Burundi + 3 more

IRIN Update 893 for the Great Lakes

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UNITED NATIONS
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

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Banyamulenge said surrounded by Mayi-Mayi

Mayi-Mayi militia forces have reportedly surrounded the Moyen Plateau area of South Kivu and have launched attacks against the ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge population there, independent humanitarian sources told IRIN on Thursday. The Mayi-Mayi are said to be under Zimbabwe's command, and Banyamulenge sources have reported a large loss of life. There has been no independent confirmation of the deaths, but the Banyamulenge community in South Kivu on 19 February issued a statement warning that a "campaign to exterminate" them was being planned. Anti-Banyamulenge leaflets have been distributed in Bukavu and the anti-Tutsi hate station Radio Patriote has resumed its broadcasts. The humanitarian sources told IRIN that 700 Banyamulenge have fled to the Burundi capital, Bujumbura, since the beginning of the year. A further 200 families arrived at Bwagera in the Rusizi plain of South Kivu, but since the Mayi-Mayi surrounded the Moyen Plateau, very few people have been able to leave. About 200 more families have apparently been rounded up in Uvira by the Rwandan army and prevented from crossing the border into Burundi. According to the Banyamulenge, the Rwandan authorities want them to go to Rwanda, rather than to Burundi. Observers note that relations between the Banyamulenge and the Rwandan army have been steadily declining since last year.

DRC: Belligerents urge funding approval for MONUC

Countries on opposing sides of the DRC conflict on Wednesday urged the UN General Assembly to authorise adequate resources for the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC). Speaking at a meeting of the Assembly's administrative and budgetary committee, which is considering a proposed US $200 million initial cost requirement for MONUC, the representative of Uganda expressed concern about the "foot-dragging" that had been witnessed up to now regarding MONUC's deployment. A UN press release quoted him as saying that emphasising the need for peace before a peacekeeping operation could be sent was a way to "marginalise" Africa. The Zimbabwean representative told the committee that the Lusaka ceasefire agreement needed to be supported "expeditiously". The fact that the accord had "run on its own steam" for so long was indicative of its strength, he said.

BURUNDI: Reported rise in rights violations

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burundi, Marie-Therese Keita-Bocoum, has said that as the conflict intensified, human rights violations were also on the rise by both the army and the rebels. In a briefing to the UN Human Rights Commission, she said she recommended that the Burundi authorities deal with "forced displacement", as well as increasing resources for social action and the rights of women. She also urged the international community to step up humanitarian assistance to Burundi and to set up programmes to combat impunity and irregularities in the justice system. Countries of the region were encouraged to take measures against arms trafficking.

BURUNDI: FDD sticks to its demands

The rebel Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD) on Wednesday said the group had not waived its conditions for taking part in the Arusha peace process. In an interview with the Arusha-based Internews service, FDD spokesman Jerome Ndiho said the movement still insisted on the dismantling of the regroupment camps and the release of political prisoners. He said the facilitator, Nelson Mandela, had assured FDD leader Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye that he would "do his best to ensure these conditions are met". "We hope that we will, as soon as possible, get the draft compromise," Ndiho said. "We will look at it line by line, and see if it is in accordance with the 1992 constitution. If it is different from what the people decided their right to be, we will refuse." He added that FDD was not ready to "let go of our target and our aim".

Meanwhile, the mainstream rebel Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD) - from which the FDD split in 1998 - affirmed it had no problem with the FDD's participation in the Arusha process. "We are not worried about them coming," said CNDD spokesman Jean-Marie Sindayigaya. "When we started CNDD we were together and we agree on the main issues."

BURUNDI: Delegates unimpressed by draft accord

Some delegates to the Arusha peace process have said they are not happy with the 200-page draft accord delivered to them by the mediators this week, saying it contains nothing new. "We don't regard this as a draft agreement but as a compilation of different positions stated by the different delegations negotiating here," Godefroid Hakizimana , president of the pro-Tutsi Social Democratic party (PSD) told AFP. CNDD spokesman Jean- Marie Sindayigaya agreed. "This draft is nothing new compared with the documents that were distributed at the end of February," he told the news agency. "It's a compilation ... of the work we have already done." Issues still under discussion include army reform, the future electoral system and transitional arrangements.

BURUNDI: Signs of press liberalisation

There are signs of some press liberalisation in Burundi, following sharp criticism by Mandela over media restrictions in the country. Last Thursday, the opposition FRODEBU newspaper 'La Lumiere' asked why the regroupment camps had still not been dismantled. It noted that President Pierre Buyoya had pledged to close the camps, but wondered whether this was "by conviction or to appease the international community". "Few camps have been dismantled, and those which have are not significant," the paper wrote. "Why hasn't the government followed up its words by concrete deeds?" It recalled that Buyoya had told a news conference the camps could not all be closed unless security returned, "yet these people were reportedly displaced to allow the armed forces to better maintain security".

