DR Congo + 3 more

IRIN Update 806 for the Great Lakes

News and Press Release
Originally published
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa
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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: 34 reportedly killed in Dongo clashes

Thirty-four soldiers were killed in fighting on the northwestern DRC front near Dongo on Friday when the rebel Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) repulsed a government force attempting to attack Dongo, MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba told IRIN on Monday. There were 33 soldiers killed on the government side and one on the MLC side as President Laurent-Desire Kabila's forces attempted to take Dongo "as a step towards Gemena, and onwards to Gbadolite", Bemba said. The government had decided on a "concerted push" in the north, he added, saying that for Kabila there was "no dialogue, no agreement, no peace".

Friday's clashes occurred when the MLC ambushed an advancing government force of 1,000 to 1,500 soldiers, but Bemba said he was "still committed to the Lusaka process". "What do you want me to do, leave Dongo?" he asked, adding that while he had thwarted the government advance for now, his intelligence was that "they are coming back in a different direction". There was no independent confirmation of the claims.

DRC: Mayi-Mayi "not controlled" by Kabila

The Mayi-Mayi militia forces have denied they are under the control of President Laurent-Desire Kabila, saying they have "never belonged to an individual or a group". In a statement, received on Monday by IRIN, the Conseil politico-militaire des forces Mayi-Mayi, said they simply shared the desire to "render harmless the invaders". The statement announced the Mayi-Mayi's "new strategy" of "urban ungovernability", in which they sought to attack military targets in "occupied" towns. One example of this was the attack against Ugandan troops in Beni earlier this month, the statement said. It claimed Ugandan commander Colonel Reuben Ikondere was "captured, tried and sentenced to death". He was then "executed" along with two of his bodyguards. Their bodies were returned to Beni, so they could be repatriated to Uganda, the statement said.

DRC: RCD-ML scorns call for dialogue with Mayi-Mayi

The RCD-Mouvement de liberation (ML) of Ernest Wamba dia Wamba has rejected a call by another rebel grouping, the Conseil national de resistance pour la democratie (CNRD) of Gaston Kangele Mubawa, for Uganda and Rwanda to engage in dialogue with tribal leaders in Nord- and Sud-Kivu as a means of ending attacks by the Mayi-Mayi militia. "Kangele's group only exists in name," said RCD-ML official Mbusa Nyamwisi, quoted by the 'New Vision' on Saturday. "It is a briefcase organisation sympathetic to the Mayi-Mayi." Kangele also called on Uganda and Rwanda to hold elections in eastern DRC to find Congolese leaders with grassroots support, claiming that both RCD factions were deeply unpopular with ordinary people.

DRC: Uganda and Rwanda in new initiative to unite rebels

Former speaker of the Ugandan parliament James Wapakhabulo and Secretary-General of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RFP) Charles Muriganda have been appointed to head the latest joint initiative by Uganda and Rwanda to unite Congolese rebel factions, the 'EastAfrican' newspaper reported on Monday. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu announced after a one-day heads of state summit in Kabale, western Uganda, on 8 November that they planned to unite the rebel factions - the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) of Emile Ilunga, RCD-ML (Mouvement de liberation) of Ernest Wamba dia Wamba and the Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) of Jean-Pierre Bemba - and help them harmonise a common approach to the proposed inter-Congolese political dialogue allowed for in the Lusaka peace accord.

DRC: Joint Uganda-Rwanda border patrols resume

A joint force comprising the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) and Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has been re-established to crack down on operations by the Rwandan Interahamwe militia in Rutshuru, eastern DRC, as well as banditry in the shared border area, the 'New Vision' reported. Such joint operations by the Ugandan and Rwandan armies had broken down following violent clashes between them in Kisangani in mid-August.

