Burundi + 2 more

IRIN Update 894 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
Fax: +254 2 622129
e-mail: irin@ocha.unon.org

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Banyamulenge at "imminent risk", group warns

Hate speech and communal violence directed against Congolese Tutsi Banyamulenge have increased alarmingly in North and South Kivu provinces, setting the stage for a "bloody confrontation" that could potentially engulf the entire Great Lakes region, Refugees International said on Thursday. In a statement, it said an estimated 150,000 Banyamulenge were now at "imminent risk" of violent attack by Mayi-Mayi militia. The promotion of ethnic tensions by President Laurent-Desire Kabila threatened to bring down the Lusaka Accords and to "plunge Congo back into full-scale war", it stated.

"Feelings are running at fever pitch" since the rebel RCD-Goma refused to permit Bishop Emmanuel Kataliko to return to his Bukavu diocese, and public sentiment against the Banyamulenge had now "turned ugly". The statement cited the recent example of a dog killed and dragged behind a car in Bukavu with crowds shouting, "This is how you treat Tutsis!".
Refugees International called on religious leaders, RCD authorities and the diplomatic community to take steps to calm tensions in the Kivus and avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.

DRC: "Stage set for genocide", Banyamulenge warn

In a message to the UN Secretary-General, the Banyamulenge organisation Forces Républicaines et Fédéralistes (FRF) warned that the stage was set for a "genocide" of the Banyamulenge. A copy of the message, received by IRIN on Friday, said the Banyamulenge had been "gratuitously used as a tool" by Rwanda and "dehumanised" by DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila. The war in DRC could not be resolved for three reasons: the "dictatorial methods" of the Kinshasa regime which supplied the armed militias to keep itself in power; the "foreign occupation" of the country and the
"manipulated rebellion which plays on local conflicts to justify its presence; the presence of armed militias in the Kivus which "teach the ideology of genocide" to various ethnic groups. The message appealed to the international community to "stop the large-scale violation of human rights in eastern DRC". The FRF called on Kofi Annan to appoint a special
envoy for the Kivus and to help organise a round-table conference of the different ethnic groups in Kivu.

DRC: Fighting reported in Zongo

The town of Zongo in northwest DRC, near the Central African Republic border, was bombed by government forces on Wednesday, according to Radio Bunia of the rebel RCD-ML. The group's communications adviser, Museme Dini, told IRIN on Friday that seven people were killed and buildings destroyed in the raid. "This sends a message to the world that Kabila is not interested in the peace process," he said. On the reported tension in Kisangani, Dini added that until elections for the governor and other local leaders were organised and the town was completely demilitarised "tension will remain". "Unfortunately our friends from Goma and their Rwandan allies do not realise this," he said.

DRC: Opposition leader arrested

The leader of the opposition Force novatrices pour l'union et la solidarite (FONUS), Joseph Olenghankoy, was arrested at his home in Kinshasa on Thursday, news agencies reported. Reuters quoted a FONUS official as saying that Olenghankoy was under detention at police headquarters in the city. He had recently told a press conference that President Laurent-Desire Kabila was a "major obstacle to peace and national unity". Olenghankoy was released from prison last year following a previous arrest in January 1998 on charges of violating a ban on political parties imposed by Kabila.

DRC: Government says rights abusers "enjoying immunity"

The root cause of human rights violations committed in the DRC remained the war and aggression against the country, government representative Francois Mukundi told the UN Human Rights Commission on Wednesday. Mukundi said that most human rights violations in the DRC were committed by Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda, and the perpetrators were "enjoying immunity", according to a UN press release on the Commission's current session in Geneva. Mukundi cited several massacres in the east of the country, which represented a "terrible level of barbarism", the press release stated. Most human rights violations by Congolese authorities could also be explained by the war situation in the country, Mukundi added.

Meanwhile, UN Human Rights Rapporteur Roberto Garreton said massive abuses had been carried out by all warring sides in the DRC. "The presence of nine regular armies and several armed groups, particularly the Interahamwe and Mayi-Mayi militias, has created and continues to create a climate of violence and extreme insecurity", Garreton said in his oral presentation to the commission.

