DR Congo + 3 more

IRIN Update 822 for the Great Lakes

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UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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DRC: JMC to tackle Ikela flashpoint

A special committee of the Joint Military Commission (JMC) was due in Kinshasa on Tuesday, logistics permitting, for the first leg of a five-stop mission "looking into practical means for the disengagement of forces" in the DRC, the Zambian chairman of the committee, Brigadier-General Timothy Kazembe told IRIN. The mission would focus particularly on means to tackle the current flashpoint at Ikela airport, Equateur Province - where forces allied to President Laurent-Desire Kabila are trying to force their way through to Zimbabwean troops trapped behind rebel lines by the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) - during top-level meetings in Kinshasa, Kampala, Kigali, Gbadolite and Goma this week, Kazembe said.

The widely reported plan that Kabila-allied forces would withdraw from the recently-captured town of Bokungu in return for the RCD allowing the resupply of soldiers trapped at Ikela was still an option, though with UN or OAU monitoring of the resupply, according to UN sources. The committee would also look at the broader disengagement of opposing forces and the best means to avoid ceasefire violations, Kazembe said.

DRC: UN Special Representative takes up duty

Kamel Morjane, the newly-appointed Special Representative to the DRC of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, arrived in Kinshasa on Saturday to take up his duties, Annan's spokesman Fred Eckhard stated on Monday. Regional observers welcomed the arrival of Morjane, who has an initial mandate until March 2000, and wished he might bring the high-level "political leadership and drive" that the Lusaka peace process was seen to need at this point.

DRC: "Next few weeks critical" to Lusaka, says Holbrooke

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke said in the US on Monday, on his return after Washington's highest-level mission ever to focus overwhelmingly on the Great Lakes, that the Lusaka peace process was at a crucial stage. Holbrooke would be "hard put to give a significantly optimistic report" and "the next few weeks are going to be quite critical," he said. As an intensification of American diplomatic efforts to support Lusaka, the administration was sending Ambassador Howard Wolpe, US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, straight back into the region "to accelerate the negotiations," Holbrooke added.

DRC: Civic leader dies after detention and alleged torture

The human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Monday deplored the death from a brain haemorrhage at the weekend, days after his release from custody, of Desire Lumbo Lumbo, president of civil society groups in Butembo, eastern DRC. Amnesty said the deceased had been "severely tortured" during his detention for criticising the Ugandan-backed rebel RCD-ML (Mouvement de liberation) faction over the social and political crisis in North Kivu province. The 'Grassroots Campaign for Peace in Congo' also condemned the death of Lumbu Lumbu. In a press release received by IRIN, it said he was first arrested on 13 November by Ugandan and RCD-ML soldiers, and had died on 11 December from head injuries and internal bleeding inflicted on him by his captors. Radio-Television Nationale Congolaise (RTNC) in Kinshasa linked Lumbu Lumbu's death to his having signed "a letter protesting the annexation of Nord-Kivu to Rwanda and Uganda."

DRC: Wamba faces dissension over $16m bank deal

A $16 million development cooperation agreement between First International Bank in Grenada and Ernest Wamba dia Wamba's RCD-ML has caused friction within the rebel grouping. "We have read about the deal in the newspapers. Wamba has refused to call a meeting to explain the whole deal. This is bad for the movement, and the future of Congo," the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper in Uganda on Monday quoted RCD-ML official Jim Balikwisa as saying. Wamba's 'prime minister' Mbusa Nyamwisi has defended the agreement, which holds out the prospect of improved health and transport infrastructure in those areas of eastern DRC held by Wamba's forces. He said the deal was made "in good faith" and would benefit the Congolese people, the 'New Vision' reported.

DRC: Rwanda tightens revenue controls in the east

The Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), which is supporting the RCD in the east of the country, has given its troops the mandate to manage the use of treasury resources in rebel-held areas, AFP reported on Monday. Rwandan soldiers have been designated to the control and distribution of public treasury and revenue resources amassed in RCD-controlled territory, AFP reported, adding that RCD leader Emile Ilunga had established a joint commission to monitor the treasury on a weekly and monthly basis. "There is a joint battle we are engaged in against President Laurent Kabila which calls for the pooling of resources and the mobilisation of funds to continue the war," the agency quoted RCD spokesman Kin-Kiey Mulumba as saying.

TANZANIA: Burundi refugee flow slowing but still steady

The number of new refugees arriving from Burundi over the last week of October and the first week of December totalled 3,260, with the influx decreasing but still steady, the latest emergency report from the WFP stated on Friday. Some 670 newly-arrived Burundians were registered in Myovosi camp in Kasulu over the two-week period ending 5 December, while a steady flow of refugees into Kigoma, Kasulu, Kibondo and Ngara Districts brought the total to around 3,260, WFP added. There are estimated to be 400,000 refugees in Tanzania, most of them from Burundi. They are broken down to include 135,259 in Kasulu District (of which some 52,700 are from DRC), 110,269 in Kibondo District, 45,053 in Kigoma District and 109,280 in Ngara District, the report stated.

The inflow of refugees in recent months has more than made up for the number returning home from past conflicts, the international NGO Oxfam stated last week in a report on what it called "the forgotten emergencies". "Security in the camps is worsening with the situation in Burundi, as the arms trade grows and attacks on the camps become more focused," it said. Oxfam also warned of increasing malaria deaths in some of the camps, and of food shortages in drought-affected communities in Shinyanga and Ngorogoro.

BURUNDI: Civil society meeting proposes post-Arusha set-up

Groups from Burundi's civil society have recommended among other things that the country's transitional government should not last for more than three years. After a two-day socio-political workshop held in Bururi district, southern Burundi, for civil society and religious organisations from Bururi, Makamba and Rutana, delegates recommended that the president of the transitional government and members of the assembly be elected by a higher council of traditional elders, Burundi news agency ABP reported. The meeting, organised by the Association for the Promotion of Disadvantaged Groups (APDG) and the ministry in charge of the peace process, was aimed at collecting governance proposals with which people could identify from all levels of society. Delegates also suggested that the transitional president should be elected by "universal suffrage" while members of the national assembly should be elected from registered political parties, ABP added.

RWANDA: Report due on UN actions during genocide

The independent inquiry into the actions that the UN took during the 1994 genocide is to release its findings at a press conference in New York on Thursday, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard announced on Monday. The investigation team, comprising chairman Ingvar Carlsson of Sweden, Han Sung-Joo of the Republic of Korea and General Rufus Kupolati of Nigeria, is expected to make the report available to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday, Eckhard added.

RWANDA: Students seek asylum in Kampala

Some 36 Rwandan university students are seeking asylum in Uganda, reportedly fearing that their lives were in danger in Rwanda. A UNHCR official told IRIN on Tuesday the agency know about the case and was "trying to verify the students' account" with its office in Kigali. The students, born in Uganda to Rwandan parents, had moved back to Rwanda after the 1994 genocide and, finding it difficult to study in French at university level, staged a protest on 16 August that resulted in some arrests. "The demonstration was against the government policy of the introduction of compulsory French language... they were perceived as opponents of the government," the students told UNHCR. The semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper reported on Tuesday that some 40 Rwandan students camping at the Old Kampala police station since 7 December had alleged political persecution and were seeking refugee status.

Nairobi, 14 December 1999, 15:00 gmt

[ENDS]

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