IRIN Update No. 418 for Central and Eastern Africa

Report
from IRIN
Published on 18 May 1998
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

IRIN Update No. 418 for Central and Eastern Africa

CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: Ugandan, Eritrean leaders in Kigali, snub Kabila

The presidents of Uganda and Eritrea met Rwandan leaders in Kigali on Saturday, missing a planned regional summit in Kinshasa amid mounting speculation regarding President Laurent-Desire Kabila's isolation. Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Isayas Afewerki of Eritrea held "routine consultations" with Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame, press reports said. Rwandan radio quoted spokesman Joseph Bideri as saying the talks had been planned for several weeks. Another spokesman, Patrick Mazimhaka, cited by AP, declined to comment on whether the talks included Eritrea's border dispute with Ethiopia. Newly-appointed Ugandan State Communication Minister Rebecca Kadaga, cited by the 'Sunday Vision', said "wrong procedures were followed in organising the [Kinshasa] summit". She said there should have been "prior consultation", adding "we could not just drop our programmes to go to Kinshasa".

Cancellation of Kinshasa summit shows regional cracks

The 'EastAfrican' weekly today (Monday) recalled that the row between Eritrea and Ethiopia was the reason given for Kinshasa's cancellation of the summit on Friday. However, according to the newspaper, most of the invitees - some 16 regional countries - gave "lukewarm" responses. Differences reportedly emerged at an earlier regional meeting when the Democratic Republic of Congo invited Sudanese security officials. Sudan's presence is said to have upset delegates from Rwanda and Uganda, while Ethiopia and Eritrea boycotted the meeting. The 'EastAfrican' says that since Kabila came to power, his neighbours have complained about DRC's failure to flush out rebels who frequently attack Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The three countries were instrumental in the victory of Kabila's Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberatio of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) against the late ruler Mobutu Sese Seko. Rwanda and Uganda were apparently also annoyed at the inclusion of Burundi President Pierre Buyoya. Officials in Kinshasa have denied poor regional relations prompted the cancellation. Foreign Minister Bizima Karaha told the newspaper that the meeting "will still take place at a date to be announced".

Horn conflict impacts on region

Meanwhile, the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea took on greater regional dimensions over the weekend. In addition to the Eritrean president's visit to Rwanda, Sudan appealed for restraint. Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail, addressing a Khartoum news conference on Saturday, urged both countries to "solve their existing problems through peaceful dialogue". "Any military action in any part of the region leads to instability in the whole region and, moreover, the influx of refugees," he said.

A top US official arrived in Asmara on Saturday on a mediation mission, as the row between the two Horn of Africa countries appeared to escalate. Susan Rice, deputy US Secretary of State for African Affairs, met Eritrean officials before moving on to Addis Ababa on Sunday. However, later reports indicated the mediation mission had failed and Rice left the Ethiopian capital today. Ethiopia accuses Eritrean troops of moving into the northwest Humera region, a disupted area between the two states. According to Ethiopian radio on Sunday, 370 residents of Badme had fled their homes. A local official quoted by the radio, claimed Eritrean troops had destroyed buildings in the disputed Badme and Sheraro areas, and taken a number of people hostage. The Eritrean government denies the allegations. In a statement last week, it claimed Ethiopian troops had instead entered the area and "triggered a cycle of clashes". Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin today rejected talks with the Eritrean government "while its troops are violating the Ethiopian border".

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Many achievements in first year, Kabila says

The Kinshasa regional summit was meant to coincide with celebrations on Sunday to mark the first anniversary of Kabila's accession to power. In an address to mark the occasion, broadcast live by DRC television, Kabila stressed the achievements of his first year in power. He said food supplies had been restored, the currency stabilised and security improved. Kabila reiterated that the ban on political parties would be lifted ahead of elections. "We shall no longer have the tribal parties which existed in the past," he said, adding that "many criteria" would be applicable when forming parties. Kabila also took issue with those who criticised DRC's human rights record. He said human rights violations occurred more frequently under the previous regime "and nobody said anything about them".