DRC: Security forces accused of mistreating civilians

A Kinshasa-based human rights organisation, la Voix des sans voix (VSV) has accused the security forces of abusing and mistreating people stopped at curfew time in the DRC capital, Reuters reported. The VSV called for an independent enquiry into the killing of a student at a roadblock last week. "Confronted by severe problems of survival, the population is increasingly at the mercy of the bad behaviour of soldiers and police," the VSV statement said. It denounced the imposition of a curfew at a time of severe economic problems. Fuel shortages had led to transport problems, which meant many people were unable to get home before the curfew, it noted. The government slapped the 2100-0600 curfew on the capital, claiming "rebel infiltrators" were planning an attack.

The VSV also announced that the leader of a minor opposition party was arrested at his home in Kinshasa on Friday. Christian Badibangi of the Union socialiste congolaise (USC) was led away by police and his whereabouts were unknown.

DRC: Self-defence units set up

The authorities in Kinshasa are currently recruiting members of self-defence organisations, according to DRC state radio. "The time of civil and popular self-defence has come," the radio stated on Friday, adding that "trouble-free recruitment" had been carried out in the capital's 24 districts.

UGANDA: Western politicians in peace talks with ADF

The chairman of Kasese district, Yokas Mihande, and Busongora South MP Christopher Kibanzanga have held seven peace meetings with commanders of the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in eastern DRC, Radio Uganda reported on Sunday. Kibanzanga told a church gathering of 10,000 people in Bwera, Kasese District, western Uganda, they had met the ADF leaders to negotiate peace in the Ruwenzori region, during which they also learned that 10 seminarians kidnapped by the ADF more than two years ago were still alive.

UGANDA: Congolese refugees given temporary asylum in Kisoro

Some 350 Congolese refugees, of both Hutu and Tutsi origin, who crossed to Kisoro in southwestern Uganda from Rutshuru in Nord-Kivu Province two months ago have been granted temporary asylum in Kisoro to minimise population movements and reduce insecurity along the border, the Ugandan 'New Vision' newspaper reported on Saturday. "We have decided to allow them to stay in order to control the in-and-out movements," the paper quoted Kisoro District Commissioner Lieutenant Arthur Katsigazi as saying. The refugees are now reported to be staying with friends and relations in Busanza county, some 15 km from Kisoro town.

BURUNDI: WFP to resume food distributions

WFP has announced the resumption of food distributions to tens of thousands of people in regroupment camps in Bujumbura Rural. In a press release, it said the emergency food distributions would resume on Monday following a five-week halt to the programme. WFP's country director Thomas Yanga said agreement had been reached with NGOs to receive and distribute the food to the camps until the current suspension of UN activities in Burundi was lifted. "These new agreements will mean that scores of people who have been surviving on very little up to now, will finally get food," he said.

The IFRC said two cargo plans loaded with emergency supplies flew into Burundi last week. The cargo, consisting of 46 mt of plastic sheeting and tarpaulins, will be used to construct temporary shelters for people in regroupment camps. Blankets, clothes and cooking utensils will also be distributed to the displaced people.

BURUNDI: Zimbabwe denies training FDD

Zimbabwe has denied reports that it is training Burundian rebels of the Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD), based in DRC. The 'Zimbabwe Standard' on Sunday quoted a defence ministry spokesman, Colonel Diye, as saying the allegations were "baseless". According to the newspaper, the claims were carried by the Tanzanian 'Guardian' daily. "Zimbabwe does not train Burundian nationals and-or soldiers anywhere," Diye said. However, the 'Standard' cited military experts as saying guns discovered after a recent FDD attack on Bujumbura were similar to rifles owned by Zimbabwe.

BURUNDI: China pledges help

China has pledged to provide Burundi with preferential loans following a five-day trip to the country by President Pierre Buyoya, the PANA news agency reported on Sunday. It quoted a Burundi official as saying the loans would be used to finance "profitable projects" in addition to traditional areas of cooperation between the two countries. One of the projects reportedly includes the building of a hydro-electric dam on the Mpanda river, north of Bujumbura.

