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IRIN Emergency Update No. 277 on the Great Lakes

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News and Press Release
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Originally published
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for the Great Lakes
Tel: +254 2 622147
Fax: +254 2 622129
e-mail: irin@dha.unon.org

IRIN Emergency Update No. 277 on the Great Lakes (Friday 24 October 1997)

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Kolelas says the crisis is "far from over"

Ex-prime minister Bernard Kolelas told IRIN today (Friday) that the
situation in Congo-Brazzaville remains uncertain with armed clashes
continuing in the country's interior. Kolelas said his Ninja militia had
initially begun to disarm but were attacked by the rival forces of Denis
Sassou Nguesso. Kolelas, speaking by telephone from West Africa, said the
details of the proposed transitional period were so far unclear and
prevented him considering a role in a government of national unity headed
by Sassou Nguesso. He described the ousting of president Pascal Lissouba as
a coup d'etat. Kolelas also claimed to have seen white mercenaries -
including women - in Brazzaville last week, bolstering his claims that
Congo-Brazzaville was a victim of a "foreign invasion".

Sassou Nguesso vague on elections timetable

Sassou Nguesso has warned that he will not bow to "pressure" on a timetable
for democratic elections. Speaking on local radio after his return to the
capital Brazzaville yesterday, he said the "length of the transition
period" before elections "will not be decided under pressure and diktats,"
AFP reported. "We are going to listen. It is not up to me to arbitrarily
fix the duration of the transition." Sassou Nguesso has pledged to set up a
broadbased government of national unity. On Thursday, a group of Congolese
political parties urged supporters in a statement issued in Gabon not to
take part in the new government. They questioned the democratic process
under Sassou Nguesso, AFP said.

Humanitarian assessment mission stresses need for shelter, medicines

The joint UN-NGO Inter-Agency Rapid Humanitarian Assessment Mission in
Brazzaville has reported an urgent need for shelter for the returning
population and a reconstruction of the sanitation infrastructure. After
visiting three health centres in the city, the mission said there are
critical shortages of medical equipment and medicines. Patients have mainly
war-related injuries. The team has also inspected sites for internally
displaced people. Although malnutrition was not reported, some cases of
measles, chicken pox and malaria have been identified. There is however
concern that the food situation may deteriorate as more people return to
the city. The mission has found three wharehouses in the harbour area which
need minor repairs but can be used for the storage of humanitarian
supplies. Trucks will have to be brought to Brazzaville to transport the
relief items. The UN-NGO assessment team arrived in Brazzaville on Tuesday.

Washington again calls for Angolan troop withdrawal

The United States has reiterated its demand for the immediate withdrawal
of Angolan troops from Congo-Brazzaville. "We are unhappy with Angola's
role in the overthrow of the [Pascal] Lissouba government," US ambassador
to the UN Bill Richardson said in New York on Thursday. Richardson, due to
arrive in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) today, is expected to
visit Angola on Saturday, AFP reported. Richardson is also expected to
visit Addis Ababa, Asmara and Kigali as part of a regional tour,
diplomatic sources told IRIN today.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kinshasa bans river traffic to Brazzaville

Meanwhile, the DRC authorities have banned river traffic from Kinshasa to
neighbouring Brazzaville "for security reasons". The embargo will last
indefinitely, AFP quoted official sources as saying.

Kabila creates constitutional commission

DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila on Wednesday signed a decree creating a
constitutional commission. The 42-member commission is expected to prepare
a draft constitution by March 1998, Congolese radio reported yesterday.

RWANDA: Third chamber proposed for genocide tribunal

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has asked the Security Council and General
Assembly to approve the establishment of third trial chamber for the
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Annan's request, made on
15 October, followed an appeal by the President of the ICTR for an
additional chamber to expedite the trial of genocide suspects. Without the
extra chamber the ICTR estimates that it would take more than seven years
to conclude the trials of 20 suspects already detained by the tribunal in
Arusha, Tanzania. The cost of the additional facility is estimated at US$
5.5 million.

Meanwhile, Jean-Paul Akayesu, the former Bourgomaster of Taba commune in
Gitarama prefecture has pleaded not guilty to three counts of sexual
violence. He appeared before the tribunal on Wednesday to face a new
indictment that he facilitated the rape, beatings and murders of mostly
Tutsi women who sought refuge in the Taba commune during the 1994 genocide.
In his initial appearance on 30 May, Akayesu pleaded not guilty to 12
counts charging him with genocide and crimes against humanity.

Romania sold arms to Kigali - paper

A Romanian newspaper alleged today that the Bucharest government sold 40
tonnes of assault rifles to Rwanda in February. According to Romanian
customs documents published by 'Evenimentul Zilei', the AKM rifles were
delivered to Kigali via Yemen, AFP reported. The paper claimed that an
Israeli company, LR Avionics Technologies LTD based in Tel Aviv, acted as
an intermediary in the deal.

BURUNDI: Army denies role in civilian deaths

The Burundian army has denied responsibility for the deaths of between 47
and 100 civilians at Kabezi commune south of the capital. Local human
rights groups earlier this week accused the army of the killings at Gitenga
hill, Kabezi commune, 20 km south of Bujumbura on Monday night. "What we
know is that something happened. But whether 47 people or 100 people had
been killed is not well known," a Burundian human rights activist said on
BBC Kirundi radio yesterday. Hutu rebels are believed to have set up a base
in the area. A local media source told IRIN that insecurity "has been going
on for some time" in the vicinity.

Meanwhile, the army accused Hutu rebels of killing at least four civilians
on Monday night in an attack on a displaced camp in the southern province
of Bururi, Reuters reported. Ten civilians were also wounded in the raid on
the Buhurokiro camp, 70 km from Bujumbura, the army said. About 10 percent
of Burundi's population are in displaced persons' camps.

ANGOLA: Military tension increasing - UN

The UN has noted an increase in tension between government troops and
those of the former rebel movement UNITA. UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said
yesterday there has been an escalation in allegations and
counter-allegations between both sides over troop movements. He stressed
that the government's launch of a bandit clean-up operation in some
provinces, "without UN concurrence", and the deployment of troops into
Cabinda for Luanda's intervention in Congo-Brazzaville had added to the
tension. Eckhard said plans were underway to set up a meeting between
President Eduardo dos Santos and UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi inside Angola.

Clarification:

An IRIN Background Brief on Congo-Brazzaville on 22 October stated that
the UN Security Council endorsed the deployment of an African-led
peacekeeping force. In fact, the Secretary-General first requested the
Security Council to consider a peacekeeping force following an appeal on
16 June by President Omar Bongo of Gabon, supported by the OAU. The
Security Council authorised the Secretary-General to consult with
potential troop contributors for such a force on 21 June. A tentative
ceasefire agreement between the parties in Congo was signed on 14 July but
failed to hold. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations then
developed contingency plans for the possible deployment of a peacekeeping
operation. A technical survey team was sent to Gabon and Brazzaville on
25 July. The Security Council, in a presidential statement on 13 August,
however, deferred a decision but set an initial series of conditions for a
deployment: "complete adherence to an agreed and viable ceasefire,
agreement to the international control of Brazzaville airport and a clear
commitment to a negotiated settlement covering all political and military
aspects of the crisis."

Nairobi, 24 October 1997, 16:15 gmt

[ENDS]

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