KENYA: Former Rwandan minister Sendashonga murdered

Former Rwandan interior minister Seth Sendashonga was gunned down in his car in Nairobi on Saturday. His Rwandan driver was also killed. The attackers, armed with AK-47 rifles, managed to escape. Kenyan police said they believed the murder was a political assassination as nothing was stolen from the vehicle. Sendashonga, widely described as a moderate Hutu, served in the new Rwandan government after the RPF victory of 1994, but was sacked in August 1995 after complaining about Hutu detentions. He fled to Kenya, where he joined the exiled opposition party Forces de resistance pour la democratie (FRD). In 1996, he survived a first assassination attempt in Nairobi, which he blamed on the RPF. Speaking after that incident, he said he believed it was related "to the hostilities that emerged after I left the government". The incident led to a break in relations between Rwanda and Kenya, after a Rwandan diplomat was implicated.

Rwandan exiles condemn murder

Former Rwandan prime minister Faustin Twagiramungu, also a leading member of the FRD, told AFP on Saturday: "I'm pointing to the RPF and its government". Speaking in Brussels, he alleged "professionals were sent to carry out this dirty piece of work." Other exiled Rwandan groups also expressed outrage over the murder. The Brussels-based Centre de lutte contre l'impunite et l'injustice au Rwanda, in a fax received by IRIN today, blamed the attack on the Rwandan external security office (ESO). It warned against "further assassinations " of Rwandan refugees "who express the slightest criticism of the Rwandan regime". Another group, Nouvelle Esperance pour le Rwanda (NOUER), based in Lausanne Switzerland, also accused the Rwandan authorities and called on the international community to search for a lasting solution to "the never-ending tragedy of the Rwandan people".

Rwanda denies involvement

The Rwandan foreign ministry today denied any involvement the killing. "The Rwandan government did not order this assassination because Mr Sendashonga was not a problem for us," Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana said. He added that Rwanda "has lost a worthy man and a well-known political figure". Rwandan presidential spokesman Joseph Bideri, in comments carried by the Kenyan 'Daily Nation' today said the incident "is a Kenyan affair and Kenyan jurisdiction". "It is unfortunate that a Rwandese has been killed, but it happened outside our borders," he said.

Sendashonga due to testify before ICTR

The Hirondelle news agency in Arusha today reported that Sendashonga was due to testify before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). According to French defence lawyer Pascal Besnier, Sendashonga had agreed to appear for the defence in the cases of genocide suspects Clement Kayishema and Obed Ruzindana and had been contacted by their lawyers a week before his murder. He had requested that the date of his testimony be retained for security reasons.

SUDAN: UN postpones Nuba mountains assessment

An Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) official told IRIN today that the UN's assessment mission to rebel and government-held areas of the Nuba mountains has had to be postponed. The visit, due to start Wednesday, has been held up while details are worked out to enable the mission to work on both sides of the conflict. The official told IRIN plans were still on track for a mission "hopefully in early June."

Journalists returning from a weekend visit to the Nuba mountains area of southern Sudan, report a stable humanitarian situation, but widespread displacement due to a government policy of grouping the population in "peace villages". A spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in the area told AFP the region was suffering from a "blockade". An aid worker with CONCERN stressed to the BBC it was important for new aid operations to be sensitive to the self-reliance of the Nuba people, after their years of isolation. A recent NGO assessment report on the Nuba mountains, quoted by Nairobi-based Sudan Catholic Information Office (SCIO) last week, indicated that 20,000 people may need food assistance in two locations after suffering 70-80 percent harvest failures.

New offensive in Blue Nile

The BBC reports a new SPLA offensive in eastern Blue Nile state. According to a correspondent reporting from Wadega, five government-held positions have been captured from Khartoum forces in the last 10 days. Government military spokesman General Abdel Rahman Siral Khetim today however only acknowledged that "engagements occur from time to time" in the Blue Nile region and denied SPLA claims that 200 government troops had been killed. The rebel Sudan Alliance Forces (SAF), broadcasting from a new radio station, monitored by the BBC, claimed at the weekend that it had attacked Minkou garrison about 20 km from the Roseires Dam, killing six soldiers and taking others hostage. A government military spokesman reported government advances against the SPLA in Kordofan and Darfur.

BURUNDI: Nyerere meets various political figures

A Burundi government delegation, led by Peace Process Minister Ambroise Niyonsaba, held talks in Dar es Salaam at the weekend with mediator former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, news reports said. The meeting centred around Burundi all-party talks, due to resume in Arusha on 15 June. Nyerere was also due to hold separate talks with former president Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, parliamentary speaker Leonce Ngendakumana and another ex-president Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, all of whom are in Dar es Salaam. Radio Burundi yesterday said Nyerere had met Jean Minani, exiled president of the opposition FRODEBU party.

Nairobi, 18 May 1998, 15:30 gmt

[ENDS]

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