RWANDA: Del Ponte denied visa

Rwanda has refused to provide an entry visa for the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in protest over the decision to release genocide suspect Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, news agencies said. Attorney-General Gerald Gahima said on Sunday that the Rwandan embassy in Belgium had denied a visa for the prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, who had been scheduled to arrive in Kigali on Tuesday. "We will find an appropriate way to continue communicating with the tribunal. But for the time being, our embassy has been instructed to deny her visa," the Associated Press quoted Gahima as saying. The ICTR's appeals chamber in the Hague on 3 November ordered the Tribunal to release Barayagwiza, for procedural reasons, and to return him to Cameroon, where he was originally arrested in 1997. That controversial decision led Rwanda to suspend its cooperation with the ICTR.

RWANDA: Prosecutor has "new facts" in case

While the ICTR was "surprised" about the visa denial, the government's action "must be seen in the whole context currently being experienced between the court and Rwanda" following the decision to release Barayagwiza, Arusha-based ICTR spokesman Kingsley Moghalu told IRIN on Monday. "As much as the feelings of the Rwandans are understandable, the appeals judges are independent," he said, noting that the ruling was not a judgement on Barayagwiza's guilt or innocence. "Efforts are being made within the framework of the judicial process to see how there could be further resolution of this matter", he said. On Friday, the ICTR prosecutor asked the appeals chamber to accept "new facts" on the case with a view to having the chamber review its decision to free Barayagwiza, Moghalu said. Meanwhile, the ICTR was waiting for a response from Cameroon regarding arrangements for Barayagwiza's return there. "Until then, he will remain in detention in Arusha even though he is technically free," Moghalu said.

RWANDA: Upcoming verdict in Rutaganda trial

The ICTR will hand down its judgement on another genocide suspect, Georges Rutaganda, on 6 December, the Hirondelle news agency said on Friday. Rutaganda, second vice-president of the Interahamwe militia during the 1994 genocide, is charged with eight counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions. His trial ended in June. This will be the ICTR's sixth judgement, Hirondelle said.

RWANDA: Italy-based priest linked to genocide

The UK-based organisation African Rights has called on the Catholic Church and the ICTR to investigate an Italy-based Rwandan priest, who, it said played a key role in the 1994 genocide. In a report released on Monday, African Rights charged that Father Athanase Seromba, 36, took an active part in organising and carrying out the massacre of between 2,000-2,500 Tutsis at the Nyange parish in Kibuye prefecture. Seromba, now a parish priest in Florence, also shot refugees who tried to escape, and he arranged and paid for the church to be bulldozed, "causing almost all of them to be crushed to death", the report said. "The grounds for his arrest and prosecution are beyond question," it said. Seromba has denied involvement in the genocide, Reuters reported on Sunday. ICTR spokesman Kingsley Moghalu said on Monday he could not comment on whether or not the Tribunal had investigated Seromba.

RWANDA: 200,000 people to receive relief food

WFP plans to "immediately" provide 3,000 mt of food aid to 200,000 people in areas most affected by poor harvests and crop failure, the UN agency said in its latest weekly emergency report. The areas of immediate priority are Umutara, Kibungo and Kigali Rural. In addition, WFP will double the rations provided to malnourished people in all nutrition centres in drought-affected and "marginal" areas, the report said. UN agencies last week announced a six-month US $12.9 million programme to provide emergency food and agricultural inputs to drought-affected communities in five prefectures.

GREAT LAKES: Catholic bishops call for regional conference

The Catholic bishops of DRC, Rwanda and Burundi have called for a regional peace conference, as soon as possible, "to promote harmonious co-existence" among the peoples of the Great Lakes. "The international community must play its role in promoting justice and truth, and support the Great Lakes countries' initiative for a conference," a press release from the Association of Bishops Conferences of Central Africa, which met in Nairobi last week, stated. "In this regard, the Catholic Church, expert in humanity is ready to make her contribution," the press statement, released by the Vatican news agency FIDES, added. The bishops also called for a "fair, transparent" trial of Rwandan bishop Augustin Misago, on trial in Kigali on charges of complicity in the 1994 genocide.

Nairobi, 22 November 1999, 15:10 gmt


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