'La Verite', a pro-PARENA newspaper of radical Tutsis opposed to Buyoya, warned that unless a peace agreement was signed soon "shells and bullets will rain down us". It said during a recent meeting with the vice-president, "young Hutus did not mince their words: the [peace] accords threaten to put a gun to our heads". "We hope the ruling power in Bujumbura will have the good sense to allow us to benefit from Mozambique's experience where the [rebel] RENAMO [forces] became part of the national army after 16 years of war without the rebellion getting the upper hand," the paper said. Otherwise, it warned, FDD leader Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye "will stay underground forever". Observers point out that PARENA leader and former president Jean-Baptiste Bagaza is keen to resume a leading role in Burundian politics - hence PARENA's pact with the external wing of FRODEBU - and to this end requires the early signing of a peace accord so as not to lose the momentum.

RWANDA: Ugandan MPs to visit

Ugandan members of parliament are due to visit Rwanda on a fact-finding mission, Rwandan officials confirmed to IRIN on Thursday. "Yes, we received a communication from the chairman of the Ugandan parliamentary committee on presidential and foreign affairs informing us about their visit," said Dr Theogene Rudasingwa, political adviser to Defence Minister Paul Kagame. He said the visit was due to take place on 14 April.

The chairman of the Ugandan parliamentary committee Elly Karuhanga told IRIN he was leading to a four-man delegation to Rwanda "to find out what is going on by interacting with both the leadership and parliamentarians". "Rwanda is our neighbour and the Ugandan parliament, as the voice of the Ugandan people, needs to be better informed about developments in Rwanda," he said. He added that areas of interest included current political developments after the resignation of President Pasteur Bizimungu, reported tension between troops from both countries in the DRC town of Kisangani and the implementation of the Lusaka peace agreement. The findings would be used to judge Uganda's relations with Rwanda. "We shall use our findings to criticise or congratulate our government depending on what we find out," he said. Observers say some Rwandan officials believe the visit amounts to interference in Rwanda's affairs.

RWANDA: Parties endorse Kagame as president

Representatives of approved political parties in Rwanda have called on the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) to nominate Defence Minister Paul Kagame as the country's new president, following the resignation of Pasteur Bizimungu, Rwandan radio reported on Thursday. Kagame is currently acting president until the RPF - which holds the presidency according to the 1993 Arusha agreement - nominates two contenders. A press release issued by the parties in the transitional government said Kagame "manifested the capability of a stable leader trusted by all Rwandans and respected by other foreign countries". "He led the RPF and the government of national unity during difficult times, and showed patriotism, heroism, sacrifice and intelligence."

RWANDA: Genocide suspect says rights violated

Lawyers for genocide suspect Jerome Bicamumpaka on Tuesday called on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to order their client's immediate release on the grounds that his rights were violated following his 1996 arrest, the Hirondelle news agency reported. Bicamumpaka "remained ignorant of the charges against him" for some 100 days following his arrest in Cameroon, Hirondelle quoted defence lawyer Francine Veilleux as telling the Court. She said Bicamumpaka, who was Rwanda's minister of foreign affairs during the 1994 genocide, was "abandoned" in Cameroon until 31 July 1999, before his transfer to the ICTR detention facilities in the Tanzanian town of Arusha. The prosecution replied that the accused was misinterpreting the rights accorded to him by ICTR's regulations, Hirondelle added.

RWANDA: Protesters in Canada call for suspect's extradition

Meanwhile, Rwandan-Canadian youth activists protested outside the Canadian parliament in the capital Ottawa on Wednesday to demand the arrest of alleged genocide instigator Leon Mugesera, news agencies reported. The Associated Press (AP) said dozens of protesters called on Canada to send Mugesera back to Rwanda to stand trial. Mugesera, a former presidential advisor, fled Rwanda for Canada before the 1994 genocide and was given refugee status in 1993, AP said. He was ordered deported from Canada in 1996 but has remained in the country during the appeals process.

RWANDA: Government unlikely to meet COMESA tariff deadline

The Rwandan government is unlikely to meet a 1 October deadline to implement zero tariffs, as recommended by the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), Rwandan radio reported. It cited Finance Minister Donat Kaberuka as saying that although Rwanda supported regional integration, the "cost is high". He was speaking on his return from a COMESA meeting of finance ministers in Mauritius. "Most countries, when they take such steps of reducing tariffs to zero, compensate by using higher internal taxes like value added tax (VAT)." He warned that country would lose income and that some Rwandan industries could have difficulties adjusting to the new competition. "Therefore, behind this very good objective of regional integration, we have to see what are the compensation mechanisms for countries like Rwanda," he said.

Meanwhile, Rwandan radio on Thursday reported that the cabinet had approved the introduction of VAT aimed at "removing the complicated multiplicity of taxes and introducing as much equity as possible in the tax system".

RWANDA: Russia reportedly building helicopter for presidency

The Kazan helicopter plant (KZV) in Russia is to supply an MI-17-IV helicopter to the Rwandan presidency next month, a plant official told the Russian news agency Itar-Tass on Wednesday. According to the official, the plant has supplied similar helicopters to the presidents of eight countries over the past five years. A Rwandan military official on Thursday confirmed the news to IRIN but refused to comment further on "matters of military procurement".

UGANDA: Refugees return to Rwanda

Fifty-one refugees were repatriated to Rwanda from camps in southwest Uganda on Tuesday, a UNHCR official told IRIN. A convoy with the 18 returnee families went through Miroma Hill in Ntungamo district and reached Rwanda safely, the official said on Thursday. No further repatriations from the camps were currently planned, she added.

Nairobi, 30 March 2000, 14:05 gmt

[ENDS]

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