Burundi + 2 more

IRIN Update 895 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: Fighting continues in Kasai

The Goma-based rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) claimed on Sunday to have killed at least 20 government soldiers in repelling attacks on Maloba and Kisele in Kasai. "We're fighting every day. There is no ceasefire," the Associated Press (AP) quoted RCD spokesman Kin-Kiey Mulumba as saying. Many of the continuing ceasefire violations in the DRC at the moment were centred around Kasai, with the situation around Kananga, Mbuji-Mayi and Kabinda particularly worrying, independent military sources told IRIN on Monday. There had also been reliable reports of attacks by Mayi-Mayi militia around Kasese, they added.

DRC: 'Status of forces' agreement essential - Annan

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday told a closed consultation of the Security Council that the early conclusion of a status of forces agreement with the Congolese government was essential before the full second-phase deployment of the UN Observer Mission to the DRC (MONUC) could proceed, according to UN spokesman Fred Eckhard. The relocation of the Joint Military Commission (JMC), mandated with implementing the Lusaka ceasefire agreement, from its provisional headquarters in the Zambian capital Lusaka to the DRC capital Kinshasa was also vital, Annan stated. MONUC had indicated last month that, while the JMC should ideally be "co-located with the MONUC headquarters in Kinshasa", the legitimate security concerns of some of the belligerents meant that it would continue to operate in Lusaka for the time being.

DRC: UN warns of dire humanitarian situation in the east

The UN's Assistant Emergency Relief Coordinator Ross Mountain told donors and journalists in Nairobi on Monday that the humanitarian situation in eastern DRC was "dire." Civilians were caught up in a war that involved national and regional groups vying for control of the territory, which had left more than 500,000 people displaced, he said. Mountain was speaking after conducting a humanitarian assessment mission in eastern DRC most of last week. He said one of the most pressing questions was "how to carve out greater humanitarian space and with that space how to gain greater support for humanitarian activities" in the Kivus. Rather than being offered protection, civilians were targeted by all parties to the conflict, while humanitarian agencies had no access to some 50 percent of the population in need of assistance, Mountain said. On a slightly more positive note, all parties understood the need to assist vulnerable people - regardless of their location - and had committed themselves to the Principles of Engagement for Emergency Humanitarian Assistance that guide relief operations in the DRC, he added.

DRC: Opposition group rejects election plan

The government of President Laurent-Desire Kabila has set 10 May as the date for parliamentary elections in the DRC, news agencies reported on Sunday. AP quoted Interior Minister Gaetan Kakudji as saying a five-member government office would organise the vote for a 300-seat transitional parliament in government-held areas. However, major opposition parties have said they will not take part. "The Kabila government is trying to bypass the Lusaka peace accord," Raphael Kashala, an official in the Brussels office of the opposition Union pour la democratie et le progres social (UDPS), told IRIN on Monday. "It is not reasonable to talk about parliamentary elections in a divided country," he said. The priority should be on stopping hostilities and organising inter-Congolese negotiations leading to a new political order, as called for in the Lusaka accord, Kashala added.

Meanwhile, Kashala said that UDPS leader Etienne Tshisekedi was now in Brussels and would be travelling on to other European countries, Canada and the US in the coming weeks. He planned to return to the DRC once "structures were in place" for the inter-Congolese negotiations, he said.

DRC: Revisions to political party law possible

Kabila has said that the 1998 decree regulating the creation of political parties in the DRC could be revised by a future parliament, news agencies reported. In an address broadcast on Congolese state television last week, Kabila said the decree was "a law like any other law, and perhaps, if the circumstances of the moment so demand, it can undergo amendments." He said such a task would be "the prerogative" of a constituent and legislative assembly. Reacting to recommendations of a church-organised national consultation meeting held recently in Kinshasa, Kabila also said he supported the establishment of a transitional parliament "to facilitate our country's democratisation process", but the Comites du pouvoir populaire (CPPs) he set up last year would continue to be state funded. He said his government would also take into account the meeting's recommendation that the Lusaka ceasefire agreement be revised.

RWANDA: Judges reverse Barayagwiza decision

The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Friday reversed its decision to release genocide suspect Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza on procedural grounds. "The appeals chamber decided today that Barayagwiza will stand trial for genocide and related charges brought against him," UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said. In its revised decision, the appeals chamber still found that the accused's rights had been violated, but "on a considerably smaller scale than it had deemed" in its 3 November 1999 decision that had ordered his immediate release, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. The appeals' judges ruled that the violation of Barayagwiza's rights should be taken into account at the time of his judgement.

