press release from the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) said its political bureau would reconvene on 1 April to nominate its two presidential candidates to succeed Bizimungu. A joint session of parliament and the cabinet will then choose between the two.
RWANDA: Kagame in talks with Mbeki
Meanwhile, Kagame flew to South Africa to meet President Thabo Mbeki in Pretoria on Saturday. Presidential spokeswoman Tasneem Carrim said the meeting lasted for about one hour, but was "a confidential discussion" on which she could not release any details, the South African news agency SAPA reported. However, it quoted government sources as saying that Mbeki had initiated the talks to seek a commitment from Kagame that the DRC would not be alone if it agreed to adhere to the Lusaka peace accord. Mbeki was also scheduled to meet Kabila within the next fortnight, at the DRC president's request, the report added.
RWANDA: Government scrutinising NGOs more closely
The government has indicated that international NGOs operating in Rwanda should submit thorough plans of action to assure that their activities benefit ordinary Rwandans. Local Government Minister Desire Nyandwi has also indicated that NGOs operating in Rwanda without license, or with expired contracts, should register by 31 March in order to continue to operate, RNA reported. "There is security in the whole country, which is beneficial not only to Rwandans but also those staying in the country. The government is ready to support NGOs in their activities as long as they fulfil all operational requirements," it quoted Nyandwi as saying.
These public warnings symbolised "an attempt to monitor NGOs more closely", which included the government getting "very, very specific about the information they wanted" in plans and reports, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Monday. Underlying the increased scrutiny of NGOs was an ongoing bid by the authorities to have them contribute towards security costs in the country; this was pressure to which the NGO forum in Rwanda was strongly opposed, since it considered the provision of adequatesecurity an essential operating condition, the sources in Kigali said. There are about 84 international NGOs in Rwanda, most of which are reported to be registered in line with government requirements.
RWANDA: Former minister pleads not guilty to genocide charges
Former Rwandan minister Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda on Friday pleaded not guilty to genocide charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. It said Kamuhanda, who was minister of higher education and scientific research during the 1994 genocide, answered not guilty to all nine charges against him at his initial appearance before the court. The prosecution said the suspect had "personally led attacks of soldiers and Interahamwe against Tutsi refugees in Kigali rural prefecture, notably on or about April 12th at the parish church and adjoining school in Gikomero," Hirondelle reported. Kamuhanda was arrested in France last November and transferred to Arusha on 7 March, it said.
RWANDA: US deports genocide suspect
A former pastor of a Seventh Day Adventist Church in Mugonero, Kibuye prefecture, has been deported from the United States to face trial at the ICTR, according to Hirondelle. The pastor, Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, is charged with taking part in massacres of Tutsis in Mugonero and Bisesero. He is a co-defendant with his son, Gerard, who is also in detention in Arusha, Hirondelle stated. Ntakirutimana, 76, was arrested in the US in 1996 but released 14 months later. He was arrested again in 1998 in Texas, where he was living.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Tension in Kisangani
The Rwandan-backed Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) has expressed its concern and annoyance at an alleged Ugandan military build-up in and around Kisangani, in a manner it claims is reminiscent of what preceded the August 1999 clashes between the Ugandan People's Defence Forces (UPDF) and the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA). The RCD claimed that, since the recent reshuffle in the UPDF command, the Ugandan army had reoccupied a military camp at Kapalata, in a position outside the terms of the Kabale agreement intended to resolve such tensions, and increased its presence in Kisangani town by two battalions, Radio Rwanda reported. RCD-Goma claimed a joint Rwandan-Ugandan military committee had stalled, and that hate pamphlets were being distributed by both elements of the Ugandan army and the RCD-Mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML), the report added. There had been increased tension in Kisangani of late, as inter-factional rivalry and defections became more evident, but there was no clear evidence of a military build-up, military sources told IRIN on Monday.
DRC: MLC officials get military training
Senior officials of the Mouvement de Liberation du Congo (MLC) have been undergoing intensive military training at Goloma, the Uganda-backed rebel movement said. In a report received by IRIN on Friday, the MLC said its secretary-general, Olivier Kamitatu, and more than 30 other top officials and managers were being trained in the use of AK-47 automatic rifles, marksmanship principles, maps, field signals and other military skills. The training started on 5 March under the leadership of "allied" instructors, supervised by Congolese colonel Gedeon Kibonge, it stated. "With this training, the political officers will now be able to serve as an interface between soldiers and civilians," the report added.
DRC: Former Mobutist soldiers released
Eighty-nine prisoners were reportedly released on Friday in the Buluo area of Likasi, near Lubumbashi, following an amnesty decree by Kabila. Those released included a number of former officers of the Forces armees zairoises (FAZ), Congolese television reported. Justice Minister Mwenze Kongolo was in Buluo to chair the ceremony, and was expected to travel to Kasapa prison on Saturday to oversee the release of another 100 former soldiers, the report added.
Nairobi, 27 March 2000, 14:30 gmt
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