BURUNDI: Government says it didn't get "sermon"

The Burundian government has reacted to press reports implying that President Pierre Buyoya had received a critical "sermon" from peace process facilitator Nelson Mandela during this week's talks in Arusha. In a statement, received by IRIN on Friday, the government said Mandela's comments "did not resemble anything like a sermon against the Burundian president". In an address to the negotiating parties in Arusha, Mandela had called on the government to close regroupment camps and free political prisoners. But Mandela had indicated that Buyoya's government remained an important ally for the completion of the peace process, the statement said.

BURUNDI: Minister claims progress on human rights

Minister for Human Rights and Institutional Reforms Eugene Nindorera told the UN Human Rights Commission on Thursday that while Burundi had been besieged by armed conflict, civil war and massive violations of human rights for more than six years, the government could still "bring an end to the meaningless war" and establish a peaceful society. Nindorera said the government's promotion of rights over the last 12 months had brought progress on human rights, a UN press release stated. Among other things, a new code of criminal procedure to guarantee rights and end abuses related to detention had been put in place, he said. In April, the Council of Ministers would be studying a draft text aimed at creating a governmental commission on human rights which would have the power to hold the judiciary and government ministries accountable on alleged rights violations, he said. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burundi, Marie-Therese Keita-Bocoum, said this week that as the conflict intensified, human rights violations by both the army and the rebels were on the rise.

BURUNDI: Discussions on "committee five" underway in Arusha

Parties to the Burundi peace talks in Arusha have begun discussions on the formation of committee five, that will be charged with ensuring implementation of the anticipated peace accord. "This committee is important because whatever decisions we reach in Arusha, there must be guarantees that they will be implemented," Mathias Hitimana, president of the monarchist PRP party told IRIN on Friday. "These guarantees will offer a sense of security to leaders of different political organisations and rebel groups who are not sure of their personal safety upon return to Burundi. Every delegate is participating in the discussions with keen interest."

RWANDA: Extradited pastor pleads not guilty

A genocide suspect extradited from the United States last week pleaded not guilty on Friday at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, the Internews agency reported. Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, former pastor of a Seventh Day Adventist Church in Kibuye prefecture, was the first person the US has extradited to a non-sovereign entity such as an international court, Internews said. The 76-year-old pastor is accused of having urged Tutsis to hide in his church during the 1994 genocide and then summoning Hutus to kill them, it reported.

RWANDA: Efforts underway to strengthen judicial system

A new recruitment policy for magistrates based on merit and quality will be in place by mid-year as part of efforts to build a strong and professional Rwandan judiciary, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported on Thursday. "We need to strengthen our courts and enable them to acquire modern standards, our courts must be oriented to international standards," RNA quoted judicial sources as saying. It said concerned government organs would be informed of the judicial system's current weaknesses so that "necessary decisions can be made to ensure better performance".

RWANDA: UN expert says genocide trauma remains

The Rwandan public remained traumatised from the 1994 genocide, and that affected people's behaviour, thinking and actions, Michel Moussalli, Special Representative on Rwanda for the UN High Commission for Human Rights, told the body's annual session in Geneva on Thursday. The institutions and the authorities of Rwanda should be encouraged "to put in place conditions under which the population could look forward to peace, coexistence and reconciliation", a UN press statement quoted Moussalli as saying. He said the government's efforts to promote human rights were commendable, and that some of them were already bearing fruit. Nevertheless, "those efforts risked being in vain if the countries of the region did not come forward to resolve the profound crisis among them and the mortal conflict which had affected all their populations", Moussalli added.

Rwandan Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo told the commission that peaceful coexistence required justice, and "one of the problems in bringing those responsible to court was that there were so many guilty people". Rwanda was in the process of resolving this through a compromise between traditional and conventional justice, he said. He urged UN member states to arrest presumed murderers in their territories so that they could be tried. Since the international community bore some responsibility for the tragic events of 1994, it was legitimate for Rwanda to seek assistance in the form of a mini-Marshall Plan for economic and social recovery, Mucyo added.

Nairobi, 31 March 2000, 14:10 gmt

[ENDS]

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