The ICTR prosecutor in February had applied for a review of the chamber's November decision, on the basis that she had "new facts". Among other things, the new facts clarified the period that Barayagwiza had been held without being informed of the charges against him and revealed factors that delayed his transfer to Arusha in 1997 following his 1996 arrest in Cameroon, Hirondelle said.

RWANDA: Ruling is "victory" for genocide victims

Rwanda's representative to the ICTR, Martin Ngoga, hailed the appeal chamber's decision not to free Barayagwiza, saying it was a victory for genocide victims, Hirondelle reported. Speaking to journalists on Friday, Ngoga said the decision "restores justice and revives the hope of genocide survivors who had lost hope and trust in this Tribunal." But he said the ruling provided a "lesson" to the prosecution to avoid similar scenarios in the future. "The prosecution still has a long way to go in terms of assessing the efficiency and capability of its personnel," Hirondelle quoted him as saying. Rwanda last year had temporarily suspended its cooperation with the ICTR in protest at the November decision.

Meanwhile, Friday's ruling contained declarations making it clear that the judges' revised decision had nothing to do with politics, the Arusha-based Internews agency reported. "I refute most strenuously the suggestion that in reaching decisions, political considerations should play a persuasive or governing role," it quoted appeal Judge Nieto Navia as saying.

RWANDA: Kagame is first choice for president

The political bureau of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has proposed acting President and Defence Minister Paul Kagame, as well as RPF General Secretary Charles Murigande, as its presidential candidates to succeed Pasteur Bizimungu, who resigned on 23 March. Kagame secured 74 of 75 votes cast, and Murigande was added as a second RPF candidate because of the legal requirement that there be two, Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported. Within eight days of the names being presented to parliament and the cabinet, a joint session of the two bodies is scheduled to elect the fifth Rwandan president since independence. Political parties had collectively requested that the RPF propose Kagame as president, and that suggestion had been supported by an extraordinary meeting last week of local leaders, women and youth representatives with prefecture heads, RNA stated. Kagame, who held the real power in Rwanda in any case, was always in a strong position to assume the presidency after Bizimingu's resignation because there was no credible Hutu in the RPF to take the former president's place, according to regional analysts.

RWANDA: Genocide convicts sentenced

Eight people convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity were sentenced to death in Cyangugu court, southwestern Rwanda, on Friday. Seven other people were sentenced to life imprisonment, seven were given jail sentences of between 11 and 20 years, and six people were acquitted, Radio Rwanda reported. Those convicted were given 15 days' leave to appeal, the report added. Since 1996, some 300 people have been sentenced to death from more than 2,500 convicted on genocide charges but there have been no executions since April 1998 when 22 people were publicly put to death, AP said.

BURUNDI: Committee negotiations to resume this month

The second and fifth committees of the Burundi peace process will resume their negotiations in Arusha on 10 and 17 April, respectively, news agencies reported. Mark Bomani, representative of peace talks' facilitator Nelson Mandela, told journalists on Friday at the conclusion of the latest round of Arusha negotiations that he hoped the third committee would also resume its work this month, with the participation for the first time of armed rebels of the Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD) and the Forces nationales de liberation (FNL). "Committee Three will be meeting on a day to be decided after the armed groups have had their consultations," Hirondelle quoted Bomani as saying. The second committee is charged with negotiating the nature of a transition government, while the newly-created fifth committee is addressing measures to guarantee the implementation of the peace agreement. The third committee deals with peace and security issues.

BURUNDI: Buyoya reassures army

President Pierre Buyoya on Friday said that, while he was optimistic about the outcome of the Arusha peace process, a peace accord could not be concluded at the expense of the army, the Burundi news agency ABP reported. It quoted Buyoya as saying that it would be "paradoxical" to search for peace and, at the same time, "throw the army in the street." He urged the army not to listen to "some politicians who may lead them into dead ends," ABP said.

BURUNDI: Soldier held after civilian killings

The army has arrested a soldier who killed a local government official and four members of his family in Rushibi district, 12 km north of the capital Bujumbura, on Saturday night. The soldier would be tried for the killings, an apparent revenge attack after a colleague was killed by Hutu rebels, Reuters reported on Monday, citing an army statement. "Rebels killed one of our troops and I think the soldier retaliated on those civilians in anger," it quoted one of the soldiers involved in the fighting as saying. There were also clashes between army units and rebel fighters at Nyambuye hill, close to Bujumbura, on Saturday night, news organisations reported.

Nairobi, 3 April 2000, 16:30 gmt

[ENDS]

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